• Caroline Gordon-Elliott

What Happened to the Sitcom?

"I've always been terrible on regular sitcoms with lots of jokes. I don't know how to tell jokes." ~ Rainn Wilson

When I was a pre-teen, I loved my prime time lineup: Monday was Alf, Valerie/Valerie's Family/The Hogan Family, and Designing Women; Tuesday was Who's the Boss, Perfect Strangers, Growing Pains, and Moonlighting; Wednesday was Head of the Class, and Gimme a Break, Thursday was The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, and Night Court; Friday was Webster and Mr. Belvedere, Saturday was The Facts of Life, The Golden Girls, and 227 (followed by Saturday Night Live); and Sunday was Married with Children and The Tracey Ullman Show. And let's not forget Silver Spoons, Punky Brewster, Benson, Diff'rent Strokes, and The Love Boat.

You might be thinking... "Were her parents absent? Did she raise herself? Did she call the television Mommy?" The answer is no. But if I had finished my homework, I could usually watch the full two-hour primetime line-up... and... It. Was. Great. I had a crush on Ricky Schroeder, Jason Bateman (and Kirk Cameron, but I don't like to talk about that one anymore.)

Kirk Cameron

I wanted to be Jo Polniaczek, and Alyssa Milano, and Lisa Bonet, and I wanted a dumbwaiter like the one Webster had, so I could ride the tiny elevator from my bedroom to the kitchen.

Nancy McKean as Jo Polniaczek

By the time of the early 90's, I had a busy after school schedule, and had whittled the programming down to Doogie Howser, M.D., Murphy Brown, a little Blossom, some Wings, Empty Nest, Mad About You, and still Cheers. In high school, it was Roseanne, Frasier, and The Simpsons, and then I graduated on to such one-hour dramas as Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. And Friday and Saturday night programming? Are you kidding? A teenager at home with her parents on the weekend? As if! Then came college when the only TV I watched in 4 years was the series finale of Seinfeld.

Jump forward 10-or-so years, and sitcoms were being replaced by one-hour dramas and Reality TV, neither of which I watched (don't tell the producers of the Reality TV show I worked on.) The Office ended, Sex and the City ended, and what was I left with? The lost longing for a time long gone. Nothing else could replace them all.

But maybe it wasn't TV's fault... maybe I just didn't like sitcom humor anymore... maybe I had lost my sense of humor!! Maybe I had become a TV snob! (not maybe, obviously.)

So there I was, left with the Breaking Bad's, the Mad Men's, The Handmaid's Tales, and the Game of Thrones. To quell my comedy jitters, I scrounged around in the dark corners of Netflix, watched re-runs of Friends, got my kicks from John Oliver, and prayed that Mike Judge or Wes Anderson will come out with another movie soon.

But then, a few years ago, someone up there got the message that we needed more (and by "up there", I'm referring to studio executives.) And so they started coming, one by one...

The Good Place... Schitt's Creek... Silicon Valley... The Righteous Gemstones... Barry... Fleabag... Brooklyn Nine-Nine... It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia... Shrill... Broad City... Pen15... mutherf*cking Veep!

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep

So you see, world- there is life after NBC's 1980s Thursday night lineup. There are things to look forward to, even though Friends is gone, The Office is gone, Sex and the City, Will and Grace, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and 30 Rock are six feet under (oooh, Six Feet Under was awwwwwesome!)

Until next time... may the force (i.e. Netflix, HBO, Comedy Central) be with you.

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