In the last part of my countdown of the Top 30 sitcoms of all time, I included the US version of The Office, and after writing it I thought to myself “Why was it that I never went back to watch any of it after Season Six”.
Then I remembered; I saw the opening montage of the first episode of the seventh season, thought “Nope, that’s disappeared up its own arse” and didn’t return to it.
But I should have because I’ve started watching it again and have really enjoyed it.
Season Seven isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
Anyway, with that lovely and I’m sure life-changing-for-the-reader anecdote out-of-the-way, let’s continue on with Entries #20-#16
#20 Family Guy
It’s not that my tastes have changed or that it doesn’t hold up well, but it’s that it’s gone on too long and they’ve changed so many of the good things about it.
The early seasons before the initial cancellation, where Stewie was a matricidal super-genius were just hysterical.
But as things progressed and Seth MacFarlane spread himself too thin with all his other shows, repeated the same old jokes and decided that what the viewers really wanted was to hear him sing every week, the quality went down the toilet.
By the time it got to Season 8, there wasn’t a laugh in it, with episodes like Dial Meg For Murder being offensive and uncomfortable to watch rather than funny.
In fairness though, it improved a bit again, and episodes like Back To The Pilot in Season 10 were excellent.
On the whole, there’s enough good stuff in Family Guy to justify finishing 20th, but not enough to merit a higher placing.
Best Episode: Stewie Kills Lois/Lois Kills Stewie
If you were to ask me for a favourite scene, I’d say the original fight between Peter and Ernie the Giant Chicken from Da Boom, or even the “It’s a boy” culmination to the plot in Chitty Chitty Death Bang.
But as a two parter, Stewie Kills Lois & Lois Kills Stewie is my favourite because it returned Family Guy to its roots and told a proper story for a change, complete with some great humour. The end was a cop-out though.
#19: Gavin & Stacey
What I suspect some people dislike about it is the character of Smithy and the way he continues to annoy on Television Award Ceremonies and Telethons year after year.
In context though, he’s a funny and realistic character.
Unlike many sitcoms, the humour in Gavin & Stacey isn’t over the top and the characters are the sort of people you would expect to meet in real life.
Best Episode: The Wedding (Season 1, Episode 6)
As the satisfying culmination of a season long storyline, the Wedding episode was both funny and touching
#18: How I Met Your Mother
I know, I know, How I Met Your Mother is rubbish now. I even wrote a scathing article on it here.
But much like Family Guy, it used to be really good.
With clever writing, likeable characters and mostly good acting, the early seasons of How I Met Your Mother were must-watch TV.
It’s easy to discount a show that has become poor and compare it to something like Fawlty Towers, but you’ve got to remember that while the classic BBC sitcom had pretty much a 100% record for excellence, there were only 12 episodes.
How I Met Your Mother has aired 181 episodes at the time of writing, and it only started to decline after around 130 of them.
Before that it was consistently excellent, and the first two or three seasons in particular are gold.
Best Episode: Slap Bet
Launching two of the major recurring storylines that are still running in Season 8 (Robin Sparkles and – as you might have guessed from the name – The Slap Bet) it’s just a superb episode.
There are so many classic set pieces like the Dead Aunt, the Giggle Loop and Brucie’s Bar & Grill, and on the whole it’s well acted.
Current Doctor Who chief Steven Moffat has a thing for narratives that run out of sequence or are shown from two perspectives, and it works here so well.
If it has any problem though, it’s that the jokes relied too much upon the comedy talents of Richard Coyle as Jeff, and when he left, the show died a death in its final season.
Best Episode: The Man With Two Legs
The Girl With Two Breasts (an episode from the perspective of two characters who don’t speak the same language) runs it close, but for sheer brilliance of punchlines, acting and just insanity, the episode where a flustered Jeff tells the most beautiful woman he’s ever met that he’s got a false leg, and she falls for him on that basis is one of the best episodes of any sitcom you could possibly watch.
Relying mainly on self-aware meta humour and pop culture references, the genius of the show is the inclusion of the character of Abed.
When you’ve got a comedy that so often bases itself on sitcom clichés and TV & Fim parodies, it wouldn’t work if it wasn’t aware that it was doing it.
Through Abed – a character whose entire life revolves around watching TV shows and movies – Community is able to acknowledge that it – and it’s characters – know exactly what is happening.
It’s a brilliant concept.
Arguably the quality has been hit and miss over the last two seasons, but when it’s on its game – as it has been for the last two weeks – it’s one of the highlights of my TV week.
Best Episode: Paradigms of Human Memory
Most American sitcoms get to the point where they do a flashback episode. These tend to be episodes where they film about 5 minutes of new stuff and then make the rest up of existing clips from previous editions of the show.
Community parodied this, but by having the flashbacks being of ridiculous scenarios that we – the viewer – hadn’t seen. The flashbacks took the form of things like when they filled in for the Glee Club that died, and when they ended up in a Ghost Town in the Old West.
Top notch writing from start to finish.
Parts One and Two
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