Wow! Fun Marlins victory last night and dramatic Heat victory last night and looks like someone got too distracted last night to post a blog. Ah well, there’s always the weekend.
We’ve covered movies and comics so far in “Funny Week”, so the next natural subject is television. If ever there was evidence of humor being a personal choice, my tastes for TV comedy always seemed to be off the beaten path from the masses.
As a child of the 60’s, there were a number of comedy shows that were a blast in my youth. Back in the 60’s, TV was still new enough that families sat around the “big one” in the living room and watched shows together (gasp!). It’s not like we had many choices anyway…about three networks, and some local strays.
The litany of harmless “chuckle” shows that we watched (and now probably are showing on cable somewhere) included Gilligan’s Island, Hogan’s Heroes, Beverly Hillbillies and Bewitched, among many others. In that era, my favorite was probably Get Smart, perhaps the earliest inkling of my lifelong love affair with “send-up” comedies. Today, I could comfortably go back and add Batman to my comedy list, but in those days I took that show seriously (to find out how seriously, hunt down the post “Love Hurts”).
When the “decade of disillusionment” hit (i.e., the 70’s), the comedies started taking a darker tone, much as America’s mood. I enjoyed MASH and some of the other sitcoms during that period, but I never cared for All in the Family. To me, it just seemed too mean. Sure, I get the characters were stereotyped that way to prove a point, but I never understood bigotry anyway so the weekly comedy didn’t resonate with me. Odd, when you consider Blazing Saddles as my favorite movie, which also poked fun at prejudice. Perhaps it’s because the leads in Blazing are heroic and fair as opposed to the lead being a bigot. Daring stuff and certainly groundbreaking, but just not for me. Probably the most memorable American comedy for me in that time was Barney Miller (although I have to throw a nostalgic wink to John Ritter’s immensely underappreciated work on Three’s Company). If you included the night shows, then Saturday Night Live and Johnny Carson would fill my list. Fortunately, it was during this decade that I discovered Monty Python and I was hooked.
The next decade had some fine comedy shows, many of which have also attained “legendary” status. Of those most popular, I think Cheers was the only one I consistently enjoyed. Two series I did like a lot ended up with short lives, both police satires: Sledge Hammer and Police Squad (which clearly was ahead of its time – or audience – as the successful movies showed). I laughed long, loudly and unashamedly at the episodes then and now, as I have them on DVD. Just something ticklish to me about both. I watched other comedies during this time, of course, landing for a season or two on everything from Family Ties to Roseanne, but none had the staying power of the above two (although I enjoy Michael J. Fox in most of his turns since that time).
The 90’s is when my divergence from popular American TV comedy (and indeed, TV in general) began to exaggerate. For example, one of the most popular and talked about comedies of that time, Seinfeld, did nothing for me. I just didn’t laugh. Oh well, you always knew there had to be someone who didn’t watch the show…you’ve found me. There was one show I enjoyed quite a bit from that time called Mad About You, a delightful romance-comedy that had extremely clever dialog and a (reasonably) happy and stable couple. Paul Reiser hits the perfect pitch as the neurotic husband, with Helen Hunt the voice of reason (except for the episodes she flips out, ‘natch). A time-honored tradition of the unstable male and collected female (much as it was in Sledge Hammer).
There’s no doubt my sense of humor veered off the path of the masses at some point, if not always (I was one of the 11 people that actually enjoyed Studio 60 more than 30 Rock), but at least it remains internally consistent in what tickles my funny bone, be it movies, comics, TV or books…as we’ll see in tomorrow’s post.