May 7, 2021

Around the dial

We'll start this week by spending some time with Bob Sassone's review of "The 100 Best Sitcoms of All Time" list by Rolling Stone. I'll let you be the judge of this, but I don't generally think much of these lists, and neither does Bob. It goes not so much to the content of the list itself; I agree with some and disagree with others, and while I agree with much of what Bob says, he and I don't see eye-to-eye on all of them either. 

No; as he says, "Let’s face it: 'The 100 Best Sitcoms of All-Time' should just be called '100 Sitcoms,' because when you have a list that large you’re simply naming sitcoms that have existed." One hundred is way too large a number; why should anyone care what the 87th-best sticom of all time is? And then there's the guideline that the listmaker uses. Some shows appear simply to prove it's well-rounded, relevant; but lists like this—and, often, the writers who produce them—frequently suffer from recency bias, which means pretty much what it sounds like it should mean. And that's not the only kind of bias at work with these kinds of lists: the listmaker might have a bias against black-and-white shows, or shows made in England, or shows with female leads. We all have our own bias, but the job of a critic is to put those aside when making considered opinions. Bottom line, as Bob says: "Just give us what you think are the top sitcoms of all-time." And I haven't even gotten into the actual content—but what do you think about it?

While you're pondering that question, here's the rest of the best of the week. At MeTV, a great article on how John Astin initially wasn't sure that he was right to play Gomez Addams. Raul Julia aside, I can't imagine anyone else playing him, myself.

I don't play favorites here, but I will admit that few features have given me more pleasure over the years I've been doing this than Jack's Hitchcock Project pieces at bare•bones e-zine, and for his 250th review, he looks at William Fay's sixth-season episode "Gratitude," with Peter Falk and a stellar supporting cast. 

I rarely pass up the opportunity to praise Burgess Meredith, who is always so good in whatever role he plays, from The Twilight Zone to Batman. At Classic Film & TV Cafe, Rick has his famous seven things to know about everyone's favorite penguin.

Television Obscurities flashes back to the 1956 sitcom Joe and Mabel (wonder if it was on the Rolling Stone list), and after reading Robert's article, I wonder if the show could ever have been as interesting as the story behind it?

Television's New Frontier: the 1960s brings us to the year 1962, as seen on Route 66. It was the series' most successful year, ratings-wise, but also its most challenging, as George Maharis misses time (and eventually leaves the series) recovering from hepatitis. 

A couple of remembrances: at The Lucky Strike Papers, Andrew recalls songstress Jill Corey, former star of Your Hit Parade; and at A Shroud of Thoughts, Terence celebrates Billie Hayes, whom we would remember as Witchiepoo in H.R. Pufnstuf.

Finally, at Comfort TV, David takes a look at one of the mainstays of classic television: the club scene. Not nightclubs—things like social clubs, after-school clubs, clubs for people with common interests. Of course, with the virus they probably wouldn't be meeting anyway, but as David points out, life doesn't seem to be like that anymore anyway (see Bowling Alone for more evidence), and I think we're the poorer for it. My wife and I are always looking for groups like those to join, but we also wonder why we're never invited to cocktail parties. The fact that we don't drink might have something to do with it. TV  


  1. Rolling Stone has done a couple of highly publicized lists recently: this sitcom list and the Top 500 albums of all time, and the same thing happened to me both times. I clicked the first three or four entries and then thought, "Life is too short to read all of this." And I say that as a person who has been a fan of Rolling Stone's Alan Sepinwall since he was recapping "NYPD Blue" on Usenet. Maybe pick them by decade, maybe pick the best single camera ones, or the live-to-tape ones, or something. But don't try to compare "The Andy Griffith Show" to "Arrested Development."

  2. Thanks, Mitchell! I'm so glad you like the series on the Hitchcock show.


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