It takes a lot to make a stew
A pinch of salt and laughter, too
A scoop of kids to add the spice
A dash of love to make it nice, and you’ve got…
Casper Kelly – “Too Many Cooks”
Sometime between the early and mid-1980’s, just when critics and media pundits were ready to write-off the sit-com, and relegate into the dustbin of television history, along with the western and the variety show, the sit-com enters its Golden Age. Most of the credit went to the creator of the #1 show for most of the decade, Bill Cosby, but the truth is that certain genres have an ebb and flow on television.
I won’t make a blanket statement, and speak for my generation, but I, myself was raised on 1980’s television. I know first-hand that way too many shows were similar. They used the same set-ups, the same punch-lines, and of course, used the same canned laugh track. Looking back, I understand why TV critics were pessimistic, as certain quality sit-coms that began in the 1970’s were ending, and there were no apparent future classics taking their prime-time air slots.
It is real easy to point at The Cosby Show as the show that transformed the decade. However, let me explain why the number one show of the decade not only missed the cut on my list, but not even an honorable mention. (And it has nothing to do with the allegations against Mr Cosby.) I loved the stand-up movie, Bill Cosby: Himself. I watched that movie over and over again. The entire first season revolved around material from that routine. That material was so good, it was a breath of fresh air on the air. But as soon as that well ran dry, The Cosby Show slowly devolved into an ordinary family sit-com. It is the mediocre, average-at-best later years of the show’s run is the main reason why you hardly saw this show in syndication. Fat Albert was able to last for several years, because as cartoon characters, Albert and the rest of the Cosby Kids were able to stay the same age forever. The 3D Cosby Kids: Malcolm-Jamal Warner; Tempestt Bledsoe; Keshia Knight Pulliam; and Raven-Symoné, however, grew up, and grew older. They grew out of Bill’s comedy comfort zone.
I can’t give credit for a show that went creatively bankrupt for six of the show’s eight-year run. But I can give credit the other show’s that were more consistent, even if some of them lacked the ratings or longevity of The Cosby Show.
So without further adieu, here is our lists:
The Top Ten 1980’s (U.S.) sit-coms
- 10. The Cosby Show
- 9. Charles in Charge
- 8. Too Close for Comfort
- 7. Silver Spoons
- 6. Perfect Strangers
- 5. Bosom Buddies
- 4. Married…with Children
- 3. The Seinfeld Chronicles^
- 2. Three’s Company
- 1. Growing Pains
Honorable Mentions: ALF; Alice; Coach; Family Ties; Kate & Allie; Laverne & Shirley; Mork & Mindy; Newhart; One Day at a Time; Punky Brewster; Webster.
^ Note that Seinfeld first aired on July 5, 1989 under the name The Seinfeld Chronicles. It was renamed Seinfeld in 1990.
- 10. Night Court
- 9. It’s Garry Shandling’s Show
- 8. The Tracey Ullman Show
- 7. Soap
- 6. Benson
- 5. Taxi
- 4. Married…with Children
- 3. Three’s Company
- 2. Cheers
- 1. Roseanne
Honorable Mentions: ALF; D.C. Follies; Designing Women; The Facts of Life; Family Ties; Full House; The Greatest American Hero; It’s a Living; Moonlighting; The Muppet Show; Square Pegs; Who’s the Boss; WKRP in Cincinnati; The Wonder Years.
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