Vulture is currently engaging in what they’re calling a Sitcom Smackdown, asking their readers to help their panel of experts choose the best American sitcom of the past 30 years:
[W]here to mark the beginning of the modern era of comedy, a time that similarly introduced a qualitative reinvention of the form? We decided on 1982: The year of Cheers’ debut. ..
Cheers — while at its heart a traditional workplace sitcom, and coming from alumni of the similar-minded Taxi — wasn’t just hilarious; it added something to the form: a dramalike will-they-won’t-they arc that took seasons to resolve. (Its precursor, Soap, was, yes, soapy, but that was part of its unique, satirical raison d’etre, as opposed to something to be repeated.) Novelist Kurt Vonnegut, who knew a thing or two about great writing, was ahead of the curve when he said back in 1991 that he’d “rather have written Cheers than anything I’ve written.” He already got that the sitcom was emerging as the most perfect of American art forms — the one thing our deeply divided country can agree on: It’s fun to make fun of people! Or, more diplomatically: It’s better to laugh and cry than just cry.
Oh, my. Is the sitcom really the pinnacle of American civilization? God, I hope not.
(Click over to Vulture to see how their ongoing smackdown is going; it ends mid-March.)
What’s the best modern American sitcom? What makes it work so well?
I probably shouldn’t be allowed to participate because I still haven’t seen Arrested Development and even though everyone says Community is amazing, the little bits I’ve seen haven’t appealed to me, and in general I just don’t like sitcoms anyway. But I’ll choose HBO’s 1990s series The Larry Sanders Show, which I found biting and hilarious, but also sad and poignant in many ways. It was a brilliant tragi-comedy about fame and celebrity, and a don’t-ask-what’s-in-the-sausage look at how talk TV gets made.
(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)