I kind of abandoned the sitcom top fives sometime last year and figured it was time I finished them off. This week it's my top five American comedies. Looking down the list sentimentality seems to have won over outright laughs. There are some contenders that might be considered funnier ("Frasier" was a near miss) but these are shows I watched a lot when they first hit the UK. Next week I'll reveal my all time top five sitcoms.
1. Cheers (1982-1993)
11 Series created by James Burrows, Glen Charles & Les Charles
This is the sitcom I would most like to live for real. There's something appealing about a bar "where everybody knows your name", where you can sit in the same spot every night and where the barman pours your drink before you've reached the stool. Norm and Cliff are both great characters, people that anyone who's been a regular at a local pub will recognise, and along with Carla and Coach they formed the heart and soul of the show. Friday nights watching Cheers on Channel Four was something I vividly remember from my pre-pub early teens. Great theme tune too.
2. The Simpsons (1989-present)
20 Series and counting created by Matt Groening
I might like the idea of living at "Cheers" but I'm more than a little concerned I'm turning into Homer. Does it count as a sitcom? I think it has all the components to qualify. Maybe it has an unfair advantage over live action (a massive cast of characters, never having to replace a lead actor and never having to worry about budget) but what really matters is that after twenty years it's still very funny.
3. Taxi (1978-1982)
5 Series created by James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels & David Davis
My memory suggests this was on BBC quite late (for an 11 year old anyway) which might have something to do with the impression it made on me. Judd Hirsch as Alex was the dramatic core of the show. Some quite down beat topics were covered and, whilst being extremely pessimistic about his own life, Alex was usually the guy who saved the day. I've not seen much of his other work but I'm pretty sure Latka was the highpoint of Andy Kaufman's career. Christopher Lloyd was also excellent as 60's drop out Jim Ignatowski. Another good theme tune too.
4. Roseanne (1988-1997)
9 Series created by Matt Williams
White trash TV. A forerunner to a more recent US favourite "My Name Is Earl". Roseanne was loud, domineering and blunt but carried it off with a certain charm. My favourite character is probably Daughter Darlene who came to the fore as the series developed becoming the perfect sarcastic foil for her mother.
5. Bewitched (1964-1972)
8 Series created by Sol Saks
This was re-run at the 5:00 tea time slot when I was still at school. A romantic comedy with a twist. Obviously I had a bit of a thing for the lovely Elizabeth Montgomery. I think it might be the nose thing.