16 Greatest Modern Sitcoms (Hank’s Look Around Cafe)

Results! From yesterday! (Note to new readers: for maximum effect, please go back in time to yesterday. Or read on regardless, whatever’s easiest.)

Parks and Recreation beats Not Going Out

Two ‘funny first’ kind of sitcoms: one more-or-less the US Office transposed to Indiana, the other an English sort of Friends with the sillier end of Frasier-style farce thrown in for good measure. Both, happily enough, very funny. But Not Going Out can’t really out-American something so stars-and-stripsey, can it? A sanitized Manhattan or Seattle via Hollywood backlot is one thing, but the same super-clean approach to London is just plain weird. Aerial night shots of Greenwich?! Far too Ally McBeal, surely.

The Larry Sanders Show beats Spaced

Damn it, this is way too soon for a difficult decision. Even if I did miss both shows first time around – Spaced because I was too busy having a student’s social life in Canterbury; and Larry Sanders because when it first aired I would have been 11 (exclusive revelation: 11 year-olds from Wallington don’t know who Johnny Carson is, and can’t be relied upon, therefore, to fully appreciate a wry take on late night). So let’s call this one a high-scoring draw – and put the rest down to jealousy. A note-perfect sitcom made entirely by twenty-somethings from Gloucestershire (Simon Pegg) and Dorset (Edgar Wright)… whatever next?

Arrested Development beats Red Dwarf

Ok, this is where you can start hurling abuse at me. Smeghead, and other things even more offensive. Not because Arrested Development isn’t a work of God-like genius (obviously), but definitely on account a stark lack of loyalty. Not letting Red Dwarf win here is basically the same as spitting in the face of my much younger self. The leader of the cool crowd (no?) who whiled away lunch time at school by trading Red Dwarf trivial questions with Mike Scott, Matt Sharps, Richard Ward, and others. Comedy and sci-fi! …And, says the fifteen year-old me, the greatest thing ever made. What can I say? I guess I’m just a sucker for Will Arnett as Gob – in every possible way, a perfect pairing of player and part (if you haven’t already had the pleasure).

The Inbetweeners beats Sex and the City

Rotten schoolboy mischief – or a steaming pile of pretentious lady bullshit? Has to be the former, doesn’t it. Even if: a) Cheap-shots aside, Sex in the City probably is much better at passing 22 minutes than it’s often given credit for, and, b) Sarah Jessica Parker doesn’t really look like a horse. Then again, here’s a question for you: what’s your favourite Sex in the City episode? [Long time thinking.] Yeah, me neither.

Curb Your Enthusiasm beats It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

I don’t really remember which house party it was the night before. Possibly a Halloween get-together at Bellvista Heights (co-host Bob dressed as Michael Phelps: minimally, in Speedos and googles). Or maybe it was one of those gatherings over at Eleanor Street (another house belonging to Boston’s Allston neighborhood, only commandeered for the school year by European women – bottles of Limoncello around as if to prove the point). I do, however, remember the slow ebbing away of my subsequent hangover. For a full five hours I passed the time slumped alone in front of Curb Your Enthusiasm: borrowed from Maureen down the road, the first season box-set. Is it too much to claim it was the only thing keeping me from death? No. I don’t think it is.

The Office (UK) beats Weeds

Right, here’s probably as good a place as any to admit I’ve never actually seen Weeds. Ever. Even a little bit… So it’s a bit hard to judge.

…On the other hand, I couldn’t exactly do a knockout-style competition with only 31 competitors, could I? That would have been insane. Also on the same other hand, it’s got Mary Louis Parker in it and I’ve got a big schoolboy crush on her. She probably says really funny stuff about every 30 seconds, and her character is probably fascinating and smart and lovable and just really nice to look at and what-not. Right?

…Then again, on the other, other hand (a mystery third), if it was as unmistakably special as The Office someone – anyone – would have convinced me to watch it. And you can’t argue with facts.

Seinfeld beats Frasier

Some people don’t like Frasier – but that’s only because they have no sense of humour and go about their business “bent double, like old beggars under sacks” (© Wilfred Owen, of World War One poetry renown). Unless, of course, you’re one of those people, in which case I take it all back and apologize profusely. Anyhow, I remember once having the great pleasure of seeing Sam Beighton and company do a school play version of Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid. It was both surprisingly funny and surprisingly similar to the mischief-making horseplay of Frasier. I guess like loads of other people I like it when ‘smart’ and ‘silly’ meet. But, no, not as much as Seinfeld.

I’m Alan Partridge beats Father Ted

My good friend Robert Edward Main shamelessly gets big laughs out of me for quoting large chunks of Partridge verbatim. After the first few dozen times, I think I’m right in saying it shouldn’t be particularly funny any more. But is it! Always, and in spite of the fact that Main’s uncanny knack for memorization is never matched by any equal skill at mimicry. He pretty much just uses his regular voice. Conclusion: I’m Alan Partridge is The Beatles of 90s British comedy. Father Ted was always great too, of course. Albeit by poking fun at Catholicism and Irish stereotypes – how does that ever not come out funny?

Gavin & Stacey beats The Thick Of It

It really is true, I’m afraid, I’m changed and it was America that changed me. Admittedly the difference isn’t exactly vast, but it’s there alright. Right in the place where I used to be a smidgen more… English, and am now faintly more… American. Don’t get me wrong, I still think the importance of flossing is greatly overrated. And I’m not about to call anyone ‘dude’ any time soon – or wear a baseball cap backwards (I shudder at the thought). But, equally, I do wear a baseball cap and I do fractionally prefer Gavin & Stacey (jolly, sweet, and overwrought) to The Thick Of It (snarky, cynical, and mean). Both in their own way are very English, but only the former puts me in a sunnier kind of mood, and, no mistake, that’s a very American thing to want.

Friends beats The League of Gentlemen

For one very long summer (just about a year, I think), I had a whole lot of fun working part-time in a video store. Yeah, maybe fresh out of university I wasn’t exactly stretching myself, but what the hell, right? Work is nearly aways boring, but working at Apollo really wasn’t. It was fun – sharing shifts with a delightful Charlotte, a scruffy, effervescent Adam who was in a band that had an album out and everything (Do Me Bad Things), and with Doctor Who fanatic John: a manager lovely enough to buy me a West Wing book in appreciation of my ‘above and beyond’ contribution to restocking sweets and Hoovering. All of this, AND I made my way through the entire back-catalogue of Friends, one VHS tape at a time. Something I never did with The League of Gentlemen even though, you know, I could have…

The Royle Family beats 30 Rock

A few episodes in to the show’s third season, me and Jackie (wife) turned to each other at the same time and thought the same thing – 30 Rock is not as good as it used to be, is it? Then – still only thinking – we congratulated one another for the coolly dispassionate critical faculties we obviously possessed, even in the mid-chomp toothy grip of the zeitgeist. (I know, almost sounds like I made that up, doesn’t it.) Sadly, though, we never have seen eye to eye as far as The Royle Family goes. I reckon it rings resounding real, is reliably funny in a beautiful low-key sort of way, and is basically magnificent. She just ‘can’t really make out what they’re all saying.’

The Sarah Silverman Show beats Modern Family

Hmmm. Modern Family is supposed to be one of the very best comedies around at the moment. But what do I know? I’ve hardly ever seen it. So, then, an easy win for Sarah…, which I’ve seen loads of times thanks to it being ‘on-demand’ for ages and never less than easily digestible at dinnertime (aside from being staunchly scatological, that is). It’s essentially the usual Sarah Silverman shtick, only squeezed effectively into a sitcom-shaped [ass]hole. What’s not to like? Unless, I suppose, you’re a big fan of Jesus and “easily offended.”

Flight of the Conchords beats Extras

When first recommended to me to by the Cornells, of Keith and Hannah fame, I must admit Flight of the Conchords did still sound a bit… cutesy? …hokey? Something along those lines, anyhow. It’s the problem with people doing funny songs, isn’t it? You hope for the best – but you also hate them with a hot intensity that won’t cool a mothafucking jot until they actually succeed in doing something funny. So, extra points to Flight… for overcoming that. Extras is pretty darn good as well, mind. Better than it could have been following so close behind The Office, and better still for gainfully employing the husband of my primary school teacher’s daughter. Her: the lovely Mrs. Bushrod. Him: Barry from Eastenders.

The Office (US) beats Black Books

I’ll get right to the point here – Black Books‘ rabid commitment to all kinds of crazy, stupid nonsense is nothing short of miraculous… and yet what a bunch of Americans did to The Office (after a slow start) is impressive beyond even that. I’m not sure if ‘remake’ Office is better than the original or not – but it’s churned out to the tune of twenty-some episodes per year, is consistently one of the best things on T.V., and is, damn it, funnier to boot. Almost every time, it’s a mother-lode of fun.

The Trip beats Nighty Night

I still can’t quite believe how much Jackie enjoyed Nighty Night when we worked our way through its 12 episodes together a little while back. Yes, she’s a real misanthrope at heart (shit, who isn’t?), but, boy, no matter how pitch-black and fucked up Nighty Night got, she kept coming back for more! Seriously. It’s a ‘comedy’ about a woman (Julia Davis) being endlessly unpleasant to everyone around her – and it’s just about as ‘cheery’ as a mouthful of sand… Lapped it up like a Wall Street banker Main Street cash. Then again, there are surely few pleasures in life greater than watching Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon chat, i.e. 90% of The Trip.

Peep Show beats Scrubs

Night after night, last Christmas at my parents’ house in Suffolk – everyone else has gone to bed save for me and my brother sharing a few cans of Guinness and watching re-runs of Peep Show on More4 and Dave. With bellies full of mum’s home cooking and ‘fresh’ from yet another game of Wii bowling. Oh, what perfect bliss! And sure we’ll watch another episode. Next up: the one where Jeremy eats a dog… because how else to hide from it’s frantically-searching-for-it owners the fact he accidentally killed it? As for Scrubs… too wacky, no?

Wow, so that’s that. Until, sweet baby Jesus, Round Two. As before, then, time for another lot of random pairing (a little glimpse behind the magic for you: I numbered every sitcom before writing these numbers on little bits of paper and then drawing them out of a cup.) This competition is nothing if not misleadingly fair…









And for the results, all you have to do is check back in tomorrow! (Also, sure I’m embarrassed at giving you such an arseload to read today… What a sweetie you are for indulging me so.)


About newjonnytransit

Same as ever, only better.
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8 Responses to 16 Greatest Modern Sitcoms (Hank’s Look Around Cafe)

  1. Keith says:

    I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that as you have callously dumped Spaced, Frasier and Father Ted in the first round, Arrested Development proves to be the Djokovic of the tournament (i.e. not everyone’s tip for the 2011 Number 1 but just can’t stop winning), with FOTC a close second.

    • Yeah – watching Spaced pretty much gave me the idea for doing this… so that didn’t really pan out too well! Much more importantly, though: I’ve finally breached the Keith-comment barrier. Success! Very much obliged, sir. Hopefully, I’ll also succeed in keeping your fingers and toes happy (but I guess we’ll see, right?!)

  2. Rob C says:

    If Seinfeld doesn’t win this, I will say that this is more rigged than an African Election. Oh, and that thing with W Bush that year…

    And if Peep Show doesn’t make it to the Semi’s, prepare yourself to be called all manner of bad names.

    • Seinfeld’s definitely a front-runner, as of course is Peep Show… but I mustn’t spoil the suspense any further! (Well, either that or I just haven’t figured it out yet.)

  3. Wow – spot on with the Arrested Development vs. Red Dwarf. It is like grad school me beating up on high school me – which, admittedly, isn’t that difficult since I was even pastier and goth-ier at 15 than at 24. I did drink more milk back then, though…

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