My goodness, only eight sitcoms left in my week-long competition – and these now reduced down to four… Time to unleash some breathless hyperbole then, I suppose.
Curb Your Enthusiasm beats The Office (UK)
I’m guessing here, but I figure you did two things in the course of The Office two-part Christmas special: one, you punched the air triumphantly when Brent finally told Finchy to “fuck off” – and, two, you wiped away a few tears when Dawn opened Tim’s secret-Santa present in the back of a taxi. I know I did. Because for as much as it is funny, The Office always scored extra TV-pundit points for its uncanny verisimilitude (wow, haven’t used that word since I stopped doing film studies). You might even say, as Homer Simpson probably would, it’s funny because it’s true. From Keith’s choice of scotch egg as break-room snack, to Gareth’s excruciating banter with ‘Oggy,’ everything’s just so and all the better for it.
Then again, it wasn’t only the strange tedium of office life that Gervais captured so successfully all those lucrative years ago – (as I’m not even nearly the first to notice) David Brent also did some wholesale ‘borrowing’ of Larry Sanders’ many mannerisms, too. All is forgiven, though, right – for the incongruous sight of Gervais’ first Golden Globes acceptance speech, if nothing else: I’m not from these parts… I’m from a little place called England. We used to run the world before you.
A mighty close call, then, but a win here for Curb. For somehow still being as good as it ever was eleven years into its faultless run. (Just think, if Larry David were Woody Allen, he’d still be reaching Annie Hall heights. Truly amazing.)
Peep Show beats The Royle Family
Hmmm, another tricky two to choose between… Channel 4 versus BBC. South versus north. Flatmates versus family. Noughties versus nineties. David Mitchell versus Mrs. Merton. Aspiring musician Robert Webb versus banjo-plucking Ricky Tomlinson. Flagpole Sitta versus Half the World Away. It’s all pretty much a wash as far as I can see. Except for the south being infinitely better, of course (quadruply-so as Peep Show once had the balls to film in my home-town Wallington at night – miscreant hoodies loitering outside what used to be Roots and is now [of course] a Tesco Express, be damned!).
My slightly arbitrary tiebreaker: only one of these shows made me want – for the one and only time – a transatlantic flight to last longer. Virgin had an entire Peep Show season available to watch and never before or since have I laughed embarrassingly loud in public so often. And that includes the time an Adam and Joe podcast came a wafer-thin wise-crack away from making me piss myself laughing on a packed Boston subway train. On my way to work.
Seinfeld beats Arrested Development
Bubble boy. The soup-Nazi. Yada yada yada. The contest. Shrinkage. Fusilli Jerry. Muffin tops. Puffy shirt. Art Vandelay. Newman. Peterman. Mr. Pitt. Babu… I know, I’m basically just listing things, aren’t I? But how the hell do you even begin to account for the fathomless brilliance of Seinfeld? Hell, pre- and post-Larry David (he stopped being showrunner roughly three-quarters through) Seinfeld is practically two different shows entirely and BOTH of them are great (firstly, more grounded in reality and focusing on the minutiae of modern city living; and, latterly, ‘anything goes’ inventiveness dialed well passed 11).
Out of these two shows, Seinfeld can’t really not win. Nevertheless, how about we take a fast moment here and nod approvingly in Arrested Development‘s direction. After all, for its too brief time in the sun, it really did succeed in doing something genuinely staggering: slap-bang in the middle of network television (Fox, indeed), a place where you can scarcely get away with anything, it decided it to be relentlessly cheeky anyway. Joke after joke after joke about incest, for instance – and never to make any kind of a point, just pretty much for a lark. The comedy gods knew what they were doing, alright, when they green-lighted that! Now, though, they’ve got to hurry up and make the damn film already, haven’t they?
I’m Alan Partridge beats The Larry Sanders Show
Well, in football-speak no such thing as an easy game this close to the end, eh? Here, indeed, we have the magnificent comedy stylings of Partridge up against the formidable trio of Larry, Hank, and Arthur. But can a mere one of the twentieth-century’s greatest comic creations possibly prevail against the deft interplay of three? And what’s funnier between, say, Partridge bringing his own extra-large plate to an all-you-can-eat buffet, or David Duchovny pretending to be gay? I don’t know… it’s getting kind of late, so how about we settle this via the medium of YouTube:
Ah, who am I kidding? Partridge every time.
Here they are, then, folks: the final four – and I think we can all agree, not a single surprise among them. (Well, I never said anything about being original, did I…?)
If you can still stand the ever-mounting tension, I’ll count on seeing you back here tomorrow… Just don’t forget – in the meantime – to tell everyone you’ve ever met that this random sitcom competition is at last approaching its devastating climax.
Ta very much!