Make Room For Larry

3/22/04

FoxCastingOffice1940s(bl).jpg

The Fox lot, circa 1950

I broke several land speed records across the desert flats of Death Valley today, trying to get back to Santa Monica for the first massive reading of the entire Fox/Naked Angels evening. Stunningly, I was on time, probably the first time that has happened since prep school.

Tessa and I walked into Fox’s packed reading room, actually a boardroom that had the faint whiff of Important Decisions imbued in the walls. Truly this was a chamber where careers were made and destroyed, where the Simpsons were greenlit, George Lucas was canonized, and champagne was uncorked after the first airing of “American Idol.”

After listening to all seven short plays, I found myself a little lost inside each one, picturing my teenage psyche craving next week’s episode. Sure, it is so easy and depressingly ironic to make fun of sitcoms now, but they occupy fully 68% of my cognitive memory regardless (right next to constellations and the French subjunctive). I saw more episodes of “Flo” than you can imagine. “Too Close for Comfort,” “Carter Country,” “Phyllis”

35 thoughts on “Make Room For Larry

  1. Alan

    As I do not know if the Canadian masterpiece The Beachcombers qualifies as sit-com (as if that isn’t a blog meme just waiting to break out), I’d have to say Maude. I learned, as a pre-teen, a lot about my mother’s mid-70’s changes, learned how to pee in the night quietly and learned a lot of things to ask my parents which would embarrass them.

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  2. cathie

    Taxi. the most acting talent ever assembled for a sitcom. it managed to be poignant and hysterically funny at the same time. it was about new york. what more could you ask for?

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  3. Annie

    While I have a huge respect for “Maude” (very impressed that a DUDE named “Maude” as his fave–my Mom adored “Maude” and “Rhoda” while my Pop favored “The Rockford Files,” a show I literally could not watch)…anyway, I have to say that considering absolutely everything my favorite sitcom was always “Good Times.” The reasons: in addition to having many funny AND silly moments (thanks to J.J.) there was just something REAL about Good Times which enable it to go much deeper than your average sitcom (rather like MASH, which coulda been a contendah). Similarly to MASH, the setting (in this case, the projects of Chicago) was a non-glorified actual place on earth with a shitload of real problems lurking around every corner. So the charatcters in Good Times were much richer, more complicated, and more interesting than those of, say, “The Facts of Life” (girls’ prep school run by venerable grandma-type) or “Silver Spoons” (poor kid adopted by zillionaire).
    I remember learning about biases in standardized testing when Michael had to take the PSAT or something and got a low score even though he regularly brought home straight As. I remember when they found empty cans of dog food in their neighbor’s trash and realized that she was eating it because she couldn’t afford regular food. And, most of all, I remember the double episode when James suddenly died and Florida didn’t cry the whole time and then at the very end when she’s cleaning up after the funeral gathering at their apartment she’s carrying the punchbowl to the sink and she suddenly stops and smashes it into a million pieces on the floor, crying “Oh, damn…damn…DAMN!”

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  4. hilary

    I will second the “Good Times” bid; it was a sitcom that was actually touching and real. As a kid, i loved “i love lucy” and “laverne and shirley,” give me a goofy woman any time, cause they’re really so rare on tv and rampant in real life, still. i’ve also been running on the treadmill at the gym lately at rather odd hours (like at 3 in the afternoon…) and i keep bumping up against “the prince of belle aire” and “home improvement,” both of which i’d never seen before my 3 p.m. treadmill sprees, and both have almost made me sprain my ankle due to laughing hard and throwing myself off-balance. but it could be that i’ll like anything that gets my mind off breathing hard and cramped legs for 40 minutes. all in all though, “i love lucy” really stands the test of time, and is a true inspiration, in my opinion. good luck out there!

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  5. tbruns

    I was particularly fond of MASH, It was one of the rare sitcoms that the whole family would watch together. My father loved Rockford files too although I rarely watched it. WKRP was good and a novely for me since I live in Cincinnati, even though I know it was never really filmed here. After that they all seem to belnd together…

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  6. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    I always thought that much of the sit-coms of our youth were just not funny, despite the laugh track that made sure you knew where you were supposed to find humor (in case you forgot to laugh!) Silly and goofy, yes, but not funny. Nonetheless, I could always count on “Roseanne” for good laugh-out-loud entertainment. Finally, a non-Stepford mom who holds nothing back!
    Other shows of note:
    “Love, American Style”
    “Dukes of Hazzard”
    and my childhood favorites, “Green Acres” and “Family Affair”

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  7. Jordana

    In no particular order and I’m sure I’m forgetting some favorites:
    -early Cosby show (before Rudy got smug)
    -Golden Girls (amazing character-driven comedy)
    -The A-Team (oh, the comedy! oh, the situations!)
    -Herman’s Head (cruel world!)

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  8. cullen

    Good Times must have been in heavy rotation for suburban Winston-Salem TV stations; I’m joining the bandwagon with one hearty vote for JJ and the family. It managed to stay good after John Amos’ character died. I remember fondly fearing him, vicariously sure that one of father James’ spankings left quite an impression.
    Nobody has mentioned Seinfeld, I guess because it remains relatively current since people hyper-discuss it within everyday conversations, but it was a great show.
    I adored Happy Days, even on its corniest Tuesdays. Most people I knew were riveted by the Happy Days/Laverne & Shirley double-whammy. For family sitcoms, I loved The Cosby Show up until A Different World spun off.
    Sorry to wax North Carolinian and sound alot like my dad, but The Andy Griffith Show does rock up until about the time they went color.

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  9. Andy

    I’m going to look really stupid for saying this because everyone is talking about how Good Times was “so much more than a sit-com”, but I have to say one of my all-time favorites is “Three’s Company”. I know it’s wrong in all the same ways that eating a big fat bowl of ice cream at midnight is wrong but I laughed my butt off at that show. Sure, there was rampant homophobia. Sure, the plot lines were predictable and silly. Sure, there were not-so-subtle shots of Chrissy’s boobs. But John Ritter was a master at physical comedy and I enjoyed it’s pure over-the-top wackiness.
    Another one that I watched constantly was Gilligan’s Island. Again, the theme is wackiness. You knew that every single week they were going to try to get off the island and Gilligan would muck it up, but I loved it. Maybe it’s the predictability that was somehow comforting.

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  10. chip

    Maude was great because it was the first TV show to break the taboo and show two men sharing the same bed.
    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Simpsons, but maybe it’s so obvious.
    Of the ones above, agree on Good Times, Taxi, WKRP, Andy Griffith, Cosby before Rudy grew up, MASH before McLean Stevenson was killed off.
    Would also put in a guilty pleasure plug for Sanford and Son (great theme song) and Married with Children. The parody of “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Sam Kinison plays the Guardian Angel and Al Bundy wants to come back to life because his family was happy without him was one of my favorites.
    Finally, how about the Dick Van Dyke show. Oh, Rob!

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  11. Johnny

    This seems so wholly innappropriate that I hesitate to mention it, but as a kid I really liked “Hogan’s Heroes”. I knew nothing of WWII or the holocaust at the time (not really fodder for comedy), but seeing Colonel Hogan dress up as Major Hoganheimer and successfully outwit the bumbling Colonel Klinck was fun for a little kid.

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  12. jon

    WKRP. As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. Best writing and characters of all the true traditional set-bound sitcoms. Oh, and Mary Tyler Moore, always a slam-dunk for the same reasons: A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants. And nobody’s mentioned All in the Family? Amen also to B&W Andy Griffith. What they all have in common, besides good, funny actors: well-defined characters who are inherently funny, terrific spot-on casting, subtlety when it’s called for and over the top when it needs to be, and writing that not just anybody could think up in their spare time.

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  13. Piglet

    Have to go with “All in the Family”, followed by the Cosby Show and Sanford & Son, in that order. Those are the ones I look back on with something approaching fondness. In part, it was because those were the ones I watched with my dad.
    We also saw “The Dukes of Hazard”. However, I sort of wince when I remember that. Did you know they elected the guy who played Cooter to Congress from Georgia? At least he was a Democrat, unlike Sonny Bono and the Gopher.
    Shows I regularly saw and liked when I was too young to know better included “Diff’rent Strokes”, “Alice”, “The Jeffersons”, “The Two of Us”, “Silver Spoons”, “Best of the West” and “Family Ties”, along with afternoon reruns of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. I feel like scrubbing myself when I contemplate the irreplaceable hours I wasted in front of that trash when I could have been playing Pac-Man.

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  14. Bozoette Mary

    As a kid in the late 50s/early 60s, my favorite sitcom was Dick Van Dyke, largely because of DVD’s double takes, the funny dialog, and the silly situations that Rob and Laura got into (of course, I can’t remember any of them specifically at the moment). The supporting was also all funny, from Carl Reiner to Rose Marie. Oddly enough, I also love the Ernie Kovacs show, but that wasn’t so much a sitcom as a weird variety show. Others that I loved were The Honeymooners, Pete and Gladys, I Married Joan. All black and white, all quirky, all funny as hell!

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  15. Lisa

    There’s a place you gotta go for learning all you wanna know about … the facts of life. You gotta get ’em right. The Facts of Lifffeee.

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  16. scott

    1. “what’s happening” if for no other reason than the line “which doobie do you be?” (follow with grossly exaggerated laughter and awkward silence) and the fact that every week ma was gonna beat rog’s butt. when someone is gonna get their butt beat, that’s funny. in real life it resulted in years of jagged silence between my father and i, but we’re talking about rog. rog was so gonna get his butt beat!
    and rerun, you are missed. i know you are doing the shabadoo in heaven.
    2. “good times”, because a very special episode taught me that heroin is bad. and because jj evans ruled the universe.
    in an unrelated but fun note, i went to my fave used record store this weekend–dillon fence cd’s are going for the same price as pavement and the smiths, $1 more than cocteau twins. three cheers for the old CH indie scene. and three cheers for doing the shabadoo in heaven, simply because that image has made my day.
    thanks bro’.

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  17. Jennifer

    Gotta agree with those who mentioned “Three’s Company,” “Good Times,” “Facts of Life,” “Silver Spoons” (I heart Ricky), “Laverne and Shirley,” “Dukes of Hazard,” “Happy Days,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Family Ties,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “Different Strokes,” “Sanford and Son” and “I Love Lucy.”
    I’d also add “Bewitched” (twitch, twitch), “The Munsters,” “Gidget,” “Alice,” “Fantasy Island” (lord, how I wanted to believe that place existed), “The Adams’ Family”(snap, snap), “Bosom Buddies” and “Love Boat.” I must have liked “Family Affair” because I had a much beloved Mrs. Beasley doll.
    Why did I like these shows? I have no clue. The only thing that makes any sense is that I was your classic “latch-key” kid. Parents both worked, so when I got home from school, my lazy butt was in front of the television. There was probably precious little that I didn’t watch. Theme songs, catch phrases and episodes remain daisy fresh in my memory. Hell, I still remember Luke and Laura’s wedding. Sitcoms were also a great escape from the bitterness that surrounded my parent’s separation and divorce.
    These days, I admit that reality shows are my biggest guilty pleasure. The only sitcom I watch is “Scrubs,” ’cause to quote Ian, “it rocks the free world.”
    Here’s a good site: http://www.sitcomsonline.com

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  18. Dexter

    Barney Freakin’ Miller (bass line, insane situations, almost all in the drab police office)
    WKRP (Bailey was hot, always hated they were AM not FM)
    Chico and the Man (coz when I was little, I thought it actually took place in Puerto Rico!!)
    good luck to both of yous out there!

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  19. Ian

    You know, what’s stunning is that I have seen at least 50 episodes of each of these shows, but I don’t remember actually *planning* to do so. The only show I looked forward to – and put in my little 6th grade datebook – was “Mork and Mindy.”
    I had a very active childhood, with plenty of TV restriction, and lots of playing outside, yet I managed to see 80% of all “Good Times” episodes ever made. Thanks for that mention of Florida dropping the punch bowl, Annie – that was such a great scene that I can appreciate WAY more now. At the time, it just filled me with feelings I didn’t understand…

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  20. kevin

    I, like others, liked ‘Good Times’ it was the American dream/nightmare rolled into one.
    My favorite was ‘Frank’s Place’, but it met with ratings fate.
    My sinful favorite was ‘threes company’.. the whole three-way roommate suggestive thing was too much for my hormones to ignore.

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  21. Salem

    O.K., I could go on for years about the ones that impacted me in an intellectual or creative way, but instead I’ll just list the only two that made me cry from missing them not watching them. I was borderline hysterical when my Dad grounded me from T.V. five minutes before the “Kiss” special where they save the theme park, and the next time he grounded me before Charlies Angels. I think these speak to the worst elements of the pre-teen years more than T.V., but that’s my two cents. I did feel an incredible sense of loss when James died on Good Times.
    Salem

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  22. Scotty

    Not the most traditional of sitcoms, but I would take “Strangers with Candy” with me to the proverbial deserted island (eschewing more appropriate island fare such as Gilligan’s Island or Amistad – ho ho ho, those ship scenes would get me laughing right off of the island). A little nutty with the situations, but then again, “Mork and Mindy” and “Alf” weren’t really any weirder. Favorite moment? In the episode we learn Jerri Blank can’t read, she desparately wants to be a cheerleader. At her moment in the spotlight at the tryout, “Give me a “V” “I” “C” “T” “O” “R” “Y!” “What’s that spell?” Jerri confidently yells back “Hobo Camp!” That, your Honor, is situational comedy. I rest my case.

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  23. Rhonda

    “I dream of Geni” and “Bewitched” because I wished to have magical powers. “Happy days”, “Facts of life” and “cosby” because as a teen they taught me what I wanted to know. “Charlie’s Angels” because the girls kicked some butt. “Fantasy Island” as I still was not ready to give up on the magic powers dream. “cheers” which led to “fraiser” great shows one only appreciates more with age.

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  24. Ian

    Greg H. is right! Here’s our pitch:
    There’s a MONKEY who goes to MEDICAL SCHOOL. He gets a job at a HOSPITAL but is KILLED. So his GHOST haunts the HOSPITAL and SOLVES CRIMES.
    GHOST CHIMP M.D.!
    Fridays at 8:30pm!

    Reply
  25. Sean

    All of these are great shows, but the best sitcom currently on air, in fact to call it the best sucks because it is actually almost a different subset it’s so much better, is “Scrubs”. This is the only TV show, besides various Food TV shows, that I’ve ever realized I missed and been bummed.
    Ian, if you don’t believe that amazing sit-coms are still being made, watch “Scrubs”. For some reason, Mom doesn’t like it.

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  26. jon

    And perhaps also in that same sub-genre as Scrubs is Arrested Development. Nobody’s watching (yet?) but it sure is funny. Both of these are already well on their way to cult-classicdom. I’m already curious to see if they’ll still seem funny 10 years from now. But I think they will – since they’re at the leading edge of helping re-define what exactly a “sitcom” is, much like Seinfeld did 10 years ago.

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  27. Just Andrew

    Thank you Dexter for adding Barney Miller – let me go by decade:
    70s:
    Fernwood 2Night (I didn’t discover it until the 90s tho)
    Soap
    Barney Miller
    WKRP
    Mash
    80s:
    Mork and Mindy
    Cheers
    90s:
    Ben Stiller show (not really a sitcom and if I mention it, I’d also have to mention Kids in the Hall (I squish your head))
    Seinfeld
    Simpsons
    Fresh Prince (dunno why, but I always liked it)
    2000+:
    Action (Jay Mohr, short lived on Fox, funniest TV ever)
    SportsNight (too cool for school)
    currently That 70s Show is the only one I actually regularly watch.

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  28. ldv

    I can’t believe this is the first entry for Mary Tyler Moore. Monica Lewinsky came thisclose to ruining the beret for me, but she didn’t. Dink-dink-dink-dink-dink-meow (that’s at the end of the show).

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  29. Greg

    No mention of Designing Women? My wife firmly controls the remote so I spent many years subjected to whichever sitcom was on the Lifetime network during or before dinner. The result is that I can confidently say that I’ve seen every episode of Designing Women and Golden Girls at least once and most at least twice.
    My current fave is Curb Your Enthusiasm, though Reba on the WB is the gem-in-hiding that we enjoy and none of our friends watch. Speaking of which, I have loved, then tolerated, then hated, then tolerated, and now love Friends, but admitting it makes me feels a little dirty. Other recent past faves include Clueless (pre-network switch) and Sports Night (I hated it when they cancelled it!) Herman’s head was a fave at the time and I remember being fascinated by Max Headroom, though I have no clue whether it was any good or not.
    Nick at night introduced me to MTM, DVD and All in the Family and I have no qualms with saying they are classics for a reason. The episode where Edith is attacked is one of the most moving episodes of any half-hour sitcom I ever watched.
    My wife and I currently watch CSI:Miami as if it were a sitcom and is MUCH better viewed that way – kind of a silk stalkings veiled as Law & Order. Since I’m on that genre, L&O SVU is excellent and the writing this season is some of the best ever for that series & genre.
    I’m tired of that 70’s show & Scrubs already, but I’ll probably come back around.
    All that being said, I think my all time fave is The Young Ones. I remember sitting around the bi screen TV in our dorm lobby playing hearts every Sunday night and watching Monty Python, The Young Ones and 120 minutes. I haven’t seen it in 10 years and probably only saw 20-30 episodes, but I loved every minute.

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