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October 25, 2014

Are you a sitcom snob?

by Bob Sassone, posted Apr 15th 2008 8:23AM

Two and a Half MenInteresting piece by Tim Goodman over at The San Francisco Chronicle. Basically he says that many TV viewers who watch the NBC Thursday night comedies (My Name Is Earl, 30 Rock, The Office, and Scrubs) and other shows are snobs when it comes to CBS comedies like Two and a Half Men, Rules of Engagement, and How I Met Your Mother. He says that the people who pride themselves in watching the critically-acclaimed (but lower rated) shows on NBC are "denying themselves a good time by avoiding CBS on Monday nights."

From the article:

There's a perfectly understandable reason that people who like a certain kind of comedy - often dry, ironic, slightly bitter, tangentially odd and brilliantly creative - will avoid comedies on CBS.

They're too cool for the room.

The problem with sophisticated comedy - be it anti-obvious in nature, keenly observed absurdities or ironically dumb by choice - is that it creates its own little laugh ghetto from which you never get out. You don't want to watch "Two and a Half Men" because, well, it's "Two and a Half Men" with Charlie Sheen, for God's sake. What more need be said?

And yet, there's a smugness - almost a righteousness - to people who can only tolerate "30 Rock" or "Weeds" and sit around lamenting the death of "Arrested Development." Hey, it takes one to know one.

I know what he's saying, though I don't find myself in this group. Sure, I don't watch any of the CBS Monday night comedies (save for a random Two and a Half Men or Old Christine if I find myself on CBS at the time), but I also have a weakness for sitcoms that many would say are "predictable" or "more of the same." I love 30 Rock and The Office and Scrubs and Seinfeld and The Dick Van Dyke Show and Arrested Development and Sports Night, shows that I think a lot of people would agree are usually in the "smart" sitcom category, but I also have a fondness for The Brady Bunch, The Hogan Family, ALF, and Boy Meets World, shows that usually aren't put in that category.

How about you?

Which comedies are better?
NBC's. They're just better quality!315 (40.4%)
CBS'. They're funnier!97 (12.4%)
Both are fine, can't we all just get along?352 (45.1%)
I only watch reruns of I Love Lucy.16 (2.1%)

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James-July

I'm a little late to this, but wanted to respond to AvD that liking 30 Rock is personal preference of course. But I think one of it's strong suits is being "edgy" It tackles race from different perspectives. It also connects to people with work related issues as much as or more than the office. From the new boss, to outlandish coworkers, to unmotivated subordinates, to firing for personal motives; I would say the show covers a lot of ground that hits a nerve with people similar to the cult status achieved with Office Space. I also think Tina Fey's complicated portrait of Liz Lemon is one of the most important symbols of feminism in the media for our time. She's far from perfect but she's educated, has a good job, and tries hard. But the show is smart enough to neither glorify her or vilify her.

I would like to also ask how a thread about snobbery in comedy couldn't mention Curb Your Enthusiasm, which in my opinion is (was?) much superior to Seinfeld. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is also hilarious. Telling dirty jokes isn't the problem. These shows, along with 30 Rock, have fresh camera work, many locations (not spending 90% of the time in Monica's living room), and quality dialog (or improv).

I take a show like How I Met Your Mother and see it as "almost good" The writers obviously are smart, can sense irony, and set up funny situations. They are "conceptually" good writers. But things seem to fall apart in execution. The dialog is so, so bad. The story telling devices get very repetitive (an earlier poster's comparison to Everybody Loves Raymond is interesting in this regard). It just misses the mark for me.

Sitcoms have to be fresh and support clever dialog. It's not about being a snob, but it's about seeing something better and not wanting to go back to something worse than that.

May 14 2008 at 9:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
AvD

There's something bugging me that I've been trying to get off my chest for months: why on Earth is 30 Rock considered a quality comedy? I would be greatly indebted if someone could explain this to me.

Perhaps I am a sitcom snob - Lord knows I lament the loss of Arrested Development. The first 5 seasons of Scrubs I found hilarious, and it's impossible to pry me off my tv/tivo for Earl, The Office or HIMYM. But all this praise lavished on 30 Rock, I don't get it.

It's not that I don't understand the premise of the show or the jokes contained within, I just find the comedy remarkably stale, the characters boring and the writing shoddy. The show never misses an opportunity to make the obvious joke and only very rarely blindsides the viewer.

I must confess that Alec Baldwin's acting is truly sublime and that Jack McBrayer has phenomenal talent for comedy. Krakowski, who I normally admire, misses the mark every episode. Morgan's lines seem to be designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Fey manages to put down a sympathetic character, but I find her sadly incapable of truly delivering the laughs.

So yes, I'm a sitcom snob. I realise that a consistently funny show like Arrested Development is a rarity. But Scrubs has me in stitches (pun partially intended) for years and I don't think I've ever laughed as hard as I did during HIMYM's Slap Bet. Earl, The Office and HIMYM get some great episodes and some awful ones. I really wish someone could explain to me, though, why 30 Rock is seen as anything beyond 'a cute show to pass the time between Earl and The Office that might, every other episode, deliver a chuckle-worthy joke'.

Sorry for lambasting everyone's favourite show. I realise that it's a massive hit and that many people love it - I'm very glad for them. I just feel like I must be missing something. I've watched every episode and just don't see what the fuss is all about. If anyone would care to elucidate - I would be much obliged.

Thanks :).

April 16 2008 at 1:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to AvD's comment
Larney

I too don't understand the praise that has been given to 30 rock. Seriously, that show is awful. Maybe not as bad as According to Jim or Two and a Half Men, but it's close. I feel the only two must watch sitcoms on tv nowadays are HIMYM and It's Always Sunny IN Philadelphia.

April 16 2008 at 1:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CC

I watch comedies on both CBS and NBC (ABC seems to be the only network that I don't watch much, except for According to Jim and Miss Guided). I miss Arrested Development, but I also liked Andy Richter, PI and The Captain.

I like Big Bang Theory (which I thought I would hate), HIMYM (only started watching recently), Old Christine, The Office, 30 Rock (another one I wasn't too keen on)... Scrubs is okay but the jokes are getting old.

I don't really like slapstick humor (hate I Love Lucy - I must be the only one in the world; also don't like The Three Stooges) but I find Get Smart to be funny and charming, even though it is a bit slapstick.

April 15 2008 at 10:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chip Douglas

If you take a further step back and see what types of dramas you like, it might explain why you like certain comedies. I like my stories. I love "Lost" and I think "Heroes" is a lot of fun. And I am a big fan of all of the twisted shows on FX. But that is because all of these serial dramas have a story that I am invested in. The same holds true for the most part with Comedies. I loved "Frasier" not just because Niles makes me feel more normal, but because the story of each show built upon eachother.

What made the series finale of "Newhart" the best ever? It was because of the call back to the "Bob Newhart Show" and Susanne Plachette. If you never saw the "Bob Newhart Show" the joke just would not have been very funny to you.

I think this is the root of this question. Do you like CSI:Any City USA where all of the answers are given to you in one hour, or do you like "Life" where there is the one hour story line that is imbeded in the overaching story of the series?

Do you want your entertainment just to wash over you and rinse you of your real life? Or is your telivison/movies an escape where the more complex it is, the more entertained you feel?

April 15 2008 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rob

I will never again watch a comedy that has a laugh track. If that makes me a snob, then so be it.

April 15 2008 at 7:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jamie

It's because the CBS comedies arn't funny. The only one I can watch is The Big Bang Theory, the rest (*cough*Two and a Half Men and Rules of Engagement, and to a less extent HIMYM*cough*) are horrible in my opinion. But look at 30 Rock, The Office and Scrubs, brilliance. 30 Rock, in my opinion is the best show on tv.

April 15 2008 at 6:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jennifer

I was always in the first group, only watching the nbc Thursday night comedies, Weeds and Entourage and previously loved Sports Night and Arrested Development. However when the CBS comedies came back 1st from the strike I decided to try How I met your mother. In just a short time I have become a big fan. I'm sorry I never gave it a try. And I do like Old Christine. So I am going to try to be more open minded from now on.

April 15 2008 at 6:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jake

I like narrative comedy and it doesn't matter what network it's on. So for me it's not about CBS is better or NBC is better, but 1. does the show make me laugh, and 2, is the story going anywhere. HIMYM, AD, 30 Rock and Scrubs fall into that category of the current comedies on the air. And on cable, Weeds is really superior to all of them in terms of narrative. I think the reason people think CBS vs NBC is because most of CBS's big time comedies are the tradtional funny one and done shows. It fits their philosophy of having a show air better in repeats, like their dramas. I think 2.5 Men is funny, but its essentially the same show every night. Same with Everybody loves Raymond. So while the shows are funny, they also grow tiresome very quickly for me.

April 15 2008 at 4:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mj green

The only comedy I watch is the Big Bang Theory, because it is FUNNY. I preferred the British version of the Office. I used to watch Earl, but it lost something this season. I don't find the NBC comedies funny at all.

April 15 2008 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Karen

Putting HIMYM and Two and a Half Men in the same category is, frankly, insulting.

Signed, a Snob

April 15 2008 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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