Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Honorable Mention

I have received several inquiries as to why some sitcoms were not included in the competition. For the record I had some basic criteria that a show had to meet in order to be included. First of all it had to have at least 4 broadcasted seasons on record (which is why Modern Family was not included). After great pains I also decided in order to put the shows in categories of decades like I wanted to, and do it properly something would have to give. What I decided to do was not include any sitcoms that were broadcast before 1970. With that in mind, I would like to offer up this list of the Honorable Mention. The list, comprised of shows from the 50's and 60's, greatly influenced many of the shows that were in the original field of 64 and certainly a few played a large part in some of the Elite 8 as well as the Final 4. So with that I present to you the shows that are, in my opinion, some of the most influential and historical sitcoms of all time.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet aired on ABC from 1952-1966, starring the real life Nelson family. After a long run on radio, the show was brought to television where it continued its success, running on both radio and TV for a couple of years. The series stars Ozzie Nelson and his wife, singer Harriet Nelson, and their young sons, David and Eric "Ricky" Nelson. The series attracted large audiences, and although it was never a top-ten hit, it became synonymous with the 1950s ideal American family life. It is the longest-running live-action sitcom in US television history. Yep, that's right, it was broadcast live folks.

My Three Sons ran from 1960 to 1965 on ABC, and moved to CBS until its end in 1972. The show chronicles the life of a widower and aeronautical engineer named Steven Douglas (Fred MacMurray) while raising his three sons. The series was a cornerstone of the CBS lineup in the 1960s. With 380 episodes produced, it is second only to The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as television's longest running (live-action) family sitcom. Disney producer Bill Walsh often mused on whether the concept of the show was inspired by the movie The Shaggy Dog, as in his view they shared “the same dog, the same kids, and Fred.

The Danny Thomas Show (known as Make Room for Daddy during the first three seasons) ran from 1953-1957 on ABC and from 1957-1964 on CBS. Thomas played Danny Williams, a successful comedian and nightclub entertainer. Of the 11 seasons the show was on, it was one of the most watched shows on TV for six of those seasons. It was in fact the number 2 show in the country for the '57-'58 season. The series was responsible for the creation of another long running sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show. In the seventh season, Danny Thomas is arrested by Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) and detained in the small town of Mayberry in an episode entitled "Danny Meets Andy Griffith". The episode aired in February 1960 and The Andy Griffith Show aired later that year. One of the regular guest starts of the show was Sheldon Leonard who played Phil Brokaw. Aside from being a guest star Leonard also served as producer for the entire run of the show. Bill Cosby included an impersonation of Sheldon Leonard in one track of his 1966 hit comedy album Wonderfulness. The track, "Niagara Falls", describes Sheldon Leonard's honeymoon at Niagara Falls. I told you that story so I could tell you this one: His name served as a namesake for the characters Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter in the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, as the writers are fans of his work. Apparently we are a fan of The Big Bang Theory also as we have voted it into the Final Four.

I Love Lucy, starring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley originally ran from 1951, to 1957, on CBS. After the series ended in 1957, however, a modified version continued for three more seasons with 13 one-hour specials, running from 1957 to 1960, known first as The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show. I Love Lucy was the most watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons, and was the first to end its run at the top of the Nielsen ratings (an accomplishment later matched by The Andy Griffith Show and Seinfeld). The show was the first scripted television program to be shot on 35 mm film in front of a studio audience. It won five Emmy Awards and received numerous nominations. In 2002, it ranked second on TV Guide's list of television's greatest shows, behind Seinfeld and ahead of The Honeymooners. In 2007 it was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME." As mentioned, audience reactions were live, thus creating a far more authentic laugh than the "canned laughter" used on most filmed sitcoms of the time. Regular audience members were sometimes heard from episode to episode, and Arnaz's distinctive laugh could be heard in the background during scenes in which he did not perform. It's long and impressive list of awards and nominations include:
Emmy Awards Wins: Best Situation Comedy, 1953, 1954; Best Comedienne, Lucille Ball, 1953; Best Series Supporting Actress, Vivian Vance, 1954; Best Actress – Continuing Performance, Lucille Ball, 1956.

The awards for which it received nominations but did now win are: I Love Lucy - Best Situation Comedy, 1952; Best Written Comedy Material: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh Davis, Robert G. Carroll, 1955; Best Situation Comedy, 1955; Best Comedy Writing: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh Davis, Bob Carroll Jr., Bob Schiller, Bob Weiskopf for the episode "L.A. At Last", 1956
Lucille Ball - Best Comedian or Comedienne, 1952; Most Outstanding Personality, 1953; Best Female Star of Regular Series, 1954; Best Actress Starring in a Regular Series, 1955; Best Comedienne, 1956; Best Continuing Performance by a Comedienne in a Series, 1957; Best Continuing Performance (Female) in a Series by a Comedienne, Singer, Hostess, Dancer, M.C., Announcer, Narrator, Panelist, or any Person who Essentially Plays Herself, 1958
Vivian Vance - Best Supporting Actress in a Regular Series, 1955; Best Supporting Performance by an Actress, 1957; Best Continuing Supporting Performance by an Actress in a television series, 1958
William Frawley - Best Series Supporting Actor, 1954; Best Supporting Actor in a Regular Series, 1955; Best Actor in a Supporting Role, 1956

Kinda difficult to argue with those stats.

The Flintstones was an animated, prime-time sitcom that screened from 1960 to 1966, on ABC. Produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, The Flintstones was about a working class Stone Age man's life with his family and his next-door neighbor and best friend. The Flintstones was the first American animated show to depict two people of the opposite sex (Fred and Wilma; Barney and Betty) sleeping together in one bed, although Fred and Wilma are sometimes depicted as sleeping in separate beds. For comparison, the first live-action depiction of this in American TV history was in television's first-ever sitcom: 1947's Mary Kay and Johnny. The Flintstones also became the first prime time animated series to last more than two seasons; this record wasn't surpassed by another prime time animated TV series until the third season of The Simpson's in 1992 which was a number one seed that just lost in the Elite 8 match ups last round. To this day it is still one of the most satirized and parodied shows in history. From Flintstones' vitamins to a mention in a Beastie Boys song as well as a Fred "Yabba Dabba Do" quote in the animated movie Ice Age, the show is still very active in popular culture.

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. originally aired on CBS from 1964 to 1969. The series was a spin off of The Andy Griffith Show, and the pilot was aired as the finale of the fourth season of The Andy Griffith Show. The show ran for five seasons and a total of 150 episodes. Starring Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle, a naive but good-natured gas station attendant from the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina, who enlists in the United States Marine Corps. Frank Sutton plays Gomer's high-octane, short-fused Gunnery Sergeant Vince Carter. The series never discussed nor addressed the then-current Vietnam War (despite its military theme), instead focusing on the relationship between Gomer and Sergeant Carter. The show retained high ratings throughout its run. Among the themes explored were the honesty and "strong family values supposedly inherent in small town life". Gomer Pyle's basic message was "far simpler than any corporate suburban sitcoms with their lessons in compromise and role-following. It said merely that the oldest, most basic, least sophisticated sort of sweetness could redeem even the toughest modern types". Author Elizabeth Hirschman noted that Gomer represented a "uniquely American archetype; a large, powerful man physically with the simple, honest nature of a child or animal". She also noted that, like stories with characters of such an archetype, Gomer's trusting nature was often taken advantage of, though in the end he "reaps happiness" because of his innocence.

Get Smart satirized the secret agent genre. Created by Mel Brooks with Buck Henry, the show starred Don Adams (as Maxwell Smart, Agent 86), Barbara Feldon (as Agent 99). Henry said the creation of this show came from an effort to capitalize on the two biggest things in the entertainment world at the time: James Bond and Inspector Clouseau. Brooks said: "It's an insane combination of James Bond and Mel Brooks comedy." In 2010, TV Guide ranked Get Smart’s opening title sequence at No. 2 on its list of TV's Top 10 Credits Sequences, as selected by readers. The series won seven Emmy Awards, and it was nominated for another 14, as well as two Golden Globe Awards. At the time it was one of the "popular" shows for Hollywood hotshots to stop by and be a short guest star for an episode. Among the Hollywood royalty that popped up from time to time included: Steve Allen, Milton Berle, Ernest Borgnine, Tom Bosley, Victor Buono, Carol Burnett, John Byner, James Caan, Johnny Carson, Jamie Farr, Buddy Hackett, Sid Haig, Bob Hope, Ted Knight, Julie Newmar, Leonard Nimoy, Regis Philbin, Vincent Price, Don Rickles, and Cesar Romero. Often, these guest stars would appear uncredited for their cameo appearances. Steve Carrell revived the Don Adams character Agent 86 in a 2008 feature film.

Bewitched originally broadcast for eight seasons on ABC from 1964 to 1972, starring Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York (1964–69), Dick Sargent (1969–72), and Agnes Moorehead. The show is about a witch who marries a mortal and tries to lead the life of a typical suburban housewife. Bewitched enjoyed great popularity, finishing as the number two show in America during its debut season. The show continues to be seen throughout the world in syndication and on DVD and was the longest-running supernatural-themed sitcom of the 1960s–1970s era. In 2002, Bewitched was ranked #50 on "TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time". In 1997, the same magazine ranked the season 2 episode "Divided He Falls" #48 on their list of the "100 Greatest Episodes of All Time". Paul Lynde was also a regular guest star playing Samantha's Uncle Arthur. Thanks to witchcraft, a number of interesting characters were seen, including Benjamin Franklin, George and Martha Washington, Paul Revere, Sigmund Freud, Julius Caesar, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon, King Henry VIII, Cleopatra, Santa Claus, Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk, Mother Goose, The Artful Dodger, Hansel and Gretel, The Tooth Fairy, the Loch Ness Monster, a Leprechaun, Prince Charming, Sleeping Beauty, and Willie Mays who plays himself).

The Andy Griffith Show was televised by CBS between 1960 and 1968. Andy Griffith portrays a widowed sheriff in the fictional small community of Mayberry, North Carolina. His life is complicated by an inept but well-meaning deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts), a spinster aunt and housekeeper, Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier), and a young son, Opie (Ron Howard, billed as Ronny). Local ne'er-do-wells, bumbling pals, and temperamental girlfriends further complicate his life. The series was a major hit, never placing lower than seventh in the Nielsen ratings and ending its final season at number one. Though neither Griffith nor the show won awards during its eight-season run, series co-stars Knotts and Bavier accumulated a combined total of six Emmy Awards. The show, a semi-spin-off from an episode of The Danny Thomas Show entitled "Danny Meets Andy Griffith", spawned its own spin-off series, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Some of us would later appreciate Ron Howard when he began starring in another sitcom, this one during the 70's called Happy Days which is headed to the Final Four.

I Dream of Jeannie, was a sitcom with a fantasy premise, starred Barbara Eden as a 2,000-year-old genie, and Larry Hagman as an astronaut who becomes her master, with whom she falls in love and eventually marries. Produced by Screen Gems, the show aired from 1965 to 1970. The show ran for five seasons and produced 139 episodes. The series was created and produced by Sidney Sheldon in response to the great success of rival network ABC's Bewitched series, which had debuted in 1964 as the second most watched program in the United States. It was one of the very first television shows to incorporate time travel into story lines.

A big Man Hole salute and a "Thank You!" to all of these shows that helped pave the way for all the sitcoms that were to follow. We thank you and wish to let you know we do not hold you responsible in any way for the Homeboys in Outer Space, Cavemen, or My Two Dads, of the world.

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