By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Mid-September is time for new television shows to premiere on all the major networks, basic cable, streaming serves and premium channel.
For decades television was the main medium of communication across the world. The invention from the 1920s connected the United States with other countries like Germany, China, Russia and Mexico.
TVs have improved in designs, capabilities and purposes. As more and more people tune into their laptops, computers and phones, televisions are collecting dust in many living rooms.
But some folks still love to pop onto the couch with their favorite snack in front of the tube. Since the 1950s, televisions brought families together for moments like the death of JFK, the moon landing, the Berlin Wall falling and 9-11.
For about six decades the television also was the main entertainment for families. And the genre that brought us together mostly was the sitcom. From classics like “I Love Lucy,” “All in the Family,” “My Three Sons,” Leave it to Beaver,” “Mary Tyler Moore,” “Happy Days,” “The Jeffersons” and “The Honeymooners” got the ball rolling through the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.
Then sitcoms became a foundation in America in the ’80s and ’90s with “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” “Cheers,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Growing Pains” and “The Cosby Show.”
The reason why I’m listing all these great shows is because they didn’t crack my top 10. Omitting animated shows, here are my best sitcoms of all time. These shows were must-see TV for me over the years. Each show has made me laugh to the point of tears and even shaped my lingo. Let’s grab the remote and flip through the channels.
10. “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
Aired: September 10, 1990, to May 20, 1996
This show was the story all about how Will Smith’s life got flipped, turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute and reflect on this show. So just sit right there and I’ll tell you how he became the prince of a town called Bel-Air.
NBC gave a young rapper a show with an established cast. Smith portrayed a teen living in a rough Philadelphia neighborhood and moving to one of the most influential places in America. Thousands of miles away from home, Smith shook up the Banks’ household.
The family bond between the characters translated beyond the camera as they have remained close. We love Uncle Phil, Hilary, Ashley, Geoffrey, Carlton and both Aunt Vivs. All fans of the show have done the Carlton Dance at least once. Go on YouT-ube and enjoy a Carlton montage.
9. “Malcolm in the Middle”
Aired: January 9, 2000, to May 14, 2006
This family was the opposite of the Cleavers. Based in middle-class America, the family composed of Lois, Hal, Francis, Reese, Dewey and Malcolm had enough adventures in their own home. Then the craziness would follow the boys at their schools. And the parents Lois and Hal had insane situations take place on the job and during family errands.
To get a synopsis of the show, please search YouTube for the “Duel at the Mall.” This family specialized in revenge. They learned it from their grandma.
8. “Good Times”
Aired: February 8, 1974, to August 1, 1979
The show was a spinoff of “Maude,” with Esther Rolle’s character, Florida, getting her own show centered around her family, living in a housing project in Chicago. Rolle had one demand that her family have a father. So the lives of Florida and James Evans gave America a glimpse of inner-city living for a black family in the 1970s. The couple was raising three children — JJ, Thelma and Michael — in harsh conditions. But the family had love, funny moments and a cast of characters to keep the show fresh.
“Good Times” introduced a young Janet Jackson to America as Penny. The Evans family was great already, but Willona, Bookman and Sweet Daddy Williams were regulars that you loved to see pop up in a storyline.
Although the family patriarch James died in the middle of the show, leading to one of the most famous lines in television history from Florida, he left many funny moments you can view on YouTube. Look up the best of James Evans.
7. “Married with Children”
Aired: April 5, 1987, to June 9, 1997
The Bundys also lived in Chicago but as a middle-class white family. So by the time “Married with Children” aired on Fox, it was the antithesis of “The Cosby Show.”
Family leader Al Bundy was a hard-luck shoe salesman who wanted to escape his life on most days. But he had a hidden devotion and love for his wife, Peggy, and children, Kelly and Bud.
Now the Bundy clan tried to get a leg up or get rich quick from week to week. Usually the plan failed, and Al would be left with a dumb expression on his face. But those misadventures just made Al, Peg, Kelly and Bud stronger and closer.
Oh yeah, they Bundys might ended up in a fight or two. If you don’t believe me, check out on YouTube “MWC: A typical Bundy fight.”
Aired: August 27, 1992, to May 1, 1997
While most US Americans were watching “Seinfeld” on NBC, I was tuned into Fox’s “Martin.” This classic show focused on comedian Martin Lawrence’s Martin Payne. He was a Detroit radio host dating his eventual wife Gina. It was an upcoming young black couple, giving me a blueprint for my 20s and 30s.
Gina brought her best friend Pam into the mix. And Martin rolled with his boys Tommy and Cole. Just in case that wasn’t enough, Martin got into the makeup chair to portray several characters like Jerome, Otis, Roscoe, Mama Payne and the ultra famous Sheneneh.
Lawrence’s performances were a guaranteed laugh, even to the point of tears. But as Martin, he could deliver the goods. Just check out on YouTube: Martin’s Famous Dog Scene.
5. “Saved by the Bell”
Aired: August 20, 1989, to May 22, 1993
NBC made a daring move back in the late 1980s. They made the slow transition from Saturday morning animation to live-action series. “Saved by the Bell” was the beginning of the focus toward a teenaged base for the network.
Jessie, AC, Kelly, Lisa, Screech and Zack brought us into Bayside High School every week under the leadership of principal Mr. Richard Belding. Kelly and Zack were the “would-they, won’t-they” couple.
Screech was the comedy relief. Lisa broke several stereotypes with her portrayal of Lisa Turtle. AC was a jock, and Jessie was the nerd always worried about grades.
Each character prepared me for high school and how to handle things. But my lessons on how to be cool came from “Preppy,” Zack Morris.
From the cell phone to the timeouts, Zack was the focus on this show. Here’s the YouTube suggestion for this classic: “‘Saved By The Bell – Zack- Best Time Out Ever.
4. “Facts of Life”
Aired: August 24, 1979, to September 13, 1988
As a spinoff of “Diff’rent Strokes,” “Facts of Life” gave NBC a hit through Mrs. Garrett, working at the prestigious Eastland School for Young Women. Now the show had a slow start with too many girls on the roll. By season two, the cast was condensed to the gorgeous Blair Warner, goofy Natalie Green, precocious Tootie Ramsey and newcomer/rebel Joanne Jo Polniaczek.
For almost a decade the girls tackled topics affecting teenage girls and young people and gave parents valuable advice. Then as the girls grew up, they ran a business and prepared to become career women.
It was a fun ride, watching the girls from week to week. They even traveled the world twice for adventures in France and Australia. Enjoy the bond of Tootie and Natalie. and how Blair and Jo went from enemies to BFFs. Before Mrs. Garrett left the show, she was the mother we all needed. The YouTube suggestion here is “Flashback Fridays on NBC 6- The Facts of Life.”
3. “The Wayans Bros.”
Aired: January 11, 1995, to May 20, 1999
The infant network WB depended on these brothers to get their network some life. Real-life brothers Shawn and Marlon gave a younger, more urban generation the answer to “Seinfeld.” It was our show about nothing really. If the show had a premises, it was about two brothers looking for money, success and women. Nearby was their father, Pops, and his diner.
Shawn and Marlon blended hip-hop culture with some elements of “In Living Color,” their big brother Keenan’s hit show. They unintentionally broke the fourth-wall because the jokes were so funny they had to laugh. The boys and Pops were willing to insult anybody from fellow cast mates to real-life family and of course celebrities.
But the show’s strongest elements were Pops’ absent mind, Shawn’s sarcasm and Marlon being crazy. A quick YouTube search of Marlon Wayans – Funny Moments From “The Wayans Bros.” Show will validate the last statement.
2. “Golden Girls”
Aired: September 14, 1985, to May 9, 1992
Four women come together to live in a house in Miami during their golden years. Sounds simple or either crazy to work for a sitcom. But NBC struck, well, gold with the fantastic cast of Bea Arthur (Dorothy), Rue McClanahan (Blanche), Betty White (Rose) and Estelle Getty (Sophia). The girls handled subjects ahead of the times, from AIDS to deportation and addiction to prescription drugs. The show could be very serious while keeping a hilarious tone.
Once you heard the iconic theme song, it was time to park into your favorite chair to learn from the wisdom of Sophia. Picture it … Memphis 1988. A young black boy watches the vibrant and seductive Blanche Devereaux exemplify Southern charm. Meanwhile she had this false sense of how amazing her beauty really was setting up her roommates. Even the dimwitted Rose. Thanks to her I want to visit St. Olaf. But will my IQ drop if I listen to the natives too long?
No worries, I’ll channel my favorite Golden Girl, Dorothy, and overwhelm them with my sarcasm and well-timed comebacks.
No matter how you like your humor, this show has you covered. To understand how impactful “The Golden Girls” were, search YouTube for the Top 10 Times The Golden Girls Were Ahead of Their Time.
Aired: NBC (2001-08);
Creator Bill Lawrence somehow took portions from my life and incorporated them into his iconic show. Anyone who is around me long enough knows I can pull up a “Scrubs” reference for any moment in life. Because “Scrubs is life.”
The wonderful cast of Zach Braff (JD), Sarah Chalke (Elliot), Donald Faison (Turk), John C. McGinley (Dr. Cox), Neil Flynn (The Janitor), Judy Reyes (Carla) and Ken Jenkins (Dr. Kelso) were amazing enough. But the B-List crew of characters like Jordan, The Todd, Ted the Lawyer and Nurse Roberts gave the hospital, Sacred Heart, the extra life it needed. Lawrence made sure the show had several reoccurring characters to make viewers feel like they were visiting a real facility week to week.
That foundation was accompanied by other sitcom tropes like comedy relief, flashbacks, voice-overs, fantasies and the “will they, won’t-they” dynamic for JD and Elliot. Also “Scrubs” featured drama and a passionate bromance between JD and Turk. Even the never-ending question of whether Dr. Cox will love JD like a father kept us on the edge of our seats.
There are so many reasons to love this show because “Scrubs is life.” With so many moments on YouTube … I’ll go with “Guy Love” to close out this top 10.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for Journal West 10 Media LLC. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.