Car 54, Where Are You?
The second greatest show from the all-time greatest show runner, Nat Hiken.
Probably among the best single-camera sitcoms ever produced.
Hiken had a great sense of editing technique.
Always knew how to cut to the joke and away from the joke, to make the jokes even funnier.
The show had a very New York Jewish sensibility.
It had great imaginative storytelling.
One entire episode was devoted in trying to convince one of the patrolmen that it was Thursday instead of Friday.
This requires imagination.
It had great dialogue, which was Hiken's signature.
The only thing it didn't have was a major star to carry the proceedings, like he had with Phil Silvers.
It's two leads were essentially supporting players.
More help was needed.
But Hiken so outclassed the competition in all other respects, then and now, that I rank "Car 54" this highly.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
A true groundbreaker.
It gave every young woman something to aspire to.
The writing was top-notch.
The surrounding cast was first-rate (except for Gavin McLeod, often referred to as the world's luckiest white man).
Who knew before this that Ed Asner was funny?
The "Chuckles The Clown Bites The Dust" episode deserves all the accolades it received.
Mary even transcended Laura Petrie, and that's saying something.
The Jack Benny Show.
The real shame of it all is that every year, fewer and fewer people remember him.
His show was brilliant.
Brilliantly written, brilliantly performed.
It relied heavily on the use of "callbacks'----setting up a joke early in the script, and paying it off unexpectedly later on to hilarious effect.
Benny created such an indelible character, someone so vain, so cheap, so petty, such a crappy violinist, and made you love him for it.
He invented the concept of making sure that everyone else was funny around him, often just playing straight to the other characters.
And this worked because all the other characters' jokes were essentially about HIM.
That he has faded from America's consciousness is a disgrace.
I have a cousin, a smart kid, whom twenty years ago, when he was a teenager, engaged me in a conversation about sitcoms.
I asked him what he thought about Jack Benny.
He replied, "Oh, he's pretty funny. The way he chases around those English girls and they speed up the tape...."
He thought I was referring to Benny Hill.
He had never heard of Jack Benny.
And that was over TWENTY YEARS AGO.
Jack Benny should be forcefully re-injected into the public's consciousness.
Louis C.K. is perhaps the most inventive performer on the current scene.
Easily the best stand-up comic we have.
He is very much the auteur of "Louie".
Besides writing, producing, directing, and performing in it, he even edits it.
A man in total control.
It started out being what "Seinfeld" started out being----a way to show that his real life was distilled into his stand-up routines.
Except on "Seinfeld", I never believed a word of it.
It was a concept that they gave up on rather early.
Louie has been doing the same thing.
Except with Louie, you believe EVERY WORD of it.
As a result, you often see a man in pain going through life, wishing it was something else.
This makes it darker than most sitcoms.
It has the ability to be gut-busting funny.
It also has the freedom which he takes to virtually NEVER be funny during the entire half-hour.
But it is always fascinating, as is he, and you are always in total awe of what he is doing.
He did an episode with Joan Rivers this year, which, if there is any justice, she should win an Emmy for.
Next, we approach the top five.
My book, "Show Runner" and it's sequel,"Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store, You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
You might want to check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperback, "Mark Rothman's Essays" is still available for people without Kindle. I have many readings and signings remaining, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
The website "On Screen & Beyond" has two hours of an interview I did on it's podcast in their archives.
Just Google On Screen & Beyond to find them if you're interested.
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- The Top Five.
- More Of The Top Ten.
- The Top Ten List---- #10.
- The Top Five Honorables.
- The Next-To-The Last Honorables
- More Honorables.
- More Kindling.
- Beginning The Honorable Mention Odyssey.
- More Non-Honorables.
- My Favorite Sitcoms. The Top Ten.
- The Best Of Intentions.
- The "Seinfeld" Brouhaha.
- ▼ September (13)
- ► 2010 (21)
- mark rothman
- Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."