John Walker's Electronic House

Best TV 2008 – Sitcoms

by on Dec.16, 2008, under Television

Best TV shows of the last six months. I know – who the hell am I, on a personal blog, to be issuing awards? This is the internet, people. This is how it works. (I should add that I’ve yet to see the latest season of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, if this list looks a little strange without it.)

Best Sitcom: The Big Bang Theory

Season 1’s shortened run showed a lot of promise, especially from a show that in description sounds anything from derivative to offensive. Two physics geeks live opposite a blonde, unambitious waitress. Oh, the crazy differences between them! But fortunately the show quickly realised that the interplay between them as friends who care about each other was far more interesting than in Penny constantly not understanding what the boys were up to. More often this season Penny has joined in with them, and very frequently at the beginning of an episode – in other words, it’s not a big deal that she’s part of Halo Night now. Even if she did manage to accidentally turn it into America’s Next Top Model Night, with the episode ending with Howard and Rajesh finding the ANTM house.

It’s a Chuck Lorre show, which will put a lot of people off immediately. Currently responsible for this and Two and a Half Men, and in the past much-hated shows like Dharma & Greg, Cybill, Grace Under Fire, many wouldn’t come near this. (They’re obviously stupid, because Grace Under Fire was great, and Dharma & Greg wasn’t nearly as putrid as Family Guy would have you believe.) However, if there’s anyone who knows sitcoms on the scale of James Burrows, it’s this guy. And with TBBT, he’s nailed it. It’s a traditional three-camera sitcom, with a studio audience who oohs and aahs appropriately, and is almost entirely set in one front room. But the performances are fantastic. Kaley Cuoco manages to make Penny interesting, rather than a dull foil for the antics of the four geeks, and Johnny Galecki (David from Roseanne) is great at being the audience’s male ‘in’, the most normal of the four men. Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg still have the capacity to kill scenes they’re in, but have been better managed this time out. But the real star is Jim Parsons as Sheldon. His Aspergy, awkward social denial is constantly adorable – he somehow manages to make someone who’s almost sociopathic in his inability to understand people into a very loveable character.

It’s hard to argue for the programme in any sophisticated way. It doesn’t match How I Met Your Mother’s writing or acting, and never goes as deep as that show, but it is unquestionably the sitcom that’s made me laugh the most this year. I really cannot remember laughing as hard at any sitcom than during the final scene of the recent Christmas episode (Saturnalia episode, I should say), with Sheldon’s reaction to Penny’s gift. I cried with laughter until I hurt. And that’s what sitcoms are meant to do.

Runner Up: How I Met Your Mother

I love How I Met Your Mother, but season 4 hasn’t had its Robin Sparkles episode yet. It hasn’t had its Slap Bet. There hasn’t been the hook, and “The incident with the goat” isn’t an intriguing flash-forward at all. A goat in the apartment! How wacky! However, it’s been consistently fun, and often very funny. And in a year where the sitcom is almost gone completely (Scrubs cannot come soon enough – next month), it’s great to still have this show. Neil Patrick Harris is still the star by a stretch, and with this, Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Prop 8: The Musical and his depiction of the Shoe Fairy in Sesame Street, he’s the most loveable man on TV. And brilliantly, he sings in all of them.

Runner Up: Gary Unmarried

Here’s another sitcom that shouldn’t be any good, but is somehow really enjoyable. A divorced couple with two kids, and their need to interact. It could have been a spiteful, bitter show, based on nothing but the snipes and barbs between the separated couple. It kind of is based on the snipes and barbs between the separated couple, but somehow is never spiteful or bitter. In fact, it’s their obvious fondness for each other that allows you to relax and enjoy the show, knowing their smart, likeable kids aren’t being screwed up by them, and that we’re not going to be asked to believe they might fall back in love at any point. In fact, as soon as that story happens, it’ll be the sign the show is over and the writing lost track. She’s already engaged (to their former marriage guidance therapist – the brilliant Ed Begley Jr.) and Gary’s dating. It’s corny as hell, but James Burrows directing every episode so far, and a writing staff that’s included people who’ve worked on Scrubs, Seinfeld, Friends and Californication, is smart production.

1 Comment for this entry