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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
This Week’s Topic: The Five Best Forgotten Comedies (of Recent Memory)
I wasn’t expecting Nick to send me a Friday Five topic. I was actually planning on coming up with one at work. But I just plum forgot! So here goes:
Scrubs was a critical darling and ratings hit for the first four seasons it aired, and then seemed to disappear completely after that. This was more than likely due to the rise of more “serious,” auteur-ish comedies, such as The Office and 30 Rock, which rejected the bright lights and the goofball wackiness that came to define Bill Lawrence’s sitcom. It may have also been the seeming complete audience rejection of horrible actor Zach Braff. Braff once seemed destined to become a breakout actor/writer/director, but audiences almost immediately universally turned on him, leaving Braff only to appear now and again in terrible indie films and direct-to-dvd crap. But for a few fleeting seasons, Scrubs was a pretty fantastic show with a ton of great characters. It wasn’t really fair to think it could keep up the pace.
4. The War At Home
The War At Home aired just two seasons for a total of 44 episodes. But in those two seasons it managed to offend, shock, and horrify any white collar stiff or religious type who may have managed to accidentally turn it on. It also covered perhaps the best “coming out” of a homosexual character that has ever aired on tv. It was during this “coming out” arc that the show reached its critical peak and really grabbed me as a viewer. Look, I fully recognize that The War At Home, which starred a never better Michael Rappaport, was a wholly uneven show. But by the end of its run, it seemed to have finally found its footing. Unfortunately that was when Fox decided to cancel it.
Tony Shalhoub may always be known for playing obsessive-compulsive weirdo Adrian Monk, and that’ll probably be fine. But Monk on the whole seems to be an entirely forgotten television show. Monk was, in its time, a critical darling and annual Emmy nomination factory for USA Network. But when was the last time anybody gave it a thought? Besides the excellent Shalhoub, Monk also starred Ted Levine (Buffalo Bill himself) and Traylor Howard, who were both consistently good to great in their roles. So why does Monk seem forgotten? It’s probably more than likely because it aired on USA Network, a channel which no one really seems to watch anymore.
2. My Name is Earl (2005-2009)
When it debuted in 2005, My Name is Earl was both a critical darling and a huge hit for NBC. It aired along with Scrubs, The Office, and eventually 30 Rock on the Must See TV block. Jason Lee earned critical raves as the titular Earl, a lowlife in search of redemption from friends, family, and all the strangers he hurt in his life. Breakout character Joy Turner, played by a fantastic Jamie Pressley, wowed critics and earned several nominations for her portrayal of a trailer park queen and mother of two. A weak third season more than likely did Earl in, but I personally think the show rebounded in the fourth, as the cast expanded to fill out the fictional Camden County and things became truly oddball and outrageous.
1. Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006)
Maybe people think it either outstayed its welcome or just got plain too wacky towards the end (or maybe these two overlap each other?), but Malcolm, starring Frankie Muniz and Bryan Cranston among others, was always a strongly written, funny sitcom with hilarious characters and fantastic performances. Jane Kaczmarek became nearly iconic as Lois, the power-hungry matriarch with an iron-grip on her family, a strong set of morals and values, and an even stronger work ethic. Cranston, who would go on to win three Emmy’s in a row for Breaking Bad, does fantastic work both as an actor and also a director here. The kids, however, steal the show. There isn’t a weak link in the bunch. Justin Berfield as the bully, Reese, and Erik Per Sullivan as Dewey, the free spirited weirdo, are the show’s secret weapons. Yeah, things got a little wacky toward the end, and this seemed to coincided with the audience abandoning the show. But Malcolm was a consistently fantastic show through its six-season run. Too bad it’s almost completely forgotten about nowadays.