Wednesday, January 19, 2011

When Funny Shows Go Sad.

     I've been giving this a lot of thought recently, especially in the last 8 hours, since I posted yesterday's preview.  I looked up a list of all sitcoms ever in an attempt to jog my memory.  There are a few that I feel probably did it well, but that I couldn't really remember a specific time when they had done it. 
     I would bet those classic 80's sit-coms had some Very Special Episodes, and while a few probably did it with a massive amount of cheese, maybe some of them didn't.   Family Ties was known for throwing in some hard hitting episodes; the topics weren't always funny, but generally the episode was.  This is a show that always had heart, so it was an easy transition to make.  The episode where Steven's father died is told in mostly flashbacks.  There are fewer punchlines, but the episode holds together and is an important arc for Steven.
     Thinking about how well Family Ties deals with those things makes me think that Spin City probably walked the line in a similar fashion.  I didn't watch Spin City on a regular basis, but I should have, at least in the beginning.  Its co-creator was Bill Lawrence, creator of Scrubs, which will come up again soon.  I imagine that with two of the biggest hearted guys at the helm, Spin City probably bobbed and weaved its way around the saddest of all topics with ease and poignancy.
     Remember Blossom?  You probably do.  I don't remember specific episodes too well, but I remember there were a few premise elements that lent themselves to sad story lines.  The episode that does stick with me though is the one where they broke the last glass.  It was an ET glass or a Star Wars glass- some sort of collectible glass.   It was the  last thing that Nick(?) had kept in the house from his  ex-wife.  And as much as he was burned by her leaving, he was really tore up when that last glass broke. 
     Episodes of Full House don't count.  They never got it right, and I think it's because the premise was already so heartbreaking, but they kind of ignored it, they could never really get to the heart of it.  I've always wanted to do a reboot of that show, to make it real, and therefore, not terrible.  It was beloved by so many people, but it was so terrible.  Hrm.  Just terrible.
     As I looked at the list, a few shows jumped out as shows that probably did it well, but that I didn't remember well: Cheers, Mad About You, Murphy Brown, and M*A*S*H.  A few others struck me as shows that probably tried, but didn't quite pull it off: The Facts of Life, The Golden Girls, Home Improvement, and Who's The Boss. 
     I debated about Will&Grace.  I remember they got very sit and less com towards the end.  There was good writing, and there was never a big cheese factor, so I would bet they had a few good sad episodes in their repertoire of hilarity.  Also, Sports Night pulled it off quite frequently, but since it was written by Aaron Sorkin, it hardly counts.  It started off on a whole other plane.
      What I realized when trying to pull material together for this post was that my two favorite episodes of shows that I think deal with very sad things the best, are actually about the same exact thing.  This leads me to the belief that it requires a separate post.  So yes, tomorrow's post will also be about incredibly sad things, but hopefully in a funny way. 

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