Favorite single episode of a sitcom?

a shammy

Greg Burgas, the scoundrel, asked: What’s your favorite single episode of a sitcom?

I find this exercise difficult. There may be bits of a story that I remember. Think of the turkey episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. It may be that Les Nessman’s reportage is enough. But I don’t specifically recall the rest of the show. Ditto the last episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the mass movement to the tissues. Or Jim taking a driving test on Taxi. Or the last few minutes of the Newhart finale.

Lots of shows may have a great A story, but the B story, not so much. I’ll admit there are certain elements I’m always a sucker for. One is the inclusion of game shows that I like. JEOPARDY on Cheers. Password on The Odd Couple.

But I don’t rewatch enough sitcoms to be sure, with two exceptions. That said, I picked these.

Sammy’s visit episode of All In The Family, with Sammy Davis, Jr. Sammy sits in Archie’s chair, and Arch says nothing.

The Tuttle episode of MASH (1973). “Throughout his childhood, Hawkeye had an imaginary friend, Tuttle, who knocked over garbage, broke windows, and wet the bed. When Hawkeye resurrects ‘Captain Tuttle’ to requisition food and supplies for Sister Theresa and the orphanage, he stirs up a mare’s nest.”

The Car episode of Barney Miller (1981). “A car thief’s conscience haunts him twenty-five years after the fact.” Two things stand out forty years later. When the original owner saw the vehicle, she complained, “It’s so PINK.” And the thief said that he wiped the car clean regularly with a shammy.

Three Valentines episode of Frasier (1999). “Three different stories following Frasier, Daphne, Niles, and Martin on Valentine’s Day.” Specifically Niles ironing. Valentine’s Day can suck.

The exceptions

I watched I Love Lucy. A lot. I’ve picked the Harpo Marx episode of I Love Lucy (1955). I could have selected Vitameatavegamin or the one with the stomping grapes. Now we have a boxed set, though my daughter had commandeered it after we bought it at the Lucy-Desi Museum.

The other is The Dick Van Dyke Show. Even before getting the DVDS DVD, there were lots of bits (walnuts, a Christmas show, and anything involving Laura in capri pants) I recall. But I’ll pick three episodes that have stuck in my mind since I was a kid.

One was probably BECAUSE I was a child when I saw it. What’s In A Middle Name? (1962) “Ritchie finds his birth certificate and wants an explanation for his middle name being Rosebud.” And I remembered all of the components. There’s something fundamental about the kid’s identity crisis.

Coast To Coast Big Mouth (1965) “Laura accidentally spills the beans on a nationally televised talk show that Alan Brady is bald.” Carl Reiner talking to toupees was classic.

But the #1 episode has to be That’s My Boy?? (1963) “During a flashback about his early days as a parent, Rob recounts why he believed Laura and he brought home a baby belonging to someone else.” When the punchline came, I laughed hysterically, as did the audience.

Best Sitcoms – what’s that?

Can an animated show be considered?

Barney MillerRecently. Rolling Stone listed the 100 Best Sitcoms of All Time. There was a time I’d be all over this.

But as Mark Evanier noted, the meaning is fuzzy. Does The Best mean the Most Influential? Beloved? Enduring?

Can an animated show be a sitcom? The Simpsons are #1 on the list.

But the real issue for me is that there are shows that I have NEVER even HEARD of, let alone seen. #98 Derry Girls, #96 Bluey (animated), #95 Baskets, #94 Insecure, #93 Big Mouth (animated), #88 Party Down, #83 Letterkenny, #78 Peep Show, #72 The Comeback, #64 What We Do in the Shadows, #61 Catastrophe, #59 Spaced, #57 You’re the Worst, #40 Review. Do any of you recommend some of these shows?

And some of these are on a platform called Channel 4, which I assume is NOT the British news programme.

I’m not planning to go through all of the rest. You can assume, however, that whatever CBS shows that are on this list from 1965-1980, and the NBC shows from 1983-2000 I probably watched.

Some shows

#99 Frank’s Place – I’m glad this obscure dramedy made the list, though I haven’t seen it since it first broadcast. Ditto #91, Buffalo Bill.

#85 The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show – in the 1950s, it broke down the fourth wall.

#65 Phineas and Ferb. I know more about this animated show than any adult should. I liked it.

#49 Barney Miller, was not only one of my favorite shows but had one of the best theme songs. Interesting, though, the attempt to make this a work and home show (like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and, The Dick Van Dyke Show, for two) just didn’t click here. The home segments, with Barbara Barrie, were abandoned quite early.

#38 Friends – I’m surprised the phenomenon didn’t rate higher, though the show irritated me as often as entertained.

#36 – Sex and the City – a sitcom? The writeup describes it as beginning “as a clumsy, loud, and only occasionally funny attempt at social anthropology… By the end, it was almost purely a drama…”


#15 Arrested Development – I watched a few episodes the first season and gave up. Yet I watched the second season and grew to like it.

#14 The Andy Griffith Show. When flicking through the channels, I’ll still watch it.

#11  The Dick Van Dyke Show – the only sitcom for which I own the entire run on DVD. Yes, DVD on DVD.

#6 MASH – as early as the middle of Season 1, it dealt with serious subjects.  The “Sometimes, you hear the bullet” episode. e.g. 

#4 I Love Lucy – we’ve been to the museum. From a comment by the late Dustbury: “I Love Lucy invented the sitcom as we know it, with three-camera coverage, film instead of kinescope, and reruns (39 new shows a season, plus 13 repeats). Its influence is incalculable.”

#3 Seinfeld – I liked it much more when it really WAS about nothing, such as getting lost in a parking lot. I thought it became mean-spirited after a while, and I gave up on it.

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