I want my TV to make me laugh again.

When humans first brought TVs into their homes, they did it so they could sit around the living room once or twice a week and laugh. Variety shows and comedy shows made up the bulk of television programming. It was fun.

Sitcoms continued to be the foundation of TV right through the eras of Life of Riley, Lucy, Honeymooners, Bewitched, Beverly Hillbillies, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, All in the Family, MASH, Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier….  We talked about them at work or school the next day. Laughed all over again. You could even watch the the reruns (now knows as encore performances) over and over and they were still fun.

It was half an hour out of your evening and if you missed a week or two it was no big deal because there was no ongoing plot to follow.

Then TV introduced a sprinkling of dramas: lots of police dramas, one or two medical dramas, some mini-series, night-time soaps, and suddenly you had to tune in every week or become hopelessly lost.[1]

Then there was a writer’s strike, (1988) so someone got the bright idea to cash in on the love of police drama by throwing a camera guy into the back of a police cruiser and COPS was born.

That was so successful that I guess  the TV people decided they could do away with writers altogether and have  much more captive audience if they just started churning out reality shows, one after another. And the TV audience ate it up with a big, shiny spoon.

So now, while there are maybe one or two intelligent shows left, most dramas just aim for maximum gross-out factor and the situation comedy just doesn’t even exist anymore. There are some lame attempts — shows that aim for cynical, urbane wit, or just plain stupidity, and maybe there’s something wrong with me, but they make my eyes glaze over. There are a few animated comedies that are funny, but in a very sad way. There’s nothing that’s laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-the-face funny anymore.

Have we all lost our sense of humour?[2] Would we really not rather spend our precious free time engaging in a good laugh instead of watching Horatio Kane take his sunglasses on and off and shoot people?

I love a good sitcom. I don’t want to be held hostage to the TV. I don’t want to have to watch a show every week. I sure don’t want to spend my leisure time watching one idiot after another competing for a big wad of cash by having cruel, disgusting things done to them or by doing cruel, disgusting things to each other.


 [1] Law & Order is the only drama that does not have a continuing plot line which it continues to be the only one I watch

[2] On a related note, have you seen the quality of “comedic” movies they’re offering?  Beverly Hills Chihuahua, for pity’s sake!!

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26 responses to “I want my TV to make me laugh again.

  1. I really like 30 Rock and My Name is Earl. I think the writing is funny and the weekly plots are tied up good and tight week to week.

  2. I have to agree with you. It’s nice not having to tune in week after week to follow a show. I really enjoy watching fraser and friends from time to time. When will something like this come back to tv?

  3. I refuse to watch ANY law type show while living in the States! Silly?!? Probably!! Unfortunately I just do not feel safe here!

    My husband and I LOVE How I Met Your Mother. It’s really good! and there is a Canadian in the mix and the comments that they make including Canada are great and funny!

    We also find ourselves watching programs on BBC. Coupling is great!

  4. I don’t have a tv and miss it when I read things like this — that list of all those great old shows. If I HAD a tv, though, I’d WATCH it all the time. And become a drooling idiot.

  5. There are some good comedies. I don’t watch TV very much anymore, but Two & 1/2 Men is funny. And How I Met Your Mother is clever. I have My Name is Earl on DVD so will be checking that out. British TV is still very funny. The Urbane Lion and I are working our way through Spaced. We howl our way through it. And apparently Little Britain is excellent. We do watch Torchwood, Dr Who and Dexter, but you have to follow the storyline.

    That being said, I hear ya! I don’t get reality TV or gameshows.

    Favourites from days gone by, I would add Three’s Company.

  6. I abandoned watching television because it generically sucks across the board.
    The networks are all putting out the same crap. Intelligent shows are so few and far between that I just gave up.
    Even HBO isn’t all that great. When I found that people liked “The Sopranos” more then “OZ” I just lost faith in the masses.
    Mind you that show “Eureka” is kinda good!

  7. There are good shows out there but I think in the need to fill 24 hours of TV air time across 365 channels, the writers, producers and programmers have completely filled the time with a bunch of crap for the most part. The half hour comedies are all horrible but I do watch shows like Brothers & Sisters, Desperate Housewives, Mad Men and Lost. I think they’re smart, funny (not in a side-grasping Ha-Ha way) and well written.

  8. Missy – Ya, they’re not bad, but they don’t really make me laugh, laugh, you know? Maybe it’s me? Maybe I’ve lost my guffaw

    A&J – I think sitcoms are dead for good. People seem to be lapping up these reality shows like crack. If a studio can produce a show without having to pay writers or actors, that’s big money in their pocket. The million they give to the winning contestant after a whole season isn’t even a fraction of what they’d be paying one actor.

    Helen – Ya BBC used to have some terrific programming. They don’t seem to funnel it through any of our stations anymore. Are they still producing new sitcoms?

    Ellie – Those old shows don’t exist any more, so you’re not missing anything and you wouldn’t be watching all the time because you’d get fed up and disgusted and go out for a walk or something instead.

    UP – 2 1/2 Men and 3’s Company? Uuurrrkkkk. I am now officially suspicious of your viewing recommendations.

    Dave – Ya, there’s always books and life, too. I haven’t really done Netfix. I must look into it. Is there good stuff there? Really good stuff?

    Lebowski – When did you ever have faith in the masses? This is news. There are still fun things to do without TV. Hard to believe, I know.

    Mo – I can’t bear to watch any of these. Everyone is crazy and/or manic. They go on and on and on and on. They never end. I like a story that has some hope of ending in my lifetime. I don’t want to make a long-term commitment to a TV show.

  9. I think there are still good sitcoms out there. Scrubs, Corner Gas and Futurama all come to mind as being extremely clever and amusing. Spaced is another personal favourite of mine.

  10. An American version of Coupling was supposed to be NBC’s saviour when it lost Friends. But it tanked after a couple weeks.

    I personally enjoy the comedy of Big Bang Theory, and the appointment vieweing I get out of ER, Flashpoint and Lost.

    All versions of Law & Order do have continuing storylines involving the lead characters, but they are more back story. Each episode stands on its own. I have always liked the original, despite its cast turnovers, and have recently discovered Special Victims Unit (which I almost always mistakenly refer to as SUV). Criminal Intent isn’t bad, but usually too hokey, especially in the surprise element that almost always pops up in the final minutes, to crack the case.

    Of course, I must put in a shamless plug, urging you to wrap up your evening with ‘A’ News at 11, the Ottawa version. If you have satellite, it’s on ExpressVu (is it now “Bell TV”?) 209 and StarChoice 342. I particularly recommend Thursday to Monday nights. 🙂

  11. Dave – Really? Futurama? Is that actually still on? And who are you? Why don’t you link your blog here so we can visit?

    Bob – Only Law & Order SVU has a bit of a storyline. Criminal Intent has a bit of a backstory, but the original L&O has neither. And who are you calling hokey? Not Detective Goren I hope because otherwise you’ll have me and the entire V D’O fanclub on your case!! And oh ya – I’m sort of following Big Bang.. it has possibilities, but it’s early days yet. We shall see.

  12. I’m a little bit more of a TV fan than most of the group here. Except Mo, of course! I think there are several quality dramas on that are worth tuning in to. (BUT NOT reality TV. Um, except Ghost Hunters. Swoon.) That being said…I love funny!! 30 Rock is my current favorite in the funny department. But you’re right: The choices aren’t numerous like they used to be.

    And for a good drama, I currently cannot get enough of House. House has become my crack. And when it comes back on, I will welcome back House’s heroin chaser: LOST. (Also lovely? Pushing Daisies.)

    And for the record? I’d watch V D’O on anything. “V D’O Watches Paint Dry.” Woo-hoo! EMMY.

  13. We gave up our TV (and yes, I miss it, though not that much). I do love a good sitcom though and was really digging The Office.

    I also must confess being addicted to Lost (one of theeee most complicated plots going).

  14. Yeah, Futurama was one of the most brilliant shows of the past decade or so, if you ask me. Extremely smart, a great sense of humour and a lot of heart to back it up. It’s not still on, unless you count the DVD movies that are\have come out recently, but it’s definitely worth checking out.

    I used to maintain a blog, The Ottawa Project, but I can never find the time to update it so now I just read the feed from Blogawa.

  15. The sitcom has truly lapsed, but “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “30 Rock” are really funny. We also watch “How I Met Your Mother” but it’s not as good as the other two. We don’t watch any of the regular police procedurals, but we like “Monk,” “Psych,” “Life,” and “The Mentalist.” The closest we ever get to a medical show is “Scrubs.” Yeah, TV is not as great as it used to be, but if you search hard enough, there’s some pretty good stuff out there.

  16. Bob – Second season? Where have I been?

    Lesley – Daisies was cute for a couple of episodes, but not funny. They talk too fast and try too hard to be quirky. Also, we need to do something about Bob. He thinks Law & Order CI is “hokey”.

    Kimberly – Wow — gave up the TV altogether, eh? I did that once for a whie. You sure get a lot more done. The office is pretty good in a head shaking kind of way, not a real belly-laugh kind of way like you used to get with the Hillbillies or Seinfeld.

    Dave – Ah thanks. I did watch Futurama once in a while. It always seemed to be the same episode whenever I did watch it, though. Or maybe they were all very similar. Ottawa Project, eh? Sounds promising. You should pick it up again.

    Geewits – I do like Julia Louis Dreyfus. I liked that Watching Ellie thing she did for one season, too, but it got canned, I guess. She never has the right cast around her or something. The Seinfeld group was good. Christine is good, but some of the other people on it are just boring/pointless. I did try to watch Mentalist a couple of times because everyone’s been raving about it, but it just didn’t catch my fancy. Scrubs — ya, it does have its moments!

  17. did you know beverly hills chihuahua was #1 in theatres this weekend? if you build it, they will come.

    i do guffaw at the Office and 30 Rock. I also hear MadMen is really good and will be checking that out. do you know when the second season of Dexter will be on Bravo (or Showcase?)

    And, don’t bug me btwn 8 and 9 on Wednesdays due to America’s Next Top Model. For reals.

  18. Oh yeah, I forgot The New Adventures of Old Christine. Julia Louis-Dreyfus IS the cast. She’s one funny broad. I actually laugh out loud at that show.

    The Mentalist? So hokey, L&O: CI pales in comparison.

    TV needs more good/sometimes funny shows like M*A*S*H or L.A. Law; and good dramas like Murder One.

    *Sigh*. Now I’m nostalgic and melancholy.

  19. Meanie – OMG I know, I saw that in the paper this morning! People in droves are leaving their homes, driving their cars, paying good money to sit in a theatre for 2 hours to sit through a lot of commercials and previews while eating gigantic, disgusting cinema food to watch Beverly Hills Chihuahua. What. The. Hell? Have we all gone mad?

    Bob – I agree about JLD, but boyo you’re getting yourself into hot, hot water with the repeated L&O CI remarks. (see Lesleykim above)

    Lesley – I know where he works. We’ll follow him home one day and make him watch a 24-hour V D’O marathon with us and then we’ll see who’s hokey.

  20. Hi,

    I got rid of the TV when the oldest kid was 12 (he’s now turning 35), and for the next 6 years we had no TV for the kids. Then we found one that we could lock the channels on and started watching DVDs for a while. The kids are grown and gone now, we have TV back, but it sure wasn’t as good as before.

    I finally watched Friends, when it came out on DVD, and I thought it was pretty good. Now all we watch is NCIS (which has it’s funny moments-character development on that show is pretty good) and Numbers. I absolutely dislike the reality shows and think they’re a waste of airtime.

    I loved all the old comedies and wish they would bring some of those back.

  21. Hi Susie – I was just flipping through your website — what a great spot to live and work!! They do try to bring back the old shows by making movies out of them that bomb – badly. Remember the Bewitched movie? Gah!! I think we’re all to smart-assed and sophisticated now to laugh at stuff like Gilligan’s Island or Green Acres (which totally cracks me up every freakin’ time) or Hogan’s Heroes. Sigh… Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment. I hope you’ll be back!

  22. Try “Worst Week” on CBS. Monday nights.
    It’s new, and clever. It made me laugh, which is rare.

    That’s all I got. There’s a lot of other TV shows I watch, but no comedies. I used to watch Monk, with Tony Shaloub, but I can’t find new episodes/seasons of it anywhere anymore, so I gave up on it. It was fun and intelligent.
    House has some wonderful – and – funny writing, but it’s not a comedy. However, its funny lines are funnier than those found in most so-called comedies.