Back in the day… (Part 2):
1989 – a great year for the network sitcom. Eight of the top ten programs ranked by Nielsen were situation comedies.
- The Cosby Show
- A Different World
- The Golden Girls
- Who’s the Boss
- 60 Minutes
- Murder She Wrote
- Empty Nest
- Anything But Love
Twenty years later – 2009 – only one sitcom ranks in the top ten (Two and a Half Men).
What happened to our “sense of humor”? It is true that a lot of the reality garbage can be downright funny, if not in a pathetic sort of way. And if nothing else, even the major TV networks are in cost-reduction mode, and a reality program does provide a much less expensive venture than a scripted situation comedy (it’s impossible to script stupidity).
What makes the 1989 TV season stand out? The Fox Network was in its second year of broadcasting excellence, running programming on two nights – Saturday and Sunday, all the while giving us such stand out shows like The Reporters, Duet, and Beyond Tomorrow. However, their Sunday evening line-up showed promise with hits 21 Jump Street, Married with Children, America’s Most Wanted, Gary Shandling, and Tracey Ullman (featuring a new short called the Simpsons).
CBS debuted and cancelled no less than six shows. Anybody remember these gems…?
· Almost Grown
· TV 101
· Van Dyke Show
· Annie McGuire
· Dirty Dancing
· Raising Miranda
Also canceled by CBS were Beauty and the Beast and West 57th
1989 was the final year for former hits Family Ties, Moonlighting and Miami Vice… along with the debut of Murphy Brown, Roseanne and Empty Nest.
Cable television really wasn’t a force in 1989. Only 15% of the total nightly TV viewing was to cable programming. Today over half of all TV viewing is to a cable network.
There is great comedic television today (in my honest opinion) – The Office, Big Bang Theory, even Better off Ted has its moments. And like everything in life television is also cyclical in nature – witness how long the game show boom of this decade lasted (thanks to ABC for running Who Wants to be a Millionaire into the proverbial ground).
Maybe we will see a decline of reality programming. For every American Idol, there is a Dating in the Dark or Moment of Truth on somewhere else. Until then there is always Hulu.com or any number of DVD boxed sets available with my favorite sitcoms.