The Ultimate TV Comedies Bracket -- Round One, Day One
Cool. Cool cool cool cool cool cool cool.
Friends, the day has arrived. I don’t mean the day before Halloween, but yes, that is today. No, I’m talking about us stepping further away from the world of Disney for a new pop-culture bracket. Some of you may know that we recently wrapped up an ultimate bracket deciding the best of movie musicals, but there were some Disney films that went very far in that bracket.
Now, though, we’re moving outside of the world of Disney theme parks, Disney movies, and Disney characters. It’s time to get the TV critics of the world mad at me, because it’s time to start the 128-seed Ultimate TV Comedies Bracket.
If you’re new to these, then you should know that I always start the first day of the first round with some housekeeping in the form of frequently asked questions. So let’s dive in.
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So…what is this, exactly?
Why, it’s a pop-culture bracket in the vein of March Madness, in which you and plenty of your friends, neighbors, and complete strangers are going to vote on what the best TV comedy is.
Are you including sketch shows in this bracket?
I am not. I call it the TV Comedies Bracket, but it’s arguably just a bracket about the greatest sitcoms of all time. So, no SNL, no Monty Python, no Key & Peele, etc.
How are you defining a sitcom? I voted in your Movie Musicals bracket and took mild umbrage at some of your categorizations.
OK, OK, let’s leave the “Is Spinal Tap a musical?” debate in the past.
Uh-huh. So, sitcoms?
The shortest possible answer I can give you is that it has to be a 30-minute show. When I was refreshing my memory about exactly how many shows could fit into this bracket, and/or are deemed as sitcoms, one that came up was Freaks and Geeks. Boy, I sure did love Freaks and Geeks. I watched it every week when NBC aired it sporadically, and its untimely cancellation broke my heart. A brilliant show with some very funny characters and sequences, and certainly one of the most influential shows to ever air on network TV (if only for what happened to so much of its cast and crew afterwards).
But, as you may well know, it was an hourlong show (and was a dramedy more than a sitcom). That’s the biggest, easiest rule I can point to.
What about getting an Emmy nomination?
That can be an easy way to define sitcoms, but only kind of. Orange is the New Black was initially in the Comedy category at the Emmys, before switching to Drama. And it was an hourlong show, and it’s not in the bracket. Or think of The Bear, the buzzy new FX show that has been championed by viewers and critics alike. (Except this viewer, who has still not seen it, and yes, I know.) It got a slew of Emmy nods for its first season, including one for Outstanding Comedy Series. It is not in this bracket, and not because I don’t like it — see the previous parenthetical — and not because I haven’t seen it. What I did see was a number of critics being both pleased that the Emmys embraced the show and being bemused that it was listed as a comedy. Not all of the titles in this bracket are classic, multi-cam shows, but they are all ostensibly funny and deserving of being considered straight-up comedies.
Now, you bring up two interesting points.
Why, thank you.
Uh-huh. First, have you seen all of these shows?
I sure haven’t. Not knowing the show well isn’t enough to make me not add it in the bracket. I also haven’t seen Abbott Elementary — again, yes, I know — but I can grasp that it is a more straightforward comedy and a popular enough one to merit inclusion.
Second, you talk about some shows not feeling like standard comedies, and avoiding sketch shows. What about a show like Louie, which is roughly in the half-hour vein but was also very different than a lot of comedies of its ilk? And also, the whole…Louis CK being a sexual assaulter business.
Is the question about whether or not that show is in the bracket? Because it is. There are, frankly, a handful of shows in this bracket that were once championed widely and are now not because their stars were revealed to be (allegedly) sex monsters.
So…The Cosby Show…
Is in the bracket. We can happily vote it out in the first round if we like, but I dunno, when I think about network sitcoms, that one seems pretty foundational.
Fair enough. Where is the whole bracket, by the way?
You left off my favorite sitcom.
I’m sorry? It’s not a personal attack, I promise.
Do reboots count?
Yes and no. Let me give you two examples so you can see how my warped brain works. Example one: Frasier. The NBC series is one of my favorites of all time. As you may know, there is now a reboot of the series on Paramount+, and while anything is possible, I do not envision the reboot being one of my favorite TV series of all time. The best I can say is that it could’ve been worse. When Frasier comes up for a vote, I will be thinking only about the NBC version.
Seems simple! Example two: Arrested Development. The first three seasons of this show are close to the greatest sitcom of all time for me. You could easily say that the two seasons on Netflix fall squarely in a similar camp as what’s going on with Frasier. Both Emmy-winning series leading to reboots on streaming services years after their original airing. It should be the same. But for me, Arrested Development feels different because of latter-day reports of Jeffrey Tambor’s misdeeds and because…frankly, the Netflix seasons are Not Great, Bob. I can’t tell you that I didn’t seed Arrested Development in a certain way because the whole of those five seasons don’t measure up to the first three by themselves.
But I embrace chaos in these brackets. So you vote how you want.
How likely is it that TV critics like Alan Sepinwall will get wind of this bracket and jump on you for leaving off shows like Better Things?
Well, let’s find out. The first round always has four matchups per day, and it’s time to get started!
(1) Cheers vs. (64) The Beverly Hillbillies: I realize that The Beverly Hillbillies was once a massively popular show, beyond compare of modern sitcoms. But Cheers is Cheers, and it cannot lose in the first round. We will, at some point, have a good, long debate about how or if the longevity of a sitcom weighs into a vote. But for now, it’s Cheers.
The Beverly Hillbillies
(32) Scrubs vs. (33) Spin City: The Bill Lawrence factor! He was a driving creative force in both of these series, and both of them underwent casting shifts over time. But while I always enjoyed Spin City, it is hard for me to vote against the brilliance of Scrubs, which could be a bit messy at times but also offered John C. McGinley in a role that netted him eight straight Best Supporting Actor Emmys! Hmm? What’s that? He never got a single nomination?
Well, that’s stupid. Don’t be that way. Vote for Scrubs.
(16) Sex and the City vs. (49) The Drew Carey Show: On one hand, I am not a fan of Sex and the City. (Though I do appreciate that it’s easier to separate the original and its sequel, per one of the housekeeping questions above, as the sequel has a different title.) On the other hand, the best thing about The Drew Carey Show is the American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?. I know and you know what’s winning this one.
Sex and the City
The Drew Carey Show
(17) Brooklyn Nine-Nine vs. (48) Superstore: We can relitigate the appropriateness of a wacky sitcom about the police in light of…well… [waves hand around at society] y’know. But Superstore never had a cold open like the one linked below. I vote for Jake Peralta and his pals.