There is one thing with this list of 10 – all of the shows needed to be rewatchable, need to be shows I have actually re-watched. Often. So with that as the only catch here’s the list.
1. Taxi – I am in love with this show. And I always have been and I’ve written about it in some depth right here and I’ll write about it again. Hopefully with even more depth. And probably here via this medium and maybe one day soon. Currently I’m watching the show again in order and I’m midway through its second season. This to me is a perfect sitcom. I’m compelled by the characters – it’s also no secret that I love the theme tune (and the whole soundtrack) but the writing of this show is sublime. Each episode feels like a mini stage play. The humanity on display. And the character of Alex Reiger (played by Judd Hirsch) is one of my all-time favourite flawed TV characters. Alex is there for everyone, he understands and helps with everyone’s problems. But Alex is there primarily because he has run from his own problems. Most episodes of the show I am thinking about that brilliant writing trick, that set-up. I’m close to tears when I contemplate the life of Alex Reiger. Erm, not really the plan with a sitcom I know. But there is such a depth.
2. The Young Ones – there is no such depth to this wonderful ensemble piece. But at a young age The Young Ones blew my mind, introduced me to a world of comedy greats – and a style – and continues to be one of the most quotable TV experiences of my lifetime. I’ve stopped quoting from it because there are too many men around my age that quote from Monty Python and I don’t want to be one of those. The Young Ones also shaped me musically – and I wrote a bit about that right here some while ago.
3. The Simpsons – I was there for when this started, as a series of shaky shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show back in the mid-late 1980s and I was there for it when it found its feet as a show in its own right. I haven’t seen every episode – and probably never will, though having it all sitting there as part of Disney+ does tempt me. And having a kid that loves it helps, um, justify taking on whole seasons again. Its golden period, its sweet spot, is roughly season three through twelve. And that’s more content to deal with right there than anyone needs. And more consistently brilliant content than almost any other show has managed. The writing – the comedy, biting satire and playful absurdity – just brilliant. Masterful.
4. Curb Your Enthusiasm – give me all of the awkward. Put it in my mouth and let me decide whether I’ll chew first or just swallow whole. I love this show. I love Larry. I love all of the players – the cameos and bit parts, the ensemble improvisation, the awkward truths. I re-watch this and start thinking like Larry after about two episodes. He gets right into your brain. The Origins podcast was a nice revisitation/exploration of the show if you haven’t checked it out already.
5. Cheers – The show Cheers is the first TV program I can remember watching with my parents. Again, appointment viewing. Not getting every single joke (but laughing anyway). It arrived on the back of Taxi – written by the same team. Another ensemble cast of virtuosic talent, another great writing team. Another deceptively simple study of humanity. And honourable mention to it spawning Frasier which isn’t on my list but is very enjoyable. And I tentatively welcome the news of its pending reboot.
6. Seinfeld – I don’t want to say I was an early adopter…but….I do remember watching this when it was on late at night, buried by TVNZ because they didn’t know what it was and because it had been buried somewhat by the American network to begin with. I’d watch this and marvel – why wasn’t everyone watching this? Next thing, they were.
7. The Office – Yes, of course I love “the original” (the British one) but, again, it’s become the Monty Python of this era, middle-aged men in particular meme-fixated and making Facebook pages in dead-eyed wonder of its single-gesture smugness. The real genius is actually the American one when it comes to re-watching. And it becomes a different show. It happens about a quarter of the way through the second season. Wings are spread and baby bird learns to fly. And boy can it fly.
8. Parks and Recreation – The ‘Cheers’ to The Office’s ‘Taxi’ this is every bit as good. And sometimes it’s even better.
9. Arrested Development – It went a bit too bonkers and suffered from being cancelled then brought back and though some of the revival shows were a lot of fun it’s the original tight run and first three seasons that bring the re-watchable magic. Horrible characters – hideous. Such fun.
10. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia – Did I say horrible characters? It’s Always Sunny watches the behaviour of any of the worst characters in this list and says “hold my beer” while it pisses on the shoes of whoever is holding its beer. I was late to this show – but then I watched its first 10 seasons in a matter of just a few weeks. Whole seasons in a day. It infected my brain on a level above and beyond anything else on this list. (Only Curb coming a close second). Hideous characters, deplorable, manipulative and desperate. There’s a cleverness to this show in its writing, in the decision to mock anything and everything through the filter of thoughtless-jerk characters. What turned me onto this show in the end was writer and star Rob McElhenney’s appearance on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. His whole story is fascinating – the interview is a must. But it finally explained the worth of the show to me. And I dived right and feel like I haven’t stopped since. I will regularly watch whole seasons on the trot. There’s something, too, in the story of this being The Little Show That Could. It’s now the longest running live-action comedy show in TV’s history. Its first season is like some arty-attempt at student film, barely better production values than the 48 Hour Film Fest. And the involvement of Danny DeVito is a nice bookend for this list, given it created an opportunity for him to basically relive the nastiness of the star-making Louie De Palma character from Taxi.