Theme Times – Sitcoms of the 1990’s

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A sitcom, clipping for situational comedy (situation comedy in the U.S.), is a genre of comedy centered on a fixed set of characters who carry over from episode to episode. Sitcoms can be contrasted with sketch comedy, where a troupe may use new characters in each sketch, and stand-up comedy, where a comedian tells jokes and stories to an audience. Sitcoms originated in radio, but today are found mostly on television as one of its dominant narrative forms. This form can also include mockumentaries.

A situational comedy television programme may be recorded in front of a studio audience, depending on the programme’s production format. The effect of a live studio audience can be imitated or enhanced by the use of a laugh track. During filming productions, the laugh track is usually pre-recorded.

Critics disagree over the utility of the term “sitcom” in classifying shows that have come into existence since the turn of the century. Many contemporary American sitcoms use the single-camera setup and do not feature a laugh track, thus often resembling the dramedy shows of the 1980s and 1990s rather than the traditional sitcom. Other topics of debate have included whether or not cartoons, such as The Simpsons or Family Guy, can be classified as sitcoms.

A British sitcom or a Britcom is a situation comedy programme produced for British television. Although styles of sitcom have changed over the years they tend to be based on a family, workplace or other institution, where the same group of contrasting characters is brought together in each episode. British sitcoms are typically produced in one or more series of six episodes. Most such series are conceived and developed by one or two writers.

The majority of British sitcoms are 30 minutes long and are recorded on studio sets in a multiple-camera setup. A subset of British comedy consciously avoids traditional situation comedy themes and storylines to branch out into more unusual topics or narrative methods. Blackadder (1983–1989) and Yes Minister (1980–1988, 2013) moved what is often a domestic or workplace genre into the corridors of power. A later development was the mockumentary in such series as The Office (2001–2003).


British & American Top 20 Sitcom The 90’s

The best of the best across the ponds …

1 – 1989 – 1998 – Seinfeld

Four single friends — comic Jerry Seinfeld, bungling George Costanza, frustrated working gal Elaine Benes and eccentric neighbor Cosmo Kramer — deal with the absurdities of everyday life in New York City.

2 – 1992 – 2012 Absolutely Fabulous

A show brilliant in its uncensored bad behaviour and satirical humour, this programme features Edina and Patsy, two hard-drinking, drug-taking, completely and outrageously selfish middle-aged women. Their cruel humour focuses on the hypocrisy of today’s society, much to the chagrin of Edina’s more moral and conservative daughter, Saffron.

3 – 1990 – 1996 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Will Smith more or less plays himself in this good-natured NBC sitcom. As the show’s popular theme song explains, fictional Will’s mom sends him away from his rough Philadelphia neighborhood to live with wealthy Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian in Bel-Air. Will often has fun at the expense of stuck-up cousins Carlton and Hilary.

4 – 1988 –  Red Dwarf

In this science fiction sitcom, Dave Lister, a chicken-soup-machine repairman, is the sole survivor of a radiation leak on his mining space ship, and the last known human alive. Having come out of suspended animation 3,000,000 years into the future, LIster has very limited company in deep space in the form of a hologram of his dead shipmate, Rimmer. They are joined by the vain Cat, who has evolved from the descendants of Lister’s pregnant cat, old and senile ship computer Holly and robot Kryten.

5 – 1989 –  The Simpsons

This long-running animated comedy focuses on the eponymous family in the town of Springfield in an unnamed U.S. state. The head of the Simpson family, Homer, is not a typical family man. A nuclear-plant employee, he does his best to lead his family but often finds that they are leading him. The family includes loving, blue-haired matriarch Marge, troublemaking son Bart, overachieving daughter Lisa and baby Maggie. Other Springfield residents include the family’s religious neighbour, Ned Flanders, family physician Dr Hibbert, Moe the bartender and police chief Clancy Wiggum.

6 – 1998 – 2012  The Royle Family

`The Royle Family’ follows the everyday life of the average working-class Royles in Manchester. Jim is the patriarch, a rather lofty title for someone who watches a lot of television, and does as little else as he can. That makes his hard-working wife, Barbara, the main breadwinner, and the only one who seemingly sticks up for their picked-upon youngest son Antony. Often seen relaxing with Jim on the family sofa is daughter Denise and her husband, David, as is Barbara’s morbid, storytelling mother Norma (known as Nana).

7 – 1993 – 2004  Frasier

Dr. Frasier Crane, a successful Boston therapist, moves to Seattle to get a new start on life; he has a radio talk show, which he uses to relay his wit and wisdom to others, but at times he struggles with his own problems with his salt-of-the-earth father, his pretentious brother and his friends and co-workers.

8 – 1994 – 2007  The Vicar of Dibley

When their elderly vicar passes away, congregation members in Dibley are surprised to find that a woman has been assigned to their parish. And not just any woman — Geraldine Granger is outgoing, vivacious and fun-loving, as well as caring and committed to her flock. However, her ebullient ways do not initially endear her to the head of the Parish Council, an old-fashioned gentleman farmer who’s not a fan of change. Hilarity ensues as Geraldine tries to win over the stodgy council members while staying true to herself and her pastorate.

9 – 1994 – 2004  Friends

Three young men and three young women — of the BFF kind — live in the same apartment complex and face life and love in New York. They’re not above sticking their noses into one another’s business and swapping romantic partners, which always leads to the kind of hilarity average people will never experience — especially during breakups.

10 – 1991 1999  Home Improvements

Tim “The Toolman” Taylor, host of the home-improvement show “Tool Time,” definitely is not as handy at home as he is on screen. He and his wife, Jill, raise three boys who are racing toward adulthood. The Taylor family often relies on next-door neighbor Wilson, who provides unconventional wisdom and perspective to the Taylors’ personal and familial crises.

11 – 1990 – 2000  One Foot in the Grave

Curmudgeonly Victor Meldrew, forced to take early retirement from his job as a security guard, rails at the trials and tribulations of modern life as he tries to keep himself busy. His long-suffering wife, Margaret, is frequently exasperated by his misfortunes. Neighbours Patrick and Pippa Trench and family friend Jean Warboys are common witnesses to Victor’s antics.

12 – 1988 – 2018  Roseanne

Explore life, death and everything in between through the relatable, hilarious and brutally honest lens of the working-class Conner household, which is located in the drab, fictional exurb of Langford, Ill. With the inimitable Roseanne Barr at its epicenter as the family’s matriarch, the series tackles current issues with fresh stories and even more laughs. Roseanne is joined by her husband, Dan, and their children, D.J., Darlene and Becky. Roseanne’s warm, but neurotic, sister Jackie rounds out the core of the family.

13 – 1992 – 2014  Men Behaving Badly

Gary and Tony share a flat. They drink beer, and behave badly.

14 – 1987 – 1997  Married … with Children

The antithesis of the loving “Cosby Show” family, “Married … With Children” focused on the Bundys, a suburban Chicago family who would rather eat nails than say a kind word to one another. Al, the patriarch, is a misogynistic shoe salesman, whose wife, Peggy, is a housewife who does no work around the house. Saying their children, Kelly and Bud, do not have a lot going for them is an understatement. This biting comedy focuses on the couple’s constant verbal sparring over their slacker kids, their lack of money, success and intimacy.

15 – 1991 – 1995  Bottom

Richard Richard and Edward Elizabeth Hitler, two men with no hope of fitting in with society.

16 – 1996 – 2005  Everybody Loves Raymond

Ray Barone is a successful sports writer and family man who deals with a brother and parents — who happen to live across the street. Mom Marie loves to meddle in his life, while older brother Robert sometimes resents his success, and Dad Frank just makes comments and raids the fridge. Nevertheless, Ray manages to keep a bright outlook and a sense of humor, leaving the hard issues to his more-practical wife, Debra.

There we go folks 16 of the best – which of these were your favourites? For me the 90’s signed the times of me actually watching television again – most of these sitcoms l caught from around late 97, l was already watching reruns. I hadn’t actually watched any regular television from the ages 24 – 33 – so it was a funny old time especially seeing how much the ‘sitcom’ had changed.  Of the above however l really leaned more heavily in favour of the American sitcoms  – but that’s not saying that some of the British ones weren’t any good.

Red Dwarf, Bottom, Vicar of , Friends, Home Improvements, original season of Roseanne, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier and Married with Children were my prime ‘would like to see’. But that’s me …. how about you?

Here’s a bonus … Father Ted …. 1995 – 1998:

This British comedy series focuses on three priests living on Craggy Island — a remote isle off the coast of Ireland. Father Ted Crilly is sent to the island as punishment for using money earmarked for a sick child and taking a holiday in Las Vegas (which he denies, of course). Fathers Dougal Maguire and Jack Hackett are his superiors, and Mrs. Doyle is their nosy housekeeper, who makes plentiful pots of tea. Naturally, the priests get into their fair share of somewhat sinful, madcap adventures.

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8 thoughts on “Theme Times – Sitcoms of the 1990’s

  1. Nice post Rory 😀.

    Red Dwarf, The vicor of dibley, Home improvement, Married with children, the others were alright but I didn’t really care for them I mostly watched old reruns of shows I liked.


      1. Yap, I started watching last night a new one from Britain on Pluto tv called ” Being human ” it’s not a sitcom more of a drama it’s been interesting so far.

        BY FOR NOW

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