Shows are wrapping up for the season, and if you’re like me, it’s taking you a while to get through all of them. Sitcoms will always be a great joy in my life, and while the good ones seem to be holding strong, it’s important to keep in mind what messages we are getting from our sitcoms, and what message we are asking of them.
With the future of half hour sitcoms in question, this year was as important a year as any for current sitcoms to finish strong. The slate of sitcoms starting next year is nothing to get excited about, ‘People Talking’ isn’t gonna do anything that ‘Guys With Kids’ couldn’t, and ‘Life in Pieces’ is going to be a frustrating episode of not enough Colin Hanks and Zoe Lister Jones every week. In the laughter vacuum left in ’30 Rock’, ‘Parks and Recreation’ and ‘How I Met Your Mother’s wake, let’s take a look at which of the current sitcoms left their mark on the primetime television landscape.
‘Big Bang Theory’ – I’ll say this, final episode of the 8th season ‘The Commitment Determination’ had its big moments. We saw Leonard and Penny at least attempt to make some major headway in their relationship (the one that’s taken 8 years to get this far). The two lead characters successfully made it into the car and onto the freeway on the way to Las Vegas to hopefully get married. We’ll have to wait until Fall to see if they actually make it there.
The bigger moment came when Amy breaks up with Sheldon at the end of the episode (over Skype! What a beezey!). Emmy winner Jim Parsons plays Sheldon Cooper with incredible talent in that scene. After actual strides to his character throughout the series, learning to communicate with others and even manage a romantic relationship, once Amy signs off he is suddenly just a nerd alone at his desk all over again. The silence of the moment rings in our ears as we say goodbye to the nerd comedy until the end of summer.
Overall, the episode brought a straggling season to a stop, with bombs dropped in an attempt to hold onto viewers of a series that should have ended a year ago. It’s officially coming back for two more, next season will perhaps show us an all new “Sheldzilla” as he retreats even more into his obsessive compulsions and reigns terror on his friends, or maybe he gets back together with Amy and we never really went anywhere. Only time will tell.
‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ – Another finale that focused on dropping bombs, this one with a kiss and a goodbye. Peralta and Santiago, after smooching during an undercover op, kiss again for no reason than to taste each other again. But understand, this is most definitely not the same thing ‘New Girl’ did in its second season (wink). The Peralta/Santiago love story at least had its laughs throughout the episode, which is important (we are talking “situation comedies” after all). I’m looking forwards to where this series goes next year.
The “departure” of Captain Holt and his assistant Gina (Andre Braugher and Chelsea Peretti) was an eye opening moment, but the two characters are reported to still play key roles the next season, so it looks to be more of an ‘The Office’ type move, having characters “leave” the workplace of the workplace comedy as a way to introduce more characters and settings rather than less. Look for Kyra Sedgwick to figure even more prominently in the series, due in large part to her chemistry with Braugher.
‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ remains as funny as it ever was, and probably as funny as it’s ever going to get, which is what I would classify as “worth watching”. The show will never become one of the greats, I would much rather see ‘Selfie’, ‘Trophy Wife’ or ‘Friends with Better Lives’ returning over the cop comedy. But at least ‘Nine-Nine’ made it out of the infancy stage and is being given room to grow.
‘The Goldbergs’ – This finale was a true character study into the cartoon-ized family relationships of a decade, while still speaking true-isms to the audience of the current generation. In true ‘That 70’s Show’ form, ‘Goldbergs’ went deep into the dynamics that Murray Goldberg (played by Jeff Garlin) engaged in (or refused to engage in) with daughter Erica (Haley Orrantia). The two enter an “I love you” battle that begins with Murray’s position that the words never need be said. In fact, he doesn’t even enjoy talking or thinking about such things.
A competition of “I love you” ensues, after (s)Mother Goldberg Wendi McLendon-Covey of ‘Bridesmaids’ hilarity simply can’t help herself but meddle in her family’s affairs. She is absolutely the heart and soul of the series, keeping it edgy and innovative whilst delivering punch line after punch line. The pseudo-biographical series about creator Adam Goldberg’s real life family is, much like a real family, held together by a (s)mother’s love.
That said, this period piece won’t last the eight seasons that ‘That 70’s Show’ aired. There’s only so long a “not quite literal” depiction of Adam Goldberg’s family can withstand the brutal assault of forcing comedic arcs onto real life memories. While the series definitely finished strong with a montage look back at the incredible parallel shots from the sitcom and their family video correspondents, don’t expect ‘Goldbergs’ to last longer than this time next year.
‘Last Man on Earth’ – I’ve already laid out my feelings on the finale and the season as a whole. Suffice to say this series might be the best show of next season, although the limited episodes (13) set to air next year definitely hurt the series in that hours of entertainment are what we grade a television show on, and a literal lack of hours means there will be that much less comedy to be had.
‘Modern Family’ – The ABC flagship deserves all the credit in the world for seamless growth and an outright refusal to lean on the serial story arcs that build over entire seasons on other sitcoms. Yes, the season 6 finale took on a long running storyline amongst Haley (Sarah Hyland) and Andy (Adam Devine), finally giving some real life to the character of Beth, Andy’s girlfriend that played such a factor in last season’s finale despite not actually appearing on screen. But the episode itself wasn’t dependent on any previously laid out plot points, and could easily be enjoyed by a first time viewer.
‘Modern Family’ had one of the best casts ever assembled on a television show, and that was before the younger actors stepped up and started playing with the big boys (and girls). With a cast as amazing as the show has, it would be easy for the bigger picture to get lost, too many moving parts without a dove-tail in sight. But because the writing is so crisp, the best comedy on television continues to deliver incredible episode after incredible episode, and the finale was no exception.
Ty Burrell was absolutely showing off in the finale, proving that the character of Phil can deliver comedic gold without even being in the room. As the seam that wove through each of the four story arcs throughout the episode, Phil wheeled his way into the unique position of seeing more than anyone present was able to. Of course, in true sitcom fashion, the technology that led to so many robot jokes became his and Haley’s undoing, as the sound cuts out on his ipad just as he learns that Haley likes Andy as much as Andy likes Haley.
As much as I’ve been harking on shows to find their own conclusion before drizzling ratings axe their air time before they’re ready, this is one show I hope stays with us for 15 more years.
‘New Girl’ – This series stands apart from the sitcom landscape for multiple reasons. The sex mug based episode was one of the finest of the season, allowing the chemistry of the cast to breathe and grow over the course of 22 minutes. Of course, that 22 minutes ended with one character’s departure and one engagement among two others. Schmidt and Cece have officially swooped in after the Nick and Jess debacle to claim “couple of the loft” (if only Schmidt can stop crying long enough to consummate).
With Damon Wayans Jr (Coach) leaving the series and Zooey Deschanel (Jess) absent for the first four episodes of next year, season 5 will be a true test of ‘New Girl’s ability to find and examine its own heart. Wayans Jr. definitely delivered the best scene of the finale, when he finally (if a bit hesitantly) begins to see the wisdom in taking things that mean something to you when you leave. Now that he’s gone the loft relationships that were made up front and personal in the finale should figure heavily into next year as the opening episodes will have to focus heavily on the three original male loft mates.
After the bombshell of Schmidt and Cece’s engagement, the ‘New Girl’ finale closed with a bit of a switcheroo gag. One of the main storylines of the episode was the revelation that Nick and Jess had a “sex mug” during their relationship, in the overcrowded loft, one of them would place the mug out in the open as a signal that some “alone time” was requested. Since they’ve broken up, the consensus is that it’s time to throw away the mug, yet in the closing credits Nick sneaks out of his room to retrieve the mug from the trash, only to find it already absent. The normal play would be to then show Jess with the mug in her room, except then she too goes to look for it in the trash. The culprit: Winston Bishop, who wanted the mug as a milk dish for his cat. Game, set, match.
Shows absent because I don’t watch them (although I probably should): ‘Undateable’, ‘Mom’, ‘Black-ish’, ‘The Odd Couple’