DVD Review: Double Seasons of Hit Network Sitcoms @ 22 January 2014 05:30 PM

Do the long-running sitcoms of the "must-see" TV era still hold up today? Times may changes, but human nature doesn't, so the more insightful the series, the more it stands the test of time.

The Cosby Show was a mammoth hit from 1984 to 1992, running for eight seasons, pretty much in the top ten or number one in the ratings. The Huxtables are an upscale family who, even though they have their idiosyncracies, are aspirational role models of their time and today as well.

More TV families should be like this now. Most of the storylines are of the traditional family sitcom ilk, with very funny writing by some of TV's best. And then you have Bill Cosby, who makes every line count and is at his best when constructing a story-joke with the artistry of Frank Lloyd Wright.

This DVD package contains the first two of the show's eight seasons, when the kids were young. Watching is now as a parent is particularly entertaining.

There have been many fine fantasy sitcoms -- even today, with ABC's The Neighbors -- but they all struggled with ratings and/or began strong and lost steam. Only Bewitched was a bona fide hit right out of the gate and self-cancelled even when it was still in the top ten in its eighth season. The hypnotic charm of Elizabeth Mongomery is the chief reason, with a stellar cast of seasoned acting giants including Agnes Moorehead and Maurice Evans. (Learn more about Montgomery and Bewitched by searching amazon for the books by Herbie J. Pilato.)

The first two seasons on this DVD set are considered by many to be the best, with Barney Miller show runner Danny Arnold at the helm. If you want to know how great a show like this can be, just watch the episode "A is for Aardvark," directed by screen legend Ida Lupino.

I always really liked this series, if only because the bald guy was the ladies' man (baldness rocks!). Seriously, Laura San Giocomo is a fantastic lead with Mary Tyler Moore skill. She's surrounded by a great supporting cast that have pretty much gone on to subsequent success in other projects. And of course, there's George Segal, whose timing is impeccable. The material is sophisticated and often spicy but there's more to the show and the characters than that. Just Shoot Me comes from Steve Levitan, who co-created Modern Family.

The new DVD combines the midseason premiere episodes and the second season. You can see the chemistry simmer and come to a boil with every installment.

Often cited as one of TV's most under-appreciated sitcoms, Wings enjoyed a solid run of eight seasons as part of the NBC must-see lineup. It was overshadowed by the more flashy shows of the lineup, but it's proven to be a well regarded favorite to its very fierce legion of fans. (A little bit of trivia: Wings was the second sitcom about a small airline service -- the first was the short lived  Tim Conway Show which reunited him with McHale's Navy co-star Joe Flynn.)

Monk fans, look for Tony Shalhoub in a very different character role and lots of "before they were stars" actors who have become prominent over the years. This set is the second Mill Creek release, containing season 3 and 4 (the first two seasons are already available).

Good Times was a very successful spin off from Norman Lear's Maude, which was a spinoff of All in the Family. Unlike earlier sitcom spinoffs, there were never visits from the cast of the previous shows. So Maude never traveled from Tuckahoe, New York to visit the Florida and the Evans family in Chicago.

The first two seasons of Good Times included on this new DVD release are different from the show it became, as J.J. became like Fonzie and became the focus of the series. But the early episodes are also significant because they were more about the struggles of the Evans' to just get by -- much as the theme song says. Getting a job, having enough money to afford the basics, all very pertinent issues that transcend the 70's setting and style of the show.

Also just released in affordable two-season sets: Married with Children (the bizarro-world opposite of Cosby), Highway to Heaven and Charlie's Angels.

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