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Top 5 Groundbreaking TV Comedies

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As an adult we often tell our kids how great everything was back in our day. Life seemed to be so simple back then, well maybe it was because we didn’t have the bills we have now, but still, we knew how to have fun. For me, I was a TV lover. I would be outside until it was time, time for me to head in the house, turn on the TV and relax for a good nights laugh. I’m not here to knock today’s generation of shows but let’s be honest, there is no pure humor in TV anymore. I don’t know your specific age but I grew up in the Cosby era, but now I’m forced to flip through channels or subscribe to Netflix and watch reruns of my childhood.

What happened to the great groundbreaking shows we grew up on?

Nowadays the jokes seem forced, back in the days it was more of the same that we have today but it wasn’t so personal. There were race, religious, sex, gender jokes and more but it was about the fun, the excitement of the audience. Ahhh, remember live studio audiences? Now there are laugh tracks or nothing at all. Remember when a show would end its final episode and the cast would go out and greet the fans, what happened to those days? This list is not all about the jokes, it’s about the shows that shaped the youth that watched them, the lessons they offered and the memories that forever left an impression.

Here is my Top 5 list Of Groundbreaking TV Comedies


Married With Children (1987-1997)

Everything about Married With Children screamed “wrong”, but we couldn’t stop watching. What the Cosby Show stood for, MWC was against. The Bundy’s were not your typical family, for a black kid growing up in the projects I envisioned the life of white people differently. This is the reason I have MWC on this list. I grew up with the Cosby’s, so to see Cliff one day, then Al Bundy the next was mind-blowing to say the least. The show was raunchy, direct, nothing held back type of funny. The Bundy’s were poor, they were savages, rude, had no sense of pride whatsoever but they were awesome in their own way. Al was a shoe salesman that made little to no money but yet they somehow managed to live in huge three-bedroom house. The wife, Peggy was a stay at-home-wife who did nothing a stay at home wife was supposed to do like cooking, cleaning or caring for the kids. The kids, Kelly and Bud were total opposites, like brothers and sisters are but their relationship was more hate for being born into this family than hate for one another. The uniqueness of the show lies within the raunchy jokes, Peg’s need for sexual attention from an unwilling Al, Bud’s inability to get girls and Kelly’s inability to turn men away. You have shows that broke barriers which cause other shows to mirror them, no one has tried to mirror MWC, it’s impossible. This was TV’s first anything goes show, Fox broke the mold and while many have tried, no show has captured the raw essence of MWC.


The Jeffersons (1975-1985)

What made The Jeffersons such an awesome comedy was the racial and social boundaries it crossed, especially being aired in the ’70s. It was centered around an African-American couple whose head of the household George struck it rich with a chain of laundromats. The Jeffersons weren’t rich-rich but they were comfortable. The family moved into a high-rise in New York City, the money wasn’t the reason that made the show unique, it was the cast of characters and their lifestyle that changed TV. To begin with, George was a complete racist, in every sense of the word. He hated white people and was quick to let the world now every chance he could. The family had a maid, Florence who was also black but didn’t mind trading insults with her boss George any chance she could. Their neighbors, the Willis’s were a mixed couple. Tom was white and his wife Helen was black. Tom and George were forced to deal with each other for two reasons, one was due to the great relationship between Louise Jefferson and Helen and the other was due to the romantic relationship between the children Jenny and Lionel. What made The Jeffersons so ground breaking was the social standings they gave a black family, how racial issues were dealt with, with jokes and sarcasm. Everything we seen today came from them.


Good Times (1975-1979)

Good Times was the total opposite of the Cosby Show. The Evans were poor, not poor but ghetto poor. They lived in the projects on the South Side of Chicago and encountered every possible situation that could tear a family apart. There was no money, at times no jobs, lots of praying, fights, arguments, pimps and thugs but in between there was plenty of laughter. James was the father who ruled with a short temper and belt. Florida was the wife and mother that would do anything for her kids and those kids, they were the starts, one in particular, James Evans Jr. JJ  was the painter, Michael was the brains and Thelma was the one looking for a way out. The Cosby Show taught you about family and how a problem can be resolved in 22 minutes, Good Times taught you about a family bond that could not be broken. Good Times was one of the first shows that took away one of their main characters due to death. When James Sr passed away the entire nation felt the pain of the Evans household but when they managed to get out of the ghetto we all rejoiced.


The Wonder Years (1988-1993)

The Wonder Years might be a reach for this list but it had its comedic moments. Based on the life lesson of a young Kevin Arnold but told by an older Kevin as he reminisced about his years as a teenager. Kevin lived with his father Jack, who was as strong and hard as steel, his stay at home mother, Norma, brother Wayne, the idiot and sister Karen the show began on a sad note as they received news of their brother’s death while serving in Vietnam. After the initial shock wore off the fun began. As kids this may have been the first kids show that allowed us to watch normal kids growing up. The show was all Kevin but his friends Paul and Winnie came along for the ride. We got to see the ups and downs of Kevin’s and Paul’s friendship as bonds were broken as the fear of losing a friend due to a move out of the neighborhood (how many of us feared that) shook their core. But the true essence of the show was Kevin and Winnie. The writers took us on a journey as the girl next door (across the street) became the love interest and for 22 minutes every week we rooted for them, felt the pain as each one denied their feelings and rejoiced when it finally happened. The Wonder Years was more than a comedy, it was a coming of age story for all kids, something that is surely lacking in today’s society.


A Different World (1987-1993)

Many may place The Cosby Show, Martin, In Living Color or M.A.S.H. here but I couldn’t. The Cosby Show was funny and historical , Martin was down right hilarious, In Living Color was groundbreaking but more in a stage performance type of way and M.A.S.H. is in a lane by itself but A Different World meant everything to me. In my years of watching TV A Different World gave me a view of a life I wanted. While every other show was basically family related no matter how dysfunctional, A Different World lived up to its name. There were no parents, no aunts or uncles, brothers or sisters, there were strangers that would become friends, lovers, enemies and then spouses. It was a show built on independence, life lessons and choices and for the kids like me that was still living at home while in High School it gave us an idea of how to get out. I never thought of college until the show and while it was filled with nothing but laughs I saw A Different World as just that. Trust me when I tell you there were no disappointments when I arrives at Shaw University (HBCU). I met all kinds of kids who wanted that independence, and 20 years later we are still friends as some of them are reading this article tight now. Thank you A Different World for being that groundbreaking comedy that helped shaped the person that wrote this article. You may not be the best comedy, but you were the best inspiration.



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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com