Sitcom: Just the Ten of Us
Approval rating: Thumbs down + yawn
Rationale: Just the Ten of Us was a spin-off of Growing Pains. The series began when Coach Graham Lubbock lost his sweet job at Mike Seaver’s high school. Refusing to be crushed in spirit by district budget cuts, Lubbock sets out for places unknown with his ridiculously large family and voila! Another 1980s sitcom is born! Sitcom spin-offs seem to be a lot like breeding rabbits.
There was nothing much to this sitcom, if I remember correctly. Like prototype Duggars, the large Lubbock family was both close-knit and pathologically boring. One of their daughters might have been a little loose, but that was it.
Sitcom: The Facts of Life
Approval rating: Meh
Rationale: While conducting intensive research in the form of a Google search for this piece, I learned two facts of life I was heretofore unaware of:
1. Facts of Life was a spin-off of Diff’rent Strokes
2. The all-pervasive George Clooney was a regular on the show for a couple of years. I totally don’t remember that.
The show is about four girls who are in boarding school and live with a housemother, Mrs. Edna Garrett. The main characters conveniently fit four stereotypes:
- Beautiful, spoiled, and rich girl (Blair)
- “Tomboy” who falsely believes she’s in the closet (Jo)
- Quirky, bright, and black (Tutti)
- Slightly overweight and wise-cracking! (Natalie)
As you might have guessed, this makes for lots of zany plots!
As usual with 1980s sitcoms, one episode burned itself into my memory. Is that called trauma? For Facts of Life, it was an early-ish episode where someone’s grandmother came to visit. The grandmother tells Blair, “You remind me of me.” Blair’s face pinches and she says, “Excuse me?” in a really high-pitched voice.
At another point, Jo tells the granddaughter to stop being rude to her grandmother, because “all grandmas want to do is love you”, which causes the audience to applaud wildly and hoot to show their support.
This brings us to an important point. Why are sitcom audiences so stupid? Look at the example with Jo. Why applaud her for making such an asinine statement? It isn’t like there’s anyone out there who would argue that you should be rude to your grandmother. There’s no powerful anti-grandmother lobby in Washington, D.C., is there? And applauding characters for making dumb statements usually only encourages greater flights of foolishness from the entire cast.
1980s Sitcom Audience Sins
- Applauding people for making self-righteous speeches
- Applauding whenever a main character walks in (I’m looking at you, Who’s the Boss?)
- A low-pitched Ooooh! whenever something underhanded happens
- Hooting whenever either a hot guy or girl kisses someone (I use the word hot loosely)
Maybe I’m being too hard on the audience. There could be some reasonable explanation for the cheering. Maybe the producers locked them in the studio and told them the only way they’re getting out alive is if they play along and pretend to be having a great time. Or maybe groups of political prisoners were bussed in to watch each episode as part of their punishment and “reeducation”. They know what happens when you don’t play along with the government!
Anyway, whatever the audience’s problem is, each instance highlights why the girls’ families have seen fit to exile them and pay someone else to raise them.
Sitcom: The Golden Girls
Approval rating: N/A. I’ve never been able to sit through an entire episode of the Golden Girls. However, I’ve been in enough waiting rooms where the show is playing to have a general idea of the show’s premise.
The show revolves around the lives of four older women living together in Florida. The house is furnished almost entirely with wicker. Lots of wise-cracking goes on between the four, primarily because their personalities are so different. How could there not be zany mishaps? Blanche is a cougar and Rose is naive.
Redeeming factor: Betty White is always funny
Of note: One thing that always stuck out about The Golden Girls over other 80’s shows was the volume of wicker featured in every scene.
Unrelated but intriguing fact: Want to know something interesting about Bea Arthur? (As if there was anything uninteresting about Bea Arthur!) Back in the 1940’s, she was a Marine!
Not-exactly-a-Sitcom: The Dukes of Hazzard
Approval rating: Two thumbs up
Premise: Three cousins live with their Uncle Jesse, an ex-moonshiner in Hazzard County, Kentucky. Bo and Luke Duke are plagued by the law, and usually end up involving their other cousin Daisy and Uncle Jesse in their scrapes.
Rationale: The Dukes of Hazzard holds a special place in my heart. Bo Duke used to be my boyfriend, regardless of whether he was aware of it.
On to a character analysis!
Luke Duke was a quiet fella, and his defining attribute is his blue plaid shirt, which is worn in nearly every single episode. He’s in a lot of scenes with Bo, doing stuff in the background. The rich character development of Bo Duke includes a yellow shirt, curly blond hair, and mad driving skills. Bo was popular with the ladies, who were evidently unaware he was spoken for. Bo and Luke share an orange Dodge Charger named the General Lee with a Confederate flag painted on its roof.
Daisy Duke’s character was so addicted to short shorts they are actually named after her. Apart from wearing Daisy Dukes, Daisy’s other attributes consisted of wearing a bikini in unlikely places and being uncomfortably familiar with her cousins.
The law is represented by Boss Hogg, Roscoe P. Coltrane, Flash (Roscoe’s dog), and Enos. Boss Hogg is a corrupt force in Hazzard County. He wears all white, drives around in a big Cadillac with bullhorns, and likes greasy food. Boss was great, but his sidekick Deputy Roscoe P. Coltrane is way the best person on the show. Roscoe can usually be found in hot pursuit of the Dukes or doing Boss’s evil bidding. Roscoe says, “Kuw, kuw, kuw” when he’s happy.
Another important though minor character is Cooter, who works at the local garage. Cooter is a friend of the Dukes and apparently Vince Neil’s body double.
Sitcom: Happy Days
Approval rating: One thumb up for the earlier episodes; One thumb down for the later episodes
Rationale: Happy Days originally revolved around the adventures of Richie Cunningham, of Milwaukee. Richie is Mr. All American, and even wears those letterman style cardigans. His father Howard owns a hardware store, and his mother Marian makes lovely dinners. He has a little sister Joanie and an older brother Chuck – who was Judy Winslowed early in the series, as the brilliant Billy Superstar of Full House Reviewed would say.
Richie has three friends: Ralph (Ralph Mouth), Potsy, and Fonzie (aka the Fonz or Arthur Fonzarelli). Most of the action takes place at the Cunningham home or at Al’s diner.
After awhile the show became way less about Richie and way more about Fonzie, which was okay until it started to become unbelievable. Fonzie had peculiar talents, like hitting a jukebox to make it play. His most notorious move was to snap his fingers and two nearby girls (no particular girls) would respond like Pavlovian dogs by coming over to the Fonz and hanging on his shoulders. Apart from that, Fonzie wore a leather jacket and said “AAAYYYEEEE” a lot. Fonzie is also notable for a key moment in television history. He was the original guy who jumped the sharks… in his leather jacket and a pair of cut off jean shorts, no less.
The show was good in the 70s but went markedly downhill in the 80s, which may or may not have something to do with the introduction of Scott Baio to the cast.
Interesting but Unrelated: Erin Moran, who was Joanie on the series, has fallen on hard times in recent years. She was recently in the news for getting kicked out of a trailer by the mother of her common-law husband. What happened, Erin? Time to reassess life before it’s too late. Once you jump the sharks, you don’t go back.