Ranked: 20 Years of NBC “Must See” Thursday Night Comedies
NBC’s had Thursday night as it’s big comedy night for nearly 20 years now, moving from “Must See TV” to “Comedy Night Done Right.” Over all that time, they’ve tossed 38 shows our way, and counting. Some are comedy classics ranking amongst the best sitcoms ever created. Others? Well, let’s put it this way: remember Daddio, starring Michael Chiklis? Nobody else does, either. Let’s take a look at all of ’em in order from worst to best.
#38. Coupling (2003)
Episodes: 4 (plus 7 unaired)
Quality-wise, there have been worse shows on NBC Thursday nights, which you’ll soon see, but the U.S. remake of Coupling deserves to be last because it managed to tarnish the legacy of BBC’s near-perfect original. The great Steven Moffat helmed both versions, and the U.S. one starred the otherwise-charming Jay Harrington, so NBC’s meddling is to blame for this mega-hyped screw-up. Good thing they’d right their wrong with another BBC remake…
#37. Battery Park (2000)
Episodes: 4 (plus 3 unaired)
In 1999, ABC aired the pilot episode of the Charlie Sheen-starring Sugar Hill, a police-themed sitcom. It would be the show’s only episode — until a year later, when NBC re-tooled the sitcom, now called Battery Park. It starred Elizabeth Perkins and Justin Louis and lasted four times as long as Sugar Hill! Meaning, four episodes were shown before NBC said no more.
#36. Daddio (2000)
Episodes: 9 (plus 9 unaired)
I at least vaguely remember, not to mention watched, every sitcom on this list, with the exception of Daddio. It ran for nine episodes and starred a pre-Shield Michael Chiklis as a stay-at-home dad, but nope, nothing. At least the next selection was memorably bad, rather than forgetfully so.
#35. Fired Up (1997-1998)
Episodes: 23 (plus 5 unaired)
The show’s tagline: “First she got fired, then she got fired up!” UGH, NEXT.
#34. Inside Schwartz (2001-2002)
Episodes: 9 (plus 4 unaired)
Doing something different isn’t always a good thing for a sitcom. For instance, Inside Schwartz — well, here’s the NBC press release to explain the show, “The series focuses on Schwartz as he struggles to come to terms with both his love of sports — where there are definite rules and official referees — and his personal life, where there are no designated foul lines.” That stupid press release talk is sadly accurate, too: the show used sports metaphors to discuss Schwartz’s love life. For instance, when a date licks him on the face, a referee says, “Illegal use of tongue!”
#33. Good Morning, Miami (2002-2003)
I mentioned this story elsewhere on the Internet, so Mom, if you’re reading this, I apologize for being repetitive: a screener copy of Good Morning, Miami was sent to my home in early 2002. I was 13 years old at the time, and super excited to receive a VHS copy of a show that hadn’t been on the air yet. A note came with the pilot episode, asking my mom and I to send our thoughts about the show after watching it. Twenty-two minutes later, I put on a pair of boots, ejected the video from the VCR, and literally stomped on it until it was smashed into countless pieces. The show was that bad.
#32. Union Square (1997)
Union Square was a sitcom that ripped off characters from other, more popular sitcoms on the same network. Constance Marie played Gabriella Diaz, a lawyer-turned-playwright who befriended people she met in a fictional coffee shop in New York City. It was one of the many failed shows hoping to capitalize on the success of Seinfeld and Friends.
#31. Kath & Kim (2008-2009)
While not quite as bad as Coupling, Kath & Kim still suffered from many of the same problems, including the peculiar casting of Molly Shannon and Selma Blair as the titular mother and daughter duo and trying to Americanize the characters while also keeping them consistent to the Australian original. But at least the Scissor Sisters did the theme song! (That’s not a good thing.)
#30. The Single Guy (1995-1997)
I’ll save you many pointless, Seinfeld-rip off hours of your life: in the final episode, The Single Guy becomes The Married Guy. Believe me, I’m doing you a favor.
#29. Hope & Gloria (1995-1996)
There are certain shows that just kind of come and go. They’re not offensively awful or critically loved; they just kind of came and went, no fuss and no uproar. That’s Hope & Gloria in a nutshell, about a producer (Cynthia Stevenson) of a daytime talk show becoming friends with a hairdresser (Jessica Lundy). Alan Thicke is in there, too, but here’s a pop culture tip: unless it’s preceded by “Bob” or “raising,” it’s probably not wise to include “hope” in your title (see: Hope Floats, Hope Springs, etc.).
#28. Leap of Faith (2002)
Another show about a group of well-off people hanging out in New York, Leap of Faith averaged 16.5 million viewers per episode in a post-Friends timeslot, but was still canceled after six episodes because no show with the wonderful Ken Marino can last very long. Unlike Veronica Mars and Party Down, though, Leap of Faith deserved to be canned.
#27-25. Jesse/Veronica’s Closet/Caroline in the City (1998-2000, 1997-2000, 1995-1999)
Honestly, all three of these shows blend together. David Crane and Martha Kauffman produced Jesse and Veronica’s Closet, and they’re all about strong, single women trying to make it in a male-dominated world. Another similarity between the three: jokes that wouldn’t have even made it into the first draft of the second Sex and the City movie.
#24. Suddenly Susan (1996-2000)
This could have easily been bunched in with the last selection, but at least Suddenly Susan, about the staff of a magazine in San Francisco, had Brooke Shields, who I’ve always liked, Judd Nelson, and Nestor Carbonell. Could have done without Kathy Griffin but that’s not exclusive to Suddenly Susan.
#23. Cursed/The Weber Show (2000-2001)
Many critics were calling out for Cougar Town to change its awful title between seasons one and two, an almost unheard of move. But Cursed did something even more shocking: it changed its name mid-way through its freshman year. Originally, Cursed was about Chris Elliot having been, well, cursed by an ex-girlfriend, but because no one was watching, NBC re-titled the show to the more conventional The Weber Show. Didn’t help, and it was axed after less than a full season.
#22. Boston Common (1996-1997)
Boston Common tried to do for the Land of Fenway what Friends did for New York City, which is to say only show the nicest parts of it. Obviously, it didn’t succeed, although it did give Zach Galifianakis an early gig.
#21. Four Kings (2006)
Episodes: 7 (plus 6 unaired)
Doesn’t Four Kings sound like a USA Network drama? Maybe that’s why no one watched the Seth Green-starring sitcom about, you guessed, a group of friends making it in New York City. It was either that, or people were scared off when they heard the Counting Crows’ theme song.
#20. Outsourced (2010-Present)
Hey look, a show that isn’t about white people! It’s about making fun of people who AREN’T white! What an original idea, NBC. Anisha Nagarajan and Rebecca Hazlewood, the show’s two bright spots, really deserve better. Outsourced’s legacy will be that it kept Parks and Recreation off the air for a few months.
#19. Joey (2004-2006)
Unless you’re Kelsey Grammar, it has to be tiring, not to mention boring, to play the same character for over a decade. Matt LeBlanc, who played the lovable goofball Joey on Friends, tried taking his talents to California in this spin-off.
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