As the song says, “Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend, yeah!” As we drift into a long Labor Day holiday weekend (yes, the blog will be closed on Monday), let’s close out this week with a Roundtable about our favorite TV comedies set in workplaces.
I’m not really a fan of 30-minute sitcoms, but I fell head-over-heels in love with ‘Scrubs‘. I had many friends who watched the hospital-set comedy from the get-go, but I didn’t see an episode until the premiere of the fourth season. I ate it up. Both the romantic and the bromatic comedy spoke my language, so I picked up the DVDs of the previous seasons and also watched new episodes weekly. The 2007 Writer’s Strike took a huge toll on the seventh season’s quality, which caused NBC to finally drop the show, but when ABC picked it up afterwards, the series only got better. The finale of the eighth season was perfect, an absolutely fitting closure for Zach Braff’s character. I don’t know a single fan who didn’t adore it.
ABC tried to continue the show with a spin-off season that featured new cast members (including the awesome Dave Franco), but it just wasn’t the same. The original cast made guest appearances, but not enough viewers took to it, so the plug was pulled after a half-season. Truthfully, the first four episodes of the ninth season were bad, but it found its groove after that and I was sad to see the show go.
This one is easy: ‘NewsRadio‘. Dave Foley leads a cast that includes Maura Tierney, Stephen Root, Joe Rogan, Andy Dick and Phil Hartman in a pitch-perfect show about a New York radio station. I loved the show so much that whenever I see any of the actors in another project (with the exception of Foley, who will always be a Kid in the Hall first), I immediately think of them as from ‘NewsRadio’.
The show didn’t break any boundaries of the sitcom format the way that ‘The Office’ did, but that didn’t matter because it was just damn hilarious. This featured Andy Dick before he became a pale shadow of himself, Joe Rogan before he was just the guy daring people to eat bugs, and Phil Hartman’s best work outside of ‘SNL’ (and depending on the sketch, often better than his work on ‘SNL’). Yes it’s multi-cam, and yes it has a laugh track, and most people don’t seem to remember it when talking about the great sitcoms of the past, but in my eyes it’s up there with any TV comedy you care to mention.
There are so many great TV series that take place primarily at workplaces that I initially had a hard time limiting my choice to just one series. But then I remembered a little pub in Boston where everybody knows your name….
For my money, there’s never been a better sitcom on television than ‘Cheers‘. Running for 11 seasons on NBC between 1982 and 1993, it’s one of the few comedy series in history that didn’t suffer a reduction in quality during its entire run. Even when one of the co-stars (Nicholas “Coach” Colasanto) died of a heart attack, or lead actress Shelly Long decided to leave the show, ‘Cheers’ never missed a beat. It continued to be one of the funniest and most entertaining comdies on the air.
I own all 11 seasons on DVD (oh, how I wish these were on Blu-ray!) and watched them all again a few years back. The series doesn’t feel dated or aged, despite a huge chunk of it taking place in a single location, and despite the sweetened laugh track (which, thankfully, includes some genuine laughs, as ‘Cheers’ was filmed in front of an audience). If you’ve never seen the show (hard to believe, but I realize some readers here are still in their 20s or younger) or haven’t seen it in a while, I can’t think of a better series worth re-visiting.
M. Enois Duarte
Since I don’t watch much TV, this took a bit of thinking. The only workplace shows I can think of are ‘The Office‘ and ’30 Rock’. Ultimately, I went with the hilarious, mischievous hijinks of paper salesmen Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute and Jim Halpert. They remind me that I have experience working in a mundane office selling products (high-end vent exhaust hoods to contractors) and building a clientele, while the droning hum of fluorescent lights above created an odd, zombifying effect on everyone. Ugh! If only my time there were as dramatic and silly as the show, I’d probably would have stayed longer. But the job was temporary while I also attended university.
The only parts of that job I care to remember are the people I worked with, some of whom were much like the characters on the show. We had our power-hungry, oddball Dwight, an overzealous cool-guy manager, a keeps-to-himself Stanley and, yes, we also had an attractive Pam with a crappy boyfriend. Weirdly, I was a cross between Oscar and Darryl – the token minority salesperson, keeping things cool between the office drones and the guys in the warehouse, where I originally started before being promoted to sales. Every single episode of the show made me laugh and brought back memories.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
‘Archer‘ is a workplace comedy, all right. It’s just that instead of being set at some low-rent paper company or whatever, the series revolves around the ACTION and INTRIGUE of an elite, globetrotting intelligence and security agency. Okay, maybe “elite” isn’t the world I’m looking for here. The now-kinda-unfortunately-named ISIS is sort of like the K-Mart version of the KGB: underfunded, understaffed, and desperate for whatever the next paycheck might be. For crying out loud, their secret HQ shares a first floor with a laundromat, and the place is staffed just about wall-to-wall with sociopaths and screw-ups. I haven’t even gotten to the part where I talk about Sterling Archer, the world’s most dangerous spy. Think James Bond in a black turtleneck. He’s a sociopath AND a screw-up.
‘Archer’ is one of the most consistently brilliant and endlessly hysterical series on television, and it’s daring enough to upend everything you thought you knew. Maybe the lovelorn secretary has a thing for strangulation and is worth a half-billion dollars. Maybe this season… oh, I don’t know, we’ll throw out the whole spy agency deal and have what’s left of ISIS try to unload a fortune in cocaine. The series is basically being rebooted in January for its sixth season, so if you haven’t tuned into ‘Archer’ before, now you know where to start.
The only office show we currently have set to DVR at my house is ‘Workaholics‘. This Comedy Central sitcom features the entertaining antics of three sophomoric roommates who work at a telemarketing company. It also has a very entertaining cast of side characters and guest stars. It’s one of those shows where you find yourself embarrassed to be laughing at the over-the-top inappropriate humor and repeatedly asking, “Wait, what? How was that allowed on television?”
For instance, some of the episode plots include: the guys attending a Juggalos festival (a.k.a. an Insane Clown Posse fan gathering), the guys start a burrito shop where they sell “burweedos,” the guys take advantage of a disabled cousin to park in the handicap spot at work, and the guys leave inappropriate drunk messages on their boss’s voicemail and have to beat her to work to delete them. If you like shows like ‘Family Guy’ or ‘Tosh.0’, and stoner humor makes you giggle, you should watch this show.
I don’t care for professional sports at all, yet I think that ‘Sports Night‘ was one of the greatest comedies to ever air on TV. The show followed the crew of a cable sports network as they struggled for ratings and dodged management interference from meddling corporate owners. Created and scripted by Aaron Sorkin prior to his big TV success with ‘The West Wing’, the series was fueled by sparkling wit and snappy dialogue. It had an amazing cast, many of whom would go on to greater TV stardom (including leads Peter Krause and Felicity Huffman). In contrast to typical workplace sitcoms like ‘The Office’, it characters were refreshingly passionate about going to work and putting in their best effort every day. (That’s sort of a hallmark of the Sorkin formula.) ‘Sports Night’ may have only lasted two seasons before ABC canceled it, but it burned brightly while it was on.
Tell us about your favorite workplace TV comedies in the Comments. We’ll see you back here on Tuesday!