TV Article

Laugh Track

Which sitcoms have lost their humor? Ken Tucker rates six network mainstays, including ''Everybody Loves Raymond'' and ''Friends''

Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton, ... | OR DO THEY? Is ''everybody'' an exaggeration?
Image credit: Everybody Loves Raymond: Robert Voets/CBS
OR DO THEY? Is ''everybody'' an exaggeration?

Which sitcoms have lost their humor?

Does anyone talk about their favorite sitcoms anymore? Between reality-TV overload and ongoing debates about one-hour dramas -- you defend ''West Wing,'' I'm starting to get addicted to ''Without a Trace'' -- the sitcom format seems more ignored than ever. So let's revive the genre: I'll do a quick rundown of a half-dozen laffers that run from fab to blechhh, and you chime in with your opinions. But before we begin: START WATCHING ''ANDY RICHTER CONTROLS THE UNIVERSE,'' YOU SILLIES! Here we go:

''Friends'' They're back for another year, but I'm not feelin' the love for this season's so-so, baby's-here run of episodes -- are you? The performances are fine, jokes are solid, but ''Friends'' is lacking that something extra, like last season's unexpected expansion of Joey's role. B

''Everybody Loves Raymond'' It's constantly near or at the top of the ratings chart, so am I alone in thinking this show has become an uncomfortable viewing experience? The Barone clan's neuroses and inter-irritations have turned them kinda sour and mean. But still pretty funny; it's just that wincing is not a reaction I associate with amusement. B-

''Frasier'' When Niles went under the knife earlier this season, it confirmed the suspicion that the writers had run out of comedic plots and were now relying on heartstring-tugging. Leave my heart alone, ''Frasier'' scribes! I want more heartlessly humorous badinage between Frasier and a healthy, snippy Niles! C+

''Girlfriends'' I've been watching the UPN's only decent sitcom for its snappy byplay and for its welcome view of black women as people other than jive-talking clichés. But what the producers needed to do this season was move these galpals into new situations in which their social circle could expand; otherwise, the patter turns into shtick. Or jive. B-

''Just Shoot Me'' This show is still on? D-

''Becker'' Sorry, I know Ted Danson is giving a good performance every week, and he's successfully created a fresh sitcom persona post-''Cheers,'' an almost unheard-of achievement for anyone except Bob Newhart and... well, the post-''Cheers'' Kelsey Grammer. But ''Becker'' is just a flat little thing, airless and drab. C

So what sitcoms are your favorites or your LEAST favorite?

Originally posted Jan 06, 2003

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