With NBC on Thursday night and CBS on Monday nights, the art of the sitcom seems to slowly be returning to prime time. Lately, the airwaves have been saturated with bad reality shows and clones of “Law & Order” and “CSI,” which have a special appeal to certain audiences, but the problem is that we are watching the worst part of society. Occasionally, the dark side can be intriguing, but a counterweight is desperately needed to balance it out.
It was not too long ago that television was a nice diversion from the every day, with smart sitcoms such as “Mad About You” and “Seinfeld,” but those days have felt like they slowly faded away. We used to have basic cable to watch reruns of classic television shows just in case we weren’t interested in the reality shows that the major networks were running. Sadly, TV Land has started airing reality shows and older sitcoms with longer commercial breaks, while Nickelodeon has ditched classic television for newer sitcoms with less mainstream appeal (“Malcolm in the Middle,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and “The George Lopez Show”).
If that weren’t enough of an insult, A&E has jumped on the reality bandwagon with the pitiful excuse of a television show called “Intervention.” The premise is simply watching a junkie get high while their family cries over the mental damage caused. Who is the intended audience for a series like this? The show is a disgrace to the network that was once respectful and anybody that watches it.
However, NBC on Thursday has the Emmy award-winning “30 Rock,” “The Office” and the great new series “Community,” which are all reminders of great television writing. The only casualty has been “My Name Is Earl,” which was recently canceled without ever wrapping up some of the plot holes.
The other bright spot – CBS, has three returning Emmy-nominated shows returning for new seasons.
“How I Met Your Mother” kicks off the fifth season with an hysterical episode, “Definitions.” What is excellent about this show is that the ensemble cast compliments itself very well with standout nods to Emmy-nominated Neil Patrick Harris (Best Supporting Actor) as the womanizing Barney Stinson and Jason Segel (“I Love You, Man”) as Marshall Eriksen. The writers are attempting to have Stinson grow up and possibly enter a full-time relationship with the equally confused, Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders). Lily (Alyson Hannigan) locks them in a room until they confront their mutual feelings. Will they have the dreaded discussion?
Then on the other side of town, Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) starts teaching architecture and makes one of the biggest and funniest teaching blunders. Also, some signs point to the fact that this may be the season where Mosby can finally narrate the line, “This is how I met your mother.”
Then comes “Two and a Half Men,” which kicks off a seventh season with the misadventures of Charlie (Charlie Sheen) and Alan Harper (recent Emmy winner Jon Cryer) in a very funny way. This is the final season for the series, and Charlie is engaged and must chose between a past love and his current fiancée. This dilemma causes him to be constipated, and creates some very comical situations.
The episode also has one very unlikely guest star, Eddie Van Halen, in the most strangest of places (with his guitar, oddly enough).
The night ends with the start of the third season of “The Big Bang Theory,” which is a very funny look at smart people. Similar to the reason “Revenge of the Nerds” is a classic, these nerds endure anything. This is smart, intelligent television that has been missing from the airwaves for quite some time. Jim Parsons is so great in his portrayal as the over-the-top Sheldon Cooper that he was nominated for an Emmy award, but lost to Alec Baldwin for “30 Rock.”
“The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation” is exactly how to open a season of “The Big Bang Theory,” as they return from Antarctica after a research assignment from last season. It turns out that Cooper was being such a jerk that the gang fudged the results of the experiment, and when Cooper finds out, he is very angry.
Meanwhile, Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki, “Roseanne”) is finally getting somewhere with his crush, the beautiful Penny (Kaley Cuoco). Where will it end up this season will keep you glued. Are they going to go back to being friends or enter relationship?
CBS’ Monday night line-up is a promising start to the re-emergence of the sitcom era that seems to have been forgotten while bad television runs the airwaves. But very soon, when this bad reality-television era finally passes, people will remember once again why we need good sitcoms.
So skip “Intervention” on Monday night and put a smile on your face with CBS.