Tuesday, June 2, 2020


I was watching this critic on Youtube, Sean Moore, his show is called "Cinematic Excrement" he sometimes goes by Smeghead. He's not somebody I always watch but he's okay. He's currently doing a series where he reviews all the Razzies Awards Worst Picture Winners, which-eh..., well, if that's the way you want to spend your time, Buddy, go right ahead; you're a braver man then me then I am Gunga Din. (I know that's not the line, don't @ me). Anyway, he got to "Showgirls" recently which caught my attention, 'cause all film people are obsessed with "Showgirls", especially ones from Vegas, naturally I was interested. Anyway, it's not a terrible review or anything or a unique perspective; I mean "Showgirls" sucks, and after a quarter century or so, I think we've counted all the ways already. That said, he did something weird during his review, that kinda through me, and I ended up Tweeting about it. 

I was kinda gonna leave it at that, but I talked with a couple people afterwards about it and one of them suggested I turn that observation into a blogpost, and..., well, it's not like I'm doing anything else, so... basically at one point during his review, he decides to talk about sitcom actor transitioning to film, and he compares Elizabeth Berkeley to Will Smith.... It's about at the 5:20 point in the review below: 

Okay, first of all, I don't get the diss of sitcoms actors in general. That's something I find bizarre and wrong with how a lot of television is viewed these days, not only is sitcom acting usually a lot more impressive and harder to me then even the best drama series and acting, but sitcoms are at the best, at capturing the essense of the human condition and frankly, I usually find are far more powerful and reminiscent of the world then drama series do. I know, he's being a smartass and making a joke, and he's not to slight the genre or the actors in sitcoms in general, but that rubbed me the wrong way; especially for something at admittedly goofy as "Saved By the Bell", the fact that the show is as watchable as it is, to me, probably means that the acting in the show should be more appreciated then it is. I know, he's just trying to show that Elizabeth Berkeley was bad in the movie, and of course she's bad in the film, yes, and he even says it's more the directing fault then her, which absolutely, of course it is. Nobody's that bad an actress without somebody directing them badly, especially Berkeley who I've seen in others things, and blah, blah, blah, I don't like how he made that point. You guys might disagree with that, but I had that issue.

However and more importantly though, um, the fact that he compared "The Fresh of Bel-Air" with "Saved By the Bell" as though, they were the same thing...- Maybe this is an age thing, but i was old enough these shows, when they were on the air, on NBC, and I watched them both, at the time, and much later and recently as well, and apparently this guy is old enough to have done the same as well, so I'm really confused, but for those who are younger: Do you guys know that those aren't comparable sitcoms?

Like, they're basically two different genres! "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" was a primetime serious sitcom that was about a clash of modern cultures that actually had a lot to reminiscint of things going on in the modern world at that time. It was the first generation of African-American wealth and combating that with both the modern African-American experience, including the inner-city youth culture, but it was also a critique and look at what it really meant to be Black/African-American in the U.S. There's a lot of subtext and depth to that show, on top of it, being a smart, funny and well-made series.

"Saved By the Bell", was a cartoon! I don't know how else to put it, but it was a Saturday Morning series; that aired like after "Wish Kid" and before "Pro Stars" or something like that. It was the "Hannah Montana" of it's day. It was "That's So Raven"; it wasn't like a real show! I mean, it was a real, literal show, everything on TV is a real show, but no-, you would NEVER, legitimately make this comparison, at the time, and I thought afterwards. Other then the fact that they're multi-cams in front of a live audience  and were around the same time; you might as well be comparing "Glee" and "Storage Wars" 'cause they have about the same amount of commanality too.

At first, my inclination was that, maybe people younger then me, who don't remember the time, just didn't know this? It's been a long time, and "Saved By the Bell" it's been running in reruns forever and if you perhaps remember after school reruns where "Saved By the Bell" might've been paired with some other primetime series that might've been based around kids,...? I don't know if that's the case, but let me break it down a bit from there. "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" was made for and promoted as being, "for the whole family". I know people think that's code for kids, but it's not. It's aired at 8:00pm on Monday night, before "Blossom", which was actually the show I was usually waiting to watch before going to bed. (Seriously "Blossom" still holds up; it's really underrated!) and before the more adult programming started at 10:00pm; especially back then, this was how those were networks programmed. (Well, actually back, Mondays at nine, CBS had "Murphy Brown" and ABC had "Monday Night Football", and you weren't beating either of those, so they'd put a movie on at nine back then, but still....) "Saved By the Bell" was very specifically made and targeted for the kids, the younger audience. It was, and is, and it's really hard to watch an episode of the series to me, and not obviously think that's completely apparent.

There's nothing wrong with that by the way, making stuff for a younger audience is arguably a lot harder then making stuff for the whole family, and especially at that time when nobody else was, it's really impressive. And in "Saved By the Bell"'s case, I always argued that no matter what you think of the show now, (or then) it was unique at the time, and now it's clear how influential it was. I've talked about "Saved By the Bell"'s influence before actually. I brought it up awhile ago when I did a Top Ten List on the Most Landscape-Altering Times a TV Show Changed Networks:


I had NBC keeping the rights to "Good Morning, Miss Bliss", number four on the list, and I went into it's influence a bit there, but I do wonder that if you weren't there you might not understand just how much "Saved By the Bell" really stood out; and how it was truly different to see a live-action TV sitcom that was so specifically aimed at kids.

Except, was it?

You know, I've usually been fairly comfortable with that stance that if nothing else "Saved By the Bell" was a groundbreaking series that influenced several television shows that came afterwards and changed the way that programming aimed at kids could be made, but, at the same token, that always did feel a little weird to me.

And you know, let's play Devil's Advocate for a second, maybe my claim that comparing it to "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" is out of line, is itself a bit out of line. Acting is still acting, and sitcom acting is still acting, you have to be good at it. Also, "Saved By the Bell" was actually originally conceived, as a primetime series. In its original form, "Good Morning, Miss Bliss", which had a pilot that aired on Primetime on NBC before the Disney Channel aired the rest of the series' first season, it might've fit more into series that were more-, well, I would say they were more family sitcoms, but there's a long list of sitcoms that are essentially based around, or appealled more to the "kids" as opposed to the "family". And you know what, "Saved By the Bell" is made fun of today for being cheesy and dopey in general, but the thing is, even when it got restructured as the Saturday Morning cartoon of a series we know now, a lot of the base of the series and it's influences can be traced more prominently to more classic television. Most of the episodes are just, Zach gets a dumb idea or scheme, or a get rich quick scheme and things go wrong. That's basically every other "I Love Lucy" or "The Honeymooners", just with teenagers. They weren't first or the last to copy those formulas. Even Zach being a teenager that breaks the fourth wall all the time, that's from "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis".

Actually, that show, in particular, has quite a bit in common with "Saved By the Bell". Dobie Gillis was a teenager with hormones trying to get laid all the time, and he had a weird friend that didn't always help. He wasn't a beatnik like Bob Denver's Maynard Krabbs was, but you know a version of that at the time could've been Screech.

And the show has a classic pedigree. It creator worked with Andy Grfffith and The Smothers Brothers among others. The director/showrunner of "Saved By the Bell" was Don Barnhart; he passed away a few years ago, but I actually got the opportunity to meet him before that; he talked to a script supervising class I was in, and he was a pretty nice, and he had a long television background. I think the guy started out holding cue cards for Dean Martin or something like that. The guy worked his way up a long time and most of it was doing work on multicam sitcoms, which to some extent is a dying genre, but on the other hand, is something that's caught on a bit recently with, these shows aimed at kids.

Is that "Saved By the Bell"'s influence, that it turned kids sitcoms into multicams?

That was something somebody else mentioned when I tweeted; he suspected that the comparison might've seemed apt to Moore, because multi-cam sitcoms have become more common with kids series these days and that's one of the reasons most primetime series now prefer to use single cams; in order to be taken more seriously.

That's an interesting theory, but boy I hope that's wrong. I can't imagine kids running into, say the episode of "Good Times" where J.J. runs off to marry his prom date, unaware that she's a heroin junkie until they find a rubber hose and needle in her purse, that she left behind and thinking this was as much a kids series as, you know, "Victorious" or whatever's the big thing on Nickelodeon or Disney Channel is right now.

Yeah, that's something else that's kinda weird; the notion that kids sitcom is a multicam while a more prestige, 'for the family" or you know, adult sitcom, being more single cam shows, that's like completely switched. Even if you want to stretch the idea of primetime family shows that kids tended to prefer over adults, most of the ones that came before "Saved By the Bell", there's a few exceptions, but a lot of them were single cam series. (Or maybe in the case of "The Flintstones", animated. Well, get to that in a bit.) Which, if you think about it, it actually makes sense. Kids were harder to control how well they performed on a take-to-take, so something like "Leave It to Beaver" would benefit more from being a single cam with a laugh track instead of a show that was shoot multicams and live. Especially the many over-the-top shows of the sixties show, "The Addams Family", "The Munsters", "Bewitched", "I Dream of Jeannie", those shows took advantage of being shot on single cams with a set and had a lot more sight or editing gags which kids would typically find more funny then adults. I mean, even "Happy Days" originated as a single-cam, and nobody took it seriously; it was when it switched to a multicam that it got actual acclaim and was treated as a more legitimate prestige series. One that was, for the whole family, despite the fact that it was actually a far more adult series when it was it a single cam in the beginning.

So, okay, I know kids television, especially anything like, pre-"G.I. Joe", for some reason, is kinda forgotten these day, but it's been around since the beginning of television; there had to at least structurally resembled a sitcom before "Saved By the Bell", right?

Okay, you see what I mean when I say that "Saved By the Bell" stood out! This wasn't an aberration, there was a lot of weird shit like this back then that we characterized as children's TV. (By the way, fun sidenote, Sid & Marty Krofft, who created this show, and several other similar shows like this in the late '60s and early '70s, have always claimed that they never took any hallucinogenic drugs, and-eh, the more you dig into their work, it becomes incredibly hard to believe that.)

But, I am bringing up "H.R Pufnstuf", for a reason, because, technically, you could call this show, a sitcom. I mean, it's a situation, Jimmy & Freddie the Flute are stuck on Living Island, and they're trying to get home, that's the situation. It's a com-, well, it's got a laugh track-, actually no, I won't be coy; it's got the rhythms and pace of a sitcom of that time period. Honestly, it's not that far off from "Gilligan's Island". Now, it's basically the premise every episode, Witchipoo wants Freddie the Flute, so she tries to steal them and Pufnstuf and crew help get the flute back for the kid that was in "Oliver!", but you know, that was the norm for most sitcoms; continuing storylines happened occurred, but they weren't the expectation. Now, I tend to kinda think of most kids television, pre-1980s to be more variety in nature in terms of genre, where a plot/story didn't matter, just anything bit and loud and often bright to keep the kids occupied, but the reality is that they had a little bit of everything. Although I still have trouble finding much that's comparable to a "Saved By the Bell"-style show. Like, even something that you'd think would fit like "Archie" despite being a cartoon, most versions of the franchise back then were actually much more of a variety series then a sitcom, at least the more common early television versions of it.

And yes, there were animated sitcoms as well from this time, and even before to an extent and long after. In fact, they don't do this much now, as far as I can tell, but their used to be a common trend of taking regular primetime series and then making some variant of them as a Saturday Morning kids cartoon. Some of them are more famous like the "Star Trek" animated series, others are much more strange, like "Gilligan's Planet", yes that's a thing. The last time I remember anybody actually doing that though, was-eh, I think "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch", the Melissa Joan Hart one, got something of a cartoon back accompanied series.

That was a single-cam sitcom too, "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" for obvious reasons, you can't really show effective witchery in front of a live audience. That said, I think we do have to talk about the later TGIF lineups though, 'cause-, well,- there's actually something else that was a catalyst for me, thinking about this. Okay, so, there's this weird Emmy category that's for Outstanding Children's Program. Now, they have Daytime Emmys for Children's shows, and they're a lot more elaborate, but there is one given out for the Primetime Emmys every year. It's actually got a long history; it was one of the very first Emmy awards, back when "Time for Beany" beat "Kukla, Fran & Ollie", but after the Daytime and Primetime Emmys split, the category basically became a weird hodgepodge, of literally anything that was remotely kids based, like "Nick News with Linda Ellerbee" won it a bunch of time for whatever special she did that year. At one point, she won so often that they separated it to Children's Program and a separate Children's Nonfiction Program Emmy, but it's back to one category now, last I checked, and it's still kind of a hodgepodge, where like, a one-time "Sesame Street Primetime Special" is up against a whole season of a series. It's a weird category. I never really thought too much about it, until I saw a nominee a few years ago in the category that surprised me. "Girl Meets World".

Okay, I haven't seen much of "Girl Meets World", and it's the Disney Channel, and I guess they can submit their show into whatever category they want, but I have a lot of thoughts on "Boy Meets World" which of course I also grew up with. And I don't want to brag, but I was one of the few people who really liked that show at the time. Now, it's a classic, and I've seen people rank it among the best shows of all-time, which-, okay, that's way too far. It was good for what it was, when it was on air, literally, all the other shows that anybody remembers from the TGIF lineup were way more popular, yes, including "Step By Step". Everybody liked Urkel, and if you liked "Boy Meets World" at all, it was because you had a crush on Danielle Fishel. Except for me; I thought it was good legitimately. However, twenty years of reruns and reevaluation of all those shows has rewritten that and now, "Boy Meets World" was such a beloved classic that the show got a reboot with the characters kids, and now, I'm like, "Okay guys, yes, it was good, but it wasn't great! It's not even the best coming-of-age comedy series that starred a Savage brother!"

So, I've had "Boy Meets World" whiplash in recent years where I went from trying to argue for it for a long time, to now, everybody went too far to the other side, and now I'm on the opposite of them. However, again, "Boy Meets World" was-, I mean, okay, ABC's infamous TGIF lineup; if there's one primetime lineup of television that you could argue was "for kids" more then for the family, that lineup through the years is probably the one you can single out. Doesn't work perfectly though, "Boy Meets World" never submitted itself into the Emmys as a Children's program and nobody would confuse it for one back then, and even shows like "Full House" or "Family Matters" were clearly, shows "For the family," I mean, they were on in Primetime, that's the delineation. Now I think those shows and their constant reruns probably influenced a lot more of these modern kids sitcoms then "Saved By the Bell" really did, and that actually goes into a completely separate issue about how multicams started to seem more childlike after a lot of people tried copying that Norman Lear model of making a multicam be about modern sociopolitcal subjects, but most of those shows weren't good at it, and that got translated over time into having a moral message at the end of the episode. (Yeah, seriously, "Full House" was actually trying to be "All in the Family".) Now, this is a small sample size from my perspective admittedly, but it does feel more to me like, most of these modern kids sitcoms are trying to replicate those series.

Which is funny for me, 'cause I remember when everybody was just trying to make a ripoff "Saved By the Bell"! God, there were tons of them too. There was a weird period in the mid-'90s were your Saturday afternoons were a lot of TV shows about a bunch of teenagers. Hell, even the superhero shows were ripoffs of "Saved By the Bell", but outside of the some of those, nowadays, the only one anyone remembers is "Degrassi" apparently, which I don't remember; that came much later in my mind. I remember like, "Sweet Valley High" or "USA High", eh, "Salute Your Shorts" kinda qualifies. Nickelodeon had a few of these shows, including one called "Fifteen" which was a soap opera for some reason; that was like the embyonic version of "Degrassi" complete with being a Canadian show called "Hillside" originally. (Although technically "Degrassi" was around since the late '70s, but you know, one of the modern versions.) Most of the "Saved By the Bell" clones were from NBC though. That TNBC lineup had a lot of shows and I've fairly certain I watched a decent amount of them, but boy, who remembers "Sk8" or "Hang Time" or "Just Deal"?! The biggest of them, and the only one anyone else remembers is "California Dreams", which, was always my favorite of these actually. (I know, it's boring and flavorless, and nobody remembers anything about the show except it's theme song, but I-, I don't know, I kinda always enjoyed that about it. There, you found my guilty pleasure.)

Alright, whatever, "Girls Meets World", because it was on Disney, it was a Children's Program, not a regular sitcom, even if the original program wouldn't have been classified as a Children's Program? Or was it? If supposedly "Saved By the Bell" invented the teen sitcom, as we know it today, then maybe "Boy Meets World" was a children's show?!?!

(Long thinking pause)

Yeah, I remember too many explicit episodes about sex, so it definitely wasn't a Children's Program.

Alright, let's use this Emmy category as the standard. Why the hell not, let's use this. "Saved By the Bell" wasn't eligible for it, because it a daytime show, (Not that it would've been nominated anyway) but if there's anything that was a live-action, shot on stage, multicam sitcom that aired on Primetime, that was submitted and nominated in the category, before "Saved By the Bell" aired, then there we go; that'll settle this.

If that earlier comparison between "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "Saved By the Bell" is legitimate, then something would show up there, and there's nothing here then I'll shut up and concede that I'm being an obnoxious prick who's trying to push labels onto things that frankly I shouldn't worry about whatever somebody wants to compare sitcom-wise. Fine, I'll make that deal. It'll both disprove my theory that "Saved By the Bell" was the big gamechanger, which I'll be okay with, 'cause really it doesn't need to be, but I'll still be wrong about separated children's and family sitcoms.

Fine. Okay. Does anything show in this category up that matches that criteria? Anything at all?

Wait, what? Seriously?

1986 Awards

Outstanding Children's Program
Anne of Green Gables
Kevin Sullivan (executive producer/producer)Lee Polk (executive producer)Ian McDougall (producer)
Ewoks: The Battle for Endor
George Lucas (executive producer)Thomas G. Smith (producer)
Punky Brewster
David W. Duclon (executive producer)Gary Menteer (supervising producer)Rick Hawkins (producer)
The Girl Who Spelled Freedom
Judith A. Polone (executive producer)R.W. Goodwin (producer)Christopher Knopf (co-producer)David A. Simons (co-producer)

"Punky Brewster"?! Seriously?!?!?! I'm getting killed by "Punky Brewster" on this?!

(Defeated scoffing sigh)

Jesus, '80 television is so overrated.

So, yes, the bottom of the barrel of Gary Portnoy's theme songs, I'm going to be taken down by "Punky Brewster". That and "Silver Spoons" for about three years-ish or so, were NBC's Saturday Night lineup before both of those shows were rightfully canceled, but then both came back for a year in syndication, because that's a whole other thing that nobody remembers being a thing, but was actually quite common, new sitcoms and drama series airing at random points throughout the day because of syndication; the way you never know what channel or time your favorite talk shows or judge shows are on when you go into a new town. That was a thing for cult shows that didn't last back then, but "Punky Brewster" got their Emmy nominations, (yes plural, they were nominated twice in the category) when they were in Primetime on NBC. Man, NBC outside of Warren Littlefield's control, was always a lot stranger then people realized. I'm starting to get why there's always some kind of behind-the-drama there when it comes to this stuff.

Alright, wait a minute, does that mean that "Punky Brewster" is the show that started the live-action children's sitcom instead of "Saved By the Bell", and that that's the show that we should be credited? That sure doesn't sound right. Is this where I have to start separating Children's Sitcoms and Teenage Sitcoms-, you know, no; I'm not going farther then this.

Alright, whatever, maybe I'm over-reacting and over-thinking. There's more important things to care about these days, and besides, the way it's remembers, the way it actually happened, who cares? Nobody remembers all the exact details anyway, it's always what it felt like it was that lingers in the memory anyway, and when the legend becomes the truth, print the legend. Sure, it still rings a little wrong that comparison Cinematic Excrement made about "The Fresh Prince..." and "Saved By the Bell", but it's not as wrong as I felt like it seemed, according to my own interpretations of TV history, and I've certainly seen a lot wronger comparisons. It certainly doesn't matter what came first or what didn't, it doesn't matter technically and nobody else would look that deeply into determining exactly how these shows and in what order came about, and most of you wouldn't even consider these things to be that separate, like Moore didn't. If I express the thought to anybody my age who remembers it that "Saved By the Bell" was the gamechanger it was, and remembered back to that point, and then gave a slight glance to the TV landscape now, they probably wouldn't think twice about it and noddingly agree, 'cause that's how it's remember. The same way "Punky Brewster" is remembered as that one sad sitcom in the '80s with that ragamuffin orphan that nobody really remembers except for me, and that's cause of encyclopedic unconscious,and doesn't have that much influence over anything else on the current television landscape.

If it's done well, it's done well, doesn't matter who it's for or who the audience actually ends up being; and hell it doesn't really matter if it's done that well, if it's just insanely memorable and sticks out sometimes too. You treat it seriously enough and realistic enough for whomever the audience is for and that's almost all you need. There's a lot of different kinds of sitcoms, the same way there's a lot of different types of any genre, and whatever, I don't know anymore. 

I notice lineups and cohesion 'cause that's what I was used to looking through; like the TV Guides we used to read; that was the centerpoint of all television, what was that night's lineup and you tried to figure out if it made sense; that used to be the importance aspect of television, but you know, we're way past those days anyway, and everything more then ever just sorta bleeds into each other as though they weren't that different, and certainly when it comes to reruns, it becomes even harder to identify the differences and the timelines anymore anyway.

That's probably, ultimately the only thing I really learned doing this deep dive and that's probably what everyone else would find if they just sat around and watched reruns all day.

It's so ironic that it's "Punky Brewster" though that technically beats out "Saved By the Bell"; that's like the one show a "Saved By the Bell" fan would look at and actually make fun of someone for watching. At least we know that that's never gonna get rebooted.

WHAT THE-! What!?!?!?!?! Are you,- NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! Who the hell wanted-? I do not need to ever think about or see a 44-year-old Soleil Moon Frye, being a single mother talking about "PUNKY POWER"! It's bad enough we're doing nothing but reboots anymore, but does nobody understand what shows to reboot anymore?!?!?!?! Or why?!

Okay, no, I change my mind! This is why it matters how things are viewed and how you see them, 'cause if everything starts blending into each other and gets considered in the same vein with each other like this, we're gonna end up with stuff like this, because if we don't distinguish enough then eventually it'll be some network executives who can't tell the differences between these shows and then the next thing you know, you're gonna end up with some stupid reboot of "Saved By the Fucking Bell"!


I'm ending this here; writing this thing's giving me a headache!

(Annoyed grunt)

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