By Matthew Brooks
The recent passing of comedy legend Tim Conway also marks the slow passing of what may have been the golden era of TV comedy.
In 1979, the top three primetime shows were “Laverne and Shirley” (#1), “Three’s Company” (#2), and “Mork & Mindy” (#3).
Each are classic tv comedies. And each show (coincidentally?) features roommates as the title characters.
“Laverne and Shirley” was known for its crisp writing, natural interactions among close friends, and a 70s-esque level of physical comedy.
“Three’s Company” was, at its heart, a single-gag comedy where the main direction of plot frequently dealt with issues of hiding an obvious truth, that the character Jack Tripper was straight. The constant issues of middle-class financial struggles was an issue that shared by “Laverne and Shirley.”
Physical comedy and misunderstandings were also a large part of “Mork and Mindy.” The show featured a young Robin Williams playing an alien. Williams’ character constantly sough to understand the foibles of humanity. It was Williams’ unparalleled gift for comedy that made the show be top-rated.
In 1989, comedy again ruled the airwaves. “The Cosby Show” (#1), “Roseanne” (#2), “Different World” (#3), and “Cheers” (#4) featured the comedy of people placed together in family or a family-like situation.
Each of these shows featured actors and actresses who were in their comedic prime.
In 1999, the top show was a medical drama, “ER.” Viewers’ preference for primetime drama would continue into the 2018. Where “ER” picked up the stethoscope road paved by “M*A*S*H,” “ER” featured the drama of the doctors, nurses, and the sick without the comedy backdrop of “M*A*S*H.” Shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” would continue the trend, though never to the same level of popularity.
“Friends” and “Cheers” spinoff “Fraiser” were the #2 and #3 shows in 1999.
The top shows of 1979 enjoyed ratings in the 30-point range. The top 1989 shows made it to 25 and 23-points for viewership. In 1999, “Friends” and “Fraiser” merely reached a 15-point rating.
In 2009, the top shows were neither drama nor comedy. “American Idol” took the top two spots. “Dancing with the Stars” came in third. Each had ratings points at 15, 14, and 12, respectively.
In 2018, the top shows were “The Big Bang Theory” (#1), “Sunday Night Football” and “NCIS” (tied for #2). Their rating points reached 11 and 1o.
After the death of Tim Conway his work, and the work of other comedic geniuses, are available through a simple internet search.
Tim Conway, the perennial goofball, and those with him, made us laugh like rarely before and like few have done since.