Television history is full of classic, groundbreaking comedies that have stood the test of time while also being a product of their time. It is also full of a lot of steaming clunkers that never went anywhere and rightly so. These days, with eight billion channels and eight billion remakes, it might be inconceivable that there are any concepts that worked well in the past which wouldn’t get made today. However, when you consider that most of those eight billion channels are just shows where they shove a camera in the face of somebody doing their job and force them to compete against some other guy somewhere else doing the same job, it starts to make a little more sense. So here’s a list of ten famous comedies of yore that likely wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being made in today’s cynical pop culture climate.
1. “All In the Family”
One of the greatest shows of all time, and it likely wouldn’t get made today. Why? In part because its central protagonist is an unabashed racist constantly throwing out slurs and honest bigotry. You may argue that you see that kind of thing all the time, but these days it has to be done by either making that character cartoonishly stupid and annoying like Peter Griffin or constantly defused by the ironic quips of his likable supporting cast, like Pierce Hawthorne. Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker, however, remained the most popular guy on the show. There’s also the fact that Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton), Archie’s completely steamrollable “dingbat” wife, could not remain so consistently and meekly deferent to her husband in any modern show of the politically correct era. And there’s more – see #2.
This 1972 spin-off of All In The Family shares a sensibility with it, and that sensibility is the reason neither of these shows would be made today – the notion of earnest, heartfelt political debate on a sitcom is anathema these days. Maude was Edith Bunker’s cousin, and the show centered around her strident liberal leanings as a mighty feminist, and she was a beloved hero of her show just as Archie was on his. Even though our culture today is too P.C. to allow a true-to-form Archie, it’s equally too anti-P.C. to allow an honestly strident activist like Maude without dousing her with ironic detachment as well – see Britta Perry. Perhaps television is just ahead of the curve, and we’re supposed to be living in an enlightened society that doesn’t have to butt heads about racism and sexism so much anymore – but the 24-hour news cycle would seem to indicate otherwise.
3. “Hogan’s Heroes”
No matter how successful this 1965-1971 series was, no matter how likable these war heroes are, and no matter how harmless the antagonists are made to seem, there is absolutely no way on Earth that any network would set a situation comedy in a Nazi prison camp. Certainly not in the post-Schindler’s List world. Hell, maybe not even in a post-Auto Focus world.
4. “My Mother the Car”
You see, Jerry Van Dyke played a lawyer whose dead mother’s ghost inhabited a crappy old 1928 car, and spoke only to him through the radio, while a nasty car collector named Captain Manzini always tried to take it from him. Even if you take this idea and load it up with absurd irony, as Dan Harmon did with the talking-motorcycle show Heat Vision and Jack, networks won’t touch it – especially not now, when they can just hire a bunch of post-celebrities and make them dance for fame instead. To be fair, though, My Mother The Car wasn’t even a hit back then. It’s just legendary in its ridiculousness.
Odds are we’re not going to get a sitcom set in the Old West anytime soon, but compounding the matter is the fact that F-Troop sported some of particularly awful depictions of Native Americans, as played by Yiddish comedians using broken English and using tribal names that are bad puns. Even in today’s South Park era where racist Asian accents are mainstream comedy again, we tend to leave American Indians alone. As well we should.