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Rugland: Missing the family sitcoms of the 80s
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Rugland: Missing the family sitcoms of the 80s

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With the cancellation of so many activities and calendar commitments at an all-time low, we’ve all found ourselves with a lot more downtime. For my family, sometimes that includes TV time.

It’s caused me to notice somewhere along the line there has been a big change in programming. I know for the last 20 years a large variety of reality TV has become a huge part of programming. But I’d never stopped to notice one TV genre has all but disappeared – the family sitcom. Sitcoms in general are fewer as the popularity of reality TV has grown and this genre is much cheaper to produce. But even sparser is the family sitcom. This is a big change from yesteryear.

When I was a kid, sitcoms were a plenty! And more often than not, they appealed to the whole family, regardless of ages.

"Happy Days," "Family Ties," "Facts of Life," "Who’s the Boss," "Growing Pains," "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "The Wonder Years," "Diff’rent Strokes" … the list went on and on. Friday evenings brought the introduction of TGIF, a two-hour family-friendly lineup that originally included "Full House," "Family Matters," "Perfect Strangers" and "Just the Ten of Us."

In preparation of this column, I asked my mom if she truly liked these shows as well or was just putting up with them as she spent time with her kids. She confirmed she did indeed enjoy them, too.

Addie Rugland

Addie Rugland

Today, if there is a sitcom it’s not necessarily family-appropriate or it primarily appeals to just the child. In the case of the latter, the kids tend to be know-it-alls and the parents are commonly portrayed as bumbling idiots, which, as an adult, is hard to watch.

Currently, the 7 p.m. time slot on network TV might have a crime or medical drama or an adult-based sitcom. Or else one of a variety of game shows, strength shows, talent contests or reality shows. My kids and I do enjoy some of these but I miss the sitcoms of years ago. My kids are 7 and 9, so at an age where we can watch something that appeals to all of us. If we can find it.

Don’t get me wrong, my family doesn’t lay in front of the TV for hours. I know it’s not good to spend an excess of time watching TV, but I do have good memories of watching with my family as a kid. I can remember my mom and dad laughing just as hard as my brother and I while watching "The Cosby Show" and "Home Improvement." We’d all do our best “Tim the Toolman” impressions. My dad was the best, of course.

I’d watch "Scooby Doo" and "He-Man" with my brother after school. Not sitcoms but still good memories. I watched Miss America Pageants and "The Golden Girls" with one of my grandmas and "All My Children" with my other grandma. Granted, "The Golden Girls" and "All My Children" weren’t exactly geared for kids but it was the 80’s and we sure loved it.

As I said, my family does enjoy some of the game shows and talent shows on network TV. Our recent favorites are "Don’t," "Holey Moley" and "America’s Got Talent."

But to find a sitcom we can all enjoy we have had better luck on streaming services. "Fuller House," "Just Add Magic" and "Alexa & Kate" have been a few good discoveries. However, it’s still hard to find something both my daughter and son enjoy. One show they both do love is "The Floor Is Lava." Again, it’s not a sitcom but a game show that brings the imaginative childhood game alive for adult contestants. It’s a hoot! Also, "Home Improvement" re-runs have been a hit. And a new generation in my family is now doing the “Tim the Toolman” grunt.

Sometimes it’s just nice to sit down, relax and laugh together. This column has helped jog my memory of some great past family sitcoms so I guess I just need to search the streaming services for these old favorites of yesterday as I think they would be enjoyed just as much by my kids today.

Addie Rugland is a freelance writer who lives in Northwood with her husband, daughter and son.

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