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Fox’s Animation Domination block is now a thing of the past, with live-action comedies like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Mulaney moving to Sunday nights. It’s almost hard to believe that it’s only been six years or so since the last time the animated line-up was broken up with real people, seeing as how this schedule has for years shown more cartoons than Saturday mornings. With this relatively big change kicking into high gear this weekend with Mulaney’s premiere, we decided to look back at some of Fox’s most memorable Sunday night series of the past, when The Cleveland Show was just a glint in Seth MacFarlane’s eye.
Married With ChildrenLove and marriage never looked as trashy and godawfully amusing than they did when Al (Ed O'Neill) and Peg Bundy (Katey Sagal) were the ones laying in bed next to each other. This long-lasting sitcom was Fox's first huge hit, introducing TV audiences to the concept of "The family that pretty much hates being around each other stays together." With dumb-as-bricks kids Kelly (Christina Applegate) and Bud (David Faustino), the Bundys were a family that didn't celebrate blue-collar life as much as they made it seem like the worst thing in the world, which was quite a different vibe from all the affluent families surrounding them on TV. Though Married With Children doesn't feel nearly as fresh now as it did when it debuted in 1987, neither does the world. Steve Rhoades!
FuturamaThe series that introduced the world to the shiniest metal ass on TV was the second major hit for Simpsons creator Matt Groening, and gave audiences a future where robot devils and Santas came out to play and time travel paradoxes just had a way of working themselves out. Nearly every character this show has ever put out there has been 100% quotable – “Maybe you should give ‘em the clamps!” – and Fry and Leela’s will they/won’t they storyline actually outlasted the show’s time on Fox. With loads of guest stars, Harlem Globetrotters and love for all things Manwich-related, Futurama is a show that will still be unique 1,000 years from now, to pizza delivery boys and ship pilots alike.
It’s Garry Shandling’s ShowThings didn’t get very meta on TV back in 1986, but then comedian Garry Shandling came along and proved to audiences that fourth walls were meant to be broken. Playing a slightly more nebbish version of himself, Shandling and all of his co-stars knew that they were on a TV and often made light of that fact by joking directly to the camera, or to the studio audience. Telling stories of relationships, friendships and everything else, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show was actually a Showtime series that Fox secured the rights to as it was still on the air, which was also a pretty revolutionary idea at the time. Plus, this show’s theme song is absolutely classic.
The X-FilesSpeaking of classic themes, Chris Carter’s paranoid sci-fi drama The X-Files still has one of TV’s greatest mythologies, twelve years after it went off the air; and its best episodes usually weren’t even about the main mythos. Agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) took audiences to some of the weirdest places on network TV, introducing creatures and villains that disgusted and delighted alike. Two lackluster movies and Robert Patrick’s John Doggett can’t take away the first seven years of sexy glances and alien conspiracies. Plus, The Lone Gunmen spinoff happened, though it sadly didn’t get to similarly last nine seasons. I guess I'll just rewatch "Squeeze" again.
Get a LifeComedian Chris Elliot’s career has taken him everywhere from The Abyss to Saturday Night Live to Eagleheart, but he’ll always be Get a Life’s Chris Peterson to me. A half-insane 30-year-old manchild paperboy, Chris still lives with his parents Gladys (Elinor Donahue) and Fred (Bob Elliott) – though he eventually moves out – and has darkly comedic adventures that still seem progressive and inventive by today’s network comedy standards, despite calling back to TV from the 1960s and 1970s. Remember when Fox used to be a channel that let weird shows breathe for a while? Get a Life had robots, aliens and dead rats in milk cartons. You don’t see that on New Girl.
In Living ColorAs one might imagine for a sketch comedy that regularly focused on a slurring homeless man carrying a jar of piss, In Living Color is even more of an acquired taste now than it was when it premiered in 1990. Created by Damon and Keenan Ivory Wayans, In Living Color was at times a cleverly provocative show with flamboyantly gay film critics, thieves with their own shopping network, and enjoyable music video parodies. At other times, it was a show that often ridiculed a burn victim, a handicapped superhero, and ugly people. Still, it had one of the best casts on TV, with Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier and more getting their first big breaks, and you can also catch Jennifer Lopez as a Fly Girl dancer. Can you imagine if Key & Peele had dancers?
Arrested DevelopmentThis is the story of a family that Fox just wasn’t happy to keep around. The Bluths stayed on Fox for three seasons before moving onto Netflix after a long hiatus, and creator Mitch Hurwitz found ways to reference the show’s fledgling status on the network within the show itself. Arrested Development found ways to reference just about everything really, including many of its own references, making this one of the most rewatchable series in existence. Where one sitcom has three jokes, Arrested Development has told seven, with two more as visual gags in the background. This will always be my favorite ensemble cast, led by Jason Bateman, Jessica Walters, Jeffrey Tambor and more. It’s a show about the frustration of family life, but it’s also a full course in comedy that will make you blue yourself.
The CriticIt stinks…that The Critic only lasted for 23 episodes, as it could easily still be paired up with The Simpsons, whose writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss created the movie-themed animated comedy. Put-upon critic Jay Sherman, played with boisterous energy by Jon Lovitz, is one of TV’s most lovable losers, exuding an “I hate everything” point-of-view that the Internet has completely usurped. Jay’s life is filled with bad movies (and great parodies), an overbearing boss (Charles Napier), a too-sweet-for-him lady (Park Overall) and a pair of completely out-to-lunch parents (Gerrit Graham and Judith Ivey). I really wish he was still around to talk about Michael Bay and Marvel movies.
Space: Above and BeyondBefore people harangued Fox for cancelling Firefly, there was the season-one-and-done Space: Above and Beyond, which was created in 1995 by X-Files vet Glen Morgan and American Horror Story writer/producer James Wong. The duo originally planned for it to have a five-season run, but that obviously didn’t happen, and the world never got to see the further adventures of Wildcards Nathan West (Morgan Weisser), Shane Vansen (Kristen Cloke), T.C. McQueen (James Morrison) and the rest. I guess we can just assume that the alien Chigs won the war against humanity, but that’s a bit of a downer way of looking at it. Why wasn’t Netflix around in 1996 to resurrect this show?
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