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As he proved with the brief, terrific South Central (1994), producer-creator Ralph Farquhar knows how to bring African-American life to television without disguising or cheapening it.THE FIVE WORST 1 ARLI$$ (HBO) A lot of sitcoms contain no laughs, but arid Arli$$ isn’t just mirthless, it’s the year’s most pathetic rip-off.
And I can’t think of another sitcom that repays taping and repeated viewing as well.6 FRIENDS (NBC) Overexposure has led to a widespread underrating of this still-excellently written, hilariously performed show.True, Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe seems stuck in a dumb-chick rut, and David Schwimmer’s Ross is becoming dismayingly sappy.In thieving attitude and atmosphere from The Larry Sanders Show, Arli$$ renders its unfunniness not merely sad but infuriating. RHODES (NBC) Even if this show about a hep-cat teacher didn’t star the charmless, barber-deprived Tom Rhodes, its ceaseless procession of ignorant yet cool students makes the show’s ”education is good” message merely depressing.3 DARK SKIES (NBC) The second-worst copycat, this time an insufferably pretentious X-Files variation.5 THE SIMPSONS (Fox) Unappreciated now because the media celebrated Bart-mania years ago, The Simpsons continues to be the most reliable satire on network TV.
The season opener, in which Homer and family left Springfield to work and live in a happy-faced, fascist corporate community was such a dead-on critique of the Disney empire, I swear I heard Rupert Murdoch chuckling.
The ongoing theme — alien invasions in the time of the Kennedy administration — manages to be boring, trite, and tasteless all at the same time.
4 THE JEFF FOXWORTHY SHOW (NBC) The redneck routines that brought Foxworthy fame were pleasant, innocuous bits, but in retooling the comic’s flop ABC sitcom, the NBC version turns his material into marathons of joke-free vulgarity.
9 SEINFELD (NBC) Last season’s concluding episode, in which George’s fiancee Susan died a ridiculous death (poisoned by the glue on cheap wedding-invite envelopes), was widely decried for its coldheartedness.
I laughed at the episode and at the protests — what, from writer-cocreator Larry David you expected warmth?
10 MOESHA (UPN) There’s no current sitcom star with ebullience equal to Brandy Norwood’s; as Moesha, she’s prime time’s most engaging teenager.