Yeah, at the time it was brilliant. The world has moved on.
On that note, the sitcom that likely has made the biggest drop from “cutting edge, influential, top-rated sitcom” to “horrendously dated and unfunny” is Murphy Brown. At the time it was fast-moving, topical and took a lot of shots at the movers and shakers both in Washington and in the television industry. President Bush Sr even commented on it.
Now? Who even remembers Murphy Brown? A lot of it is now cringingly dated, which is always the danger with topical comedy. (That said, I wish I had a clip of Jim Dial’s “Good for me!” speech, which was definitely the highlight of the series for me.)
THis actually is a good debate - even if outside the topic of this thread. Is the quality of a sitcom to be assessed at what it achieved at the time, or whether it is still watchable? I can sympathize with either position. It seems unfair to complain that a sitcom that aimed at the audience of the time is not really funny for viewers years later. But if a sitcom is completely dependent on the prejudices of its age, it seems indeed in hindsight not so good.
My wife and I have been watching WKRP (her first time). It had a lot of great lines/scenes but they were 90% in the first season, a few in the second and, before the third season comes around it’s seemingly more worried about character development and messages than being especially funny. First season was gold, though.
We have a tendency to remember such things by their best moments, and WKRP has, of course, one of the funniest sequences in the history of anything. It’s got some other fantastic moments too, but yeah, it was not consistently funny for much of its run. No one remembers that, though, because you don’t remember “meh” moments. You remember the gold.
There is a scene in “Family Ties,” which I don’t think even made the list, in which Alex does an interpretive dance to impress his girlfriend, and it’s screamingly funny. If you judged the whole series by that scene it’d be as funny as The Simpsons but the show didn’t maintain that level for any sustained period of time, it just gusted up there a few times.
One of the things that hurts WKRP is that unless you saw it in the original run, you likely aren’t hearing it with the original soundtrack. The producers never got the syndication rights to the original music, so subsequent releases had all new music which generally sucked.
A number of jokes were based on the original songs, and just don’t work without them.