I tolerate behavior in fictional characters I would never tolerate in real people precisely because they are fictional. That said, the only characters I went from liking to disliking, which had more to do with the way they were being written, were on The Simpsons. Homer's transformation from well-meaning, temperamental doofus to a complete jerk, it became less and less funny with each passing week. When I saw him chasing Bart with a mace, I thought this show's days were numbered. And a little of Lisa's earnestness, in addition to some of the despicable things she's done over the years, goes a long way. Now it's an institution that's beyond criticism.
Before Matt Groening thought he had a Marketing Empire to relive his fourth-grade years into his sixties, the original Tracey Ullman shorts were just about the kids' eye view of the world.
Homer's name was Dad, he worked at no identifiable location, and was no less (or more) intelligent than any former 10-yo. remembers his dad as being. And from a similar 10-yo. perspective, Lisa was an annoying sister, PERIOD.
While not Emmy-worthy material, it at least had focus.
Nowadays, with most 'edgy" prime-time toons, we have comics with a markedly atheistic bent, who--as are the two recognizable side effects--A) believe that they alone are prophets in the wilderness about our repressively PC culture, and that B) anyone outside their door is a drooling, gullible idiot, who "causes" all those frustrating headlines and annoying trends that bother us.
Haven't looked up the Ullman shorts on YouTube in a while, so I can't say for sure whether Simpsons was funnier before or after it developed a rampaging narcissism.
I used to watch "Cheers" faithfully during its original run, but find it sad and painful to watch today.
Almost every character has not aged well. And Frasier was better on Cheers before he got his own series, as well.
IMO the 80's was a low point for TV, and it took series like Seinfeld, and some other series on cable, to shake things up creatively.
I have the opposite view: Cheers, and the one-set live-audience MTM or Garry Marshall comedies of the 70's, were like mini stage-plays--You could see Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" on stage, or you could tune in on Friday nights and see Jack Klugman and Tony Randall put on new half-hour productions that weren't in the original.
With the "stage" factor, we were getting performers, not gags, and even the "dumbest" character couldn't be completely hateable if we could applaud the Bill Daily, Ted Knight or Woody Harrelson for playing him.
Seinfeld was too mean and hip to care about getting laughs, and The Office existed in its own private universe. The 00's created the idea that "TV should be like the Movies!" (as ABC's Once Upon a Time ads keep telling us ), and we have actors playing cold, unrealistic characters in rarified movie-camera environments acting Innovative Scripts without any direct feedback about whether anyone out there finds it actually, y'know, funny. (Like Siskel & Ebert's famous quote about "At which point did the producer and director think this was funny enough to film?--The script read? The set? The editing?")
That led to an 00's and 10's of inexperienced comics saying "Hey, do I get my sitcom now?", making shows about single mean-girls and immature men-children living the fantasy of never having to abandon high-school behavior into their middle-age years, and get canned laughter the easy way. But a show like How I Met Your Mother has the same problem as The Office or Arrested Development: How bad would your jokes be if you never had to worry about a mean ol' audience?
Edited by Ejanss, May 08 2013 - 12:07 AM.