Sometimes when I think of "The John Larroquette Show", it depresses me. It depresses me because a hundred years from now, when critics talk about "television of the 1990's", it is such a shame that they will talk bout shows like "Friends", "Seinfeld", and all of their imitators, and that this brilliant, darkly hilarious and inventive masterpiece will go virtually unnoticed. I won't say that this show was ahead of it's time, because no show has dared venture into these waters, neither before or since. This was probably the bravest situation comedy ever to go on the air. Where shows like "Friends" wanted us to sympathize with people who, even at their very worst, were far better off than anybody watching could possibly be, this show went the other way, showing us people who were no doubt worse off than most, yet still finding a way to laugh and embrace their lots in life, which made our laughter actually MEAN something. The Friends characters were gorgeous on the outside, callous and shallow on the inside. The characters here were ugly on the outside, and absolutely glowing on the inside, and the perfect combination of writing and acting brought that out. There is one episode that personifies this notion perfectly: An abandoned baby is found in a dumpster. (name another sitcom that would dare to find the humor in this). The seedy people in the seedy St. Louis bus station take turns watching it. There is one scene that is so true, and so real, and so heartwarming. The janitor Heavy Gene (played by Chi McBride), sits alone in the bar with the baby in his arms, as he gently sings Danny Boyto the child. The scene has nothing to do with any kind of narrative, and it doesn't push the plot of the episode in any specific direction. It's just a moment, that's all it is. A moment that gives the audience a microscope into the soul of a character that would never exist in any other sitcom, other than to be ridiculed or used for comic relief. The John Larroquette Show is filled with moments like this. We get to laugh and cry with an alcoholic, a hooker, a hobo, a janitor, a food-counter owner, a single Latino secretary, and others. We feel their pain without them asking us to. We feel their pain by laughing with them. None of them are stupid, or ditsy, or manipulative. They are just real. In it's second season, this show turned into what it so daringly avoided in it's first season, and became "Cheers" in a bus station. But the first season, quite frankly, is the best full season of television I have ever seen. I hope someone digs up the masters of this show and makes it available to be seen again. So much can be learned about life, and television, from this absolutely beautiful show.
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