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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.
Representing a final flourish of ’90s irony, it’s a deconstruction of talk shows that’s now even better than David Letterman’s.
4 NEWSRADIO (NBC) Former Sanders collaborator Paul Simms has managed something Shandling has opted not to try: an iconoclastic sitcom that nonetheless adheres to the strictures of network TV.
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?
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.
3 THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW (HBO) Garry Shandling is TV’s purest artist, quietly yet aggressively laboring over an unmatched portrait of show-business egotism.
1 NYPD BLUE [PROGRAM of the YEAR] (ABC) TV’s most varied, humane, and exciting drama took more chances this year than a hit show needs to, and became a deeper, richer series for the effort.