Who’s the Boss? 7 Sitcoms to Watch When Considering a Roommate

Watching TV

Stay tuned: Roommate issues? Just park yourself in front of the old boob tube for a couple of hours. If only all of life’s difficulties were so easy to resolve. (oddharmonic via Flickr)

They say life imitates art.

Well, sometimes it’s true, and maybe even in the realm of small screen roommates. Yes, we can learn a lot about what works in a roommate situation – and what doesn’t, mostly what doesn’t – from watching television sitcoms from years past.

So today I’ll list seven such shows that you might glean some advice from when deciding if you need a roommate, or maybe how to better handle the situation if you already have one in say, Alexandria. OK, some of the choices below may stretch their practicality a bit for the apartment renter, but what’s a writer without artistic license?

Clips of all these shows, if not whole episodes, can be seen on YouTube.

1.      “The Odd Couple” (1970-1975)

As far as I can tell, this is the archetypal half-hour show depicting two very different characters sharing the same domicile: Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman), the inveterate slob and Felix Unger (Tony Randall), the neat-freak priss. Based on the 1968 movie starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, this one was before my time.

Roommate Info Gleaned: Regardless of happy fictional endings, use your brain: This situation (the pairing of slob and neatnik) is a disaster waiting to happen.

[ Related: 3 Reasons You Should Avoid Getting a Roommate, and 3 Ways to Do Just That ]

2.      “Perfect Strangers” (1986-1993)   

One of the best sitcoms of all time (says me. All the best shows are the ones you grew up with, cheesy production values notwithstanding). These two got into misadventure after misadventure, sometimes caused by Cousin Larry (Mark Linn-Baker) and his ever-present “plans.” Just ask Balki (Bronson Pinchot) how those usually worked out for them. Slapstick and ridiculous, this one stands the test of time.

Roommate Info Gleaned: If a heretofore unknown cousin from the island of Mypos suddenly pops into your life and wants to move in: Run!

3.      “Friends” (1994-2004)

This ’90s mainstay gave us the omnipresent Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow (whose short-lived 2005 HBO series “The Comeback” was great while it lasted), David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc (and revived Courteney Cox’s uhmmcareer). OK, if I haven’t condemned it enough already, the show helped popularize a certain haircut, coffee bar hangouts and Must-See TV. OK, now we’re definitely on death row here. To be honest, I never watched it much.

Roommate Info Gleaned: I’m still trying to figure this one out, but there have to be some nuggets in there somewhere.

4.      “The Monkees” (1966-1968)

This show, modeled to catch some of that Beatlemania floating around, followed four musicians (Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Michael Nesmith, who later turned out to be very adept at playing their instruments and singing) as they lived together, got into one ridiculous situation after another, drove around in a tricked-out GTO, and more or less had each other’s backs. Oh yeah: Micky Dolenz is funny; and yes, looking goofy always helps. It’s like starting on third base.

Roommate Info Gleaned: It helps to have something in common with your roommates, like say, being in a fictional band that turns out to be one of the best groups of the ’60s. RIP Davy Jones.

5.      “Bosom Buddies” (1980-1982)

This ridiculous sitcom starring Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari probably wouldn’t work today, but in the early ’80s, to gain admittance to a cheap, all-women hotel, these swinging cross-dressers posed as some pretty funky-looking girls; this was a funny show. But it’s always bothered me that while Hanks has gone on to Oscars, the superior Scolari is relegated to a few smiles (after you mention who he was) and “that guy, yeah, he was great! Whatever happened to him?!”

Roommate Info Gleaned: Ohwhat a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive. Hilarity aside, don’t get into a roomie situation based on lies and falsehoods; eventually it’ll come back to bite you. Oh, by the way, nice clogs!

[ Related: Dog or Cat: Which Pet is Right for You? ]

6.      “Laverne & Shirley” (1976-1983)

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated! This fan-favorite from a few decades past was almost a female version of the odd couple. In the first incarnation of the show, these ready girls worked in a brewery before moving out West for some of that California sunshine (which I assume was a desperate ratings ploy). Uptight, straight Shirley (Cindy Williams) always had to put up with Laverne’s (Penny Marshall) eccentricities. Plus, we got to know Michael McKean and the Big Ragoo, Carmine Ragusa, the dancing Italian Stallion. Who could ask for more from 30 minutes?

Roommate Info Gleaned: Sometimes friendship’s bonds can overcome an unlikely pairing (in TV Land anyway). But it’s still a risk

7.      “The Facts of Life” (1979-1988)

Though not a normal roommate situation, as these four girls were attending the same boarding school (and later, fictional college) in Peekskill, N.Y., this sitcom still shows how four very diverse young women had to get along with each other for a few years. And they did it during a tumultuous time in their lives when hormones raged. The show also featured the early careers of Molly Ringwald and George Clooney: Think of that what you will.

Roommate Info Gleaned: Never live four-to-a-room, at least not without Mrs. Garrett to do the cooking. Catch Blair Warner (Lisa Whelchel) on “Survivor: Philippines” this season.

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Scott D

Scott D

Scott is a local writer and has been with the Apartment Showcase blog since its inception in 2010.

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  • I really liked “Friends”, but I do not know if some people would be as forgiving as these buddies. There are sometimes some situations that need more serious advice.