We asked showrunner Rob Burnett to devise two nights of programming, using any program from the beginning of television.
8 p.m.: “The Simpsons”
The perfect way to sneak into “Smart Thursday.” There are so many inaccessibly brilliant jokes on this show, I often wonder why so many people watch. I think it’s because it’s a cartoon. People love cartoons!
8:30 p.m.: “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
The ratings would be so low that Neilsen could list viewers by name but I don’t care. I find nothing as entertaining as watching Larry David flail about his ridiculous life.
9 p.m.: “Northern Exposure” (early years)
The people smart enough to realize Larry David’s genius deserve this philosophical and literary masterpiece as a follow-up. The episodes are inconsistent but the ones that are good end up being much more than comedies.
10 p.m.: “Late Show With David Letterman”
Yes, I’m biased. Yes, I’m a suck-up, but what better way to cap a night of original and inventive comedies than with the flagship? After almost 20 years, Dave’s show impossibly remains the funniest program on television.
8 p.m.: “The Odd Couple”
One guy is neat, the other messy. C’mon people, not everything has to be brain surgery. Admittedly, it’s all standard fare … right up until Tony Randall and Jack Klugman hit it out of the park.
8:30 p.m.: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”
In high school I used to stay up until 2 a.m. to watch reruns of this seamless sitcom. As a result, one day I fell asleep in gym class and took a medicine ball to the side of the head. It was worth it.
9 p.m.: “Everybody Loves Raymond”
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” leads perfectly into this classic-in-the-making. Both shows get their comedy from deftly drawn, relatable characters instead of meaningless banter. There are moments in “Raymond” that are as good as anything ever on TV.
9:30 p.m.: “All in the Family”
After one half-hour with “Raymond’s” dysfunctional family, why not another half-hour with the family that started it all? Oddly, Archie Bunker is an even more daring character now than he was then.
10 p.m.: “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson”
There’s not a show on television I miss more. Johnny never grabbed you by the lapels and screamed “WATCH ME!” as so many on TV now do. Hilarious? Often. Effortless? Always. The perfect end to another day of watching television.
Rob Burnett is co-creator/exec producer of “Ed” as well as exec producer of “Late Show With David Letterman.”