…and that alone makes Titus the best sitcom ever! According to our now-familiar expression “jump the shark”, a clear symptom of fatigue in a series is the conscious effort to attract waning audiences by announcing a “very special episode“, by definition an episode that “either deals with a serious or controversial social issue or is unusually dramatic in some way (a notorious attempt to boost failing ratings with cheap appeals to emotion, but which ultimately destroys the levity of the series)”.
It’s incredible, despite the nature of the show, how realistic it looked sometimes. It must be because there is a big deal of death, attempted and committed suicide, rape, child molestation, mental illness, road rage, gun violence, drug abuse, domestic abuse, alcoholism, and terrorism in real life, with a difference: you just suffer it, you don’t laugh at your own misery.
Consider Ken “Papa” Titus, a real intimidating and insensitive dad, who never missed “a drink, a joint, or an opportunity to get laid in his life” but “never missed a day of work or a house payment”, who lost everything everytime he got divoced. That’s telling a lot. If you watch the series you inevitably will arrive at the conclusion: an abusive but strangely caring father is the real star of the sitcom and the glue that holds together the rest of the cast. Without the outstanding acting job of Stacy Keach, the antics and the quirks of Christopher, Dave (Zack Ward), Erin (Cynthia Watros) and Tommy (David Shatraw) would not be as amusing and understandable as they are when they share the common ground of a father figure that is not as uncommon in real life as you might think. It is completely unusual in TV, that’s for sure, but in real life you’ll find a father who tries by any means necessary to make a man out of you, imbuing the late underappreciated value of true and pure manhood by any costs, with a twist of responsibility and work ethic in the mix. Somebody to remind you that feelings and acknowledging weaknesess are for wussies, not real men.
Did the sitcom ever jump the shark? I’m not sure, but when we learned Titus had a sister, I think that was just too much for a “surprise character”. Anyway, the series got cancelled by the reason of internal fights between the Fox TV execs and the creators, i.e. real “creative disputes” and not ratings drops.
Too bad for the cast, because there was no syndication and no residuals, but the sitcom never suffered from noticeable quality decline. For the people that watched it for the first time, Titus was a staple of the early naughts. For the people still watching the episodes in DVD or in youtube, it is still a kick-ass show.
BTW, Wikipedia did the memory hole trick again with its Jumping-the-Shark article. Looks like I will have to take a look in the Wikipedia trashcan… again.