The sitcom Benson ran from 1979 until 1986. I was a big fan, always looking forward to it on Friday night. I was just a kid then, of course, but the show was hilarious at any age.
I think comedy might be the hardest form of entertainment to pull off; I think the reason is the same reason Benson was so successful.
You didn't have to understand the background to understand the humour. I knew Benson worked for the Governor (Governor Eugene Gatling, played by James Noble, and pictured at right). However, at age twelve I barely knew what a governor did. It didn't matter, though; the humour was universal. It spawned from the relationships between the characters and the problematic situations they stumbled into.
That's just what people demand from humour: they have to "get it" right away, without any lead-up. The human condition is full of humour, but it can be hard to explain why a given situation is funny. Often, the funniest situation is the hardest to explain. Math can be similar: often the really obvious facts are the hardest to prove.
The lovable Governor on Benson was a mainstay, but actually played a minor role in most episodes. He was present (physically), but the action happened around him - just as often without his even knowing what was transpiring. Yet, he was the Governor; theoretically, everyone else worked for him.
The clueless leader is an archetype of comedy. The reason is that commonly, people believe that the boss doesn't know what's going on. Kids are the immediate example: most seem to be sure that their parents don't know anything. Although parents do have a better idea of the long game, most kids fundamentally are correct: their day-to-day lives are often outside of their parents' understanding.
I miss Benson himself (played by Robert Guillaume), the Governor, and the rest of the characters on the show. I probably only ended up seeing less than half the episodes, but in 1983 and 1984 - when the show was in its heyday - I rarely missed one. Oddly, I never saw any epdisode of its predecessor, Soap. I guess in life, you're bound to miss things.
Looking good, Governor Eugene Gatling. Keep smilin:)
Wikipedia was a source for this article.