Question: In the Mary Tyler Moore episode about Chuckles the Clown's funeral, can you tell me which writer was responsible for the eulogy line that went, "A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants?"

Televisionary: That line came from writer David Lloyd, who penned the "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode and picked up an Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series Emmy for his trouble. Quite deservedly, too. For the most part, they sure don't write 'em like that anymore.

TV Guide honored that episode, which aired in October 1975 (during season six), with the No. 1 spot on its "100 Greatest Episodes of All Time" list in 1997. And while I have a hard time assigning specific ranks to such things, it definitely belongs on a roster of TV's best.

For those who don't know the setup: WJM's children's-show host, Chuckles the Clown, is named grand marshal of the circus parade and dies after showing up dressed as Peter Peanut. "A rogue elephant tried to shell him," Lou (Ed Asner) explains. Everyone at the station gives in to the bad-joke temptation except for Mary, who can't understand what's funny about a man dying. Unfortunately for her, she rediscovers her funny bone at his funeral, during the eulogy. The somber talk of Chuckles's characters — Mr. Fe Fi Fo, Señor Kaboom, Aunt Yoo Hoo — plus the discussion of hurting "his foo-foo" and the motto you cited prove too much for her. She cracks up, which the minister encourages because that's what Chuckles would have wanted... which causes her to break down in tears.

Once again, it's difficult to appreciate how innovative the writing was when it's since been watered down by so many "very special" episodes and shows that try to mimic the effect. Be that as it may, it stands among TV's finest accomplishments.

And I don't know about you, but when I catch some of the standout MTM episodes on Nick-at-Nite, it only serves to remind me how good TV sitcoms have been in the past — and how awful-to-tepid they are now. The Simpsons and King of the Hill are funny. Some recent and current live-action comedies can still make me giggle (The Larry Sanders Show, Everybody Loves Raymond, Friends, when its on top of its game). But for the most part today's comedies are laugh-starved time fillers. For prime examples, see the latest from Michael Richards and Geena Davis.