The Top 15 Sitcoms of All Time
The Top 15 Sitcoms of All Time
Television situation comedies are a dying breed today. Not because there isn’t a desire by viewers to watch them, but because comedy writers today are not nearly as capable as they once were. Take a look at any comedy on television prior to 1990 versus the ones we have today. There’s no comparison.
While there are many, MANY great comedies in television, not all of those comedies qualify as sitcoms. Sitcoms are a thirty-minute show surrounding situations faced by a fixed group of recurring characters week after week. This usually involved three cameras and a studio audience or a laugh track. The modern version has neither of those.
Here are our top 15.
15. The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978)
This show about a stammering psychologist with ridiculous patients and a great set of office colleagues, along with his wife, played by Suzanne Pleshette and his neighbor, played by Bill Daily, is a showcase of the talent Bob Newhart truly has. His ability to deliver a line with a deadpan expression, often at his own expense, has been studied by other comedians for decades. The show itself is great, but its the interaction between the characters and Newhart himself that actually brings the laughs.
14. The Jeffersons (1975-1985)
One of the greatest spin-offs ever made, this “All in the Family” Lear creation was an angry bigoted loudmouth, similar to Archie Bunker, but with a couple of notable exceptions. He was rich and he was black. Thankfully, George (Sherman Hemsley) was kept in line by his wife, Louise (Isabel Sanford) and their no nonsense housekeeper, Florence (Marla Gibbs), who provided some of the best one-liners of the series.
13. Green Acres (1965-1971)
A show completely ahead of its time. The quick witted jokes, many so fast you miss them on first viewing, along with characters so dumb they accidentally break the fourth wall, makes “Green Acres” a riot. The frustration of Eddie Albert’s character, Oliver, is so easy to see. The entire community is happily oblivious to the real world, some to the point you wonder how they could possibly get by in life.
12. The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971)
One of the funniest shows of all time, about a family of hillbillies who were so out of touch with city life that every detail of their new home in Beverly Hills, California confuses them. Jed Clampett strikes it rich when he strikes oil. A simple, down to earth, fun series that didn’t belittle the family, but kept us laughing.
11. Newhart (1982-1990)
A series within a dream within a series. Newhart started off with a cast that didn’t quite mesh until Julia Duffy and Peter Scolari joined, along with the characters of Larry, Darryl & Darryl. The show gave us Tom Poston at his funniest, along with a town of slow witted, confused simpletons who simply existed to get on the nerves of Dick Loudon (Bob Newhart). Newhart’s was at his brightest during this series, as we got to see the mastery of his craft, the stammering, bumbling, self defeating man with an expressionless view of the world around him.
10. The Cosby Show (1984-1992)
There is a certain place in television history for the Huxtable family, as we learned life’s valuable lessons from a standpoint of laughs. This also broke down the barriers of “poverty writing” when it came to black characters. There was a boundary that kept characters from reaching goals based on race and gender up until this point. Shows such as this helped to eliminate that boundary.
9. Friends (1994-2004)
While the writing isn’t exactly the greatest, the show’s strength is in its ability to create a story of relationships and friendships that the audience could relate to and anticipate. This proves that a show’s ability to tell a story can be from the character development and longevity as much as the script. Six friends in 2 apartments over the course of 10 years. Few shows could have done more to make a concept work.
8. The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)
Winning 6 Emmys, for Outstanding Supporting Actress, Outstanding Supporting Actor, Outstanding Comedy Series as well as nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series. “The Andy Griffith Show” is so incredibly popular that an entire town in North Carolina (Mt. Airy) has been transformed into a Mayberry tourist attraction.
7. The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)
Carl Reiner’s creativity was at its best for this series. A cast that was fun, fast-paced and witty, introducing us to Mary Tyler Moore. The make-believe “Alan Brady TV Show” was the backdrop for Rob’s career, while his family life was a focus for the viewers. 158 episodes aired and the series broke silly walls for what the network said women should and shouldn’t do, like Moore wearing capri pants.
6. I Love Lucy (1951-1957)
While it’s hard to believe it only ran for 6 seasons, the Ricardo family and the Mertz family brought 181 episodes of physical comedy out of a housewife who simply wanted to be part of the act. While I understand why many would put the series at the top of the list because of its groundbreaking brand of humor, it has drawbacks too. For a series that only lasted 6 years, there are great episodes and several episodes that won’t hold your attention for various reasons. As a whole, it still falls into the top ten.
5. All In The Family (1975-1985)
When Norman Lear started to address the reality of the world through television, it wasn’t exactly a welcome change to many. To use words like “bigot” to describe someone, or to address someone’s religion, race, or sexual orientation made many people angry and made others squirm in their seats, yet the bet paid off.
The popular series starring Carroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers became a can’t miss night of television and led to spinoffs like “Maude,” “The Jeffersons” and “Archie Bunker’s Place.”
4. Happy Days (1974-1984)
The Cunningham family brought the 1950s into the 1970s with our first dose of television nostalgia. 255 episodes of “Happy Days” aired, along with spin-offs “Laverne & Shirley,” “Mork & Mindy” and “Joanie Loves Chachi.” The Fonz became a cultural sensation and Richie became the nerdy guy we all could relate to.
The successful use of rock music in the series made it even better, as families could come together to relive moments, or to share stories. Garry Marshall was artfully brilliant and one of the truly good guys in television.
3. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977)
No other show captured the trials of a single working woman in the 1970s through a comedic approach than “Mary Tyler Moore.” For 168 episodes, she dealt with workplace sexism, low wages, nosy neighbors, a grumpy boss and worst of all, Ted Baxter. But she did make it, after all.
Mary’s positive outlook through typical struggles and uncertainty were a breath of fresh air in a decade of high unemployment, inflation and polyester outfits. Spawning great spin-offs, like “Rhoda,” “Lou Grant,” and “Phyllis,” Mary’s finale STILL makes us cry every time we see it. The hug that we never wanted to let go.
2. Seinfeld (1989-1998)
The show about nothing was considered by many to be the funniest show on TV. A somewhat neurotic comedian and his odd mix of friends, all of whom seemed to represent someone we all know personally. Most of the shows focused on the most absurd, minute detail of a person or a situation one of the characters could find, then completely obsess over that detail until it’s taken as far as it can possibly go.
The uncomfortable, offbeat friendships were a first. The show was original and fresh in a time that most shows were not. Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Richards, Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus were on 172 episodes together of the 173. Dreyfus was not present for only one. The show has successfully lived on in syndication ever since it went off the air.
A bar in Boston became our Thursday night stop in primetime for many years, as Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger, George Wendt, Kelsey Grammer, Woody Harrelson, Shelley Long, Kirstie Alley and others introduced us to a place where everybody knew us and cared about each other’s problems.
No one had a perfect life, most were washed up, or had lousy jobs, but the laughs kept us all going and the writing was exactly what we needed after a long week of work. For 271 episodes, “Cheers” gave us a place to go and a theme song we still sing to this day.