I don’t have much of an opinion on sitcoms that predated me, so we’ll go back to when I was nine. I’m curious to hear which ones you think I’ve overlooked, so let me know what rip-roaring laughs or laugh-tracks I’ve been missing. And before you say Taxi, just know that it debuted in 1978 (which is why I had to delete M*A*S*H, long may it rerun).
10. Malcolm in the Middle – Lois is one of the most realistic and endearing matriarchs of TVLand, despite being completely insane. There was nothing honorable—but everything relatable—about this family just trying not to be overwhelmed by life.
9. The Cosby Show – This would be higher on my list if Bill hadn’t had to single-handedly carry this one on his very able shoulders, but every scene he was in was better than every scene he wasn’t.
8. Curb Your Enthusiasm – Unconstrained by HBO, Larry David takes misanthropy to sub-Seinfeld levels. Respectable? No. But it is hilarious.
7. Scrubs – Death to the multi-camera sitcom. Toss out the laugh track and any sense of a fourth wall. Creator Bill Lawrence ignored all the rules and made traditional situational fare feel anything but traditional—and added a killer soundtrack to boot. I mean, The Polyphonic Spree made appeared in Season 3. Long live the janitor. Long live Scrubs on ABC.
6. Cheers – Norm. Cliff. Coach. Carla. And the best setting for a sitcom until…
5. The Office – Unbelievably, Ricky Gervais actually improved upon what was already a great British sitcom by bringing it to Scranton, Pa. Steve Carell’s squirm-inducing Michael and Rainn Wilson’s Dwight brought the Must-See back to NBC.
4. Sports Night - Aaron Sorkin developed his trademark whipsmart dialogue on what turned out to be the best of his three TV shows, a half-hour dramedy that just happened to take place at a sports news network, a location which sadly scared off a large portion of its target audience.
3. The Simpsons – It started solid enough, but when the central character shifted from Bart to Homer and the sketched world of Springfield became populated with characters like Mayor Quimby, Groundskeeper Willie and Comic Book Guy it became something truly special. Matt Groening’s biting satire spared no one, giving his wit an unexpected sense of fairplay whether the topic was religion, politics or the media. Don’t have a sacred cow, man.
2. Seinfeld – The comedy about nothing took Jerry Seinfeld’s reasonably funny yet annoying schtick and turned it into sitcom gold.
1. Arrested Development – Mitch Hurwitz is a genius when it comes to creating memorable characters, weaving interlaced plot lines and making you feel like your constantly in on an inside joke (like having Scott Baio replace Henry Winkler as the family’s lawyer, Bob Loblaw (say it fast)). Too short lived, it still made stars out of Will Arnett, Michael Cera and David Cross. God, I can’t wait for the movie.
PS – Thanks everyone for the comments they’ve emailed me about News Radio, Martin, The Office (UK) and multiple mentions of Alf. But if you put them in the comments section below, everyone can enjoy your wit and wisdom…