The 100 Best TV Sitcoms of All Time

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The 100 Best TV Sitcoms of All Time

We laughed, we cried, we raged against the dying of the light which sought to snuff out our personal favorite shows. Putting together a list like this is always equal parts painful and enjoyable for editors and writers, but I can’t think of a better time to look back on the greatest sitcoms of all time. We have arrived at a glorious point in history, where watching an excellent TV show might finally be intellectually on par with reading a great book. Indeed, it still feels blasphemous to utter such a statement, but the Mad Mens, True Detectives (Season One, ahem), Transparents and Undergrounds of the world have forever changed things. And as we celebrate such fare, it’s important to remember that these shows are all the descendants, in some way or another, of the good ol’ sitcom. Families and relationships (and the dysfunctional and/or loving ties that bind them), workplace drama, compelling historical settings and characters who made even the mundane seem worthy of our attention—these things are at the core of good storytelling. And Peak TV did not invent good storytelling in episodic form. The sitcom did that, and though it has evolved and morphed into the stuff of dreams, it always had those high-brow, cinematic qualities in its fiber. Some of our favorites managed to weave the high-brow with the low-brow; many of them seemed unconcerned with either brow, as long they made us happy.

So, with a focus on quality over nostalgia—no matter how much it hurt—the Paste editors and writers have chosen the 100 best sitcoms of all time. We apologize in advance that one (or more) of your favorites did not make the list. You can rest assured that many of our favorites didn’t either (including some great British sitcoms we’ll save for another list), which means we can all leave angry, but respectful, remarks in the comments section below, together. You know—like one big, happy, dysfunctional family.—Shannon M. Houston, TV Editor

threes-company.jpg 100. Three’s Company
Years: 1977-1984
Three’s Company’s best years were in the ’70s, before the Ropers got their own ill-fated spin-off. But John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt remained until the series ended in 1984, three years after Suzanne Somers was replaced by Jenilee Harrison. If prime time wasn’t ready for a gay character, it got around that taboo with Ritter’s womanizing Jack Tripper pretending he was gay so that their stuffy landlord would allow him to stay. At its best, it was a slapstick hit, spinning silly misunderstandings into sitcom gold.—Josh Jackson

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growing-pains.jpg 99. Growing Pains
Years: 1985-1992
It’s odd to think that there are people living today who are only familiar with “born-again Christian” Kirk Cameron and not “hunky teen dreamboat” Kirk Cameron, but it’s true. In truth, there’s not much that sets Growing Pains apart from any other family sitcom of its day, but it somehow manages to be one of the most fondly remembered sitcoms of the ’80s regardless, from its homey opening sequence of family photos to the classic theme song, “As Long As We’ve Got Each Other.” It’s perhaps most interesting for the sudden conversion of its star, Cameron, to born-again Christianity, which made working with him a challenge, considering his ladies’ man character could suddenly no longer exhibit most of the behaviors that were expected of him. We can only imagine that Tiger Beat subscriptions took a hit that day.—Jim Vorel

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best-sitcoms-peep-show.jpg 98. Peep Show
Years: 2003-2015
Although Peep Show has a similar sense of humor to other British sitcoms that came in the wake of The Office, it uses the same sort of awkward comedy for a very different purpose. The show’s title comes from the peek we’re offered into its leads’ brains, as throughout the show we’re offered running monologues of their thoughts in a way that almost no other sitcom has tried. More important than this stylistic quirk, though, is Peep Show’s preference for long arcs, continuity and running gags of the sort Arrested Development and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia would envy. The show has a deep memory and an equally deep sense of morality, so its characters are never let off the hook, even if it takes a few seasons to see how their horrible actions karmically return for their undoing. Peep Show can be difficult to binge-watch, especially early on, but its short seasons make for filler-free writing, and Mitchell and Webb are so good that they lend their characters a strange likability that’s closer to the U.S. Office than the original.—Sean Gandert

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best-sitcoms-flight-of-the-conchords.jpg 97. Flight of the Concords
Years: 2007-2009
When I hear the words “musical comedy,” I tend to think of old Broadway standards like My Fair Lady or Singin’ in the Rain. No offense to those shows, but I’m very glad that Flight of the Conchords was a musical comedy of a very different kind. Starring Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, the show is the story of an awful two-man band from New Zealand who have an incompetent manager (the wonderful Rhys Darby as Murray Hewitt) and literally one fan (the hilarious, obsessive Kristen Schaal) as they try to make it big in New York. Despite their repeated failures, there’s something both sincere and casual about their approach, which stands in stark contrast to the tense, cynical neuroses you might expect. Each episode is punctuated by two or three songs which range from “very good” to “classic”—the hits If You’re Into it and Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymoceros are two terrific examples of the latter. This is a show that you sink into, and that sweeps you along in its own relaxed rhythms, dispensing the sort of calm, surprising laughs that feels almost therapeutic.—Shane Ryan

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best-sitcoms-70s-show.jpg 96. That ‘70s Show
Years: 1998-2006
Just as the 1970s harkened back to the 1950s in the form of Grease and Happy Days, pop culture audiences of the 1990s demonstrated their own brand of nostalgia by popularizing Fox’s That ‘70s Show, a sitcom based on co-creator Mark Brazill’s teenage years as a smartass, Midwestern teen. Beyond highlighting the immense talent of its cast with sharp, punchy writing, the show also set itself apart by experimenting with visual structure, implementing split screens, dream sequences, drug-induced hallucinations and the show’s patented tableside panning for when the young teens found themselves “self-medicating.” In retrospect, That ‘70s Show‘s biggest sin is that—like many promising sitcoms—it simply outstayed its welcome, chugging along even after two main cast members (Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher) had departed. Still, at its peak, it was an unmistakably engaging and altogether groovy program that more than earned its place as one of Fox’s flagship shows.—Mark Rozeman

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best-sitcoms-sister-sister.jpg 95. Sister, Sister
Years: 1994-1999
For the most part, Sister, Sister was a light-hearted sitcom made up of all the traditional tropes and plot devices—sibling rivalries, petty high school drama, crushes, love triangles and annoying neighbors (Go Home Roger, AKA Marques Houston). Tia and Tamera Mowry played pre-teen twin sisters who were separated at birth, but discover each other—while shopping at a mall, obviously. And while it had its broad appeal, what made the show such a gem was that it carefully wove in greater and more complicated issues of family that came about, as the two sisters had both been separately adopted. The merging of the sisters was also a merging of households and personalities, via Tamera’s father Ray (Tim Reid) and Tia’s mother Lisa (the incomparable Jackée Harry). The series followed the sisters from middle school all the way through high school, making it the kind of show you could grow up with, at least over the course of five years. And sure, it could be corny and idealistic at times, but like other sitcoms on this list it was also entertaining and well-written. Unlike so many other shows on this list, and even most modern sitcoms and dramas, Sister, Sister centered on a fairly normal black family—one that wasn’t especially wealthy or poor; these characters didn’t own a music empire, nor did they run the streets of Baltimore. In spite of their odd beginnings, this was about a regular, schmegular black family that was still deemed worthy of our attention and a time-slot. Imagine that.—Shannon M. Houston

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best-sitcoms-kotter.jpg 94. Welcome Back, Kotter
Years: 1975-1979
There are a lot of interesting facts about Welcome Back, Kotter. It helped skyrocket John Travolta to fame. In the last season, Gabe Kaplan and Marcia Strassman didn’t really want to work together, and Marcia won that battle, forcing Kaplan to make sporadic appearances, even though he was the titular Kotter being welcomed back. The series centered on a teacher returning to his high school alma mater to teach the “Sweathogs,” a group of remedial students, of which he once was one. Primarily, we spend time with four of the students, all of them broadly drawn, but delightful, caricatures. The show is silly, but fun, and of course it spawned a bunch of catchphrases, mostly courtesy of Travolta’s Vinnie Barbarino. The last season is skippable, but, before things began to downhill, it was a nice sitcom that earned its classic status.—Chris Morgan

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best-sitcoms-wayans.jpg 93. The Wayans Bros.
Years: 1995-1999
The very first program to air on The WB, The Wayans Bros. was a relatively simple premise to start off a network with. Marlon and Shawn Wayans—both relative unknowns with few credits to their names—starred as two brothers who work at a newsstand near a restaurant owned by their father, played by John Witherspoon. Despite the fact that it was very low-concept, The Wayans Bros. worked incredibly well, largely due to the hilarious dynamics between the Wayans, Witherspoon and characters like Anna Maria Horsford’s security guard Dee. A year after The Wayans Bros. aired, the brothers would become much bigger, writing their first of many spoofs with Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, before going on to start the Scary Movie franchise. To quote Shawn’s character Ray in that film, “Watching TV shows doesn’t create psycho killers. Canceling TV shows does. I mean, The Wayans Bros. was a good show, man! It was a good show, but we never even got a final episode!” And it’s true. The Wayans Bros. was an immensely enjoyable show that deserved better than it got.—Ross Bonaime

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best-sitcoms-carmichael.jpg 92. The Carmichael Show
Years: 2015-present
It might seem premature to put The Carmichael Show on this list. It hasn’t even aired 20 episodes yet. It’s earned a slot, though, by being as brave as it is hilarious. It regularly tackles serious social and political issues, including gun control, trans rights and Black Lives Matter, during one of the most contentious times in recent history. It’s an unapologetically black show about real life on a major broadcast network, and despite being shot as traditionally as a sitcom can (a studio audience, multiple cameras, a studio soundstage) it feels more daring and realistic than the flashier Black-ish. If you miss the era of Norman Lear sitcoms that were about something more than just making you laugh, you should be watching The Carmichael Show. It also has one of the best casts of any sitcom on TV today, with hilarious work from Loretta Devine, Lil Rel Howery, Tiffany Haddish and Jerrod Carmichael. If the Emmys had any sense, David Alan Grier would be a shoe-in for this year’s award.—Garrett Martin

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best-sitcoms-happy-endings.jpg 91. Happy Endings
Years: 2011-2013
File Happy Endings under the dreaded “canceled too soon” category. Happy Endings could have—and should have—lasted far longer than three seasons, but sometimes the TV gods are cruel. Based in Chicago, the ensemble comedy had a pretty simple premise (“a group of friends in their early 30s hang out in the city”), with the clever twist that one of them (Elisha Cuthbert’s Alex) leaves another at the altar (Zachary Knighton’s Dave) in the pilot. They try to remain friends, hence the titular happy ending, and it adds a pretty strong “will they or won’t they” element to the show, but ultimately what made Happy Endings so great was the chemistry between its six leads. Sometimes “friends hanging out” is the only situation you need for a comedy to work. Also worth noting: this show doesn’t get nearly enough props for one of the least stereotypical portrayals of a gay character on a sitcom; Adam Pally’s Max is basically no different from Peter, the character he’d go on to play on The Mindy Project. He’s a goofy frat bro who just happens to be attracted to men, and that’s just one of the ways Happy Endings managed to subvert the standard sitcom formula, while still adhering to it.—Bonnie Stiernberg

best-sitcoms-big-bang-theory.jpg 90. The Big Bang Theory
Years: 2007-present
Big Bang Theory is the last of the blockbuster sitcoms. It’s the last sitcom to get massive ratings, to build a huge, devoted audience who will absolutely watch the show whenever it’s on. Reruns of the series helped legitimize TBS as a comedy network. It has that broad, populist appeal that shows rarely have these days. Sure, it gets some critical kudos, and Jim Parsons has won about a million Emmys, but it will never be a hip show. Its future is Nick at Nite, not IFC. But, while Big Bang Theory is not a brilliant show, nor an iconic sitcom, it’s a solid series that delivers its very specific content with great reliability. The actors involved are all talented, and for every dumb joke delivered, the show provides at least one sharp one. Its immense popularity will always be held against it in some circles, but if you give it a chance, you realize that—even if it doesn’t belong in any sort of pantheon of iconic sitcoms—it’s a consistently entertaining story that has plenty to offer.—Chris Morgan

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best-tv-shows-2015-master-of-none.jpg 89. Master of None
Years: 2015-present
Like its creator and star, Master of None is stylish, smart and clever—a half-hour comedy that ranks as one of Netflix’s best efforts in original programming. Following the trend set by Louie, Transparent, You’re the Worst and many other modern sitcoms, Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang built a show that doesn’t mind the occasional laugh hiatus. Instead of pushing the joke quota to astronomical levels, Master of None is content to find poignancy amid the humor, and if the former outshines the latter, so be it. The result is a show that is fun to watch, emotionally satisfying and thought provoking. It’s also been paramount in furthering the discussion about race and representation on television, both with its own casting and the topics it addresses. There is so much to say about this show, and these few hundred words are a pathetic attempt to do it justice. Master of None was not only one of the best shows of 2015, but one of the most important series to premiere in a long, long time.—Eric Walters

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night-court.jpg 88. Night Court
Years: 1984-1992
This lively, ludicrous comedy based on a Manhattan courtroom’s graveyard shift was a success on NBC’s comedy lineup for nine seasons. The show’s oddball cast of characters and risqué humor thrust them into a myriad of tongue-in-check antics revolving around the trite, non-violent and petty crimes brought before the bench in each episode. The ensemble cast centered around the kooky Judge (and amateur magician) Harry Stone, played by Harry Anderson, and the raunchy, slightly corrupt prosecutor Dan Felding (John Laroquette). Other notable and recognizable characters were Nostradomus “Bull” Shannon, the towering yet doltish court bailiff (Richard Moll) and the gruff and witty female bailiffs, Selma, Florence and Roz, who were played by a succession of actresses over the show’s duration. This ensemble cast of bailiffs, lawyers, plaintiffs and criminals blended sexy and funny with a dash of slapstick humor, entertaining with gusto for the show’s nine-year run. Because while Night Court’s jokes were often uncouth and absurd, you couldn’t help but laugh.—Ann-Marie Morris

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best-tv-shows-2015-last-man-on-earth.jpg 87. The Last Man on Earth
Years: 2015-present
So, the title The Last Man on Earth turned out to be a bit of a mislead. That’s for the best, because, as ambitious and fascinating as it was to watch the show in its early moments when it was just Will Forte ambling around an empty landscape, more people in the cast, including the excellent Kristen Schaal, has benefited the series by giving it actual human dynamics. The shift also gives Forte other people to bounce off of, with his particularly brand of unhinged comedy. Over the course of two seasons, some of the earlier rough edges have been sanded down, the dynamics of the group have grown in interesting ways, and most importantly, the show keeps getting funnier. Who knew so much humor could be mined from a series about the vast majority of people on the planet dying off?—Chris Morgan

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best-sitcoms-girlfriends.jpg 86. Girlfriends
Years: 2000-2008
Girlfriends reigned as that divine creation that explored life, love, careers and a blossoming sisterhood among women. The show, often compared to Sex and The City, was a witty, intelligent and sexy exploration of the many facets of black womanhood through the lens of four very different women. There was Joan (lawyer and “den mother”), Toni (selfish and popular real estate agent), Maya (sassy law assistant) and Lynn (free-spirited Bohemian). During its eight-year run, Girlfriends was one of the highest-rated scripted shows among African-Americans ages 18-34 and tackled an endless number of issues, including colorism, AIDS and class issues. Since the show ended eight years ago, there’s still hope from fans and the cast for a reunion on the big screen.—Ashley Terrell

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best-sitcoms-blackadder.jpg 85. Black Adder
Years: 1982-1983
Leave it to the Brits to find humor in World War I. The fourth season of this show—which featured comedy heavyweights like Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry—took place during that Great War, but each prior season was set in a different historical era, with the Black Adder cast poking fun at the Middle Ages, the Elizabethan age and the Regency period.—Bonnie Stiernberg

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mork-mindy-tv.jpg 84. Mork & Mindy
Years: 1978-1982
The world was introduced to Robin Williams playing the Mork from the planet Ork on an episode of Happy Days. His talent was so apparent that ABC gave him his own show. His comedy was already alien, and the mile-a-minute slapstick of that first season felt completely original. Things went largely downhill from there with the introduction of Jonathan Winters as Mork and Mindy’s “baby” in Season 4, but even bad Mork & Mindy was better than most sitcoms of its era.—Josh Jackson

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best-sitcoms-The-Gamejpg.jpg 83. The Game
Years: 2006-2015
The Game is the perfect example of how, sometimes, the particular premise of a TV show doesn’t ultimately matter—it’s all about strong writing and believable, complicated characters. A series about professional football players and the women who love them may not sound especially exciting to some of us, but thanks to Mara Brock Akil (the brilliant mind responsible for Girlfriends and one of the most engaging dramas in recent years, Being Mary Jane), we were presented with a hilarious, nuanced tale that was soapy enough to be addictive, but so well-written that it was easy to forget you were watching a show, technically, centered on a bunch of rich and arrogant athletes. The Game presupposed that the women on the sidelines often had more to do with the outcome of a game than the men on the fields, and as a result a complex feminist narrative informed the three women who were initially at the center of the show. Melanie Barnett (Tia Mowry-Hardrict), Tasha Mack (the phenomenal Wendy Raquel Robinson) and Kelly Pitts (Brittany Daniel )were funny, compulsively watchable characters joined by Derwin Davis (Pooch Hall), Malik Wright (Hosea Chanchez) and Jason Pitts (Coby Bell). Melanie and Derwin would go on to have an intense, but also completely relatable romance, which made the series difficult to enjoy after the departures of Mowry and Hall at the end of Season Five (two season after the show’s revival on BET, following its cancellation on the CW). Although it was never quite the same, The Game would continue to deliver much of the same comedy, fantastic music, amazing guest stars and biting social commentary that made us fall in love with it in those early days.—Shannon M. Houston

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best-sitcoms-Honeymooners.jpg 82. The Honeymooners
Years: 1955-1956
Although The Honeymooners only ran for 39 episodes in the mid-’50s, this offshoot of The Jackie Gleason Show has had a considerable impact on the world of situation comedies for six decades now. Unlike so much of the fare on TV at the time, the show concerned a working class couple, Ralph and Alice Kramden (played by Gleason and the wonderful Audrey Meadows), struggling to get by and get along. A typical episode involved Ralph’s efforts to make a quick buck, and winding up right back where he started from. Throw in some fine supporting work by Art Carney and Joyce Randolph as next door neighbors Ed and Trixie Norton, and the perfect formula was built for scripts that mixed acidic banter, slapstick, and lots of mugging. The show is certainly dated in many ways, but without it, there would be no Flintstones, Roseanne, Home Improvement, or Shameless.—Robert Ham

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best-sitcoms-gilligans-island.jpg 81. Gilligan’s Island
Years: 1964-1967
Given Gilligan’s Island’s immense cultural footprint, it’s almost baffling to recall that the original show only lasted a sparse three seasons. And though subsequent reunion specials and kooky guest star bits from the Harlem Globetrotters would eventually dissolve the once innocuous half-hour into a kitschy ‘80s artifact, intense syndication has kept the show’s prime years alive in the hearts of countless new fans. Even if one acknowledges the show’s repetitive, simplistic formula, there’s no denying the inherent charm to be found in the cast’s immense chemistry as well as the goofiness that characterized so many of the show’s outlandish plotlines. At its best, the series—despite its isolated setting—was a warm, inviting world that felt like a great break from the banal mundaneness of life.  And, of course, it boasts one of the single most earworm-y opening TV theme songs of all time. Today, the mere mention of a “three hour tour” may very well be enough to get someone to start whistling that familiar, chipper melody.—Mark Rozeman

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