The 100 Best TV Sitcoms of All Time

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best-sitcoms-curb-your-enthusiasm.jpg 20. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Years: 2000-2011
Larry David pulled off the rare successful second act in television comedy—Curb Your Enthusiasm was almost as hilarious as Seinfeld, and thanks to HBO’s more laidback production schedules, it actually lasted longer than his first sitcom, running off and on from 2000 to 2011. (It’s still not officially cancelled, although David apparently is doubtful that it’ll return.) Curb was Seinfeldian in its rhythms, with David basically playing the George Costanza version of himself as an eternally perturbed and self-defeating schlemiel who just happens to be fantastically wealthy after creating a show called Seinfeld. A lot of cringe comedy forgets to actually be funny, but that was never a problem for Curb, which remained as funny (and cringeworthy) as ever over its eight seasons. And it’s not just the increasingly uncomfortable situations or David’s masterful escalation from annoyance to rage to embarrassment that made the show work so well—David surrounded himself with a fantastic cast, from regulars like Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, JB Smoove and Susie Essman, to such recurring guest stars as Wanda Sykes, Richard Lewis, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen and Bob “’Super Dave’ Osborne” Einstein. Oh, and also there’s an entire season about a Seinfeld reunion, guest starring the original cast. Curb can be hard to watch at times, but it was always hilarious, and was HBO’s trademark comedy throughout the last decade.—Garrett Martin

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best-sitcoms-all-in-the-family.jpg 19. All in the Family
Years: 1971-1979
When it comes to creative reigns, few in Hollywood can claim to have a more consistent, high-quality streak than writer/producer Norman Lear did in the 1970s. Debuting in 1971, All the Family, a remake of the British sitcom ’Til Death Us Do Part, served as the maiden voyage for Lear’s brand of comedy—namely, delivering gut-busting comedy that aimed to Trojan Horse controversial, yet topical social issues of race, sex and class into the American living room. Spearheading the series was Archie Bunker, the cantankerous, crusty and altogether racist working man who, in the hands of actor Carroll O’ Connor, became one of TV comedy’s greatest creations and a beacon for both liberals and conservatives alike (those on the right were convinced he was espousing their values, while those on the left viewed him as a caricature of old world sentiments). Each week, Archie would find his limited worldview challenged by the likes of his counter-culture-friendly son-in-law, thus opening the doors to discussions that were as illuminating as they were humorous. Though not all of the show’s 200-plus episodes were home runs, All in the Family remains one of the most influential and powerful programs of all time. Today, much of the abundance of great television on display can be traced back to Lear’s insistence that the medium could be an instrument of social change, rather than simply the “vast wasteland” it has been dubbed.—Mark Rozeman

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best-sitcoms-community.jpg 18. Community
Years: 2009-2015
As a half-hour sitcom, Community didn’t merely break the fourth wall; it broke it, openly commented on the fact that it broke it, only to then build a fifth wall for the express purpose of further demolition. Yet, if deconstructing the sitcom formula was all creator Dan Harmon’s magnum opus had to offer, it would have been a fun, if superficial lark. Instead, in telling the story of a ragtag group of community college students, the show used its vast pop culture vernacular as a vessel for telling surprisingly resonant stories about outcasts attempting to find acceptance, a sense of belonging and, yes, community. Whether the Greendale study group was participating in an epic game of paintball or being confined to their study room in search of a pen, Harmon and Co. perfected the art of taking gimmicky concepts and transforming them into strong, character-driven gems. And while only time will tell if the show will ever fulfill the “movie” segment of its #sixseasonsandamovie battle cry, the strange, winding saga of Community will forever stand as the stuff of TV sitcom legends.—Mark Rozeman

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49-90-of-the-90s-Fresh-Prince-of-Bel-Air.jpg
17. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Years: 1990-1996
Most beloved opening theme song of the 1990s? Could very well be, judging from the response this one will get at literally any bar karaoke night—seriously, try it the next time you’re out on the town. Looking at this series in the context of 1990, it’s funny to think that Will Smith was already sort of viewed as a “has-been” in his music career, a guy desperately trying to stay relevant by joining a sitcom. Of course, he ultimately had the last laugh as the fish-out-of-water story of Fresh Prince became popular immediately and survives in syndication to this day. Smith went on to become Hollywood elite, and the rest of the country learned to dance The Carlton. Everyone wins.—Jim Vorel

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best-sitcoms-barneymiller.jpg 16. Barney Miller
Years: 1974-1982
Barney Miller had all the witty banter and shaggy charm of your typical workplace comedy. It just so happened that this one took place within the dingy, paper-strewn squad room of the 12th Precinct. Along the way, Capt. Miller and his crew of hangdog detectives dealt with all manner of crimes, squabbles, and broke open the occasional social issue like drugs and gay rights for examination. What it never got was too preachy, too dark, or too scary, even though all the cops on the scene were carrying pieces. Instead, the crew took everything in stride, washed down with a mug of lukewarm coffee.—Robert Ham

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5-90-of-the-90s-Frasier.jpg 15. Frasier
Years: 1993-2004
Many of the sitcoms on this list are paeans to blue-collar family life, but Frasier was the odd show that made cultural elites and eggheads somehow seem like lovable characters to a mass audience. Both Frasier and his brother Niles can be infuriatingly snobbish, but audiences soon found that when their petty jealousies were directed at each other, they could also be hilarious. The show soon became an off-hand representation of the idea of “smart comedy” on TV, but it was also still a sitcom full of relationship humor. Viewers waited a hell of a long time in particular for the long-teased relationship between Niles and Daphne to finally come to fruition (seven full seasons). Frazier, on the other hand, is never really lucky in love, but he was always better as a semi-depressed single, turning his probing mind on himself.—Jim Vorel

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golden-girls.jpg 14. The Golden Girls
Years: 1985-1992
It’s hard to imagine NBC making a show like this today—how would four elderly women with clashing personalities attract the coveted 18-39 demo? Dorothy (Bea Arthur) is the put-upon voice of reason. Her snarky mother Sophia (Estelle Getty) is always ready with a pithy one-liner. Blanche (Rue McClanahan) reminisces constantly about nights of passionate romance. And all of this goes right over the head of doe-eyed, naive Rose (Betty White). Through it all, the show has incredible heart and over the years we grew to care as deeply for these four women, as they clearly cared for one another.—Liz Shinn

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best-sitcoms-mary-tyler-moore.jpg 13. Mary Tyler Moore
Years: 1970-1977
Even if you were born long after the show premiered, you probably are familiar with its most iconic moments—Mary triumphantly tossing her hat in the air, the death of Chuckles the clown or the traveling group hug that ended the series. Mary Richards (Moore) remains iconic as the first single, career woman to ever be the subject of a television show. She lived by herself! Made her own decisions! And wasn’t worried about getting married! Can you believe it? Set in the newsroom of WJM in Minneapolis, Mary’s co-workers included her irascible boss Lou Grant (Asner), affable news writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), and goofy anchorman Ted Baxter (Knight). This was an office-based comedy in a time when family comedies were all the rage. The groundbreaking series paved the way for shows as varied as Murphy Brown, 30 Rock and The Mindy Project. Plus Mary had spunk, and we love spunk.—Amy Amatangelo

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6-90-of-the-90s-South-Park.jpg 12. South Park
Years: 1997-present
The South Park of the 1990s was quite a different show from the one it grew into over the years. In its earliest episodes, it was absolutely committed to raising as much controversy as possible, which was certainly a success in terms of media coverage alone. But the main characters were also quite a bit different—Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman were more innocent characters back then, truly childlike in many ways, less mature and grizzled from the insane experiences of living in their “quiet mountain town.” The early episodes are focused much tighter on those central characters as well, while just beginning to dip into pop culture parody (such as “Chinpokomon”) and episodes dedicated to supporting characters (such as “The Succubus”). The ’90s show hadn’t quite grown to its full potential, but it’s still easy to miss some of these character-driven stories compared to South Park’s more recent product, which so often dedicates whole episodes to Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s opinions on a single trend, celebrity, film or limited subject matter.—Jim Vorel

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best-sitcoms-2015-parksandrec.jpg 11. Parks and Recreation
Years: 2009-2015
 Parks and Recreation started its run as a fairly typical mirror of The Office, but in its third season, the student became the master. As it’s fleshed out with oddballs and unusual city quirks, Pawnee has become the greatest television town since Springfield. Parks flourished over the years with some of the most unique and interesting characters in modern comedy. And the beloved comedy accomplished the near-impossible and went out on top in 2015 when the series came to an end. Comedies, in particular, have a difficult time knowing when it’s time to take a bow. But Leslie Knope and her merry band of friends kept us laughing (and crying) right up until the series finale, which offered a powerfully good farewell to one of the most creative and beloved network series in a long time.—Ross Bonaime and Amy Amatangelo

best-sitcoms-jeffersons.jpg 10. The Jeffersons
Years: 1975-1985
Norman Lear created a run of hit shows in the 1970s, beginning with All in the Family, Sanford and Son (and its British predecessor Steptoe and Son), The Jeffersons, Maude, One Day at a Time and Good Times. It could be argued that no one had a bigger audience for interracial dialogue than Lear. The Jeffersons was his longest running series, lasting well into the ’80s, and in it, he gave America an affluent African American family dealing with new surroundings. George Jefferson might not have been a model for race relations (referring to Louise’s interracial couple friends as “zebras”), but as with Archie Bunker, bigotry in the show was revealed for what it was.—Josh Jackson

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best-sitcoms-office-us.jpg 9. The Office US
Years: 2005-2013
Remakes are not easy. But the U.S. version of The Office taught a master class in staying true to the spirit of the original British The Office, while creating its own distinctive show. The employees of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company were led by their oblivious leader Michael (Steve Carell). He was the best boss in the world, and had the mug to prove it. Now a bit de rigueur, when it premiere in 2005, the show’s mockumentary style, wherein characters spoke directly to the camera, was innovative. Carrell brilliantly walked the fine line of being absolutely clueless about interpersonal relationships, but fairly competent as a salesman. Amid all the irony, the series brought viewers the sweet romance of Jim and Pam, the not-so-sweet romance of Dwight and Angela and some terrific office shenanigans. The show was often preposterous, but always had heart. There was a little bit of our co-workers in every Office character.—Amy Amatangelo

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best-sitcoms-lucy.jpg 8. I Love Lucy
Years: 1951-1957
I Love Lucy is one of the most iconic sitcoms of all time. It’s a show so well-structured, and so beloved, it continues to air in 2016, even though the last new episode premiered in 1957. It was the first show inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, and multiple publications, including TV Guide and TIME, have named it one of the best television shows of all-time. Many series have clearly been (and still are) influenced by the wacky adventures of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, but I Love Lucy also played a major role in what would become a staple of the sitcom genre—reruns and syndication, born out of necessity after Ball became pregnant while filming. Ball and Arnaz were consistently determined to bring their unique vision to television, which ultimately resulted in a reinvention of the modern sitcom. Even if the generations to come don’t get to experience the magic in the same way that some of us have, the legacy of Ball and Arnaz, and how they made and re-made television, will always be apparent.—Chris Morgan

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best-sitcoms-theofficeuk.jpg 7. The Office UK
Years: 2001-2003
I consider Ricky Gervais’ version of The Office to be a perfect sitcom for the way it balances cynicism and sentimentality. The comedy is heartbreaking, dark, brutal and oppressive—it stares into the deadening abyss of modern capitalism, which for so many people takes the form of dreary office jobs that eat up our time and slowly kill our souls, and it viciously attacks the entire structure. At its heart is David Brent, the incompetent, pompous narcissist who is one of the least lovable, most insecure leads in sitcom history. He fancies himself a kind of guru, but is in fact a moron, and his interactions with his deadly serious underling Gareth are beyond delightful. And even in this bleak setting, Gervais manages to reach our heartstrings with the awkward, slowly budding romance between Tim and Dawn, which stops short of the soap operatic smaltz of the American version (for one thing, Gervais has the balls to cast average-looking leads in his show, which would never happen over here) and has the capacity to actually make you ache. This seminal comedy gives up nothing too easily—its default setting is disappointment and ennui, always striving to undercut its principles—and that fact makes each move toward something brighter feel truly beautiful and truly earned.—Shane Ryan

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best-sitcoms-30-rock.jpg 6. 30 Rock
Years: 2006-2013
The spiritual successor to Arrested Development, 30 Rock succeeded where its competition failed by largely ignoring the actual process of creating a TV show and instead focusing on the life of one individual in charge of the process, played by show creator Tina Fey. 30 Rock never loses track of its focus and creates a surprisingly deep character for the its circus to spin around. But Fey’s not the only one that makes the series. Consistently spot-on performances by Tracy Morgan—whether frequenting strip clubs or a werewolf bar mitzvah—and Alec Baldwin’s evil plans for microwave-television programming create a perfect level of chaos for the show’s writers to unravel every week. 30 Rock doesn’t have complex themes or a deep message, but that stuff would get in the way of its goal: having one of the most consistently funny shows on TV. Suffice to say, it succeeded.—Sean Gandert

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cosby-show.jpg 5. The Cosby Show
Years: 1984-1992
George Jefferson may have been moving on up, but The Cosby Show gave the nation a more relatable glimpse of the growing middle-class among African Americans, dealing with race, but much more often, dealing with the trials that we all faced. Inspired by Cosby’s own family experiences which had been a staple of his stand-up routine, the show dominated the second half of the ’80s, topping the Neilsen ratings from 1985-90 and averaging more than 30 million viewers in the ’86-87 season. Cosby’s legacy might currently be in shambles, but the show was bigger than the man.—Josh Jackson

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arrested_development.jpg 4. Arrested Development
Years: 2003-present
Mitch Hurwitz’ sitcom about a “wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together” debuted six weeks after Two and a Half Men, but never gathered the audience to keep the show alive. Still, Hurwitz packed a whole lot of awesome into three short seasons. How much awesome? Well, there was the chicken dance, for starters. And Franklin’s “It’s Not Easy Being White.” There was Ron Howard’s spot-on narration, and Tobias Funke’s Blue Man ambitions. There was Mrs. Featherbottom and Charlize Theron as Rita, Michael Bluth’s mentally challenged love interest. Not since Seinfeld has a comic storyline been so perfectly constructed, with every loose thread tying so perfectly into the next act: The Oedipal Buster spiting his mother Lucille by dating her friend Lucille, and eventually losing his hand to a hungry loose seal; George Michael crushing on his cousin only to have the house cave in when they finally kiss; the “Save Our Bluths” campaign trying to simultaneously rescue the family and rescue the show from cancellation. Arrested Development took self-referencing postmodernism to an absurdist extreme, jumping shark after shark, but that was the point. They even brought on the original shark-jumper—Henry Winkler—as the family lawyer. And when he was replaced, naturally, it was by Scott Baio. Each of the Bluth family members was among the best characters on television, and Jason Bateman played a brilliant straight man to them all.—Josh Jackson

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2-90-of-the-90s-Seinfeld.jpg 3. Seinfeld
Years: 1989-1998
On any given weekday, the likelihood is high that I watch a Seinfeld rerun that I’ve seen at least 20 times before, and I’m not alone in that habit. The fact that the show has been in continual reruns and syndication since its 76-million viewer finale proves how beloved it remains to this day: Seinfeld is still making money for networks 16 years after it ended. Its grasp on pop culture minutia was on another level entirely, as was its distaste for typical sitcom conventions. Long-term relationships and love triangles were practically non-existent on Seinfeld. Never did characters offer sappy apologies to each other. Never did they even learn from their mistakes! Larry David and company were instead committed to telling stories of everyday, casual misanthropy from people who viewed themselves as “generally decent” or average, but were in reality pretty terrible individuals. Without even going into depth about the show’s transformative effect on the cultural lexicon, known as “Seinlanguage,” it’s easy to see how Seinfeld uniquely stood out from every one of its peers.—Jim Vorel

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20-90-of-the-90s-Cheers.jpg 2. Cheers
Years: 1982-1992
Like many long-running sitcoms, the Cheers of the 90s was really a fundamentally different show than it was in the 80s, less about the dating life of Ted Danson’s Sam and much more of an ensemble device, full of characters who were by this point beloved by all. The final years of Cheers were when all these characters got to shine, especially Rhea Perlman as Carla and Kelsey Grammer, who joined the cast full-time before spinning off into Frasier. The finale episode received mixed reactions at the time, but nostalgia has pushed it into favorable territory, especially given the happy endings that most characters receive. The fact that Sam decides not to get married and stays with the bar is the right decision—it is of course his “one true love.”—Jim Vorel

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1-90-of-the-90s-The-Simpsons.jpg 1. The Simpsons
Years: 1989-present
At its creative peak in the mid-’90s, there was no better-written show on TV—the joke density alone is absolutely incredible. Go back and watch an episode like part one of “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” from 1995 and the thing one can’t help but notice is how insanely fast everything moves—there’s literally a joke every few seconds, most of them brilliant. Every type of humor is present, from the ubiquitous pop culture references to self-referential parody, slapstick, wordplay and simply silly, iconic characters. Really, what TV character has been quoted more times since the early ’90s than Homer Simpson? How many of us can recite entire passages or episodes?—Jim Vorel

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