The 60 Best TV Shows on Hulu

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The 60 Best TV Shows on Hulu

Hulu has the best TV show selection of any streaming service. Despite enormous efforts by Netflix and Amazon, Hulu still got the nod when we compared the major streaming services, and now the company also offers an ad-free version. The best movies on Hulu list may be soon cut in half when Criterion Collection takes its ball and leaves and apart from The Path, its original productions are still well behind its competitors. But Hulu is first and foremost about streaming television, and the quality of the series on offer, especially when it comes to sitcoms, is still impressively high.

Here are the 60 best TV shows on Hulu:

60. Happy Endings


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Creator: David Caspe
Stars: Eliza Coupe, Elisha Cuthbert, Zachary Knighton, Adam Pally, Damon Wayans, Jr., Casey Wilson
Original Network: ABC
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

59. Peep Show


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Creators: Andrew O’Connor, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain
Stars: David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Matt King, Paterson Joseph, Neil Fitzmaurice
Original Network: Channel 4
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

58. The Carmichael Show


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Creators: Jerrod Carmichael, Ari Katcher, Willie Hunter, Nicholas Stoller
Stars: Jerrod Carmichael
Amber Stevens West, Lil Rel Howery, Tiffany Haddish, Loretta Devine, David Alan Grier
Original Network: NBC
The Carmichael Show hasn’t even aired 20 episodes yet. But it’s already as brave as it is hilarious. It repegularly 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

57. The Last Man on Earth


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Creator: Will Forte
Stars: Will Forte, Kristen Schaal, January Jones, Mel Rodriguez, Cleopatra Coleman, Mary Steenburgen
Original Network: FOX
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

56. Supernatural


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Creator: Eric Kripke
Stars: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, Katie Cassidy, Lauren Cohan, Mark A. Sheppard
Original Network: WB, CW
I started watching Supernatural as a pact with my daughter—she agreed to binge on Buffy with me if I agreed to watch a show that she was obsessed with, and that I’d assumed was just a rip-off of Joss Whedon. I’m only about three-quarters done with the series, which has been on the air since the existence of the WB (11 years!). But if the premise of demon-hunters is familiar to Buffy fans, the writers on Supernatural also pay homage to that show’s playful tone, event episodes and crisp writing. It’s an impressive feat to keep coming up with new ways to torment the Winchester brothers, who’ve been through literal hell (and purgatory). And Castiel—in his many incarnations—is one of the greatest characters on TV. It may have been initially created for teens, and it may not ever pass the Bechdal test, but there’s a reason the Supernatural fandom is fiercely loyal and why the show has been renewed for a 12th (12th!) season.—Josh Jackson

55. The Thick of It


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Creator: Armando Iannucci
Stars: Peter Capaldi, Chris Langham, Rebecca Front, Chris Addison, Joanna Scanlan, James Smith
Original Network: BBC Four, BBC Two
If you’re a fan of Veep, and find yourself jonesing for some more Armando Iannucci, then The Thick of It is definitely in your wheelhouse. A hilarious take on the British political system, it could be argued that it’s an even more biting take on politics than Veep. The show may have run from 2005 until 2012, but it was a sporadic run, as there are only 24 episodes. However, those 24 episodes are excellent. If you don’t know British politics, you might not fully understand every bit, but chances are you can still understand awful, stupid people saying awful, stupid things. Malcolm Tucker, as played by Peter Capaldi, remains Iannucci’s greatest creation. And if you’ve ever wanted to see the current Doctor saying the c-word a whole bunch, then this is the show for you.—Chris Morgan

54. Agent Carter


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Creators: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Stars: Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Chad Michael Murray, Enver Gjokaj, Shea Whigham
Original Network: ABC
Agent Carter, Marvel’s post-S.H.I.E.L.D. series, knew exactly what it was and what it wanted to be from day one: A pulpy, women-centric series of deeply retro sensibilities, built around one of Marvel’s best-liked supporting characters, Peggy Carter, the great love of Steve “Captain America” Rogers and a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. in its fledgling stages. Everything about Agent Carter rings with confidence: The tone and the setting, the style and the characterization, the humor and the action. It’s true that S.H.I.E.L.D. has vastly improved in its subsequent seasons, but Agent Carter didn’t need time to figure itself out (mostly because it didn’t have time to do so). The show doesn’t miss a beat, from its debut all the way up to its finale, rarely winking and nudging along the way with appearances by characters who only matter tangentially in the long run of Marvel’s universe. Most of all, it had Hayley Atwell, whose good looks belie her indomitable toughness, and lead both her audience, her allies, and her enemies alike to underestimate her. She’s the heart of Agent Carter, a story whose female concerns and casting act as a blueprint of sorts for today’s lauded Netflix series Jessica Jones. Captain America might be the first Avenger, but Peggy Carter is the first lady of Marvel ass-kicking.—Andy Crump

53. Spaced


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Creators: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Edgar Wright
Stars: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Nick Frost, Mark Heap, Julia Deakin
Original Network: Channel 4
Prior to blowing the film world out of the water with Shaun of the Dead, the creative partnership of writer/director Edgar Wright and actor/writer Simon Pegg first crystallized back in the late ‘90s with the British sitcom Spaced. Conceived by Pegg and co-lead Jessica Stevenson with Wright directing every entry, Spaced centers on a pair of aimless Londoners who decide to fake a relationship in order to secure a “couples only” apartment. Over the course of its 14 episode run, the series gleefully subverted the popular image of twenty-somethings leading cushy, comfortable lives with burgeoning careers (as evidenced by the likes of Friends) in favor of depicting a world filled with squalid living spaces, drug use and various artistic aspirations gone to seed. More notably, Spaced arguably served as the first post-modern sitcom in terms of how it employed specific, cinematic vocabulary as an extension of the characters’ interior lives (i.e., a horrible work experience turns into a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest parody, while a competitive game of paintball escalates into a dramatic action sequence straight out of Platoon or Saving Private Ryan). In a landscape where older, out-of-touch TV execs were frantically trying to appeal to erstwhile, younger viewers, Spaced was a show all about the less savory experiences of being a broke twenty-something; adding to its authenticity was the fact that it was being written and produced by individuals who were going through these specific experiences firsthand.—Mark Rozeman

52. Fresh Off the Boat


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Creator: Nahnatchka Khan
Stars: Randall Park, Constance Wu, Hudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler, Ian Chen, Ray Wise, Chelsey Crisp, Lucille Soong
Original Network: ABC
One of the strange things about storytelling is that the more specific and unique the details, the more universal a story feels. Fresh Off the Boat tries to be extremely precise about the problems of being first and second-generation members of a Taiwanese family living in suburban Florida during the mid-90s—and this pointed humor is what makes the show’s cast and jokes rise above so many other sitcoms. The fact is, the show cares about offering a more nuanced version of Asian-American life, and this keeps its laughs honest. At the same time it never tries to make the protagonists out to be model minorities or fit them into any equally reductive role. Admittedly, Fresh Off the Boat broadened a bit in its second season, but it still remains one of the best traditional American sitcoms on the air.—Sean Gandert

51. The IT Crowd


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Creator: Graham Linehan
Stars: Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson, Chris Morris, Matt Berry, Noel Fielding
Original Network: Channel 4
Stuck in a small, chaotic basement office, IT nerds Roy Trenneman (Chris O’Dowd) and Maurice Moss (Richard Ayoade) are always happy to help—well, Moss is, Roy is a lot happier sitting on his arse doing nothing. Head of the IT department Jen Barber (Katherine Parkinson) really has no idea of what she’s doing and is convinced that typing “Google” into Google will “break the internet”. Moss is your typical school-yard-bully victim. While he’s extremely articulate and proper in his way of speaking and dressing, he seems to have been overly coddled by his mother with whom he still lives. You might not necessarily want these guys to take a crack at fixing your computer, but you should definitely reserve them a place on your screen.—Roxanne Sancto

50. Black-ish


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Creator: Kenya Barris
Stars: Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brown, Marsai Martin, Jeff Meacham, Jenifer Lewis
Original Network: ABC
To enjoyBlack-ish is to enjoy all that the show has to offer in the name of entertainment. The sitcom about an upper class, black family is especially hilarious when the child stars (Marsai Martin and Miles Brown) are leading the plot. But when the show veers to address topics that reflect America’s race relations and systematic injustices, it shines brightest, because the writers are not afraid to be strikingly honest and come at an issue from different angles (without losing any of the writers room wit). Season Two’s “Hope,” stands apart, as the police brutality episode that examines the emotional tolls that arise as the Johnsons wait to see if a police officer will be indicted for the murder of a black child. Simultaneously conscious and comedic, it’s going to be pure joy to see what future season have in store for this series.—Iris Barreto

49. iZombie


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Creator: Rob Thomas, Diane Ruggiero
Stars: Rose McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli, Robert Buckley, David Anders, Aly Michalka, Aleks Paunovic, Hiro Kanagawa
Original Network: CW
Few shows feel as fully formed as iZombie did from episode one, bursting out of the gates with confidence, definitive structure and clear tone. The distinct take on zombies (they remain in control of their faculties as long as they feed on human brains) revitalized a stagnant genre and opened a world of possibilities that other zombie shows can’t provide. The real standouts of the show, though, are its characters. New shows often push leads while letting the supporting cast wallow in clear-cut stereotypes, but iZombie displayed, from the beginning, a discernible focus in building out the figures surrounding Rose McIver’s Olivia Moore. One of the best new faces on television this year is Rahul Kohli’s joyous forensic pathologist, and Liv’s primary confidant, Ravi Chakrabarti, but he’s joined by other great characters including Liv’s ex-fiancee Major (Robert Buckley) and her partner, Detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin). With the ability to slyly move from comedy to drama, iZombie always keeps the viewer on its toes and halfway through the second season, it’s is making a case for being the best comic book show The CW has to offer.—Eric Walters

48. Everybody Hates Chris


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Creator: Chris Rock, Ali LeRoi
Stars: Tyler James Williams, Terry Crews, Tichina Arnold, Tequan Richmond, Imani Hakim, Vincent Martella
Original Network: UPN, CW
Chris Rock is one of the funniest comedians of all time. This is far from a controversial stance. Upon developing a period sitcom about his Brooklyn childhood for the (now defunct) UPN back in the mid-2000s, however, the question emerged of whether or not his brand of knowing, acerbic comedy could survive the transition to network TV. The answer proved to be both yes and no. From the opening seconds of its pilot, Everybody Hates Chris positions itself as an incisive, utterly confident comedic tour-de-force that is perfectly in line with Rock’s brand. And yet, in the hands of co-creator/showrunner Ali LeRoi, the show aimed to be much more than simply the comedian’s stage work reformatted into TV storylines. The result was a family sitcom that both harkened back to the Norman Lear comedies of old, while still retaining the rapid pace and tight construction of the best single-camera productions. The show was never more successful, however, than when it came to its casting, with Tyler James Williams demonstrating immense charisma and comic timing as a young Chris; meanwhile, Terry Crews and Tichina Arnold would promptly enter the pantheon of great TV couples as Chris’ larger-than-life parental units. And though low ratings and frequent schedule shifts would ultimately snuff the Chris out after four seasons, it quickly sketched out its place as one of the greatest sitcoms of the aughties, and living proof of why we can’t have nice things.—Mark Rozeman

47. Daria


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Creator: Glenn Eichler
Stars: Tracy Grandstaff, Wendy Hoopes, Julián Rebolledo, Marc Thompson
Original Network: MTV
Significantly more influential than one would have expected from a Beavis and Butt-head spin-off, Daria is without a doubt the defining show of angsty teens of the late ’90s who couldn’t quite get over the death of grunge. It’s a paean to the lazy, the slackers, the cynical and the sarcastic, as Daria and her friend Jane bemoaned the plight of a broken society by watching tabloid shows with titles like Sick, Sad World. Its fatalism was deep, dark and often hilarious, and one got the sense that few shows have ever actually captured the zeitgeist of their subjects more accurately. Every teen who ever shrugged their shoulders and sighed in frustration after being asked how their day at school was by Mom was clearly thinking, ‘My life is just like Daria.’—Jim Vorel

48. Brooklyn Nine-Nine


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Creator: Michael Schur, Dan Goor
Stars: Andy Samberg, Melissa Fumero, Andrew Braugher, Terry Crews, Steaphanie Beatriz, Chelsea Peretti, Jo Lo Truglio
Original Network: Fox
“Consistency” might not be the most flattering virtue you can ascribe to a sitcom, but consistency is a big part of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s greatness. Week in and week out, Dan Goor and Michael Shur’s half-hour cop comedy manages to hit just the right notes without losing its groove. Some episodes hit higher notes than others, and yes, in the series’ lifespan, there have in fact been a few off-key episodes intermingled with the others. But when Brooklyn Nine-Nine is good, it’s good, and it’s good with an impressive regularity. When it’s great, it’s arguably the best sitcom you’ll find on network television, thanks in part to sharp writing, but mostly to an even sharper cast. Consistency is what fuels Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s motor, but the characters are the ones steering the ship. The show is enormously diverse in terms of not only gender and ethnicity, but also in terms of comic styles: There’s career sad sack Joe Lo Truglio, the stoically hilarious Andre Braugher, king of the clowns Andy Samberg, master of badassery Stephanie Beatriz, and that only covers a little less than half the team. Since Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s debut back in 2013, each character on the show has developed and grown, and in the process we’ve come to care about all of them in equal measure. At the top of its game, Brooklyn Nine-Nine harmonizes our attachment to these people with great gags, and occasionally even sharp (if brief) action. There’s a lot the series has to offer, in other words, and that just drives home how vital its constancy really is to its success. Never underestimate well-regulated humor.—Andy Crump

47. Inside Amy Schumer


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Creator: Amy Schumer, Daniel Powell
Stars: Amy Schumer
Original Network: Comedy Central
Trainwreck might have gotten the most attention, and her HBO stand-up special might’ve felt more, well, special, but the key to Amy Schumer’s huge year was her Comedy Central sketch show. Its third season was its smartest, funniest, most fearless yet, highlighting the bullshit that women continue to have to deal with in society today with deep insight and brutal efficiency. Even fans of the show might’ve gotten annoyed at the ecstatic praise websites heaped on the latest best sketch ever every single week, but there’s no denying that brilliant gems like “Last Fuckable Day,” “Football Town Nights” and “I’m Sorry” tackled issues that most comedy shows would avoid, with both great humor and great truth. And the episode-length sketch “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer,” where a murderer’s row of guest actors deliberate beauty standards, might have been the best half-hour of television this year.—Garrett Martin

46. The League


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Creator: Jeff Schaffer, Jackie Marcus Schaffer
Stars: Mark Duplass, Nick Kroll, Stephen Rannazzisi, Paul Scheer, Jon Lajoie, Katie Aselton
Original Network: FX
Don’t let all the fantasy football talk deter you if you’re not into sports. For all its NFL-star cameos and inside-baseball terminology, The League, at its heart, is really just a show about a group of friends who like to compete with and talk smack about each other. It’s basically Friends, if Ross and Chandler were allowed to call each other “shit-sippers” on primetime network TV. This semi-improvised show is wonderful, weird and features a bunch of people who are very funny but usually relegated to more bit roles in TV and movies (Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer, Katie Aselton, etc.). And when it comes to the show’s smack-talking bros, there’s a favorite for everyone, be it crass, sex-obsessed loose cannon Rafi or Kevin and Jenny, who despite occasionally playing the goofy-dad/smart-mom TV-cleaning-product commercial dichotomy, will remind you of all the things you liked about the good relationships you’ve been in. The shortened first season plays more like a TV miniseries and will take you less than an afternoon. It’ll be worth it.—Lindsay Eanet

45. Workaholics


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Creator: Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine, Anders Holm, Kyle Newacheck, Connor Pritchard, Dominic Russo
Stars: Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine, Anders Holm
Original Network: Comedy Central
Several shows have attempted to tackle the post-collegiate letdown of the working world, but following these three man-bros as they party their way through jobs at a telemarketing firm takes low-brow humor to astoundingly hilarious depths. Adam Devine, Blake Anderson and Anders Holm (along with their on-screen drug dealer and off-screen co-creator Kyle Newacheck) take turns half-assing the climb up the corporate ladder while maintaining an unwavering devotion to Super-blunt Sundays, Half-Christmas parties (keg of egg nog and all) and out-there drug experiences. Combining the absurdity of competitive corporate culture with the absurdity of “getting weird” on the weekend couldn’t be more relatable to the average internet show binge-watcher, even if we’re not all bartering for clean urine on the playground. The result is a quotable, re-watchable series that is very tight butthole, indeed.—Dacey Orr

44. Nathan for You


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Creators: Nathan Fielder, Michael Koman
Stars: Nathan Fielder
Original Network: Comedy Central
For two seasons, Nathan for You was something warped and uncomfortable—but actually, ultimately refreshing. Ideas like “Dumb Starbucks” went viral, making it increasingly difficult for Fielder to use relative anonymity to convince his “clients” to go along with his disturbingly effective ideas. It wasn’t totally original TV, but there did seem to be a certain sincerity under it all—Fielder doing his best to never exploit the people he helped for the benefit of a good joke, hoping that somehow, at the very least, he could drum up attention for the suffering businesses. But the third season of Nathan for You is obviously something so much more sublime: Over the course of eight episodes, Nathan has contrived a fake exercise program replete with a fake creator to dredge up free labor for a moving company, created a sound-proof box for imprisoning children while their parents have sex in hotel rooms (which he tested with a porn star orgy), and devised a way for a dive bar to allow smokers inside through turning a typical night of patrons into an experimental bit of theater—all the while transforming each client interaction into a desperate bid to make a friend. It’s even in “Nail Salon/Fun” that Nathan finally admits he doesn’t have many friends, even though he’s actually a really fun guy to hang out with, so he concocts a plan to scientifically validate he’s an entertaining guy—which of course involves stealing the urine of his new friend and suggesting on a lark they go get blood drawn together. It’s all so much more than cringe-worthy faux-documentary pranking; in season three, Nathan for You has stumbled into the sublime, taking to task the pathetic, empty human connections at the heart of even the most basic tenets of capitalism.—Dom Sinacola

43. Jane the Virgin


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Creator: Jennie Snyder Urman
Stars: Gina Rodriguez, Justin Baldoni, Yeal Grobglas, Jaime Camil, Andrea Navedo, Ivonne Coll, Anthony Mendez
Original Network: CW
A virgin perfectionist with a heart of gold shouldn’t be this watchable. However, add a pinch of the ol’ impregnated-by-artificial-insemination storyline, mixed in with the possible threat of a grandmother’s deportation, all while the protagonist is trying to rock both a writing career and motherhood, and you’ve got one of the most fascinating TV characters of the year. What’s great about Jane is that she handles everything with an impressive sensibility, and you can’t help but fall for her optimistic outlook on life. If there’s a will, there’s a way and Jane takes the cards she’s dealt in life, and never forgets or forsakes the deep goodness Abuela instilled within her. We watched as this character celebrated life’s big moments with everything from dance-offs to earnest weeping, without any embarrassment for her vulnerability—but don’t get on her bad side. The second season of Jane the Virgin has treated us to an even more protective Jane who will swiftly go to battle for the people she loves.—Iris A. Barreto

42. Family Guy


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Creator: Seth MacFarlane
Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green, Mila Kunis, Mike Henry
Original Network: HBO
It’s the show that made Seth MacFarlane a household name, and unfortunately, the one it seems he’ll never top. This is with good reason. MacFarlane created a family that’s easy to relate to despite the fact that it includes a talking dog (sniff) and an inexplicably British, bloodthirsty infant. Combine the characters’ eccentricities with jokes that (sometimes literally) won’t quit, and you’ve got one of the most important cartoons to grace the small screen.—Austin L. Ray

41. Dead Like Me


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Creator: Bryan Fuller
Stars: Ellen Muth, Mandy Patinkin, Laura Harris, Callum Blue, Jasmine Guy, Cynthia Stevenson
Original Network: Showtime
The grim reaper is an 18-year-old directionless college drop-out named Georgia Lass whose post-life boss is a bank robber who died in the 1920s played by Mandy Patinkin. But, sadly, her on-air life was even shorter. Creator Bryan Fuller (Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, Hannibal) has always gathered more of a cult following than a mass audience, and was forced out during his first season. But his dark, peculiar vision lingered in his delightfully twisted world, just like the reapers who populated it.—Josh Jackson

40. Review


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Creator: Andy Daly, Charlie Siskel
Stars: Andy Daly, Jessica St. Clair, Fred Willard, James Urbaniak, Megan Stevenson
Original Network: Comedy Central
Returning for his second year of reviewing/punishment, Andy Daly’s Forrest MacNeil remains as determined as ever to deliver inspiring television via critiquing various life experiences—even if it means torpedoing what’s left of his own life and general mental stability. As expected, ill-conceived review ideas (leading a cult) go hilariously awry, while even seemingly innocuous ones (taking a relaxing row boat trip) quickly transform into horrific ordeals. At the center of it all is Daly, who manages to make Forrest eminently watchable and entertaining, despite his frequently monstrous behavior. One of Comedy Central’s greatest programming achievements, Review is as funny as it is painful; in order words, it’s really, really ‘effin funny.—Mark Rozeman

39. Mystery Science Theater 3000


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Creator: Joel Hodgson
Stars: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff, Michael J. Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl, Bill Corbett, Patrick Brantseg
Original Network: KTMA, The Comedy Channel, Comedy Central, Sci Fi Channel
The funniest sci-fi show of all time (apologies to both Futurama and Red Dwarf), MST3K was as good as the movies it parodied were bad—meaning it was very, very good. The movie theater on the Satellite of Love was more ruthless than a cage of Klingons when it came to savaging B-movies.—Josh Jackson

38. Strangers With Candy


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Creators: Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello, Stephen Colbert, Mitch Rouse
Stars: Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello, Stephen Colbert, Greg Hollimon, Deborah Rush, Larc Spies, Orlando Pabotoy, Maria Thayer, Sarah Thyre
Original Network: Comedy Central
Strangers with Candy’s Jerri Blank—a 46-year old crack-whore-turned-high-school-freshman, prone to layers of makeup, disturbingly sculpted hair and crocheted vests—is one of television’s most revoltingly loveable anti-heroines. Jerri’s overbite, high-rise pants, and tendency toward inappropriate sexual advances require an actress in possession of excessive valor and gusto: enter the New York-born, North Carolina-raised Amy Sedaris, sister of David, baker of cupcakes and cheeseballs, and beloved comedic foil—she boasted the rubbery mug, incomparable commitment and high, squeaky voice necessary to spark Jerri Blank into hideous fruition.—Amanda Petrusich

37. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit


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Creator: Dick Wolf
Stars: Christopher Meloni, Mariska Hargitay, Richard Belzer, Dann Florek, Michelle Hurd, Ice-T, Stephanie March
Original Network: NBC
The first spin-off of Law & Order is so shamelessly its best—the only remaining member of the Law & Order family still on the air and arguably the only reason why Ice-T still has a job. The tropes here, a constellation unto itself, a universe of infinite drinking games, are legion—from the hilarious seething of the dearly missed Elliott Stabler (Christopher Meloni), to the lifelong travails of the forever-strong Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), the characters who day in and day out must endure the depravity of New York City’s never-ending parade of perverts are each a shell of barely contained emotion, be it rage, or trauma, or some viscous, volatile mixture of the two. This is to be expected: the show’s most surprising strength is its continuing desire to push past every overused archetype or narrative crutch to return, again and again, to the psyches of the people whose whole lives are filled with such intense tragedy. The main characters of Law & Order: SVU aren’t necessarily broken people—they’re just people who’ve broken so many times they’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel put-together again. They’re also people who once had to square off against Robin Williams in an episode where he was pretty much like the Riddler on Ritalin. It was, as you can guess, the kind of TV for which TV was invented.—Dom Sinacola

36. Broad City


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Creator: Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson
Stars: Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson, Hannibal Buress, Arturo Castro
Original Network: Comedy Central
For the last few years, Comedy Central has consistently presented us with great comedy duos: Key & Peele, Kroll and Daly, and now Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. Broad City gives us two unforgettable characters who are desperately trying to become the boss bitches they are in their minds. This epic friendship is instantaneously contagious, and the brilliant plots, centered on the two twenty-somethings scraping by in New York City, makes this one of the great, most promising new-ish series.—Staff

35. Party Down


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Creators: John Enbom, Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge, Paul Rudd
Stars: Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Megan Mullally, Ryan Hansen
Original Network: Starz
Party Down boasts a formula so simple and ingenious, it’s absolutely insane that no one had attempted it before. The general premise centers on a gang of aspiring LA-based actors, writers and entrepreneurs who make ends meet by working at a catering company. This being Hollywood, their assignments veer from the mundane (corporate retreats, birthday parties, weddings) to the absurd (backstage concert parties, porn awards, orgies). No matter what the setting, however, the lackadaisical crew of Party Down catering can always be counted on to ruin the occasion, frequently in ways that leave the audience crying from laughter. Taking cues from the best Judd Apatow productions, however, beneath all the crass, scatological humor and cringe-inducing scenarios lies a bittersweet story of dreams deferred and the lengths people go to, in order to find validation and acceptance. Boasting an insanely talented main cast that included Adam Scott, Ken Marino and Lizzy Caplan, the show also employed its “new week, new location” structure to recruit guest turns from the likes of J.K. Simmons, Kristen Bell, Rob Corddry, Thomas Lennon and—in one highlight episode—Steve Guttenberg. In the end, despite strong critical reviews and a devoted cult following, the show’s ratings were nothing short of anemic and Starz pulled the plug after two seasons. Though both fans and critics would bemoan the show’s short existence, there’s no denying that it lived fast and left a great-looking corpse.—Mark Rozeman

34. Bob’s Burgers


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Creator: Loren Bouchard
Stars: H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, John Roberts
Original Network: Fox
H. Jon Benjamin (Home Movies, Dr. Katz) is no stranger to animated comedies, so it should be a given that he’s right in his wheelhouse as Bob, a family man and owner of a struggling burger joint. He’s joined by some other seriously funny folks: Kristen Schaal and Eugene Mirman voice his kids, Louise and Gene.—Bonnie Stiernberg

33. Sons of Anarchy


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Creator:Kurt Sutter
Stars:Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Dayton Callie, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst, Johnny Lewis, William Lucking, Theo Rossi, Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman
Original Network: FX
Take the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold archetype, replace the hooker with a rough-around-the-edges bike club set in the ironically named town of Charming, Calif., add a conscience and things always going wrong, and you have the basic setup for Sons of Anarchy. Kurt Sutter’s gang of motorcycle-riding brothers—and their lovingly nicknamed “old ladies”—constantly find themselves in hot water trying to do the right thing while bending the rules just a little… which turns into bending the rules a lot. Having the town chief of police in their back pocket, along with Charlie Hunnam as the conflicted vice-president of the club who is carrying on his father’s legacy doesn’t hurt, either. It would be really easy to make the show’s motorcycle club reminiscent of a gang of pirates on bikes, pillaging and plundering with a complete lack of morals, but Sutter resists that temptation and makes the gray area of right and wrong the driving force behind each episode and each decision.—Patty Miranda

32. Key & Peele


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Creators: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele
Stars: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele
Original Network: Comedy Central
We’re going to miss Key & Peele. By “we” I don’t mean just myself or Paste, but society as a whole. And by “miss” I don’t mean we’ll reflect fondly upon this show that made us laugh and now exists no more, but that our culture will literally feel the absence of this brilliant show that routinely skewered the depressing racial climate in America. Not every sketch was political, and not every sketch was a hit, but at their best Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele hilariously attacked issues few other comedians or shows would dare to touch. They used comedy to become a vital part of the national conversation, and hopefully whatever they do next will have that same power.—Garrett Martin

31. Angel


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Creators: Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt
Stars: David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Glenn Quinn, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, Amy Acker
Original Networks: The WB, UPN
While watching Buffy straight through for the first time, I took a break after the fourth season to watch its spin-off, Angel. I’ve loved it every bit as much as Joss Whedon’s first series, especially all the half-demon as illegal alien motifs. If Boreanaz was a little too irritatingly brooding in Buffy, he’s given more depth as the lead. Joss Whedon may have moved on to big-screen blockbusters, but his TV shows found that overlap of “smart” and “entertaining” every time.—Josh Jackson

30. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia


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Creator: Rob McElhenney
Stars: Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney, Kaitlin Olson, Danny DeVito
Original Network: FX
The idea behind Sunny is simple yet brilliant—bring together the most narcissistic and cruel characters imaginable and let them wreak havoc on the world. Dennis, Dee, Mac, Charlie, and Frank all run Patty’s Pub together, though that endeavor never seems to keep them occupied for long. To entertain themselves, the group hatches one scheme after another. “The D.E.N.N.I.S. System,” for example, is Dennis’ foolproof method for manipulating women’s emotions so that they’ll fall in love with him. To give you an idea of how it works, the strategic acronym begins with “Demonstrate value” and ends with “Separate entirely.”—Riley Ubben

29. The Path


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Creator: Jesse Goldberg
Stars: Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan, Emma Greenwell, Rockmond Dunbar, Hugh Dancy
Original Network: Hulu Original
Let’s face it: cults make for great TV. And the next sect to invade the small screen is the mysterious Meyerists of Hulu’s The Path, starring Hugh Dancy, Aaron Paul and Michelle Monaghan. Created by Jessica Goldberg, the original series follows a family at the center of the movement as they struggle with faith, power and each other. Aaron Paul returns to live-action TV after his indelible role as Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad. On The Path, Paul plays Eddie Lane, a Meyerist adherent who’s going through a crisis of faith after discovering something disturbing while on a spiritual retreat. When he returns home, his wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan from the first season of True Detective), one of the Movement’s strongest supporters, senses her husband’s troubles and believes he’s “transgressed.” Hugh Dancy, fresh from playing Will Graham on Hannibal, is the Meyerists’ charismatic leader, Cal Roberts. There’s a real depth to these characters and their intertwined storylines. The series combines drama with elements of mysticism, mystery and romance.—Christine N. Ziemba

28. The Americans


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Creator: Joseph Weisberg
Stars: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor
Original Network: FX
We’re still mad that The Americans was completely shut out of the Emmys. The series pulled off what many shows cannot—its stellar second season was even better than its first, as the threats Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) faced moved right into their home. The show works because of the amazing performances. Rhys and Russell slip in and out of accents and wigs, but they are always believable as Russian spies hiding in plain sight. Noah Emmerich’s Stan was heartbreaking, and—right up until the final moment—it looked like he might betray his country to save the woman he loved. Annet Mahendru’s Nina was simultaneously vulnerable and cunning. The stakes on The Americans are extraordinarily high, and each week was fraught with nail-biting tension. The season finale shocking plot twist about Emmett’s killer, and Leanne and their daughter was a doozy. But even more shocking was the KGB’s recruitment ideas for Jennings’ daughter Paige (Holly Taylor)—and the fact that Elizabeth thinks it’s a pretty good idea. The stage is set for an amazing Season Three.—Amy Amatangelo

27. New Girl


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Creator: Elizabeth Meriwether
Stars: Zooey Deschanel, Max Greenfield, Jake Johnson, Hannah Simone, Lamorne Morris
Original Network: FOX
In 2012, New Girl went from adorkable show led by quirky Zooey Deschanel to one of the current great ensemble comedies on television. This year, it found its voice, making the guys of New Girl—Max Greenfield, Jake Johnson and Lamorne Morris—as much a focal point as Deschanel’s Jess, with great success. Finding humor in late-20s uncertainty, New Girl breathes new life into the sitcom in a way that hasn’t been seen since How I Met Your Mother, but without the romantic entanglement between friends that so many sitcoms before it have forced onto its stars.—Ross Bonaime

26. Newhart


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Creator: Barry Kemp
Stars: Bob Newhart, Mary Frann, Jennifer Holmes, Julia Duffy, Tom Poston, Peter Scolari
Original Network: CBS
Bob Newhart had the best second act in sitcom history. Newhart ran for most of the 1980s, longer than The Bob Newhart Show did, and despite resting heavily on Newhart’s patented brand of deadpan exasperation, the two shows had strong enough settings and casts to stand out from each other. Newhart featured career work from Tom Poston, Julia Duffy and Peter Scolari, and its remote Vermont setting lead to the creation of three of the most memorable breakout sitcom characters of the 1980s: Larry, his brother Darryl, and his other brother Darryl. Newhart was a smart, confident, hilarious show, and people still talk about the ingenious twist in its final episode 26 years later.—Garrett Martin

25. The Good Wife


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Creator: Robert King, Michelle King
Stars: Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, Archie Panjabi, Graham Phillips, Makenzie Vega, Josh Charles
Original Network: CBS
Are network dramas supposed to be this good? Julianna Margulies stars as the title character Alicia Florrick. In a storyline ripped from many, many headlines, the series begins with Alicia’s public humiliation. Her husband, Peter (Chris Noth), the District Attorney of Chicago, has been caught cheating—with a prostitute. The scandal thrusts Alicia back into the workforce and she goes to work for her (very sexy) old law school friend Will Gardner (Josh Charles). But Alicia is not your typical “stand by your man” woman and The Good Wife is not your typical show. The brilliance of the series is that it deftly blends multiple and equally engaging storylines. Each episode is an exciting combination of political intrigue, inner-office jockeying, family strife, sizzling romance and intriguing legal cases. The series features a fantastic array of guest stars and creates a beguiling and believable world where familiar characters weave in and out of Alicia’s life—just like they would in real life. You’ll be fascinated by Archie Panjabi’s mysterious Kalinda Sharma. Delight in Zach Grenier’s mischievous David Lee. Marvel at Christine Baranski’s splendid Diane Lockhart. And witness the transformative performance Alan Cummings gives as the cunning Eli Gold. But the real reason to stick with the series is to partake in the show’s current later seasons. Many shows start to fade as they age, but The Good Wife is finishing strong.—Amy Amatangelo

24. Archer


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Creator: Adam Reed
Stars: H. Jon Benjamin, Jessica Walter, Judy Greer, Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell, Amber Nash
Original Network: FX
Archer has succeeded as a hilarious parody of both James Bond and Mad Men with the comedic sensibilities of FX’s best. Season Two was full of surprising twists—like Archer’s breast cancer. The mini third season—the “Heart of Archness” trilogy following Archer’s revenge on the man who killed his Russian love—made Archer one of the few story-driven animated series that actually delivers.—Ross Bonaime

23. Star Trek: The Next Generation


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Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton
Original Network: Syndicated
The original series was pioneering. Deep Space Nine and Voyager had their moments. But TNG was head-and-shoulders the greatest Star Trek franchise. Jean Luc Picard. Data. Worf. The holodeck. The Borg. Gene Roddenbury must not have had a cynical bone in his body, and at least while I was watching his characters explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before, I didn’t either.—Josh Jackson

22. Portlandia


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Creators: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein
Stars: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein
Original Network: IFC
IFC’s short-run comedy series Portlandia is a show about hipsters that translates well-beyond Portland’s city limits. (Hey, Silver Lake and Brooklyn: We mean you, too.) Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney) have struck gold poking fun at the culture of coffee shops, indie book and record stores and that too-cool-for school attitude.—Christine N. Ziemba

21. Firefly


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Creator: Joss Whedon
Stars: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass
Original Network: Fox
Leave it to Joss Whedon to dream up a space show without aliens. The smart writing he brought to Buffy turned the universe into one big frontier, where those who didn’t conform to authoritarian rule were forced to eke out their livings among outlying planets where the long arm of the law can’t follow. Watch the way-too-short-lived series in full before finishing with Serenity.—Josh Jackson

20. Twin Peaks


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Creators: David Lynch, Mark Frost
Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Joan Chen, Eric Da Re, Sherilyn Fenn
Original Network: ABC
Twin Peaks has all the necessities of a cult classic: psycho killers, dashing detectives and unsolvable murders. Despite the small town’s charm, a dark undercurrent runs beneath the surface. David Lynch gave the TV landscape a unique voice with this two-season, canceled-too-soon series that’s both humorous and eerily horrific.—Anna Westbury

19. The X-Files


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Creator: Chris Carter
Stars: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Robert Patrick, Annabeth Gish, Mitch Pileggi
Original Network: Fox
Pairing Scully the skeptic and Mulder the believer as they investigated the paranormal, The X-Files at its best was as good as any other TV show in history. Its greatness waned in the later years, but the early seasons did more than investigate the implausible; it accomplished it by taking aliens and conspiracy theories to the mainstream.—Josh Jackson

18. Sports Night


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Creator: Aaron Sorkin
Stars: Josh Charles, Peter Krause, Felicity Huffman, Joshua Malina, Sabrina Lloyd, Robert Guillaume
Original Network: ABC
As a screenwriter for films like A Few Good Men and The American President, Aaron Sorkin loved his job and was very good at it. So, naturally, when he developed his first TV series for ABC 10 years ago, he filled it with characters who loved their jobs and were very good at them. More than the rapid-fire dialogue or deft blend of comedy and drama, it’s the utter competence of the sportscasters and producers that quickly separates Sports Night from the other 30-minute laugh-tracked TV shows of the ’90s. The bosses are smart and helpful, except when they’re meddlesome network executives. You’re held accountable for mistakes, but your co-workers always have your back. Instead of the classic reliance on miscommunication for situational comedy, the tension arises from a pressure to excel in the national spotlight, and the humor comes from genuinely funny characters. Sorkin worked hard to respect his audience’s intelligence with clever dialogue and heady subject matter. With film-worthy writing and one of the best casts ever assembled for a sitcom (Robert Guillaume shone both pre- and post-stroke and William H. Macy was a regular guest), Sports Night changed the trajectory of television. It was a half-hour comedy with better, more emotional storylines than most hour-long dramas. It was one of the first hybrids of a multi-camera and single-camera show, benefiting from the strengths of both approaches. And its echoes could be felt in some of the best shows that followed: the volleys of witty repartee between Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, The Sopranos’ psychiatrist scenes, and the meta-story lines about the show’s impending cancelation in Arrested Development.—Josh Jackson

17. Scrubs


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Creator: Bill Lawrence
Stars: Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, Neil Flynn, Ken Jenkins, John C. McGinley, Judy Reyes
Original Network: NBC
J.D. and the gang gave a completely absurd (and yet often the most realistic) look into the world of hospitals. Each episode didn’t center around some outlandish disease that everyone thought was lupus, only to find out it was something else in the last five minutes of the show. Instead Scrubs was character-driven. It was consistently overlooked by the Emmy Awards, and viewership dwindled throughout the seasons. Still, the witty writing and off-beat characters deserved more. When NBC canceled the show, ABC was confident enough to pick it up for two more (laborious, unwatchable) seasons. But in its prime, it was one of the best sitcoms on TV.—Adam Vitcavage

16. Buffy the Vampire Slayer


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Creator: Joss Whedon
Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz, Seth Green, Marc Blucas, Emma Caulfield, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amber Benson, James Marsters, Anthony Stewart Head
Original Networks: The WB, UPN
Buffy the Vampire Slayer had it all: Romance, drama, tragedy, suspense. The show took the teen-soap formula and elevated it to an art. It was a unique combination of tragic romance, apocalyptic fantasy and the clincher—emotional realism. It also featured the most serious and realistic depiction of human loss ever witnessed on the small screen (in “The Body,” dealing with the death of Buffy’s mom by natural causes). Humor? The writers understood the campy sheen that must accompany any show named Buffy. They also knew how to use snappy dialogue and uncomfortable situations to full effect. Complex characters? You’d be hard pressed to find another program that had the same range and consistency of character development. Everyone matured (or devolved) at his or her own realistic rate. As some feminist writers have argued, TV had never before seen the complexity of relationships among women that you saw with the likes of Buffy, Willow, Joyce and Dawn. Plot? The writers employed elaborate multi-episode, multi-season story arcs. People and events of the past always had a way of popping back up, the way they do in real life. Philosophy? Series creator Joss Whedon was all about the “meta”—the ideas and story behind the story.He succeeded, creating a WB/UPN show that bears closer resemblance to the works of Dostoevsky and Kafka than 90210 or Dawson’s Creek.—Tim Regan-Porter

15. Community


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Creator: Dan Harmon
Stars: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Chevy Chase, Ken Jeong, Jim Rash
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

14. Louie


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Creator: Louis C.K.
Stars: Louis C.K.
Original Network: FX
If there is a formula for Louie, it would go like this: Disasters ranging from annoying to semi-tragic befall our hero, and they’re always tinged with an inhumanity that becomes absurd. Our hero struggles gamely in the face of a seemingly uncaring world, sighs, over-acts just the slightest bit, and presses onward despite a lack of hope. Just at the moment when he’s about to crack, an unlikely character delivers a big speech with a lesson that is emphatically delivered, but simple at its core. Our hero understands, is somewhat renewed, and immediately subjects himself to the pain of being human, with results that are never redemptive, but still somewhat reassuring—the juice of living is worth the squeeze of existence, even if we can’t quite explain why. There are sitcoms that just want to make you laugh, there are sitcoms that seek meaning through the addition of emotions like sadness and anger, and then there are sitcoms that seek those depths with a studied absurdity that slowly transforms into sincerity—and then back again. Louie belongs to that third category, but let’s go a step further: The category exists because of Louie. Nobody else is doing it.—Shane Ryan

13. Frasier


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Creator: David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee
Stars: Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, John Mahoney, Peri Gilpin, Moose
Original Network: NBC
Many classic sitcoms 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

12. Mary Tyler Moore


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Creator: James L. Brooks, Allan Burns
Stars: Mary Tyler Moore, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, Gavin MacLeod, Ted Knight, Betty White, Cloris Leachman
Original Network: CBS
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

11. South Park


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Creators: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Brian Graden
Stars: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mona Marshall, Isaac Hayes, Mary Kay Bergman, April Stewart, Eliza Schneider
Original Network: Comedy Central
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

10. Battlestar Galactica


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Creators: Glen A. Larson (original), Ronald D. Moore, David Eick
Stars: Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Michael Hogan, Aaron Douglas, Tricia Heifer, Grace Park, Tahmoh Penikett
Original Network: Sci-Fi (SyFy)
Ronald D. Moore turned a cheesy ’70s show into a gritty, unflinching look at what it means to be human, and ended up with one of the best sci-fi series of all time. With the crew of Galactica encountering no aliens during its exodus, the show was free to pit religion against science, freedom against security and family against conscience—tensions with no easy answers. It’s an epic tale with few villains and fewer heroes—just flawed people fighting for survival.—Josh Jackson

9. Parks and Recreation



Creators: Greg Daniels, Michael Schur
Stars: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones
Original Network: NBC
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

8. I Love Lucy


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Creator: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz
Stars: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, William Frawley, Richard Keith
Original Network: CBS
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

7. The Shield


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Creator: Shawn Ryan
Stars: Michael Chiklis, Michael Jace, Walton Goggins, CCH Pounder, Benito Martinez, Forrest Whitaker, Glenn Close
Original Network: FX
?Shawn Ryan’s cop drama masterpiece premiered on FX a few months before David Simon’s cop drama masterpiece premiered on HBO. Years later, if you ask anybody which cop drama masterpiece they believe to be the Greatest Of All Time™, they’ll probably say The Wire. That’s fine—The Wire’s laurels are well-earned—but give a little more consideration to The Shield, too, huh? In many ways, The Shield is The Wire’s equal. In some, it is superior; a vivid, graphic entertainment that’s no less profound than Simon’s musings on Baltimorean crime and punishment. The Shield is grimdark stuff from back before “grimdark” became de rigeur in our pop cultural diet; there are no straight-up good guys or bad guys here, just good guys who occasionally do bad things and bad guys who occasionally do good things. The series is fueled by enough doom to make the Bard himself crack a wry smile, and it’s loaded with dubious morality. We were caught in the thrall of Vic Mackey’s reckless, self-serving corruption long before Game of Thrones made character survivability a guessing game, and Breaking Bad made us root for ethically suspect protagonists. Most of all, though, The Shield put a spotlight on law enforcement malfeasance without irrevocably blurring the line between social critique and theatricalized excitement.—Andy Crump

6. Fargo


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Creator: Noah Hawley
Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks
Network: FX
If you made a list of untouchable auteurs—that is, creators whose work should never be built upon or remade—the Coen Brothers would sit comfortably near the top. That did little to alarm Noah Hawley, whose reimagining of the Coen Brothers’ classic 1996 murder mystery took on the unthinkable, and succeeded brilliantly. At its highest moments, Fargo was myth-making in its finest form. That’s what this show was; a myth, a legend, a tall-tale in the Minnesota cold. Every great myth needs a greater villain, and Fargo had one of the best of the year. The pairing of Hawley’s twisted antagonist, Lorne Malvo, and the always enigmatic Billy Bob Thornton (giving his finest performance in years) was perhaps the greatest achievement of the FX drama. It was clear that Malvo was only human, and yet we were fully prepared for Hawley to reveal that he was something more. In the final moments, when Malvo’s outcome was all but certain, I couldn’t help but expect for him to rise again, as he always seemed to. In a mere ten episodes, this character went from unknown to larger-than-life. For all those new shows that struggle to build worlds and characters, please, watch Fargo and take note.—Eric Walters

5. The Office (UK)

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Creators: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Stars: Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook, Lucy Davis, Oliver Chris, Patrick Baladi, Stacey Roca, Ralph Ineson, Stirling Gallacher
Original Network: BBC
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

4. Arrested Development


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Creator: Mitch Hurwitz
Stars: Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Portia de Rossi, Tony Hale, David Cross, Michael Cera, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Alia Shawkat, Ron Howard
Original Network: Fox
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

3. Cheers


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Creator: James Burrows, Glen Charles, Les Charles
Stars: Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Kirstie Alley, Rhea Perlman, Nicholas Colasanto, John Ratzenberger, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, George Wendt
Original Network: NBC
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

2. Seinfeld


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Creator: Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David
Stars: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards
Original Network: NBC
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

1. The Simpsons


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Creator: Matt Groening, Sam Simon, James L. Brooks
Stars: Harry Shearer, Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Hark Azaria, Yeardley Smith, Julie Kavner
Original Network: Fox
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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