So, it was without much hesitation that we embarked on sorting, voting and ranking a list of the best sitcoms of all time.
Hey, we love to laugh. Most of us only have half-hour attention spans. So a list like this made perfect sense.
We all put our heads together (it hurt) and came up with what you’ll see around this time every day for the next two weeks (you know, just like a sitcom…except, you know, we’ll get cancelled a lot more quickly.)
Since “sitcom” is derived from the words “situation” and “comedy,” we also decided to use animated series that fit the bill. Mixed in with the more traditional live action comedy, there are a few interesting choices made. Of course, some of you may disagree with us, but hey! That’s what the comment section is for.
Now, let’s get started. Eva Gabor is waiting.
100. Green Acres (CBS, 1965-1971)
OK … so I didn’t grow up during Green Acres original run back from 1965-1971. I do remember watching the reruns on TBS and Nick at Nite, and what I remember most from the show was, sadly, the theme song, and Eva Gabor’s accent.
The show was about a New York City attorney, played by Eddie Albert, and his glamorous wife (Eva Gabor) moving from the big city to Green Acres, so that the attorney can fulfill a dream of being a farmer.
We all have that dream right? If we’re the farm boy we think about ruling the big city. If we’re the city boy we think about moving out the peaceful country. That’s all I got.
Not-so-fun fact: Green Acres was pulled in 1971 during CBS’s “Rural Purge”. CBS cut shows like Acres, Beverly Hillbillies, Hee-Haw and more. They were replaced with All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and others. (KJ)
99. Mad About You (NBC, 1992-1999)
Mad About You ran from the beginning of my junior high years right through my high school graduation. In other words, for the entirety of my teen years. I was the target audience for the mindless humor of Beavis and Butthead, the edgy comedy of the Fox network, and whatever happened to be running that week on USA’s Up All Night. Don’t get me wrong, I watched all of these shows to satiate my adolescent cravings for lowbrow tv entertainment. And yet, I also loved Mad About You – the romantic comedy of prime time tv. It’s not as if my 15 year-old self could relate in any way to the marital shenanigans of Paul and Jamie Buchman. It’s not as if I’d become so enamored with Paul Reiser after My Two Dads that I declared to follow his every career move. Truthfully, my infatuation with the show is somewhat inexplicable (though I’ll admit an equally inexplicable celebrity crush on Helen Hunt at the time). Simply put, the show’s dialogue and gags were well written, and delivered with expert style and timing by Hunt and Reiser. Plus, there were fantastic celebrity guests like Cyndi Lauper and Yoko Ono. (Dr. Gonzo)
98. Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper (ABC, 1992-1997)
Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper is largely on this list because of its funny first season. The show was slightly edgy for an ABC sitcom mostly because of comedian Mark Curry, who is Mr. Cooper (a former basketball player), and his crush on Vanessa, played by the PYT, Holly Robinson-Peete. Whenever Vanessa would wear a tight dress, Cooper would scream, “Damn!”
Dawn Lewis of A Different World fame played Robin, Cooper’s friend. She’s also Vanessa’s friend and somehow, Cooper joins them at their house and they become roommates. No, this isn’t a darker shade of Three’s Company. Lewis is only on the show for one season and soon thereafter, it becomes a paint-by-numbers family sitcom. Raven-Symone, just one year after her stint on The Cosby Show ended, showed up in season two and the show became less about an edgy bachelor comedian and more about family situations.
My favorite episode of the show is when Cooper gets a ten-day contract with the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are my team so to see Tim Hardaway and company on the show made me giddy. Head coach Don Nelson continually called him, “Cooter”. The game play sequences were shot at a Warriors pre-season home game where Curry actually got real game time. He only had a little bit of time to do something, but did end up scoring, which was great for the episode as he helped the Warriors win a game.
The show is largely forgotten, but for one season, it was a pretty funny sitcom. And it also had the kicking-est theme song performed by Lewis, Robinson-Peete, and En Vogue. (GG)
97. Maude (CBS, 1972-1978)
The CBS sitcom Maude is often noted (and rightfully so) as groundbreaking, tackling many topics that previously were never spoke of on a sitcom (abortion, psycho-therapy) via a female character that was unlike any previously seen. Maude, played by Bea Arthur, was witty, acerbic…and a four-times-married and a very outspoken feminist. June Cleaver she was not! This shouldn’t come as much of surprise given the show’s creator, Norman Lear. Maude, was actually the first spin-off from the legendary and also ground-breaking show All In The Family – the character originally made an appearance as Edith Bunker’s cousin and political foil to Archie.
With any look back at Maude its easy to make the topics they tackled the focus. Indeed, like All In The Family, the show was a platform for Lear’s politics and beliefs and those conversations were new to sitcom audiences. Think of it, a sitcom and its characters dealt with mental illness, alcoholism, marijuana, political activism, divorce, and in a first, a lead character choosing to have an abortion. Remember, this was the early 70’s!
Fortunately, the humor and wit of Maude never took a backseat in the show’s storylines, no matter how controversial. And there was never a better conduit for Maude’s political soap-boxing than Bea Arthur. A tall, acerbic woman, Arthur towered over her co-stars physically and vocally. With Maude, Arthur made manic and flustered funny rather than annoying; the verbal jousting with her husband, Walter and especially later with her housekeeper Mrs. Naugatuck, influenced so many sitcoms, from Seinfeld to Cheers.
To this day, Maude still comes across as funny and fresh. The storylines, while no longer controversial for today’s TV audiences, are still topical and still hot-button issues today. (Steve Roth)
96. New Girl (Fox, 2011-present)
When New Girl debuted, it was supposed to be a vehicle for the “adorkable” Zooey Deschanel. But a funny thing happened over the course of the series’ first two seasons: The less the show was about her, the better it got. That’s because New Girl features one of the best ensembles on television, and they’re creating characters that are quickly becoming classics (Max Greenfield as Schmidt deserves special mention). Now, you may think including New Girl on this list now is an offense worthy of the Douchebag Jar. But years from now you’ll look back on this show and remember the moment toward the end of season two when Deschanel’s Jess and Jake Johnson’s Nick finally, and inevitably, did the deed. It felt not like a jumping the shark moment, but one that’d been earned and wouldn’t kill the chemistry — and may even improve the show moving forward. That’s a tribute to the impressive acting, writing, and storytelling … assets that make New Girl great now, and already make it a worthy addition to this list. (Martin)
95. Black Books (Channel 4 U.K., 2000-2004)
Quirky British comedy about a cynical bookstore owner? I’m in.
Irish Comedian Dylan Moran decided to share his twisted humour as the creator and writer of Black Books, which aired in the UK from 2000 to 2004. Moran acts as Bernard Black, the oft-drunk, reluctant proprietor of Black Books bookshop in London. I say Bernard’s a reluctant owner, as the majority of the time the store has a double-sided “closed” sign posted in the window, and Bernard can hardly be bothered to deal with an actual customer (should one sneak in), as that’d require him to put aside his beloved wine bottle. English comedian, Bill Bailey, plays Manny- a stupid, yet affable co-worker- while actress, Tamsin Greig, plays the quick-witted Fran, Bernard’s only real friend. The three of them manage to entangle themselves in various ridiculous situations in each episode (like the time when Bernard and Fran pretend to know how to play the piano to impress Fran’s piano teacher and Bernard’s date, only to find out that Manny actually is a brilliant pianist), but the real joy of the show is the smart writing, and Dylan Moran’s hilariously dry delivery. (Brittany)
94. The Nanny (CBS, 1993-1999)
Fran Fine (Fran Drescher) had her life turned upside down when her fiance boss kicked her out of his bridal shop and onto the streets. Picking up the pieces of her life, she becomes a nanny to stuffy Broadway producer Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy) and his three children Margaret (Nicholle Tom), Brighton (Ben Salisbury) and Grace (Madeline Zima). Fran’s unrefined ways clash humorously with Sheffield’s ideals for raising his children, but the two inevitably see eye to eye when he realizes how good Miss Fine is for the children’s growth. Fran eventually unites the family not only by helping them realize how good they are for each other, but also as their mother when she and Mr. Sheffield embark on a romance. Along for the ride are Sheffield’s butler Niles (Daniel Davis) who like Jeffrey in Fresh Prince is always available for a sardonic quip, and Sheffield’s business partner CC Babcock (Lauren Lane), who at first is Fran’s rival in romance and social gatherings, but soon warms to the new improved status quo. The Nanny premiered as the highest-rated new show for CBS in 1993 and while its ratings were a little rocky at first, by the third season Nanny was in the top 20 and helped pull CBS into the 90s. Sheffield’s prim etiquette and Fran’s brutal honestly gelled quickly to make one of the great romantic pairings of the 1990s. Of course, Fran’s cackle could really annoy. Behind the laugh, however, was an endearing tale of romance and family. Her mother and grandmother (often hanging around the Sheffields) were the most important thing to her, and she brought that sense of belonging to Maxwell so that he could make his family just that much stronger. (Tristan)
93. Malcolm in the Middle (Fox, 2000-2006)
First off, let me just say, who doesn’t love little Frankie Muniz? The audience follows Muniz, cast as lead character Malcolm, throughout his years in school and slightly embarrassing family life. With 3 brothers (later in the series, 4 brothers), overbearing mom, and sort of aloof father, plus school bullies due to his “genius” brain, Malcolm has a lot on his plate, and makes sure to directly tell the audience that in various monologues. We’re almost like his diary when things go wrong. As the series progresses, we peek into the life of his family and friends, and witness things like an embarrassing family reunion for mom Lois, an unplanned wedding for older brother Francis after he went to military school, and poor baby Jamie gaining all of the family’s bad habits. It’s nothing short of comical. (Cassandra)
92. Get Smart (NBC/CBS, 1965-1970)
Get Smart is a legendary show created BY a legend. Mel Brooks, before becoming everybody’s favorite parody director, the man responsible for Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men In Tights, and many others, conceived Get Smart with Buck Henry as a parody of the secret agent explosion.
Don Adams, also remembered for playing another secret agent, namely Inspector Gadget, plays Maxwell Smart a.k.a. Agent 86, whom, despite not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, is one of the most respected agents of C.O.N.T.R.O.L., a secret government operation that is trying to protect the world from K.A.O.S. terrorists. His partner is Agent 99, played by the super sexy Barbara Felton. The show had a plethora of big TV stars from the time, in an era where only the uber-charismatic survive.
Get Smart was formulaic in a way and every episode would go like this; Max would meet with the Chief of C.O.N.T.R.O.L. and was briefed on the latest happenings and plots by K.A.O.S.. After that, Max would meet up with 99 and they’d go on their adventure; usually involving them being put in some sort of calamity and getting out of it by complete luck, although once in a while Max showed incredible bravery and intellect, but that wasn’t the point. This formulaic approach was also applied to the jokes. There were lots of physical humor, lots of sight gags, and lots of clever puns (and I DO mean clever). Get Smart was the KING of the recurring joke; the Cone of Silence, “would you believe…”, and the shoe phone were staples of the franchise. In addition, the way they would mock all of the gadgets and gizmos from James Bond was always very clever. Those who watched the show know exactly what I’m referring to.
Get Smart was wacky. Wacky villains, the ultra-charismatic Don Adams and Barbara Feldon, and it had very accessible and clean jokes that still relied more on being “smart”, pun intended, rather than crude. It was almost a live action cartoon. Plus, you got a little bit of action too. In 2008, Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson starred in a theatrical remake of the television show, and while it was surprisingly good, nothing could top the original TV series, but I certainly hope it opened a new generation’s eyes to the greatness of Get Smart. (Big D)
91. The Partridge Family (ABC, 1970-1974)
“Come on world, here a song that we’re singing…”
If we were ranking our list by memorable theme songs alone, The Partridge Family would be an easy top 10 honoree. An early 70’s mix of radio-friendly pop music with broad comic appeal and a dreamy heartthrob lead (Mr. David Cassidy), the quirky musical family took America by storm, launching albums, merchandise, and Cassidy fever (an evolutionary precursor to the Beiber strain).
You’ll notice I haven’t said quite as much about the show itself, however. In truth, the show was sweet, quaint, and likeable, but rarely in a side-splitting fashion. The jokes and plots rode well-worn paths, and the impish Danny’s schemes were often the only thing keeping the story moving. But the tropes of the exhausted manager, the scheming and feuding children, and how everything could be resolved and end with a catchy little tune inside 30 minutes offer a certain comfort and breeziness that many modern sitcoms try far too hard to emulate. It was also one of the few shows my family could all agree on growing up: winning enough for the kids, with nostalgia and a warm heart thrown in to keep mom and dad happy.
At the end of the day, even if the jokes didn’t always hit, the show was a cultural touchstone and gave us some classic songs bridging the gap between two important musical decades for America. And that alone gets me happy. (Stephen M.)