Originally native to radio, the situation comedy has been a staple of television programming since the 1940s. Thousands of sitcoms have come and go since then, but which ones stood above them all?
Based on the reaction to our 50 Funniest Movies of All Time and The 50 Funniest Women of All Time lists, we have expanded the panel of voters in the interest of broadening the knowledge base of the decision makers. Here now, according to a roundtable of 8 panelists, are the 50 Greatest American Sitcoms of All Time.
50. Reno 911!
Although unintentionally funny, COPS was not a comedy- so when some of the creators of the underrated MTV show The State decided to do a send up of that show, Reno 911! was born.
A great cast of characters propel a tired mockumentary concept and make it hilarious. One of the best things about it was the actors who played the police officers would play some of the criminals as well.
49. The Larry Sanders Show
This HBO sitcom (who knew the pay cable station would produce such great original programming?) was a satirical behind the scenes look at a late night talk show with Gary Shandling in the title role, playing the Johnny Carson-like lead.
The show took subtle swipes at how Hollywood (and network television) worked and was carried by hilarious writing, and the great supporting cast, including Rip Torn, Jeffrey Tambor (“Hey now!”) Jeremy Piven, and Janeane Garofalo.
48. Police Squad!
Police Squad! only aired for one season, but that one season is one of the most hilarious television seasons of all time. Leslie Nielsen once again proved to be the great comic foil as they skewered the police procedural show format. Highly quotable and still funny to this day.
You will never look at an end credit freeze frame the same after watching this show. And the special guest star always died in the opening credits. Who does that? Police Squad does!
This show about competing local Nantucket Airlines ran eight seasons on NBC (from 90-97) and made Tim Daly, Steven Weber, and Tony Shaloub household names. Created by the same team that brought us Cheers; Wings lived in the same “universe” as Cheers and Frasier, with characters like Norm, Cliff, Frasier, Lilith, and Rebecca visiting Tom Nevers Field via Sand Piper Air.
A strong supporting cast that included Thomas Hayden Church as Lowell the dimwitted mechanic and David Shramm as Roy Biggins, the cantankerous owner of the rival airline helped keep the show in the Top 30 for a majority of its run.
46. How I Met Your Mother
Throughout the history of television there have been a number of sitcoms about groups of friends and their lives together. How I Met Your Mother is the current generation of 20-somethings’ version of that. What separates it from the others is that it’s done as a series of flashbacks as the narrator, voiced by Bob Saget, tells his children about his years as a single New Yorker.
With a cast that included Dave Foley (The Kids in the Hall) Stephen Root (Office Space) and Phil Hartman (SNL) you know you’re getting something funny. The ridiculous exploits of a struggling NPR-type radio station, the cast also featured Joe Rogen, Andy Dick, and Maura Tierney.
44. That ’70s Show
That ’70s Show addressed issues that America faced in the 1970s from a 21st century perspective and did so using a number of methods such as dream sequences and split screens. It introduced us to the Stupid Helmet, which I’m sure is something that countless other groups of friends duplicated soon after.
43. Laverne & Shirley
Laverne & Shirley were introduced on Happy Days, and popular response led to them scoring their own spin off sitcom. The Cunningham’s fellow Wisconsinites were Milwaukee roommates and coworkers at Shotz Brewery.
The show was set in 1959-1967, but ran from 1976 to 1983, so for many children of the 80s, it was a bit before their time or on its last legs as we matured into seasoned sitcom consumers. Nevertheless, even as a youngster I recognized a great show what little of it I saw. One of the best opening sequences in television history.
42. Everybody Loves Raymond
What can you say about a show that won 13 Emmys? It must be good. The best part of the show had to be Ray’s dad Frank (played by Peter Boyle). He stole every scene he was in. While most shows fade toward the end of their runs, Raymond remained a top 10 show.
41. WKRP in Cincinnati
WKRP told the adventures of a bumbling staff of a Rock and Roll radio station in Cincinnati.
Straightman Andy Travis tried to keep his sanity around Dr Johnny Fever, Venus Flytrap, Herb Tarlek, Les Nessman, and the “big guy” Mr. Carlson each week. And who can forget the babes? Bailey vs Jennifer is a debate worthy of Ginger vs Mary-Anne stature!