The 22 Best Sitcoms of All Time

Article Image
Photo Source: Courtesy NBC/FX/HBO

The television sitcom, or situation comedy, represents the best humor of the past seven decades. Some sitcoms revolutionize the genre’s tropes and structure; some use comedy to tackle controversial or taboo topics; and some are just flat-out hilarious. The 22 seen here represent the best of the best. 

22. “Community” (2009–2015)

“Community” is a show that, at first glance, seems like just another sitcom about a group of friends. But its metatextual deconstruction of classic television tropes and snarky humor make fans love the community college study group composed of Jeff, Britta, Abed, Troy, Shirley, Annie, and Pierce. Where “Community” truly thrives is the committed performances of its cast, from the silly—such as Danny Pudi as Abed leading a mafia-style chicken tender racket—all the way to the serious.


21. “Fawlty Towers” (1975–1979)

In classic British sitcom fashion, “Fawlty Towers” only has a handful of episodes. However, those 12 episodes are some of the funniest to come from across the pond. Created by John Cleese of “Monty Python” fame, and co-written by Cleese’s then-wife Connie Booth, “Fawlty Towers” follows the madcap adventures of the neurotic Basil Fawlty as he attempts to run a successful hotel and prove that he belongs in the upper echelons of society. Less surreal and more farcical than “Monty Python,” “Fawlty Towers” was Cleese and Booth at their comedic finest. 

Fawlty Towers

20. “One Day at a Time” (2017–2020)

In this reimagining of a show from the 1970s, a recently divorced Cuban-American mother struggles to raise her two kids in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood. The new version of “One Day at a Time” tackles societal issues in a way that echoes the original Norman Lear production, but with a modern twist: The show explores PTSD, Hispanic-American identity, gender, immigration, and mental illness. It is the perfect example of old school meets the new: a traditional sitcom setup but with a much needed (and hilarious) modern voice.

One Day at a Time

19. “Arrested Development” (2003–2019)

The first three seasons of “Arrested Development” are some of the smartest, funniest episodes of television during the early aughts. Loaded with gags, satire, and punchlines that have made it endlessly quotable, the show owes its popularity to its immensely talented ensemble cast, which boasts the likes of Jessica Walter, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, and Will Arnett. Fans found the highly dysfunctional Bluth family so hilarious they kept watching even after the show’s move to Netflix. 

Arrested Development

18. “South Park” (1997–Present)

Creators and voice actors Matt Stone and Trey Parker helped “South Park” evolve from a show that shocked viewers with its foulmouthed third-graders into an intricate satire about every topic imaginable—from Scientology and Disney all the way to politics and R. Kelly. Their “everyone’s fair game” attitude had some diminishing returns in later seasons, but the show still has moments of gold, such as its belly-laugh-inducing take on ChatGPT in Season 26.

South Park

17. “The Office” U.S. (2005–2013)

While the British version of this workplace comedy is also a top-tier sitcom, the American adaptation’s 24-episode network model allowed the characters to become larger than life. As a result, “The Office” became one of the defining shows of the late 2000s and early 2010s, even after comically incompetent regional manager Michael Scott left the show. Yes, Michael is crass, rude, inappropriate, and not very good at his job—but thanks to Steve Carell’s perfectly cringey characterization, he’s also both endearing and enduring.

The Office

16. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (2005–Present)

When it first came onto the scene in 2005, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” was labeled “ ‘Seinfeld’ on crack”—or the show where everyone just yells over each other. In the 18 seasons since, the show has transformed into one of the most chaotic, laugh-inducing, boundary-pushing shows to date. Whether it’s Glenn Howerton’s maniacally narcissistic Dennis or Kaitlin Olson’s shallow Sweet Dee fighting to avoid being the constant butt of the gang’s jokes, it’s impossible to not laugh (or groan) at the hijinks taking place down at Paddy’s Pub.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

15. “Parks and Recreation” (2009–2015)

While the first season of “Parks and Rec” was rough, what began as a lesser copy of “The Office,” according to some, found its footing by the second season. Much of the heavy lifting comes from its actors quickly figuring out and defining their roles. Amy Poehler’s idealistic Leslie Knope, Nick Offerman’s hypermasculine Ron Swanson, and Jim O’Heir’s affably mockable Jerry (alias Garry/Lenny/Larry/Terry) Gergich, and the rest of the characters were ripe with wacky idiosyncrasies. And as the show progressed, the writers brought in a robust cast of Pawnee characters, showing that it wasn’t just the Parks Department who could be a little zany and silly. (In fact, the department may have been the most normal group in the entire town.)

Parks and Recreation

14. “Atlanta” (2016–2022)

“Atlanta” is more than just your average sitcom. Created by Donald Glover, the show follows the trials and tribulations of college dropout Earnest “Earn” Marks and his cousin, the up-and-coming rapper Paper Boi. Over the course of four seasons, its vision of the hip-hop industry makes it one of the most surreal and hilarious shows on television. “Atlanta” isn’t afraid to contort TV tropes, storytelling, and characters to boundaries never before seen.


13. “30 Rock” (2006–2013)

Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” lasts an uproarious seven seasons, ending with what many consider to be one of the best sitcom finales of all time. Fey’s painfully smart satirical and surreal take on corporate America is only enhanced by a cast that delivered on the dry, the droll, and the silly. Alec Baldwin is exemplary as Jack Donaghy, a shrewd businessman who comes into a creative environment misbelieving that he knows what’s best.

30 Rock

12. “Veep” (2012–2019)

The writers of “Veep” couldn’t have imagined that the nation’s real-life political environment could outdo the absurdly outlandish hijinks depicted in the show—and yet… But while “Veep” is known for razor-sharp writing, its impact comes from a fantastic cast that makes the satire work. Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ ability to channel her character Selina Meyer’s frustration and endless humiliations as vice president is hilarious from start to finish.


11. “The Jeffersons” (1975–1985)

A spinoff of “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” was one of the many groundbreaking shows to come out in the 1970s. Although it was by no means the first show to feature a predominantly Black cast, it was one of the first mainstream ones to portray complex Black characters. Thanks to its success, “The Jeffersons” laid the foundation for sitcoms such as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Black-ish.” The show featured immensely comedic talents including Sherman Hemsley, Isabel Sanford, and Damon Evans tackling societal issues such as race, alcoholism, and gun control.

The Jeffersons

10. “Friends” (1994–2004)

“Friends” set the golden standard for the genre due to remarkable chemistry between its leading actors. Their ability to effortlessly embody their characters, six friends navigating lives and relationships in NYC, made it seem like they were genuinely friends. Since the series finale—the most-watched of the 2000–2010 decade—networks have attempted to replicate its magic. But while shows such as “Happy Endings,” “New Girl,” and “How I Met Your Mother” might come close, none have quite captured the essence of the original found-family sitcom.


9. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1970–1977)

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was groundbreaking due to its portrayal of women in the 1970s. Though it centers on its titular character, the show isn’t only about Mary Tyler Moore. The sitcom’s full troupe of comedic actors included Betty White, Cloris Leachman, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, and Ted Knight. With such a stacked cast, it’s no surprise this is one of the best sitcoms out there. 

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

8. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (2000–2024)

Larry David is the king of taking mundane social interactions and spinning comedy gold out of them. As co-creator of “Seinfeld,” David spent nearly all of his time behind the camera (although he did provide the voice of the fictional George Steinbrenner). But in “Curb,” he decided to be the star, which allowed him to hilariously skewer everything from the cut-off time to call someone at night to incurring a fatwa from the supreme leader of Iran. “Curb” has one of the funniest side characters on TV in Susie Green. Susie Essman’s ability to hurl a barrage of profanity at Larry and Jeff Garlin is a work of art.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

7. “Frasier” (1993–2004)

Spinoffs are a very tricky thing: How do you capture the magic of the original with a character who wasn’t part of the original cast? And yet, one of the best sitcoms of all time is “Frasier,” a spinoff focusing on Frasier Crane from “Cheers.” Finding people to surround Kelsey Grammer could have been difficult following “Cheers,” but David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, Peri Gilpin, and John Mahoney went above and beyond in their roles. “Frasier” went all in with ironic comedy, mocking the intellectually savvy but often stuffy Crane brothers in hysterical, highly quotable moments.


6. “All in the Family” (1971–1979)

“All in the Family,” created by Norman Lear, uses a standard family sitcom setup to tackle controversial subjects including racism, homosexuality, abortion, religion, anti-Semitism, and the Vietnam War. While it might seem a little watered down today, the show’s bluntly comedic approach to these topics was new to the scene when it came out. Not only did the show lead to a plethora of hilarious spinoffs (“The Jeffersons,” “Good Times,” and “Maude,” to name a few), but it also highlights one of the best TV antiheroes: Archie Bunker. Carroll O’Connor’s empathetic approach as the “lovable bigot” laid the foundation for future TV antiheroes, especially those who refuse to accept the changing world around them.

All in the Family

5. “M*A*S*H” (1972–1983)

Perhaps one of the funniest gags regarding “M*A*S*H” is the fact that it lasted longer than the war it was set during: “M*A*S*H” went on for 11 seasons, while the Korean War lasted three years. Like the Robert Altman film that inspired it, the show uses comedy to criticize war and its long-reaching effects. “M*A*S*H” blends screwball comedy with actual character growth across its entire run. What makes it so affecting is having actors such as Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, and William Christopher, who make viewers not only laugh but also care. 


4. “Cheers” (1982–1993)

“Cheers” was one of the most popular shows of the 1980s, and it’s because it was absolutely one of the funniest. The sitcom about the bar where everyone knows your name didn’t take long to figure out its characters and how to utilize the actors who played them. Chemistry in its ensemble was incredible, from Ted Danson’s baseball-player-turned-bar-owner Sam to George Wendt’s barfly Norm and Shelley Long’s perfectly played preppy waitress. Even when a cast member left or passed away, such as Nicholas Colasanto’s legendary Coach, the showrunners managed to find someone who could try and fill the empty shoes.


3. “The Simpsons” (1989–Present)

For its first 10 seasons, “The Simpsons” hit on levels that were virtually impossible to compete with. Mr. Plow, the Monorail, the shooting of Mr. Burns: There’s hardly an episode that isn’t revolutionary, boundary-pushing, and hilarious. And though many animated programs have talented voice artists who bring their characters to life, none are quite as iconic as the voices behind Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and the rest of Springfield. 

The Simpsons

2. “I Love Lucy” (1951–1957)

“I Love Lucy” was one of the first shows to be filmed in front of a live studio audience and to truly utilize the now-classic three-camera setup. Still, none of this would have mattered if it weren’t for its hilarious and whip-smart creators and actors, wife-and-husband team Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Ball was a master of using facial expressions for physical humor. Her comic genius as Lucy helped the show gain a massive audience and stay in syndication for over five decades. 

I Love Lucy

1. “Seinfeld” (1989–1998)

The so-called “show about nothing” really became something as the king of NBC’s “Must See TV.” Whether it’s getting lost in a parking garage or dealing with a tyrannical soup chef, the show makes the mundane irreverent and hilarious. Whether it’s “Yada, yada, yada,” Fesitivus, “Serenity now,” or the Bubble Boy, the sitcom’s references and quotes have become part of the cultural lexicon. While Jerry Seinfeld as the titular witty Jerry, Michael Richards as eccentric Kramer, and Jason Alexander as neurotic George are all iconic, it’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine who provides the most belly laughs. From her commitment to physical comedy to her acidic sarcasm, Louis-Dreyfus turned Elaine into an icon.


More From Comedy + Improv


Now Trending