My Top Ten Favorite Situation Comedies

Situation comedies are a guilty pleasure of mine. I am discerning, however, and am drawn to those with the best writing and characters. These shows span different eras, mostly because I’m an old guy, and styles. Feel free to weigh in with your favorites or tear apart my list:

10) I Love Lucy (1951-1957)- This sit-com is on my list for two reasons. First, it brings back memories of sitting in front of the TV with my family. Second, Lucille Ball was a genius when it came to physical comedy and her gutsy move to bring in her real life husband, Desi Arnaz, against the wishes of the network, showed her genius. They actually toured the country with live theatrical play versions of the show to gain acceptance. The show ended 5 years before I was born, but it still is a classic for me.

9) All in the Family (1971-1979) – Archie Bunker was the Donald Trump of his era, except for the billions of dollars and the real-life potential to become president. He spoke his mind on race, religion, politics and the sexes. This show broke many barriers. We heard the first flushing toilet on TV. We saw the first (as far as I know) interracial male kiss between Archie and Sammy Davis, Jr. Archie said what was on his mind, but we viewed it as comedy. The show tackled many tough subjects as well such as rape and cancer. In an era that was between the Vietnam War and the Reagan era, Archie and his family helped us get through it all. The thing that I liked most about this show was Carroll O’Connor’s ability to play Archie. In real life, he could not have been more different from this character. He was a soft-spoken, intelligent man who later faced the tragic death of his son to a drug overdose and sought to bring those responsible to justice.

8) The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) – This show had three things going for it that kept me tuned in. First, the writing was sharp resulting in fantastic banter between the characters. Second, the ensemble cast was an all-star list of actors and they worked very well together. Third, it had Mary Tyler Moore who I had a crush on since the Dick Van Dyke Show (See number 6). This show, recorded before a live audience,  has the record  for the longest laugh in sitcom history during the Chuckles the Clown episode. The cast and the audience lost it and it was great fun.

7) Frasier (1993-2004) – This show’s appeal for me centered around the relationship between Frasier, Niles, and Martin. The two psychiatrist brothers, one a Freudian and the other a Jungian, were both at odds with their blue-collar father, Martin, a disabled ex-police officer. Frasier and Niles like the finer things, as their late mother taught them. Martin was blue-collar to the core with his duct tape repaired recliner and his dog Eddie. The writing on this show was superb, just as it’s parent show Cheers (See number 5). It also incorporated the device of the mysterious wife that the audience never saw (Niles wife Maris).

6) The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) – This is another show that predated my television viewing by a view years, but came to my attention through the magic of reruns. This was a pioneering show in that it showed both the work and home life of the main character, comedy writer Rob Petrie. Dick Van Dyke was not the first choice for this part. The pilot was actually shot with Carl Reiner (who went on to play Alan Brady on the show) as the main character. Even Johnny Carson auditioned for the role. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore were magic on this show. They were believable as a husband and wife. There was a very wide age gap between them which became a device on the show as well. This show also had a great ensemble and was almost two shows in one. At work, Rob had his writing team Buddy and Sally. Morey Amsterdam as Buddy was known to ad lib jokes frequently with many that could never be aired. They spent the day in an office with a typewriter and a piano writing material for the Alan Brady show. At home, the Petries had a very contemporary house and a great cast of neighbors. Their house frequently became a stage as their talented show business friends came over for parties. This reminded me of my own home as a kid when my dad and his musician friends would get together at my house.

5) Cheers (1982-1993) – This was another great ensemble show with great writing. THe other thing that was fantastic about this show was that main characters could be replaced with virtually no negative impact to the show. The first was Nicholas Colasanto, who passed away from cancer. He played the ex-coach-turned-bartender who often stole the show with his absent-minded humor. Although sad, the show replaced him with Woody Harrelson as Woody Boyd. Woody was a bumpkin from Indiana who was almost the reincarnation of Colasanto, but brought his own style and magic to the show. When one of the main stars, Shelley Long, left the show, Kirstie Alley replaced her almost seemlessly. The show had running gags that revolved around secondary characters. Norm Peterson, played by George Wendt, would always be greeted by the entire bar saying “Norm” when he entered, he always had a quip ready when Woody asked him how he was, and his wife, Vera, never appeared on screen except for one Thanksgiving episode when she was hit in the face with a pie before the audience could see her.

4) The Big Bang Theory (2007-) – Take nerds, comic books, super heroes, and fun with flags. What do you get? A show that I like. The science in this show is solid. The writing has been consistent. Two things strike me about this show. I have seen the cast interviewed on various talk shows and, with the exception of Mayim Bialik, who is actually a neuro-scientist in real life, they have no science knowledge or ability. They are very convincing as actors. As for the consistency of the writing, the show is now nine years into its run and this seasons episode that showed Leonard, Howard and Raj attending the Star Wars movie premier in parallel with Sheldon and Amy having intimate relations for the first time was one of the best episodes I’ve seen. This show is often maligned as being a one trick pony, but it does that one trick extremely well.

3) M*A*S*H* (1972-1983) – This is another show with a fantastic ensemble. A sitcom with a war at the centerpiece was not a brand new concept (F Troop and Hogan’s Heroes), but this one was done well. The writing was top notch. The ensemble cast was very good. It’s another show where main characters were seamlessly replaced with totally different types of characters. My only problem with this show is that it eventually became a soapbox for Alan Alda to present his own agenda, although often very relevant. The show lasted longer than the Korean War that it depicted. The final episode is one that I will always remember. It was the highest television show finale of all time with almost 106 million people tuning in.

2) Seinfeld (1989-1998) – A show about nothing. Lightning in a bottle. This ensemble show transcended the main character. Jerry Seinfeld, more of an observer than an actor on the show, wove his interactions with his friends and quirky acquaintances into one of the funniest shows of all time. The writing and formula of this show were brilliant. It truly was a show about nothing that had everyone talking the day after it aired.

1) The Simpsons (1989-) – This is my favorite sitcom of all time. Yes it’s animated. Yes, people say it has run it’s course. The writing is still top notch. The show is still relevant. Shows like South Park, Family Guy and others would not exist if it were not for this groundbreaking show. The show started as a short segment on the Tracey Ullman show. Legend has it that Matt Groening, the creator of the show, had a pitch meeting at Fox and was going to pitch an animated version of his Life in Hell comic strip. The studio didn’t like hit so he pitched the Simpsons on the spur of the moment using his own family, (Father-Homer, mother-Marge and sisters-Maggie and Lisa) as the character names only changing his own name to Bart for the pitch. He is now a multi-millionaire as a result of thinking quickly on his feet.

So that’s my list. Feel free to chime in with your own. There are plenty that would get honorable mention that I left off of the list. Shows such as Arrested Development, Home Improvement, The Bob Newhart Show, and Scrubs could have made a longer list.

I left off Friends, which may be on many lists, but I just never liked the show. These people had great apartments in New York, but never seemed to work.

8 thoughts on “My Top Ten Favorite Situation Comedies

  1. Great list. Think I’m still a bigger fan of the older sitcoms. Two of mine are Gilligan’s Island and Fresh Prince of Bel Aire. I’d say Addams Family too, but I’ve only caught a few episodes over the years. Always fun, but I can never find a consistent time slot to watch more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those are good ones as well, Charles. Gilligan’s Island always bothered me because they could build all kinds of great things on the island, but they couldn’t fix the hole in the boat. And why did the Howells bring so much stuff on a 3 hour tour.


      • The Howells remind me a bit of my grandparents. Half day trip still involved 5 bags of stuff. As for the boat, did they still have a mast and sail or engine on it? I always thought it was more than a hole. That and Gilligan would screw it up somehow.

        Liked by 1 person

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