“Cheers” bar sign in Boston

"Cheers" bar sign in Boston (Photo by Atomazul on Shutterstock)

Whether it be hearing Edith Bunker beautifully screech the opening to “All in the Family” or Leslie Knope speaking to the people of Pawnee, we all have a favorite television comedy with characters and stories that make us belly laugh. And today, we set out to find the essentials, the greatest, the cream of the crop, the best TV comedies out there. But before we dive in, let’s explore what makes a show great the end of the day and how the comedy genre seems to be the reigning champion in this category.

A recent study explored the factors that make some TV shows more appealing than others. Sixty percent care more about a show’s cast and writing than they do the aesthetic or plot. Interestingly, two in three Americans claim their lives could be the plot of a new TV sitcom. The study also showed that out of the top five greatest shows of all time, four were comedies! I mean, is it shocking? At the end of the day, wouldn’t you rather be laughing than crying? It’s no wonder Americans prefer comedies as their favorite binge-worthy shows. 

Furthermore, when stressed or experiencing anxiety, more than half of people seek out “comfort” TV shows or movies that they watch regularly. “It may have something to do with the reward centers in your brain,” says Dr. Natalie King, PhD, a brain health expert, and neuroscientist. “Watching your favorite TV series can encourage the release of dopamine, which creates a sense of euphoria. In short, watching top-knotch writing and comedic geniuses on your favorite show makes your brain feel warm and fuzzy.”

Ready for some much-needed laughs? StudyFinds set out to scan across ten websites to find you the top five best television comedies of all time! Don’t see your favorite on our list? Be sure to comment down below your go-to funny show. Now, without further adieu, happy watching!

Seinfeld cast with Screen Actors Guild Awards
Seinfeld stars JASON ALEXANDER (left), JERRY SEINFELD, JULIA LOUIS DREYFUS & MICHAEL RICHARDS with their Screen Actors Guild Awards for Comedy TV Series Ensemble. (Photo by Featureflash Photo Agency on Shutterstock)

The List: Best TV Comedies, According to Experts

 

1. “Cheers” (1982-1993)

Of course, one of the top picks was going to be the place where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. Rolling Stone describes the beginnings of the great comedy as “a girl walks into a bar. Her fiancé strands her there, and she’s condemned to spend her days enduring insults from the other waitress and shameless come-ons from the guy who runs the place. From that simple set-up sprang the best live-action sitcom ever. In its early years, ‘Cheers’ was an alternately witty and raucous romantic comedy about the unresolved sexual tension between pretentious grad-student-turned-waitress Diane (Shelley Long) and smarmy ex-jock bartender Sam (Ted Danson). The formula was so successful; its will-they-or-won’t-they DNA has been baked into half the shows made since.”

“Cheers” The Complete Series

“It’s not just that everybody knows this theme song that makes it one of the greatest comedies of all time. An all-star cast, crass humor that (mostly) aged well, and a nation’s undying pursuit of a bar they can call their own lends itself to a show too easy to lose yourself in during the Age of Binge Watching. If you only remember catching moments of this as a kid while your parents watched it, it’s well worth a revisit in adulthood,” says Esquire.

“‘A man walks into a bar,’ goes one of the most famous joke set-ups possible. And it’s a joke so durable that it essentially formed the basis of 11 seasons of what you could certainly argue is the most consistently great sitcom ever shown, ‘Cheers.’ It has almost the most basic premise imaginable: the staff and regulars of a bar in Boston just kind of hang out together. But James Burrows, Glen Charles, and Les Charles’ show excelled because of the great characters that it put together in its particular melting pot who can play off each other in endless combinations or as an ensemble (and few shows have ever done ensemble shows better). Right from the beginning, you know that you’d happily spend 275-odd episodes with them,” raves Playlist. With an iconic theme song that had stood the test of time and a cast full of comedy power-houses, it’s no wonder ‘Cheers’ has made the top five!

2. “Seinfeld” (1989-1998)

Between hearing “no soup for you” shouted at almost every opportunity where there is soup involved or having a friend asking you to “spare a square” between stalls, “Seinfeld’s” humor has been ingrained in pop culture. “It’s so odd that ‘Seinfeld‘ became the biggest show on TV. It, famously, was the ‘show about nothing,’ it had no high-concept premise or shiny selling point, its characters were often highly unsympathetic, and it didn’t even perform that well in the ratings to begin with. But the show, created by stand-up Jerry Seinfeld with Larry David, eventually turned into a behemoth of the sort that has rarely been seen on television. And it could only be because of how good it was,” says Playlist.

“Seinfeld” The Complete Series

Flickside adds that “the show popularized the format of sitcoms or tv comedies set around a group of single friends, focusing on the little details and happenings of their life instead of major storylines focused on dramatic events. ‘Seinfeld’ has superseded its status as a television show since its introduction and is regularly touted as an influence in shaping modern comedy.”

“No one will ever mistake Jerry Seinfeld for a great TV actor, but he is one of the medium’s great straight men (who would have thought that the famous stand-up that the shows named after would be the straight man?), trying not to crack up while Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), George (Jason Alexander) and hipster doofus Kramer (Michael Richards) storm in and out of his apartment without notice or so much as a knock. ‘Seinfeld’ is, hands down, the greatest sitcom of the ’90s, and while Jerry’s stone-washed jeans have certainly aged, this classic has not,” raves AARP, specifically highlighting the talented supporting cast to Jerry Seinfeld, “Seinfeld.”

3. “The Office” (2005-2013)

“Based on the British comedy of the same name, the American version of ‘The Office’ has introduced us to some of the most original characters and writing in TV history. Like the show, the characters are so beloved and accessible because they’re people you know, just exaggerated to hilarious extremes. Who hasn’t had the boss who would buy himself a mug stating that he is, in fact, the best boss? There’s always a woman obsessed with her cats a few cubicles over. And there’s always a ‘Dwight’, someone who cares way too much about the job and may or may not have the potential to be a serial killer. The gang’s all here!” says Complex.

"The Office" Complete Series
“The Office” Complete Series

“‘The Office’ was a huge hit, taking on board what its predecessor did well and adjusting the material to provide more emotional arcs for supporting characters while also dialing up the wackiness. The series won five Emmy awards, and talk of a reunion has never ceased,” adds Collider.

Ranker describes the show as “a mockumentary-style romp through the mundane and hilarious world of office life, this laugh-a-minute series took television by storm with its relatable characters, witty writing, and top-notch comedic timing. With a star-studded cast led by Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, and John Krasinski, viewers couldn’t help but fall in love with the quirky employees of Dunder Mifflin. In no time at all, the show’s iconic catchphrases and memorable moments became ingrained in pop culture.” Such moments as performing CPR to “Stayin’ Alive” by the BeeGees, or Michael Scott telling everybody to “stay calm,” we certainly don’t mind rewatching this one over and over again. 

4. “The Simpsons” (1989 – present)

“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?” questions Paste Magazine.

“It’s a testament to the cumulative greatness of ‘The Simpsons’ that for at least half of its 28-season run, it’s only been so-so in quality, and yet it still places this high, for a decade it was legendary: a generation-defining, ever-inventive, ever-surprising universe of LOL, with not just characters but entire jokes and quotes that have passed into pop-culture lore,” describes Playlist.

“What began as a slice-of-life animated family comedy soon expanded into a broad social satire that saw Homer (Dan Castellaneta), Marge (Julie Kavner), Bart (Nancy Cartwright), Lisa (Yeardley Smith), and Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor!) traveling the globe, and occasionally orbiting it, mixing it up with ex-presidents, Hollywood celebrities, and homicidal kids’ show sidekicks. The sweep of the series has become so wide, and its jokes have cut so deep, that there is a ‘Simpsonsmeme for nearly every topic imaginable,” adds Rolling Stone. “The Simpsons” upward run of 30 years in pop culture no doubt earns its spot on the list!

5. “I Love Lucy” (1951-1957)

The epitome of the word “classic” and of the greatest female comedians of our time it’s no wonder Lucille Balls’ “I Love Lucy” was the final pick. “In many ways, ‘I Love Lucy’ paved a path through the era’s hyper-conservative television landscape, especially in its representation of Lucy and Ricky’s marriage. Granted, a lot of the show’s themes are now outdated, and Lucy’s dim-witted schtick has luckily been succeeded by leading ladies with brains. But when it comes to getting a laugh out of audiences across generations, there’s something to be said for the timelessness of ‘I Love Lucy’s’ slapstick humor,” describes Esquire.

"I Love Lucy" (1951-1957)
“I Love Lucy” Complete Series

“‘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. 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 remade television, will always be apparent,” raves Paste Magazine.

“When thinking of the biggest icons in sitcom history, it is impossible to forget about Lucille Ball. The television legend might have had countless shows throughout her career, but ‘I Love Lucy’ is certainly her most famous and popular. Ball stars alongside her real-life partner at the time, Desi Arnaz, but she gets the spotlight as the fun-loving and eccentric wife who always finds herself in ridiculous scenarios. The show helped change sitcoms in its time while delivering huge laughs,” adds Screen Rant.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Jilly Hite

Janelle is a freelance writer from New York. Her writing focuses on parenting, tech, business, interior design, education, and telling people’s inspiring stories. Janelle has written for Mustela and Newton Baby and has bylines in Pregnant Chicken, Syracuse Woman Magazine, the Baldwinsville Messenger, and Family Times Magazine. She holds a master’s degree in literacy from the State University of New York at Oswego.

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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3 Comments

  1. Richard J Werner says:

    What about mash and two and a half men.

  2. Joe says:

    You absolutely nailed it.

  3. Dennis Giannotti says:

    In my humble opinion,the sitcom TAXI should be on that list