One of the genres of television that people love the most is sitcoms. This is a term that has become commonly used to describe situation comedies. They are based on real-life situations and the majority of people can relate to at least one character in a sitcom. Similarly, they recognize the personality traits and actions of one of the members of the cast and can relate this to the personality of a friend or member of their family. It is this connection to the characters and storylines that has made sitcoms such a popular genre of television series. There have been many different styles of sitcoms released over the years, with some focusing on friendship groups and others on a family unit. Some sitcoms have gained more recognition and popularity than others and have become an important part of television history and popular culture. Here are 20 of the most important sitcoms of all-time.
20. The Honeymooners
Jackie Gleason created a comedy sketch called ‘The Honeymooners’ as part of his variety. It was such a popular part of his show that he decided to base a whole sitcom on the characters and themes from his sketch. The sitcom debuted on CBS on October 1, 1955. Jackie Gleason starred in the leading role on the series and other cast members included Audrey Meadows, Art Carney, and Joyce Randolph. The show is about a working-class married couple called The Kramdens and the series is predominantly shot in their kitchen. This was the first sitcom in the United States to focus on the lives of a working-class family. The show was aired until September 22, 1956. However, the characters from the series were revived periodically by Gleason in his other projects right through to 1978.
19. The Dick Van Dyke Show
This award-winning television sitcom was aired on CBS between October 3, 1961, and June 1, 1966. There were a total of 158 half-hour episodes of this show. Dick Van Dyke played Rob Petrie who was the lead character in this show. The series focused on both his home and his work life. Others who starred in this series included Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Larry Matthews, and Richard Deacon. ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ won a total of 15 Emmy Awards. The show’s theme tune was written by Earle Hagan who also wrote the theme tunes for shows including ‘The Mob Squad’, ‘I Spy’, and ‘The Andy Griffith Show’, amongst many others.
18. That 70s Show
This sitcom was aired on Fox between 1998 and 2006. It followed the lives of a group of teenagers and was set in the late 1970s in the fictional town of Point Place, Wisconsin. The concept of the series was created by Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner, and Mark Brazill. The pilot was directed by Terry Hughes and the rest of the series was directed by David Turner. This period sitcom had an ensemble cast that included Topher Grace, Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson, Laura Prepon, Wilmer Valderrama, and Debra Jo Rupp. Many of the cast used their roles in this sitcom as a platform to establish successful careers in film and television. There were eight seasons of ‘That 70s Show’ which consisted of 200 episodes. The theme song for the sitcom is ‘In the Street’ which was written by Alex Chilton.
17. Will & Grace
‘Will & Grace’ was a sitcom created by David Kohan and Max Mutchnik. The title characters in the program were played by Eric McCormack and Debra Messing. They are best friends who live together, both are single and Will is homosexual. Th other two main characters of the show are Karen Walker, played by Megan Mullally, and Jack McFarland, played by Sean Hayes. The sitcom follows their home lives, working lives, relationships, and friendships. Most episodes of this sitcom were filmed in front of a live audience. There were eight seasons of this show broadcast on NC and it was aired between 1998 and 2006.
16. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
This is one of the most acclaimed television sitcoms in the history US television. It was created by James L. Brooks and Alan Burns and was aired on CBS between 1970 and 1977. Mary Tyler Moore plays the central figure of the sitcom, Mary Richards, who is an independent career woman who had never been married. This type of character was a rarity on television during the 1970s. The seven seasons also starred Edward Asner, Valerie Harper, Gavin MacLeod, Ted Knight, Cloris Leachman, Georgia Engel, and Betty White. For three seasons, it ranked within the top ten television series according to the Nielsen ratings. Mar lived in an apartment at a fictitious address in North Weatherley. However, the exterior shots of the house were of a real property in Minneapolis. Entertainment Weekly named it TV’s most famous bachelorette pad in 1995.
‘Roseanne’ was a sitcom based on a character created by comedian and actress Roseanne Barr, although the series was created by Matt Williams. In the series, she plays the role of Roseanne Connor. The sitcom follows the lives of her and her family, who include her husband Dan, son D’J’, and daughters Becky and Darlene. Her sister Jackie is also one of the major characters. The Conners are a working-class family from Illinois and the series is about the ups and downs of their family life. ‘Roseanne’ was aired on ABC from October 18, 1988, to May 20, 1997. There is a tenth season of the sitcom planned for a revival in 2018 which will consist of eight episodes.
14. The Bob Newhart Show
‘The Bob Newhart Show’ consisted of 142 half-hour episodes over six seasons which ran between 1972 and 1978 on CBS. Bob Newhart stars in the show portraying a psychologist who must deal with both his patients and his colleagues. Other cast members included Suzanne Pleshette, Marcia Wallace, Peter Bonerz, and Bill Daily. The sitcom was created by David Davis and Lorenzo Music. It differed from many other sitcoms in the sense that it was filmed in front of a live audience each week. This series was repeatedly nominated for awards but never actually had the honor of winning. In the final episode of the show, the cast break into an impromptu refrain of ‘Oklahoma’. It is believed that this was a copycat action of what took place in the final episode of ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ which had aired the previous year as both shows were produced by MTM.
13. Gilligan’s Island
‘Gilligan’s Island received solid rating throughout its three seasons when it was aired on the CBS network between 1964 and 1967. However, it became more popular during the 1970s and 1980s when it had finished airing and was syndicated. The crew is about two crew members and five passengers of a boat that is shipwrecked during a three-hour tour of Honolulu. The island they are forced to live on is an unchartered one somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. The premise of the series was created by Sherwood Schwartz. The sitcom starred Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Tina Louise, Russell Johnson, and Dawn Wells. There was a total of 98 episodes of this show.
‘Scrubs’ is a medical sitcom that was originally aired on NBC before switching to ABC. It made its television debut on October 2, 2001. The series focuses on the working and personal lives of the employees of Sacred Heart, a fictional teaching hospital. It was created by Bill Lawrence and starred Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, Neil Flynn, Ken Jenkins, John C. McGinley, and Judy Reyes. When season eight aired, they planned it as the final series and even titled the last episode of the season ‘My Finale’. However, the show was so popular that it returned for a further season. The last episode was aired on March 17, 2010.
Aired for the first time on ABC on September 12, 1978, this award-winning sitcom was created by James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, David Davis, and Ed Weinberger. It was shown on ABC until 1982 before it switched networks to NBC who aired the series until it ended in 1983. It won a total of 18 Emmy Awards and three of these were in the Outstanding Comedy Series category. The sitcom is about the employees of a fictional cab company in Manhattan. It starred Judd Hirsch, Jeff Conaway, Danny DeVito, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, Andy Kaufman, Randall Carver, Christopher Lloyd, and Carol Kane. The opening theme tune was ‘Angela which was composed by Bob James.
10. All in the Family
‘All in the Family’ was often simply referred to as ‘Family’. It was a CBS series that ran from 1971 to 1979. It starred Carroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Sally Struthers, Rob Reiner, and Danielle Brisebois. The sitcom is about a typical working-class family who live in Queens, New York. The storylines center around Archie and Edith Bunker, their daughter Gloria, and their son-in-law Michael. The majority of the sitcom takes place in the home of the Bunkers. There were nine season of this sitcom which was based on the British sitcom ‘Till Death Us DO Part’ which was created by Johnny Speight. ‘All in the Family’ is still rated by many Americans as one of the greatest television series of all time.
The character Frasier originally appeared in the sitcom ‘Cheers’. When that sitcom finished, a spin-off series was created called ‘Frasier’, that featured psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane in the lead role played by Kelsey Grammer. This sitcom was aired on NBC for eleven seasons between 1993 and 2004. The series was about Frasier’s home life which he shared with his dad, his brother Miles, and Daphne Moon, the live-in housekeeper. The sitcom also covers his work life and his personal relationships. Alongside Kelsey Grammer, others starring in this sitcom include Jane Leeves, David Hyde Pierce, Peri Gilpin, and John Mahoney. ‘Frasier’ was created by David Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee.
8. I Love Lucy
‘I Love Lucy’ was one of the top sitcoms of the 1950s and stood out as the leading character was female. This series was originally shown in black and white and ran between 1951 and 1957 on CBS. When the show ended, the show was modified and then ran for three more seasons, including 13 one-hour specials. Lucille Ball played the lead role in the series and other cast members included Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley. For four of its six seasons, ‘I Love Lucy’ was the most watched television series in the United States. It is often regarded as one of the most influential sitcoms in the history of television and is still aired in dozens of languages across the world.
During the 1980s, this was one of the most popular sitcoms on television and was based around the staff and regular customers in a bar called ‘Cheers’. The majority of the series was shot inside the bar, although there were occasional scenes shot elsewhere. Each of the characters in the show had a very different personality, lifestyle, and personal story. The only thing that really connected them was that they either enjoyed drinking in the same bar or they worked at ‘Cheers’. These differences between the characters is what made it so interesting for viewers to watch. The series was crated by James Burrows, Glen Charles, and Les Charles. It consisted of 275 episodes over eleven seasons that were aired between 1982 and 1993. It starred Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Nicholas Colastanto, Rhea Perlman, George Wendt, John Ratzenberger, Kelsey Grammer, Woody Harrelson, Bebe Neuwirth, and Kirstie Alley.
6. The Andy Griffith Show
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ consisted of 249 half-hour episodes over eight seasons which were aired between 1960 and 1971. This CBS sitcom was inspired by an episode of ‘The Danny Thomas Show’ and was originally shown in black and white before catching up with the times and being aired in color. Andy Griffith was the star of this sitcom playing the leading role of Andy Taylor, who was a widowed sheriff in a small, fictional community called Mayberry in North Carolina. The series is about Andy Taylor’s life, his family, and eccentric members fo the local community. Others who starred in this television series included Ronny Knight, Don Knotts, and Francis Bavier.
5. The Cosby Show
Bill Cosby starred in this sitcom which aired for eight seasons on NBC between 1984 and 1992. The premise of the show is about the upper middle-class African-American Huxtable family who reside in Brooklyn, New York. For five consecutive seasons, this sitcom was rated the number-one show on television. This is one of only two television sitcoms to achieve this accolade, with the other being ‘All in the Family’. Alongside Bill Cosby, this show starred Phylicia Rashad, Sabrina La Beauf, Geoffrey Owens, Lisa Bonet, Joseph C. Phillips, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and Tempestt Bledsoe. ‘The Cosby Show’ led the way for future sitcoms that had a predominantly African-American cast, such as ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and ‘In Living Color’.
4. The Simpsons
The Simpsons is the longest-standing animated sitcom and is probably the most popular of its kind ever. This animated television series is based on the lives of the Simpson family, who are Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. Other main characters include their extended family, the children’s schoolfriends, Homer’s work colleagues, and members of the local Springfield community. ‘The Simpson’ is also famous for its guest appearances from major celebrities, significant political figures, and notable persons. The show was originally a sketch on ‘The Tracey Ullman Show’ before becoming a hit series in its own right. It was first aired as a stand-alone show on December 17, 1989, and is such a popular series that it is still ongoing. Matt Groening is the creator of this animated sitcom.
‘M*A*S*H’ stand for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. The series, as this name suggests, was about army doctors and nurses working at a hospital in South Korea during the Korean War. Some of the characters included nurse Margaret ‘Hot Lips’ Houlihan, and doctors Frank Burns, ‘Trapper John’ McIntyre, and ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce. Although the Korean War lasted for only three years, this television series ran for 11 seasons. The idea for the series came from the novel written by Richard Hooker titled ‘MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors’. These novels led to the release of a film called ‘MASH’ in1970. The sitcom series was a spin-off from the film and was aired from 1972 to 1983. It starred Alan Alda, Wayne Roberts, McLean Stevenson, Loretta Swift, and Larry Linville. The sitcom was aired on CBS.
Seinfeld was one of the most successful sitcoms of all-time. It ran from 1989 to 1998 on NBC and starred Jerry Seinfeld in the lead role playing a character of the same name. This character was a stand-up comedian who lived in New York. In the series, viewers enjoyed watching him spending time with his best friend George, his ex-girlfriend Elaine, and his neighbour Kramer. This show was different as it was famous for its unsympathetic characters. The producers deliberately created the characters and storylines in this way as they wanted to differentiate themselves from other sitcoms that were broadcast at that time. In 2009, the cast were reunited on the HBO show ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ which was created by and starred Larry David who was the co-creator of ‘Seinfeld’.
In popular culture, ‘Friends’ is one of the most popular sitcoms of all-time. The series was about the lives, friendships, and relationships of the six main characters; Ross, Chandler, Joey, Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe. These roles were played by David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, and Lisa Kudrow. The hit series was aired on NBC and made its debut on September 22, 1994. It ran for ten seasons with the final episode aired on May 6, 2004. Although there were many hilarious scenes in this sitcom, it was the serious moments in the lives off the characters that viewers felt a connection with. Over the ten years that this sitcom was on air, audiences developed a strong connection to the cast and storyline and most people had a favorite character. ‘Friends’ was created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman.