From Lucy Ricardo trying to make it into show business to four friends sitting in a diner talking about nothing, sitcoms have been one of TV audiences’ favourite forms of entertainment for decades.To decide which is the best of all time, we whittled the choices down to 20, then asked you, the readers, to vote on which you liked best.
Here they are in the order of the least to most votes received, the best sitcoms ever created.
The NBC program ran from 1998 to 2006 and starred Eric McCormack and Debra Messing as Will, a lawyer, and Grace, an interior decorator, who were best friends in college and dated briefly before Will came out of the closet. The two spend time with their other best friends, wealthy society wife Karen (Megan Mullally) and flighty, flamboyant Jack (Sean Hayes).
'Will & Grace' co-creators David Kohan andMax Mutchnick based the show on Mutchnick's relationship with a friend, Janet, whom he dated before he came out. NBC president Warren Littlefield was the one who hit on the idea of a show featuring the friendship between a straight woman and gay man, and during the development period, Kohan and Mutchnick faxed Littlefield the box office grosses for hit movies such as 'My Best Friend's Wedding' and 'The Birdcage,' demonstrating that stories with gay characters could succeed financially.
'Will & Grace's matter-of-fact gay characters undeniably made a big difference, thanks in large part to the smart writing of creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, and the direction by one of the grand masters of the form, James Burrows,' Bloom and Vlastnik wrote in their book 'Sitcoms.'
In a 2008 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Barr said that when she's imagined the Conners living in the present day, she believes that 'if they were on TV, DJ would have been killed in Iraq and (the Conners) would have lost their house.'
Mini-'Roseanne' reunions have occurred on the popular CBS comedy 'The Big Bang Theory,' which stars former 'Roseanne' actor Johnny Galecki. Galecki portrayed Conner daughter Darlene's boyfriend and later husband. Sarah Gilbert, who played Darlene, has guest-starred several times on the show and actress Laurie Metcalfe, who played Roseanne's sister, has a recurring role as Galecki's roommate's mother.
'That '70s Show' ran on Fox from 1998 to 2006 and starred Topher Grace as Eric Foreman, a teenager living in the 1970s in Wisconsin who spends time with his friends Hyde (Danny Masterson), Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), his neighbour Donna (Laura Prepon), and Kelso's girlfriend Jackie (Mila Kunis). The show's timeline ended with New Year's Eve in 1979.
The program featured guest turns by many actors who had been famous on 1970s TV shows, including Mary Tyler Moore of the show of the same name, Tom Bosley and Marion Ross of 'Happy Days,' and 'The Brady Bunch' cast members Barry Williams, Christopher Knight, and Eve Plumb.
While early seasons of the show included frequent use of dream sequences and often had plot lines revolving around the characters' high school, later seasons dropped the imagined segments and mostly didn't show the characters during school hours.
The show ran from 1978 to 1983, first on ABCand then on NBC. 'Taxi' followed the employees of the New York-based Sunshine Cab Company, including drivers Alex Rieger (Judd Hirsch), Tony Banta (Tony Danza), and Elaine Nardo (Marilu Henner).
Creators David Davis and James L. Brookscame upon the idea for the series when they read an article published in New York Magazine titled 'Night-Shifting for the Hip Fleet' by Mark Jacobson, in which Jacobson recalled his time driving a cab.
NBC's program ran from 2001 to 2010, switching to the ABC network near the end of its run. The show followed the interns at a teaching hospital, including best friends J.D. (Zach Braff) and Turk (Donald Faison) as well as their love interests Elliot (Sarah Chalke) and Carla (Judy Reyes).
The show's creator, Bill Lawrence, was partially inspired to write the show's storyline after hearing about the experiences of a college acquaintance who was working as an intern at a hospital. The location where the show was filmed, the North Hollywood Medical centre, was actually used as a hospital in the past.
Viewers have pointed out that an X-ray is hung the wrong way in the opening credits in early seasons. Lawrence said the mistake was intentional, while Braff said they hadn't realised the error.
'Island' aired from 1964 to 1967 on CBS and followed a crew of castaways trying to survive on a desert island, including hapless first mate Gilligan (Bob Denver), his captain Skipper Jonas Grumby (Alan Hale, Jr.), and the passengers on their shipwrecked boat.
The series' cancellation had not yet been revealed when the final episode of the show was created, so the series finale, titled 'Gilligan the Goddess,' featured a plot involving a chief from a neighbouring island looking for a wife and did not include the castaways being rescued. In subsequent made-for-TV-movie sequels (one of which was titled 'The Harlem Globetrotters onGilligan's Island'), the castaways were rescued, but always ended up back on the titular atoll for one reason or another.
Newhart starred in the program, which ran on CBS from 1972 to 1978, as a psychologist living in Chicago with his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), encountering various unusual patients.
The program was part of one of the most famous series finales in TV history when Newhart's second show, 'Newhart,' finished its run in 1990. At the end of the series finale of 'Newhart,' in which Newhart played Vermont innkeeper Dick Loudon, Newhart awoke in bed next to Pleshette, revealing that the entire series had been dreamt by the psychologist character from 'The Bob Newhart Show.'
The show's finale included the cast singing 'Oklahoma,' the title song from the musical of the same name, in a reference to the famous finale of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' in which the ensemble performed 'It's a Long Way to Tipperary.'
'Moore' ran from 1970 to 1977 on CBS and starred Moore as Mary Richards, a single woman living in Chicago and working at a broadcast news station with her boss Lou Grant(Ed Asner). She also frequently spent time with her best friend and neighbour Rhoda (Valerie Harper).
In Minneapolis, where the show was set, a statue of Moore throwing her hat in the air as depicted in the show's opening credits was dedicated in 2002.
'The Moore show... pioneered reality comedy and the establishment of clearly defined and motivated secondary characters,' an Associated Press reporter wrote while the show was in its fourth season.
'The Dick Van Dyke Show' aired from 1961 to 1966 on CBS. Van Dyke starred as Rob Petrie, a comedy writer for a Manhattan show, who lived with his wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore). Creator Carl Reiner also appeared on the show as Alan Brady, the star of the show for which Rob and his co-workers wrote.
According to Reiner, he based the experiences of Rob on Reiner's own days serving as a comedy writer for the TV program 'Your Show of Shows.'
The show was usually filmed before a live audience, but one of the few episodes that was not, 'Happy Birthday And Too Many More,' skipped the usual format because they were taping only a few days after the assassination ofPresident John F. Kennedy.
'The Honeymooners' ran on CBS from 1955 to 1956 and starred actor Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, a bus driver who lived in New York City with his wife Alice. The two often spend time with their upstairs neighbours Ed and Trixie Norton. The gritty characters and working-class setting would serve as a template for many subsequent shows.
Gleason debuted 'The Honeymooners' as a sketch on the TV program 'Cavalcade of Stars.' The sketch featured Gleason playing Ralph, but in the sketch, actress Pert Kelton played sharp-tongued Alice.
Because the show was on for such a comparatively short amount of time, fans often call the output of the year that the show was on the 'classic 39' episodes. Gleason and CBS decided together to end the show, and Gleason later said that he felt 'the excellence of the material could not be maintained, and I had too much fondness for the show to cheapen it.'
'Frasier' aired on NBC from 1993 to 2004. The spin-off of 'Cheers' features Kelsey Grammer in a reprisal of his role as psychologist Frasier Crane. After the conclusion of 'Cheers' and the dissolution of his marriage in Boston, Crane moved to Seattle to host a call-in radio program and share his would-be bachelor pad with his father (John Mahoney), recently injured in the line of duty as a Seattle police officer, and his father's physical therapist (Jane Leeves). Frasier also was forced to endure visits from his brother (David Hyde Pierce).
Because of his portrayal of Frasier on 'Cheers' and 'Frasier,' Grammer currently is the co-owner of the record for longest appearance as a character in live-action primetime television. The actor tied with James Arness of 'Gunsmoke.'
While the Huxtables began with four children, oldest daughter Sandra was actually added after what is traditionally viewed as the pilot, giving the Huxtable clan a total of five children.
The show's theme song was co-composed by Cosby himself, who worked with producer Stu Gardner.
'Cheers' aired on NBC from 1982 to 1993. It centered on a Boston bar of the same name, owned by former baseball player Sam (Ted Danson). The show featured mostly cheerful banter from his staff, including waitress and love interest Diane (Shelley Long), and the bar's frequent patrons.
The sitcom was nominated for Best Comedy every year it aired. Though the show struggled with getting an audience early on, it later earned very high ratings. 'Cheers' writer Ken Levinewrote that he believed the reason the network didn't axe the show was that 'they had nothing else better to replace it with.'
'Friends' aired on NBC from 1994 to 2004 and followed a group of six buddies living in New York City, including high school friends Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and Monica (Courteney Cox), Monica's older brother Ross (David Schwimmer), Ross's college roommate Chandler (Matthew Perry), ditzy-but-charming Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow), and struggling actor Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc).
Producers were already acquainted with Schwimmer and wrote the role for him, but Cox first auditioned for the role of Rachel before being told by the show's creative team that she'd be a better fit for Monica. The series finale of the show became the most-watched television episode of the decade.
The animated program is still running on Fox, having premiered in 1989. 'The Simpsons' has been on the air for longer than any other American scripted prime-time television program, though the TV series 'Gunsmoke' still surpasses it in terms of number of episodes. The show centres on the Simpson family, including dim father Homer (voiced by Dan Castellaneta), wife Marge (Julie Kavner), mischievous son Bart (Nancy Cartwright), prodigy daughter Lisa (Yeardley Smith), and baby Maggie.
The characters originally introduced during 'The Tracey Ullman Show,' a Fox variety show which sometimes included animated segments. Late-night host Conan O'Brien once worked as a writer on the show, and celebrities such as Seth Rogen have also penned episodes.
CBS's program 'The Andy Griffith Show' aired from 1960 to 1968. It followed Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffith, who used his homespun wisdom to apprehend criminals and settle disputes in his idyllic hometown of Mayberry, N.C. Taylor spent much of his time cleaning up the messes made by his comically inept but well-meaning deputy Barney (Don Knotts), and attempted to raise his son Opie (Ron Howard) after the death of his wife, all with the help of loveable Aunt Bee.
Knotts himself floated the idea to Griffith that his sheriff character should have a deputy. After Griffith said yes, Knotts auditioned for the part.
'The Andy Griffith Show' was introduced to a new generation of viewers when 'Griffith' star Ron Howard served as narrator on the 2001 sitcom 'Arrested Development' and the show poked fun at Howard's former co-star during one episode. 'No one was making fun of Andy Griffith,' Howard deadpanned. 'I can't emphasise that enough.'
'Family' aired on CBS from 1971 to 1979 and starred Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker, a crotchety WWII veteran intolerant of anyone who doesn't fit into his narrow view of the world, who lives with his long-suffering wife Edith (Jean Stapleton). According to The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 'Family' currently holds the record for inspiring the most spin-offs of any television series. Some of its successors included 'Maude,' 'The Jeffersons,' and 'Checking In.'
AV Club writer Robert David Sullivan noted the cultural impact 'Family' had in America. 'Archie Bunker was an antihero decades before the term was regularly applied to TV characters,' Sullivan wrote. 'He wasn't 'politically incorrect' just for the fun of it, which is why so many sitcoms with superficial 'Archie Bunker types' have failed... (Edith's) slow struggle to pull Archie away from his comfort zone of suspicion and bitterness becomes the main theme of the series.'
The sitcom starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnazran on CBS from 1951 to 1957 and starred Ball as Lucy Ricardo, the luckless wife of bandleader Ricky (Arnaz). The two spent time with their neighbours and landlords Fred (William Frawley) and Ethel (Vivian Vance) as Lucy tried frequently to break into show business.
The couple's son Little Ricky was portrayed by five actors as he grew up in real-time, including two sets of twins. While 'Lucy' is often credited with showing a pregnant woman for the first time, the distinction actually goes to 'Mary Kay and Johnny,' a sitcom that ran from 1947 to 1950. However, the network wouldn't allow the word 'pregnant' to be used, so 'Lucy' scripts always used the term 'expecting.'
'Much of its classic status can be attributed to the show's physical comedy, which Ball would spend hours perfecting,' writers Ken Bloom and Frank Vlastnik wrote in the book 'Sitcoms: The 101 Greatest TV Comedies of All Time.'
'M*A*S*H' (which stands for 'Mobile Army Surgical Hospital') aired from 1972 to 1983 on CBS and followed doctors and nurses working for the hospital in South Korea during the Korean War, including doctors 'Hawkeye' Pierce, 'Trapper John' McIntyre, and Frank Burns as well as nurse Margaret 'Hot Lips' Houlihan.
Hawkeye and Trapper John are popularly known by their nicknames, but Pierce's full name is Benjamin Franklin Pierce, while McIntyre's is John Francis Xavier McIntyre. It has been noted that while the Korean War only lasted three years, the show aired for 11 seasons.
The book 'Sitcoms: The 101 Greatest TV Comedies of All Time' by Ken Bloom and Frank Vlastnik praised the episode in which Colonel Henry Blake leaves to return home and then has his plane shot down. 'It was a moment that was at once shocking and perfectly true to the horrors of war,' the authors wrote.
NBC's program ran from 1989 and 1998 and starred Jerry Seinfeld as a character of the same name, a stand-up comedian living in New York, who spends time with his friends George (Jason Alexander), his ex-girlfriend Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and his neighbour Kramer(Michael Richards).
The show is famous for its unsympathetic characters, and the producers made the phrase 'No hugging, no learning' a rule when crafting storylines, wanting to differentiate themselves from previous TV shows. The cast reunited on theHBO show 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' in 2009, which was created by and starred 'Seinfeld' co-creator Larry David. True to the nature of 'Curb,' which mixed fiction with real life, the episodes consisted of David trying to organise a 'Seinfeld' reunion and the stars finally agree to appear in a scripted episode.
'The show mined comic gold from the little idiosyncrasies and annoyances of American life,' Bloom and Vlastnik wrote in their book 'Sitcoms.' 'Seinfeld ushered in the era of squeamish comedy.'
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