From Fawlty Towers (1975-1979) to Seinfeld (1989-1998), these are the best TV comedies of all time.
Few things have been as consistent on our screens as tv comedies. It’s been a mainstay of the media landscape from the very beginning of the broadcasting industry. One of the first ever shows to be broadcast Texaco Star Theatre, happened to be a comedy variety show. Television comedies have now evolved from being late night entertainment to genuine pop-culture phenomena, a la F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Some of television’s most beloved shows are comedies. Artists and creators have been experimenting more and more with the form, breaking new ground within the genre. Shows like The Office, BoJack Horseman, etc, have defied audience expectations and invariably figure in every best TV comedies list.
Thanks to the sheer force of comedy in the form of sitcoms and genre-based dramas, fictional characters from shows find themselves everywhere from quizzes to merchandise. And in the meanwhile, we have gotten genre-defining shows that have redefined the function of comedy. Quickly then, here’s a look at the best TV comedies of all time.
Best TV Comedies, Ranked
35. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005 – )
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the longest-running live-action sitcom in US history. Fifteen seasons comprising 162 episodes were released, and the sixteenth season is expected to arrive this year. The Comedy Central show is the brainchild of actor/writer Glenn Howerton. He also plays the narcissistic, manipulative character Dennis in the series. The episodes follow the misadventures of five self-centered friends who own an Irish bar called Paddy’s Pub in Philadelphia.
Dennis, Charlie, Dee, Mac, and Frank (aka “The Gang”) are the five silly, depraved individuals who created hilarity through their unrestrained behavior. The series has plenty of moments of frat-boy, absurdist humor type. Hence, Howerton’s comedic vignettes can better work for those who like their humor mean-spirited.
34. Fawlty Towers (1975-1979)
BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers was written by ‘Monty Pythoner’ John Cleese and his partner Connie Booth. Mr. Cleese himself plays the central role of Basil Fawlty, an impolite and indignant hotel owner. Prunella Scales plays Basil’s bossy and aggressive wife, Sybil. The chaotic activities at Fawlty Towers, the miserable hotel staffers, and the ensuing misunderstandings create plenty of hilarious moments. Cleese’s precise comedic timing needs to be experienced first-hand.
Fawlty Towers only had a two-season run with six episodes in each season. Perhaps the creative genius might have been watered down if the series had more seasons. Despite a lukewarm critical reception, the show still resonates with us because of its distinctly humorous episodes.
33. Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)
Created by Paul Feig (The Bridesmaids), Freaks and Geeks became a cult classic, although it only ran for a single 18-episode season. Executive produced by Judd Apatow, the series is largely set in a high school situated in 1980s suburban Michigan. The Weir family – with the ‘freak’ Lindsay and her ‘geek’ brother Sam – is the focus of this sitcom. Though set in the 1980s, the show gets a lot of things right about student life, from exploring teenage angst to navigating high-school cliques.
Despite having numerous characters, the series offers room for character development. Freaks and Geeks offered a breakthrough for many future stars like Jason Segal, Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Linda Cardellini.
32. New Girl (2011-2018)
Originally created by Elizabeth Meriwether to showcase the eccentric talents of the show’s star, Zooey Deschanel, New Girl is every bit a sitcom that fully reflects the mood of the early 2010s. Originally promoted with the tagline, “Simply Adorkable,” the show revolves around Jess, who shares an apartment with Nick, Max, Coach, and Winston. The show features unique characters who are written realistically. They have their own desires and motivations instead of just being secondary characters.
As it progresses, the narrative gives equal space for every single character of its ensemble cast to shine. With touching moments and hilarious gags, New Girl has often been touted as the millennial answer to F.R.I.E.N.D.S.
31. Mr. Bean (1990-1995)
Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean is one of the top-ten classic characters in television history. Rowan Atkinson first unveiled his character – described by him as ‘a child in a grown man’s body’ – at the 1987 Just For Laugh Comedy Festival in Montreal, Canada. In the early 1990s, the misadventures of Mr. Bean were turned into 24-minute episodes, which instantly became popular.
There are too many memorable comedic moments in the 14 episodes, particularly the recurrent gags like Mr. Bean‘s conflict with a blue Reliant van. Though Mr. Bean’s antics are childish and quirky, he is also a perfect agent of chaos like the silent cinema masters like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd.
30. The Golden Girls (1985-1992)
Aging characters, especially aging women, have hardly been afforded the space to shine in most media formats. The Golden Girls was groundbreaking in this aspect, featuring four elderly women — Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and her mother, Sophia, living together in Miami. The show’s premise revolved around their occasional spats and differences, drawing its humor at the expense of each other’s quirks.
It was a rarity in the overwhelmingly conservative media landscape of the 1980s. Moreover, it did not back down from exhaustively discussing female pleasure and sexuality, the AIDS epidemic, elderly care, and racial bias, to name a few. It’s one of those rare shows to be as relevant today as it was when it was first released and keeps getting better with age.
29. Modern Family (2009-2020)
Modern Family is easily one of the most recognizable shows that emerged at the start of the 2010s. Filmed in the style of a mockumentary, the Comedy Central show revolves around three blended families in Los Angeles who are united by the family patriarch, Jay Pritchett. One of the longest-running sitcoms on television, it ran for eleven seasons before its series finale in 2020.
The show’s reversal of tired comedy tropes like the nagging wife, gold-digger, or exploitative stereotypes associated with the queer community has won it critical acclaim. With a focus on diverse stories and complex narratives such as gay parenthood, working mothers, and mixed families, this one’s a heartwarming and hilarious watch.
28. Detectorists (2014-2022)
Created by Mackenzie Crook, Detectorists is a strange comedy series on the low-key adventures of two metal detectorists. Toby Jones plays middle-aged Lance, and writer/actor Mackenzie plays Andy. The duo is determined to find a buried Saxon ship, but a typical day has them roaming the fields and pulling out some odd metal items. Later, they have a couple of pints at the local pub. There’s also a rival detectorist group that threatens Lance and Andy’s livelihood.
Detectorists derive its humor from idiosyncratic human traits. At the same time, it laughs alongside the characters, not at them. You’d be disappointed if you expected a gag every minute. But the show greatly rewards those who enjoy low-key humor.
27. Community (2009-2015)
Created by Dan Harmon (the co-creator of the adult animated sci-fi sitcom Rick and Morty), Community revolves around a disbarred lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale). Jeff, who is in his early 30s, enrolls at Greendale Community College to quickly earn a legit law degree. At the college, Jeff connects with a group of similar misfits who gradually become a tight-knit community.
The sitcom had a great ensemble cast, including Chevy Chase, Donald Glover, Alison Brie, and Gilliam Jacobs. Each character brings something unique to the hilarious group dynamics. Over the six seasons and 110 episodes, we witness the collective growth of the student community, and their shared dramatic, comedic moments never feel false.
26. Archer (2009 – )
FX’s Archer is an animated spy satire sitcom that’s a must-watch for fans of adult animated shows like Rick and Morty, BoJack Horseman, Family Guy, and The Simpsons. Created by Adam Reed, the show focuses on the daring as well as disastrous missions of spies belonging to a covert agency known as ISIS. Sterling Archer is supposedly the top spy in the agency, who is good with guns and ladies. But he is also a self-centered, luxury-seeking idiot.
Archer pokes fun at the many spy genre conventions and stereotypes. In terms of sexual references and language, the animated comedic series pushes a lot of boundaries. If you like your jokes weird and absurd, this one’s definitely worth checking out.
25. M.A.S.H (1972-1983)
M.A.S.H, an acronym for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, follows the lives of three army doctors who are embedded with an army unit in South Korea during the Korean War. Interestingly, the early seasons of the show aired during the time of the war in Vietnam. This meant that the show had to handle its own dark subject matter in a manner that did not appear as criticism or a commentary on the ongoing war.
As one of the highest-rated television shows in U.S. TV history, M.A.S.H retains the distinction of having the most-watched final episode (Goodbye, Farewell, Amen) of any television show. The show’s treatment of sensitive subjects such as war, casualties, and the loss of human life is often touted as groundbreaking. It has spawned multiple spinoffs and inspired later shows like Scrubs and Community.
24. The Thick of IT (2005-2012)
Created by Armando Iannucci, the British series The Thick of It is often addressed as the spiritual successor to the popular British political comedy series Yes Minister. Of course, it’s more caustic and cynical than most political comedies. Iannucci sets out to offer an unglamorous look at the bureaucratic structures. Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker is the central character in the comedic series.
Malcolm not only survives the regime change, but also manipulates and controls the media spin doctors and ministers. The humor is derived from watching these world-weary individuals who are too inept to bring any real change in the system. Some of the satirical bits of the series are lost on viewers who aren’t aware of the political events in Britain.
23. Yes Minister (1980-1984)
Yes Minister was a British political satire created for and broadcast on BBC Two. The show was based in a cabinet minister’s office and followed the career and life of Jim Hacker, a fictional Minister at Whitehall. The series was wildly popular in Britain, spawning a sequel, Yes, Prime Minister.
The show also had several of its episodes adapted for BBC Radio and also led to a stage play. Its nuanced and elegant portrayal of politics and civil servants earned it much praise and is often referenced in British textbooks. Despite the satirical content of the show that poked fun at conservative politics, it was reportedly the favorite program of the then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.
22. Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009)
Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, and James Bobin created this HBO comedy series, which was nominated for eight Emmys. It revolves around a New Zealand folk rock-duo (played by Jemaine and Bret), who come to New York and try to make it big. The cultural clash and the tough life in New York –a city that never sleeps – create goofy, hilarious situations. Flight of the Conchords is an ingenious mix of dry wit and absurdist circumstances. Moreover, the duo’s parodies of music videos are absolutely hilarious.
The energetic Rhys Darby is brilliant as the duo’s inept manager Murray. Darby’s zestful performance perfectly counterbalances the deadpan acting of Jemaine and Bret. It’s sad the series ran only two seasons.
21. Kim’s Convenience (2016-2021)
Kim’s Convenience revolves around a Korean-Canadian family, the Kims, who run a convenience store in Toronto. The series is notable for introducing Asian families and immigrants to television in a leading capacity, not just as sidekicks. It has received critical acclaim for portraying Asian families and immigrants in a positive light on television. It is one of the few sitcoms (along with One Day at A Time) to center discourse around first- and second-generation immigrant families.
The humor of the show does not rely on overused tropes about Asians. Instead, the writing treats its characters with dignity. With breakout performances from Simu Liu and Jean Yoon, it strikes the right balance between slapstick comedy and relevant commentary.
20. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-2023)
Charming, emotional, and funny, Amazon Studios’ Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is set in the 1950s and follows Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan). Miriam is a quick-witted housewife whose husband leaves her after an incident. While wallowing in grief, Miriam discovers her talent for stand-up comedy. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, the series delicately balances drama and comedy.
The comedic chemistry between Miriam and her no-nonsense agent Susie (Alex Borstein), is compelling. It also effectively tackles the socio-political issues of 1950s America alongside Miriam’s troubled family life. Ultimately, the show luminously works due to Rachel Brosnahan’s knock-out performance.
19. Arrested Development (2003-2019)
Created by Mitchell Hurwitz, Arrested Development follows the many comedic crises of Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman). Michael is a widowed father and the only decent individual in the Bluth family. He holds his family together when the corrupted patriarch, George (Jeffrey Tambor), is imprisoned for embezzlement. The brilliant writers and great ensemble of actors turn Arrested Development into much more than an average sitcom about a dysfunctional family.
The dry wit and the timely social commentaries make it more compelling in the re-viewings. Most of the gags are smart and subvert clichéd sitcom humor. The underrated comedic series aired on Fox for three seasons and thankfully returned for two more seasons on Netflix.
18. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-2021)
A police workplace sketch comedy might not sound like the best idea in recent times, especially in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement. But creators Dan Goor and Michael Schur managed to find the middle ground in the goofy antics of the protagonist, Jake Peralta. Played by Andy Samberg of Saturday Night Live fame, Jake is a detective at Brooklyn’s 99th precinct who chafes under the rigid management of his new boss, Captain Holt.
With a solid supporting cast and organic storylines, the show addresses racism, corruption, and the broken policing system in a refreshing way. Brooklyn Nine-Nine straddles the gulf between good old-fashioned workplace fun and a sensitive take on social issues, always evolving with time.
17. The Dick Van Dyke Show (1960-1966)
No piece of work so perfectly encapsulates the suburban bliss and banality of 1960s Americana as The Dick Van Dyke Show did. Originally envisioned by Carl Reiner as a show starring himself, he eventually conceded the main role to Dick Van Dyke. The show follows in the familiar footsteps of previous sitcoms such as I Love Lucy that employed the dual setting of the workplace and the house.
Van Dyke plays Robbie Petrie, who works as a comedy writer and is married to his wife, Laura (Mary Tyler Moore). The sketch comedy show has since inspired numerous sitcoms, the most recent being Disney’s Emmy-winning WandaVision.
16. What We Do in the Shadows (2019-)
Vampires have been in fiction for a long time, always imagined as powerful, unapproachable bloodsuckers. Jemaine Clement’s mockumentary based on the 2014 film of the same name updates this trope, turning the show’s central trio of vampires — Nandor, Laszlo, and Nadja, into undead friends who’ve been together for centuries. The show is a new take on conventional sitcom setups that depict a tight-knit group of people living in cities.
Set in Staten Island, What We Do in the Shadows blends terror and laughter in every frame, following wonderfully weird storylines like the nightlife of vampires. The strong cast and writing, complemented by guest stars like Taika Waititi and Nick Kroll, are perfect for a nightly binge.
15. The Good Place (2016-2020)
A moral and philosophical rumination upon the afterlife, inspired by the theories of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Sartre, sounds pretty heavy. That is until you watch a few episodes of The Good Place. The show revolves around a fictional afterlife of the same name, which is a paradise of sorts for people who were good in their earthly lives. Eleanor, a young deceased woman, realizes that she has mistakenly entered this paradise and tries to evade detection by Michael, the all-knowing Architect.
The show’s absurdist comedy and blending of high philosophy into its sitcom premise have earned it much praise. A heartwarming watch from start to finish, The Good Place offers plenty of laughs, as well as a blueprint of how to live a life of genuine goodness.
14. Atlanta (2016-present)
Created by musician Donald Glover, Atlanta is a comedy-drama that revolves around a musician and his rapper friend as they find themselves in Atlanta’s rap and hip-hop landscape. The show blends comedy with the charm of a well-written musical, and so far, it has yielded fantastic results. It was nominated for multiple awards, with Glover winning the Outstanding Direction in a Comedy Series award.
This made him the first African-American to receive this honor. Atlanta is notable for having a staff of all-black writers and centering intersectional African-American identity on television. Along with its relevant observations, the show is a refreshing catalog of emerging hip-hop music as well.
13. Master of None (2015-)
Aziz Ansari’s Master of None features the comedian-turned-actor playing a close version of himself, Dev Shah, a thirty-something actor living in New York. The show revives a familiar premise by infusing it with references, easter eggs, and themes from cinema classics. The influences range from French New Wave Cinema to La Dolce Vita and the neorealism of Bicycle Thieves (1948).
A wonderful performance and script from Ansari, rewarded with three Emmys and a Golden Globe, encapsulate all that is special about this show. Told with a focus on immigrant identity and friendships, the show is a delightful search for love, life, and laughter.
12. Silicon Valley (2014-2019)
A show about tech nerds set in the hub of scientific innovation may not sound exciting, but Silicon Valley sure does shatter that assumption. Created as a parody of Silicon Valley culture, the show follows Richard Hendricks, who is trying to kick-start his company and deal with bigger competitors in the process.
With sharp observations about the ethics of big tech companies and uncanny parallels, the show is undoubtedly amongst the most relevant comedies to have emerged in recent years. Comedy aces like Kumail Nanjiani and Thomas Middleditch star in what can only be described as a techie’s worst nightmare colliding with a satirist’s paradise.
11. Ted Lasso (2020-2023)
Apple TV’s Ted Lasso is a feel-good sports comedy-drama created by Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Joe Kelly, and Brendan Hunt. Sudeikis based his titular character on a series of viral NBC promos. Ted is an all-American college Football coach who is hired to manage a British soccer team. The ever-optimistic Ted moves to England, learns English Football, and is determined to deliver good results.
Ted Lasso is a gentle comedy that brilliantly uses the fish-out-of-water trope. It offers a mixture of quirky comedy and heart-warming moments. The sitcom is less about the sport and more about the idiosyncratic individuals who are part of it. One of my favorite characters in the show is Hannah Waddingham as the headstrong Rebecca Welton. The series ended with the third and final season.
10. Friends (1994-2004)
Friends is the most popular and hugely influential sitcom series in television history. Created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, Friends ran for 10 successful years and defined the pop-cultural landscape of a generation. The comedic series follows the spirited and heart-warming friendships and romances of six friends: three men and three women. We follow the miserable and comforting moments of their lives in Manhattan.
The greatest strength of the series is the writing and the actors. Each of the distinct characters is loveable and relatable. Most importantly, all six characters never forget to make us laugh. The sitcom also features some jaw-dropping celebrity cameos, including Bruce Willis, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, and Reese Witherspoon.
9. Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)
A mockumentary-style comedy-drama set in a small town in Indiana, Parks and Recreation follows Deputy Head of the Parks and Recreation Department, Leslie Knope, and her colleagues. Featuring a cast of television veterans like Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, and Nick Offerman, the series is a microcosm of American politics. The aftermath of the 2008 financial crash inspired it.
Writers Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, who had previously worked together on another workplace comedy, The Office, extensively researched and consulted elected officials to get the tone of the show right. Parks and Recreation is a wonderful, feel-good comedy among all the tv comedies that brings heart and heft to something as banal as a small-town government. It has been touted by publications like The Rolling Stone and The Vox as “the show that accurately defined the cultural zeitgeist of the Obama Presidency.”
8. Veep (2012-2019)
The political satire TV comedy, Veep is the brainchild of Armando Iannucci, who had previously created another similar program called The Thick of It. Veep revolves around Selina Meyer, played by the iconic Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Meyer is the fictional Vice President of the United States, and the show follows her day-to-day involvement with the nitty-gritty of American politics.
Its biting satire and tongue-in-cheek references to events in modern politics have garnered the show critical acclaim. For her portrayal of Meyer, Dreyfus has won six consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards. The show is a brilliant look at the depressing reality of politics, told with such precise comic timing that you can’t help but laugh through the pain.
7. The Simpsons (1989-)
No other tv comedy show, animated or non-animated, is as ubiquitous in modern pop culture as The Simpsons is. Beginning its decades-long run in 1989, the show has won universal acclaim for its satirical take on American life and culture. It revolves around a family of five — Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, in the fictional city of Springfield. The show is the longest-running American sitcom and has consistently received praise for its animation style, witty repartee, and apparent foreshadowing of events.
Publications have frequently described it as one of the greatest television shows, with the A.V Club describing it as “television’s crowning achievement, regardless of format.”
6. BoJack Horseman (2014-2020)
BoJack Horseman is somehow the perfect show to encapsulate the surreal feeling of the world turning upside down that we’ve been having for a few years. The premise revolves around the titular anti-hero, an anthropomorphic horse who is a fading celebrity from the 1990s. He plans to publish a ghostwritten book by his friend, Diane, to hold on to his fame.
While it received mixed reviews at the start, critics have since then appreciated the show’s blending of dark humor and topics like sexism, trauma, and the nature of life itself. A tragicomedy with absurd humor and biting commentary, the show does not shy away from approaching issues like mental health and drug addiction. BoJack Horseman is an utterly hilarious antidote to our uncertain times.
5. Schitt’s Creek (2015-2020)
Created by Dan and Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek revolves around the trials and tribulations of a dysfunctional family. The series starts in a spell-binding manner as the extremely wealthy Rose family becomes penniless after the Feds swoop into their mansion to investigate fraud charges. The only asset the Feds haven’t taken up is the titular backwoods small-town, which was bought years back by the family’s patriarch Johnny (Eugene Levy), as a joke.
Now the Rose family must relocate there and deal with culture shock, among other eccentricities. Like all the great comedy TV series, Schitt’s Creek has a good set-up, but it largely succeeds due to smart writing and a brilliant ensemble cast. One of the funniest shows out there, it promises big laughs and makes for some great comfort TV.
4. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000 – )
Curb Your Enthusiasm, from Seinfeld co-creator Larry David, is shot in cinema verite style and thrives with off-beat, observational humor. Revered as one of the long-running comedy tv shows (renewed for its 12th season), the series follows a semi-fictionalized version of David himself. Freed from a sitcom setting, Curb Your Enthusiasm captures the minutiae of Larry’s everyday life. As the camera follows him at home, his job, and around Los Angeles, the man’s obnoxious, raging self conjures delightful moments of comedy.
Apart from David, the series regulars are Cheryl Hines, who plays Larry’s wife, and Jeff Garlin, who plays Larry’s best friend and manager. Overall, Larry proves to be a champion in mining humor out of social embarrassment.
3. The Office (2009-2013)
A workplace comedy from Michael Schur and Greg Daniels, The Office is arguably one of the most recognizable comedy shows of the millennium. It revolves around the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company employees as they go about their professional and personal lives and form long-lasting relationships with each other. A dysfunctional boss, office pranksters, and a host of kooky employees make The Office the beloved juggernaut that it is today.
Perfect for comfort-watching, this Comedy Central show will have you teary-eyed over Jim and Pam’s love story and laughing hysterically over Dwight’s antics all over again. And, trust us, you’ll always want more – that’s what she said!
2. Rick and Morty (2013-)
A mad scientist grandfather and his 14-year-old grandson are at the center of this wacky animated series. Rick and Mortywas originally conceived from a short parody of the Back to The Future films. The show revolves around Rick’scrazy, often interdimensional science experiments that Marty gets drawn into. The contrast between Rick’s alcoholism, narcissistic personality, and naivete gives the show its comedic chops, with each episode rife with existential angst and nihilism.
It is wonderfully off-kilter and does not shy away from poking fun at the bleak idea that nothing really matters. The show has been praised for its dark humor, animation, and irreverent style. If you like humor so dark that it borders on disturbing, this show is surely for you.
1. Seinfeld (1989-1998)
Often described as “a show about nothing,” Seinfeld was created by comedians Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, with the latter starring as a fictionalized version of himself. The show follows the lives of four friends — Jerry, his ex-girlfriend, Elaine, George, and Cosmo Kramer, as they deal with ups and downs in their life in New York.
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.
Here we are, then! These are our picks for the best TV comedies of all time. The resurgence of comedy shows that play upon different genres and the revival/reunions of popular shows such as F.R.I.E.N.D.S proves that these shows retain their massive appeal. Not only do they please their old fans, but due to the easy accessibility of streaming services, they have amassed new fans over time. Familiar premises regarding friends and family, slapstick humor, and the overall feel-good nature of these programs make for easy viewing. Perfectly for long binge-watching sessions and prone to garnering passionate fandoms, comedy shows are clearly here to stay.
What’s your favorite TV show on the list?
(Additional writing by Arun Kumar)
An avid reader and a life-long lover of blue skies, I like to spend my time with obscure poetry and dissecting films. Currently besotted with Maupassant, art history and all things Nolan, you can find me spacing out to Queen while I look for new things to obsess with.