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59. “The Simpsons” (1989-present)
Whatever fans may think of the later “Simpsons” seasons, the show’s first decade alone makes it an all-timer — a comedy responsible for dozens of must-see episodes and hundreds of enduring memes. Creator Matt Groening and his writers and voice-cast realigned the TV audience’s perceptions of what a sitcom (an animated one, no less!) could do. They’ve filled each minute of screen-time with sight gags, social commentary, pop culture references, and general weirdness. But what’s kept the show alive for over 30 years is its eclectic cast of characters, living in a seemingly ordinary American small town and having their lives disrupted weekly by a family of lovable misfits. These people are cartoons, sure; but the Simpsons’ successes, failures, heartbreaks and hopes are as relatable and entertaining as any TV family’s has ever been. —NM
John P. Johnson / HBO
58. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (2000-present)
“Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David is often cited as the primary source of that show’s streak of dark humor; and that theory has pretty much been confirmed by his follow-up series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which takes the previous show’s observational comedy and complex plots and uses them for an unsparing study of social embarrassment. The show’s dialogue is semi-improvised by a cast of professional comics, which creates a unique rhythm. And David is playing a version of himself: a rich, idle comedy writer, dwelling among the Los Angeles upper-crust and seemingly constantly on the verge of offending either a friend of a friend or some member of the service industry. What results is a side-splitting and cringe-inducing distillation of David’s worldview, where nearly everything is irritating — including his sense deep down that he really has no right to be so cranky. —NM
57. “Fleabag” (2016-19)
Based on the British humorist and actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one-woman show of the same name, “Fleabag” is part of the long tradition of UK sitcoms that deliver just a couple of short, perfect seasons and then wrap up, leaving fans satisfied. Waller-Bridge plays the title character, who frequently looks into the camera and turns her viewers into confidants, as she tells a hilariously raunchy and frequently surprising story about herself: a self-destructive young woman trying to regain the trust of her friends and family after several horrible mistakes. The tale is surprisingly twisty, and filled with memorable supporting characters — including a sexy priest (Andrew Scott), a long-suffering sister (Sian Clifford) and a less-wicked-than-she-seems stepmother (Olivia Colman). “Fleabag” is both funny and addicting, with a narrative that pulls the audience along quickly and inexorably, like a great page-turner novel. —NM
Paramount Comedy Channel
56. “Spaced” (ABC, 1999-2001)
Before Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost battled zombies, cults, and the literal end of the world they were telling the story of two friends learning to grow up. “Spaced” sees all of Wright’s alumni brought together for two seasons of pure fried gold. Tim and Daisy (Pegg and Jessica Hynes, respectively) are best friends in their 20somethings looking for an apartment. The only one they can afford, though, is for couples which causes the two to pretend they’re dating. Along the way, they and their hodgepodge group of friends learn about responsibility while still having wacky adventures. Nearly every episode of “Spaced” is absurdist fun with a heart, from Tim and Daisy have mock gun battles to learning about a friend’s hatred of “Come On, Eileen.” Hynes is especially hilarious, particularly for her relationship with a dog named Colin. If you’re looking for a heartwarming tale of friendship interspersed with Wright’s patented blend of comedy, you can’t do any better than “Spaced.”
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55. “Boy Meets World” (ABC, 1993-2000)
“Boy Meets World” became one of the staples of the legendary ABC Friday night lineup known as TGIF. The series followed Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) as he dealt with middle school, high school, and college with the help of his next door neighbor and teacher Mr. Feeney (William Daniels), as well as his best friend and his girlfriend Topanga (Danielle Fishel). “Boy Meets World” was a perfect encapsulation of television aimed at teens in the mid-’90s. It still subscribed to fun and humor, but also had several well-known “very special episodes.” When the series transitioned into syndication, airing on the Disney Channel and the Disney-owned ABC Family, several episodes were cut from the rotation due to their frank discussions of sex. But they were also able to bring the funny in a number of unique situations, including their popular Halloween episodes which included guest appearances from the likes of Candice Cameron and Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Stream on Disney+; purchase on Amazon.
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54. “Daria” (MTV, 1997-2002)
One of MTV’s most iconic series, animated or otherwise, “Daria” was the show for anyone who felt disaffected or removed from society (or who just want to be on top of what the cool kids were watching). The series followed Daria Morgendorffer (voiced by Tracy Grandstaff) who deals with her popular sister Quinn (voiced by Wendy Hoopes), cool kids, and the general world of being a teenager with a heavy dose of sarcasm and acerbic wit. The series was a groundbreaking, at the time, satirical look at high school life when being a teenager was a consumer company’s dream. The show initially started off as a spin-off of Mike Judge’s “Beavis and Butthead,” with Daria as a one-off character. But once the series took root on MTV, at the height of its powers, it became must-watch TV. There are current plans to do another spin-off of the series, involving the character of Jodie and to be voiced by Tracee Ellis Ross.
Stream on Hulu; purchase on Amazon.
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53. “The Nanny” (CBS, 1993-1999)
Actress Fran Drescher dominated the 1990s. Whether you watched her sitcom “The Nanny” or not, there was no escaping her unique voice and its litany of imitations. “The Nanny” was loosely inspired by Drescher’s own life and people in her family. It followed her character of Fran Fine who ends up taking on the titular role for three snooty children. The series was heavily influenced by previous nanny shows like “Nanny and the Professor” and the Clifton Webb character of Mr. Belvedere. Drescher herself would go on to be nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Emmy for her role as Fran Fine. The cast reunited for a special in 2004. In 2018 Drescher hinted at a possible reboot for the show, which has gone on to spawn numerous foreign imitations, with an emphasis on how Fran Fine would be more keyed in to political and social issues of the day. There’s been no update on it, but the world could certainly use some more Fran Fine.
Purchase on Amazon.
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52. “The Addams Family” (ABC, 1964-1966)
Based on the cartoons of Charles Addams, “The Addams Family” was one of two horror-themed family sitcoms to debut in the late-1960s, the other being “The Munsters.” The Addams clan consisted of Gomez and Morticia (John Astin and Carolyn Jones, respectively), their children Wednesday and Pugsley (Lisa Loring and Ken Weatherwax), Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan), and Grandmama (Blossom Rock). The family may have been mysterious and spooky, but their problems were relatable. Wednesday had to learn to interact with other children, and Frankenstein-esque butler Lurch (Ted Cassidy) sought love. But nothing trumped the sheer romantic entanglement between Gomez and Morticia. The two still embody relationship goals decades after the series went off the air. Where other onscreen parents might have lacked sexual chemistry, there was no doubt that Gomez and Morticia were into each other. Sadly, the sitcom never got the recognition it deserved, and ended up being canceled after just two seasons. It’s competitor “The Munsters” would be canceled the same year.
Stream or purchase on Amazon.
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51. “The Facts of Life” (NBC, 1979-1988)
It was all in the theme song: “You take the good, you take the bad. You take them both and then you have ‘The Facts of Life.'” “The Facts of Life” started off as a spin-off to the popular series “Diff’rent Strokes.” Charlotte Rae, who was the housekeeper on the previous series, would take her character of Edna Garrett to New York where she became the housemother of the Eastland School. The private all-girls school saw Edna take under her wing four girls: spoiled Blair (Lisa Whelchel), gossipy Tootie (Kim Fields), tomboy Jo (Nancy McKeon), and the impressionable Natalie (Mindy Cohn). The girls navigated the world of teen girldom, from dating to parental issues, with Mrs. Garrett always by their side. The series was groundbreaking in its day, particularly for the 12 episodes that starred stand-up comic and disabled performer Geri Jewell. As Cousin Geri, Jewell presented a fun young woman who was no different than anyone else, in spite of how her cousin, Blair, treated her.
Stream on Amazon via IMDbTV; buy on Amazon.