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The Best TV Comedies of All Time

From "Cheers" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" to "Community" and "Martin," these scripted TV comedies have proven to be magnificent cultural mainstays.

"Atlanta," "Cheers," and "30 Rock'

“Atlanta,” “Cheers,” and “30 Rock’

Curtis Bonds Baker/FX/ Paramount TV / Ali Goldstein/NBC-Tv/Kobal/Shutterstock

10. “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (CBS, 1961-1966)

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“The Dick Van Dyke Show”

Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

The rollicking opening notes of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” is all the viewer needs to understand that they’re in for an utterly delightful time. Despite wholesale recasting (the original version of this Carl Reiner-created sitcom starred Reiner himself) and almost getting canceled after its first season, this domestic-workplace sitcom is now revered as one of the best TV shows of all time. The wildly talented Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, in her breakout role, command envy and attention as ideal couple Rob and Laura Petrie, who are just as likely to smooch as they are toss out a song-and-dance number. That variety element continues at the office where Rob riffs with Buddy and Sally (vaudeville veterans Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie) in the comedy writers’ room as the art of crafting jokes is more entertaining than the jokes themselves. Inventive stories range from the bottle episode “Never Bathe on Saturday” to the bizarre fever dream of “It May Look Like a Walnut,” but always, Van Dyke and Moore’s mastery of dialogue and physical humor are at the forefront despite the ongoing lunacy. This sitcom is much like Rob’s trip over the ottoman: comical, exciting, but inevitably landing the joke perfectly. — HN
Stream on Hulu; stream on Amazon via IMDbTV.

9. “Atlanta” (FX, 2016-present)

ATLANTA Robbin' Season -- "Money Bag Shawty" -- Season Two, Episode 3 (Airs Thursday, March 15, 10:00 p.m. e/p) Pictured: Donald Glover as Earnest Marks. CR: Guy D'Alema/FX

“Donald Glover in Atlanta”

Guy D'Alema/FX

“Atlanta” provides a distinct starring vehicle for the talents of multi-hyphenate Donald Glover, who also created the series. Refreshingly profound, two seasons in, Glover uses his peculiar brand of humor to make topical, incisive statements, while undermining assumptions, especially in its even more eccentric second season, “Atlanta: Robbin’ Season.” It’s an essential portrait of African American life full of well-drawn characters — played by Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Lee Stanfield, and Zazie Beetz — offering the kinds of ruminations that could only come with allowances for rich interior lives. A love letter to the title city, it’s also a dynamic chronicling of its underground hip-hop scene. Glover called the series “‘Twin Peaks’ with rappers.” And like David Lynch’s critically-acclaimed curio, “Atlanta” has developed a cult following of its own. The series has won two Golden Globes, as well as two Emmys, and Glover’s Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series was the first ever awarded to an African-American. — TO
Stream on Hulu; buy on Amazon.

8. “The Golden Girls” (NBC, 1985-1992)

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Touchstone Tv/Whitt-Thomas-Harris Prod/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5882932j)Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty WhiteThe Golden GirlsTouchstone TV/Whitt-Thomas-Harris ProdUSATelevisionTv Classics

“The Golden Girls”

Touchstone Tv/Whitt-Thomas-Harris Prod/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Just from reading the title, you have the theme song stuck in your head and a craving for cheesecake in your mouth. Defying the idea that Americans only want to watch TV shows about the young, the perfectly balanced ensemble of Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty made the retiree life look like a laugh riot — so long as you were hanging out with Sophia, Dorothy, Blanche, and Rose. The punchlines are as endless as these women are full of life. Creator Susan Harris let her characters laugh and love for six seasons, embracing every facet of a culture typically experienced on TV by naive youths, and here put through the insightful lens of women facing their sunset years. The formula proves enduring because as much as these women might poke fun at each other, in the end they were pals and confidants. — LSM
Stream on Hulu; buy on Amazon.

7. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (CBS, 1970-1977)

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“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”

Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

From the moment that Lou Grant growls, “I hate spunk!” at Mary Richards, the audience gets an inkling of how different Mary Tyler Moore’s new sitcom, about a 30-year-old single woman who starts over in Minneapolis, will be. More than just a liberation of the woman from onscreen domestic drudgery, the show also allowed television to grow up and progress from its usually silly and unsophisticated fare. The show’s challenging and realistic topics — such as addiction, infidelity, equal pay for women, and homosexuality — plus its smart dialogue, let its complex and now-iconic characters shine. Mary and her fellow WJM newsroom team set the standard for workplace relationships on TV and became so beloved that the show inspired three spinoffs. After a whopping 29 Emmys and firmly establishing itself as one of the most influential TV series, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” really made it after all. — HN
Stream on Hulu; buy on Amazon.

6. “Parks and Recreation” (NBC, 2009-2015)

Parks and Recreation

“Parks and Recreation”

NBC

It takes a special set of characters and a finely-tuned atmosphere to create the kind of comedy that balances the encroaching, caustic nature of life and a healthy streak of sincerity to drown it out. With Leslie Knope (a never-better Amy Poehler) at the center, “Parks and Rec” reveled in the tiny goofiness of everyday life. Whether it was the crazy guy at the town hall meeting or the insane amount of binder-based preparation for each new Pawnee policy proposal, this NBC series knew how to carve out the best jokes from props, puns, and people alike. By balancing reality with hope, Michael Schur’s endearing sitcom made its small town story as timeless as any political tale, large or small. — SG
Stream on Hulu; stream or buy on Amazon.

5. “30 Rock” (NBC, 2006-2013)

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“30 Rock”

NBC-TV/REX/Shutterstock

“30 Rock” didn’t begin life as a surefire hit. The first few episodes of Tina Fey’s fictionalized, behind-the-scenes look at an NBC sketch comedy show take some time to find their footing. But as Liz Lemon (Fey), Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), Tracy Jordan (Tracey Morgan), Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), Kenneth the Page (Jack McBrayer), and the other men and women who work on “TGS” begin to gain definition, their beautiful weird world becomes a living, vibrant thing. Legendary for its catchphrases (“I want to go to there”), incredible guest stars (Elaine Stritch!), and singular point-of-view, “30 Rock” is a show so packed with jokes that a decade later, we’re still unpacking them And they’re all delivered by characters that, by the end of its seven-season run, had come to capture our hearts. — LSM
Stream on Hulu; stream or buy on Amazon.

4. “Veep” (HBO, 2012-2019)

Veep Season 6 Episode 9 Julia Louis-Dreyfus Sam Richardson Tony Hale Anna Chlumsky

“Veep”

Colleen Hayes / HBO

Bossy. Nasty. Hysterical. All of these represent coded language often used to denigrate women — especially women in power — and yet, when turned on their head, each word also provides an astute assessment of HBO’s exquisite political satire led by Emmy Queen Julia Louis-Dreyfus. For one, she’s the boss — the best, the top dog, the No. 1 honcho in all of television, and her turn as the vicious, take-no-prisoners Selina Meyer proves it. So magnificent is the former VP’s unquenchable thirst for power, let her be known as an honorary “Game of Thrones” character from this moment forward. (House Meyer, for the win.) Selina was also the original nasty woman before Hillary drew power from the careless condemnation, dropping f-bombs with such artistry they belong in a library (or a vagi-brary, if you will). Finally, Selina and all her “Veep” cohorts are hysterical to the funniest extreme. Armando Iannucci and (later) David Mandel’s comedy is an onslaught of well-orchestrated humor, from the careful blocking eliciting excellent visual gags (just look to Tony Hale’s Gary in any scene he’s not speaking) to relentless monologues building to a comedy crescendo. “Veep” takes anything you can throw at it and spits it right back in your face with 10 times the force. It’s the bossiest, nastiest, most hysterical comedy ever written, and should be damn proud of it. — BT
Stream on Hulu via HBO Max; stream on Amazon via HBO; buy on Amazon.

3. “Seinfeld” (NBC, 1989-1998)

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Nbc Tv/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5885737c) Michael Richards, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander Seinfeld - 1990-1998 NBC TV Television

“Seinfeld”

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This so-called Emmy-winning “show about nothing” is anything but, and it proved exactly that for nine glorious seasons as Jerry Seinfeld, playing a fictionalized version of himself, examines life’s minutiae through his unique observational lens. In this social satire that broke most sitcom conventions, Seinfeld and Larry David created their own specific New York world in which unsentimentally and selfishness rule, especially among Jerry’s core friends: the weak-willed George Constanza (Jason Alexander), exuberant ex-girlfriend Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and oddball neighbor Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards), whose talents created some of the most classic and inane repartee on TV. Full of pop culture references, the show became a comedy ouroboros, creating its own rich world that began to turn back and reference itself. Because of this, it’s still one of the most quotable, syndicated, and spongeworthy comedies of all time. — HN
Stream on Hulu; buy on Amazon.

2. “Newsradio” (NBC, 1995–1999)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Brillstein-Grey/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5872789e)Maura Tierney, Joe Rogan, Phil Hartman, Stephen Root, Dave Foley, Vicki Lewis, Khandi Alexander, Andy DickNewsradio - 1995-1999Brillstein-Grey EntertainmentUSATelevision

“Newsradio”

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It’s difficult to analyze what makes “NewsRadio” one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. There are so many moving parts and the series serves as an impeccable amalgamation of so much comedy that came before: from traditional workplace sitcoms to Bob Newhart’s straight man in the face of absurdity, to classic vaudeville timing. But really, the explanation is this: It’s funny. So funny. Side-splittingly, spit-take, tears of joy funny. The brainchild of creator Paul Simms found lightning in a bottle with a cast of unlikely comedy co-conspirators including Dave Foley, Phil Hartman, Stephen Root, Maura Tierney, Vicki Lewis, Khandi Alexander, Andy Dick, and Joe Rogan. Comedies live and die on cast chemistry and “NewsRadio” may be the alchemical triumph of the known television world. Always existing on the renewal bubble, thanks to low ratings, “NewsRadio” was the hidden jewel on a network already boasting four other comedies on this list. In an age of rediscovering shows on streaming services, a lack of consistent provider means the series is on the verge of being forgotten by audiences no longer dependent on the comforts of cable reruns. This comedy for the ages deserves better. — LH
Buy on Amazon.

1. “Cheers” (NBC, 1982-1993)

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“Cheers”

Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

A love story. An office comedy. An ode to the after-hours lives of America’s working men and women. “Cheers” means something different to each person who watches, but it’s something special no matter what. Marshaled by national treasure Ted Danson, the iconic presence of Shelley Long, and Rhea Perlman’s category-defining supporting player — modern sitcoms wouldn’t be the same if so many didn’t find their own Carla Tortelli — the long-running NBC comedy survived a central romance switcheroo and plenty more cast turnover by keeping its comedy consistent and killer. You never question the live audience laugh-track because, if anything, they’re not laughing hard enough. Created by the power trio of James Burrows, Glen Charles, and Les Charles — not to mention home to soon-to-be producing stars like Dan O’Shannon, David Angell, and Sam Simon — the 11-season series thrived on goodhearted humor with a balanced mix of characters and smartly-sourced drama. “Cheers” could be whatever you needed it to be, any given night, but you always, always knew its name. — BT
Stream on Hulu; stream on CBS All Access; buy on Amazon.

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