(NOTE: The following list are James’ picks, and don’t necessarily reflect everyone here at leetgamers.asia. Proceed at your own risk and enjoy! Comments welcome below. -Ed.)
Sitcoms (read: situational comedies) were a big part of my life growing up, and if I’m not watching animated greats like Adventure Time and Spongebob, it will be sitcoms I’m watching nowadays (or Breaking Bad, but that ended). There are a lot of bad sitcoms today, and whiny actors bartering $90 million for their work on said bad sitcoms, but the list I present to you today is a cavalcade of comic gold. So, bring up your Netflix account (or Hulu, Amazon, cable/satellite, torrents, etc.), and get ready to binge milk out your nose.
Criteria: Animated and live-action both count, but said shows must be at least 30 minutes long, which means I’m leaving out such gems as Squidbillies and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, the latter of which is debatably my favorite show of all-time.
H. John Benjamin was a riot as Coach on Home Movies (a show which isn’t on this list, sadly), and he doesn’t fail to impress as the whiny, moronic special agent Sterling Archer. Archer is like the ultimate Bond parody character, and his insanely over-the-top scenarios are brought to the screen with a great cast and excellent dry humor. This is also one of the few shows on the list that you shouldn’t ever watch with your family, so let’s move on.
People call Seinfeld a “show about nothing.” This show, headed by great British comedian Louis C.K, is literally about absolutely nothing. It’s normally just a day-to-day, exaggerated rendition of his life, usually inspired by his stand-up acts. He brings this incredibly subdued, mundane wit that elevates it above most comedies named after the starring comedian. This, like Archer, is also an FX show, a channel that specializes in both terrible dramas and inappropriately excellent comedies.
#23. George Lopez
Whereas Louie was incredibly mundane about his life, George takes every single monumental tragedy that befalls his life and throws a couple of “wapahs” and excellent split-second snarks at the situation. The supporting cast can be good, but George’s execution elevates this show far past the quality you’d expect of it. He’s funny, charming, and can turn hilarious borderline racist and child abuse quips about his childhood into comedy gold. It managed to run on ABC for 6 years, despite absolutely no one watching it. It’s finally getting the viewership it deserves on [email protected]
#22. That ’70s Show
Before Ashton Kutcher Punk’d everybody in Hollywood, and joined a deteriorating Two and a Half Men, he was the worst part of an amazing ensemble in That ’70s Show, a show which only ever got better throughout the years. Lampooning everything that was excellent about the ’70s, it had great performances from Topher Grace, Danny Masterson, Laura Prepon, “Foot up the ass” Kurtwood Smith, and Handy Manny himself, Wilmer Valderrama. Oh, and Chong in the later seasons.
#21. The Office (U.S)
Steve Carrel lead an all-star cast through the rosy thorn bush that was working in an office. Being completely off-the-walls and presented in a mockumentary format ala Borat, there was very little actual work getting. Even after Steve left the show before the second-to-last season was over, the show still courageously paraded on. It was an awesome show which aired on a channel known for its amazing comedies in the past, NBC.
Futurama has gotten shafted by its networks over the years, and consistently cancelled only to come back and be worse. No one, however, can deny that it has been a comedy riot and very smartly-written piece of animation, most likely because its writers are all expert mathematicians and scientists, who actually wrote out an entire new math formula to explain a scenario within the show. It only flashed onscreen for half a second! The show’s entire 5th season was comprised of 4 feature-length films, the most films for any of the shows on this list. Plus, it has animation veterans Billy West and Joe DiMaggio as the leads. How could it not be great?
Most people have no clue about anything related to Maude besides the fact that it’s an All in the Family spin-off, and the main character had an unceremonious abortion. They are missing out, because Maude is one of the most daringly hilarious shows ever put to television, and even managed to shock people well after All in the Family had debuted. Bea Arthur, may she rest in peace, having been the bombastic comedic presence she was.
#18. The Venture Bros.
The Venture Bros. started out humbly enough, being a dumb but occasionally funny and witty show during its first season. When, all of a sudden, continuity began to get its claws in, to the point where nowadays, if you miss an episode, you miss out on the progression of dozens of story arcs with the show’s loads and loads of characters. It’s gotten to the point that the showrunner Doc Hammer has admitted that he really dislikes having to find something for the Venture family (the supposed main characters of the show) to do while all the earth-shattering insanity is happening with everyone else.
#17. Wilfred (U.S.)
Elijah Wood plays a suicidal, depressed man who is brought back from the abyss after finding a unique companionship in his gorgeous neighbor’s pot-smoking, dangerously philosophical dog. The dog, Wilfred, is performed wonderfully once again by Jason Gann, who also played him in the original Aussie version. Whereas that one was about a couple who owned Wilfred (and was pretty boring), this one is more of a buddy comedy and infinitely more existential.
#16. Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Possibly the most hateful and nihilistic series ever put to television, it’s also the funniest comedy ever on FX. The ensemble has been regarded as a “new-age” Seinfeld, and it’s not far off, though it takes the theme of “no hugging, no learning” to the extremes. It takes refuge in the sort of vulgarity and audacity that has yet to be trumped by another FX series.
#15. Bob’s Burgers
Another gem starring H. John Benjamin, similar to Archer above, it featured more dry and less fantastical humor, and sported funnier and less vulgar writing. It’s interesting that almost every female character was voiced by a guy, which makes it even funnier. And the one female that wasn’t is inarguably the star of the show. It reminds me wholesale of the old Dilbert cartoon.
#14. My Name is Earl
Earl is a degenerate criminal who accidentally gets married, gets cheated on, has a black son, gets divorced, wins $100,000 through a lottery ticket, loses the ticket and gets hit by a car, learns about karma from Carson Daly, and with the help of a motel maid and his brother, decides to right every wrong he’s ever made and bring up his karma ten-fold. The acting and plotting is what helps set this show apart; it’s very unique in its premise. The creator also made Raising Hope, which wasn’t as good, but still worth mentioning.
#13. The Cleveland Show
Funnier than both its parent series, Family Guy, and its sister series, American Dad, this show gets a lot of undue flack. I think it was consistently funnier and more heartwarming than either of those shows. Its characters were better, its writing was funnier and more genuine, its plots fresher and more bodacious, and Cleveland got a major overhaul from his original presence on Family Guy, and this was definitely for the better. Sadly, it only lasted 4 seasons, but it managed to have a main character voiced by Bryan Cranston and a full-episode parody of Die Hard in the meantime. It was insulting during the beginning of a recent episode of Family Guy when Cleveland returned after having his show cancelled, and the main characters just rip into him and his former show, pretending theirs is actually somehow superior in anyway whatsoever.
#12. Family Matters
Also known as “The Urkel Show”, the fact it’s known as that warrants it a spot on this list. I mean, honestly, Urkel is in this show. What once was a painfully generic family comedy, blew up into a monumental sci-fi masterpiece once Steve Urkel joined the cast one fateful day.
One of the ultimate comedies of the ’90s, it has spawned countless memes and endlessly quoted lines, amazing characters and scenarios, and is a centerpiece of modern pop culture. It’s the most popular entry on this list, and is the template for literally every laugh-track sitcom to come. It didn’t hit this success overnight, though. It started as a generic sitcom, and grew the beard during the season 2 episode “The Chinese Restaurant”, which was 22 minutes, in real-time, of the main characters waiting at the table of a Chinese restaurant. It was groundbreaking, and set the mold for the quality to come. For the ’90s, it doesn’t get much better than this.
#10. Good Luck Charlie
This was a Disney Channel show that decided to break new ground in its second-to-last episode ever. It hosted the first appearance of a same-sex couple ever on Disney Channel. Best of all, it was incredibly well-done and respectful in its handling of the subject matter. Of course, that isn’t enough to get it on a list of the very best. This was a show that deserved to be on a big-name network, but would’ve had its genius diluted with bad sexual humor and profanity. Its actors are all the best Disney Channel has to offer, its writing is snarky, heartwarming, and hilarious and it is without doubt the best show to ever air on the channel, by far.
#9. Flight of the Conchords
It’s hard to sum this show up in mere words, but I’ll try: It’s about two awkward New Zealand folk musicians, their terrible manager, their terrible fans, and their terrible lives. Oh, and at least one incredible high concept musical number every episode, written and performed by the folk musicians themselves, Flight of the Conchords. Its acting takes mundane to its utmost heights, and the dry delivery from every actor kills the material dead. It only lasted 2 seasons on HBO, but managed to get an Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Comedy” during that time.
Scrubs could go down as the most heartfelt comedy ever. It deals with the lives of a handful of wacky staff at a hospital, and goes all out with absurd comic gold, but never forgets that it is a hospital, and deals very well with some incredibly dark subjects you wouldn’t expect from a comedy, usually the handling of death. Many patients come and go, and getting attached to them is a strong suit for these guys. Learning to handle it once they’ve passed is a big theme here. All the actors are very good, but John C. McGinley absolutely kills it as the incredibly snarkful Dr. Cox. It ran for 8 seasons originally, and ended strong and emotionally, until it was brought back for a badly-written 9th season, featured mostly new characters, eventually phased out the old ones who were there, and never had a true ending.
Dan Schneider has held a monopoly in children’s programming for years on Nickelodeon, which has allowed him to slip in some pretty heavy stuff. I was debating whether to put Drake and Josh or Victorious on this list. Drake and Josh is excellent, but Victorious blows it out of the water in terms of characterization, writing, and plotting. It features a lot of great music, by incredible artists like Victoria Justice and Ariana Grande, who both star in the show. It features a very dry but increasingly wacky humor to it, and corners the market in terms of imaginative writing for a “kids'” show.
Delocated has by far the most insane plot of any comedy on this list. “Jon” witnesses a Russian mafia-related murder, and goes into witness protection. Not too strange yet, until he happens to have signed on to have his witness protection days documented in a reality show, which is what the show is presented as. He and his family are forced to wear ski masks all the time, at least until his wife and son leave him and take theirs off. Then, his hitman gets his own reality show, documenting his attempts at murdering Jon. The show starts out humbly enough, with an okay first season, which itself contains 15 minute long episodes. The premiere of the second season is where the quality upturns dramatically, as the show gets really dark with the debut of the Russian hitman’s brother Sergei taking over as the main villain; episodes are also now 30 minutes long. It had a 3rd season, and ended with one of the most insane series finales ever.
#5. Everybody Hates Chris
The pinnacle of Chris Rock’s career, he plays the narrator of a fictional account of life. Chris has had literally everything that could go wrong in his life happen, and happens to be the only black kid at an all-white school. He has a bully, his teacher is incredibly (unknowingly?) racist, his best friend is an intelligent moron, he gets treated like a servant by his insane family, lives in Bed Stuy (do or die), and is frequently robbed by many of the show’s wonderful supporting characters. All of this is insanely hilarious. Featuring the very best cast from an (almost) all-black sitcom, this show is the best to ever air on The CW, and was in fact a relic kept from the UPN days, a channel known for having gone increasingly “urban” during its final years.
#4. All in the Family
All in the Family was so groundbreaking. It featured a prejudiced main character, the sound of a toilet flushing, and Sammy Davis Jr. saying the N word. Its discussions on serious debates and themes were subtly explored throughout insanely, outrageously hilarious dialogue and characters. Archie Bunker is meant as a satire of a prejudiced bigot, but is very hard not to love. His arguments with his daughter’s husband “Meathead” were almost always political in some indirect way, but always hilarious. It spawned at least two excellent spin-offs: Maude (which spun-off Good Times) and The Jeffersons (which spun-off Checking In), and one sequel series, Archie Bunker’s Place, which also featured the emotionally devastating, award-worthy performance by Carol O’Connor as Archie in the aftermath of his wife Edith’s off-screen death in the season 2 premiere.
#3. Married… With Children
When Fox was just starting in the 1980’s, this was the show that put the channel on the map, long before The Simpsons. Featuring even more groundbreaking vulgarity than All in the Family, this was simply a hilariously depressing show, starring a wonderful ensemble cast as a broken-down mess of family. Ed O’Neil stole the show as the incredibly depressed, wisecracking shoe salesman Al Bundy, who constantly feared sex with his wife Peggy (played by Katey Sagal, who would later voice Leela in Futurama), and got into debates with his neighbor. This is one of the longest-running live-action sitcoms ever, running for 11 seasons, and never losing its step along the way. It was vulgar, disgusting, and simply hilarious.
A spin-off of Cheers, Frasier is by an far the most critically-acclaimed comedy of all-time, receiving 37 Prime-time Emmy awards in its 11-year run, simply smashing Mary Tyler Moore’s record of 29. It’s incredibly smart, incredibly well-acted, and just mind-numbingly funny, it’s probably the smartest comedy ever made, and is way better than its awesome predecessor, Cheers. There was a brief reunion in The Simpsons where David Hyde Pierce and John Mahoney were cast as Sideshow Bob’s (Kelsey Grammar) brother and father respectively. It’s simply executed almost perfectly in near every facet; an absolute beast of brilliance.
Honorable Mention: WKRP in Cincinnati
“Turkeys Away” is all I should really have to quote, because if you don’t know what this is, oh boy. It’s quite possibly the greatest episode on the entirety of television, a total comic masterpiece, and the best holiday special all rolled into one. The rest of the show was very well-written as well. It was very mature in its writing style and too smartly-written to exist. In fact, its producer, Mary Tyler Moore, hated it because of this, and tried to screw it in as many ways as possible. Sadly, her show will not be making this list.
#1. The Boondocks
What started out as a college newspaper comic strip, blew up into one of the most important animated satires ever. This show could be best classified as “an animated black Frasier”, and that still couldn’t fully get the point across. The creator Aaron McGruber had to sit out season 4, as he was working on creating another Adult Swim show, the upcoming live-action Black Jesus, resulting in that season being simply terrible, and the final season, sending the series off with a completely unfunny and offensive episode where Riley pisses off homosexuals and the mentally-handicapped. When McGruber was there, however, we got one season of slow-paced, leisurely observing of American culture and the negative sides of both black and white ideals and behaviors, the following two season were total fast-paced, chaotic, versions of the same thing, introducing many excellent supporting characters and classic episodes, with more anime-inspired animation. It is a very important show, a Peabody award-winner, and simply the funniest damn sitcom ever made. It’s so relevant, so truthful, and so chaotically hilarious and unhinged, it’s an easy choice for my #1 favorite sitcom of all-time.
So, there you have it: my taste in comedy. What are some of your favorite sitcoms? Share below in the comments section.
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