• June 16, 2024

42 Greatest American TV Sitcoms Which program do you love the most?

American Sitcoms Are Loved Throughout the World

People have enjoyed American TV situation comedies, or sitcoms, since the 1950s, and this list covers 42 of the greatest ever. The shows are judged on popularity— particularly as that relates to the number of years on TV—as well as Nielsen ratings, awards, and honors. A little subjectivity may be involved as well.

Please note that this compilation doesn’t include comedy series that are air on premium channels such as HBO, Showtime or Starz. It also doesn’t include British sitcoms, because all of these shows should appear on separate lists.

Moreover, many of these high-ranking sitcoms weren’t popular during their first season or two. Then they caught fire and became some of the best comedy TV series ever.

42. Reno 911!

  • Airdate: July 23, 2003-July 8, 2009 (original series), May 4, 2020-Present revival series
  • Episodes: 88 (original series), 124 total episodes

Originally shown on Comedy Central, Reno 911! is a documentary-style comedy series that mocks TV shows such as Cops. It was created by Robert Ben Garant (Deputy Travis Junior), Thomas Lennon (Lt. Jim Dangle), and Kerri Kenney-Silver (Deputy Trudy Wiegel), all of whom play police officers supposedly working for the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department of Reno, Nevada. After a long hiatus, the show was revived on the streaming platform Quibi; and then as of February 2022 it can be seen on the The Roku Channel. Of course, these police officers don’t act like the police; they’re often so incompetent that suspects take advantage of them.

Originally, the show was produced by Fox in the early 2000s, but Fox cancelled the pilot before airing it because it included a passionate kissing scene between Lt. Jim Dangle and—a man.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

41. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

  • Airdate: August 4, 2005-Present
  • Episodes: 162
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 2.34

Originally appearing on FX and then FXX, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is now the longest running live-action comedy in American TV history. It has surpassed The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which aired for 14 seasons. This show has been described as Seinfeld on crack, and it certainly has influences from other sitcoms.

The series takes place at Paddy’s Pub in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where “the gang,” four men and a woman, all of whom are greatly flawed and perhaps narcissistic and despicable as well, explore just about every taboo subject imaginable—welfare, insurance fraud, cannibalism, intellectual disabilities, kidnapping, pole dancing, blackface, drug addiction, gun control, molestation, AIDS, grave robbing, and sweatshops. If a taboo subject hasn’t been used on this show, then it must not have any comedic possibilities!

Even though the show is often considered a cult classic and has received generally favorable reviews, it’s never won an Emmy award of any kind.

The Golden Girls

The Golden Girls

40. The Golden Girls

  • Airdate: September 14, 1985-May 9, 1992
  • Episodes: 180
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 38.2

This series involves four older women who share a house in Miami, Florida. Featuring a stellar cast of aging gals—Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty—these characters fire barbs at each other at a hilarious pace. Of course, most of the insults, remarks, or jokes relate to the realities of dealing with the aging process of three widows and one divorcée, all of whom hope to have at least one more romantic fling—without being called a loose woman. This series was nominated for 122 awards and won 37, including 11 Primetime Emmy Awards. In fact, each of the four main cast members won an Emmy, an achievement that only three other live-action TV shows achieved—All in the Family, Will & Grace and Schitt’s Creek.

The series has produced a few spinoffs. This includes TV shows such as The Golden Palace, Empty Nest, and Nurses, as well as an off-Broadway show entitled The Golden Girls: Live! It’s also spawned international versions in Chile, Egypt, Israel, Greece, Turkey, Russia, and many other countries.

How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother

39. How I Met Your Mother

  • Airdate: September 19, 2005-March 31, 2014
  • Episodes: 208
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 13.13

How I Met Your Mother takes place in Manhattan. The show stars Josh Radnor as Ted Mosby, a single man who introduces the show by telling his son Luke (David Henrie) and his daughter Penny (Lyndsy Fonseca) how he met their mother. An architect, Ted Mosby has many comedic adventures with characters such as Barney Stinson, a playboy and magician (Neil Patrick Harris), and Lily Aldrin, teacher and aspiring artist (Alyson Hannigan). Using flashbacks, flash-forwards, and changing points of view—narrated off-screen by Bob Saget—the show doesn’t reveal Ted’s future wife, Tracy McConnell (Cristin Milioti), until the finale of season eight. The show has been favorably compared to sitcoms like Friends and The Wonder Years.

How I Met Your Mother achieved generally high ratings throughout its run. It was nominated for 91 awards and won 21. Nevertheless, like many hit TV shows, its finale wasn’t considered one of the best. USA Today rated it #1 on its list of the “Worst Series Finale of All Time.” But hey, the finales for Game of Thrones and Dexter weren’t considered some of the best, either!



38. Roseanne

  • Airdate: October 18, 1988-May 20, 1997, March 27, 2018-May 22, 2018 (revival)
  • Episodes: 231
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 44.3

This sitcom involves the Conners, a working-class family of six residing in a suburb of Chicago. Roseanne Barr plays Roseanne Conner, a matriarch, or “domestic goddess,” as Barr calls her, who’s married to Dan Conner (John Goodman). Roseanne and Dan often wrestle with each other, in a playful way, of course, like many other married folks on American TV before or since. During the show’s 11-year run, it was very popular in the Nielsen ratings as it was among the top four TV shows for six out of nine seasons. Perhaps the program’s greatest episode was “A Stash from the Past,” which ranked #21 on TV Guide’s list of the 100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time (compiled in 1993). In 2013, the series itself ranked #32 on TV Guide’s list of the 60 Greatest TV Shows of All-Time.

The show was revived in 2018. However, Barr was fired from the show after making some offensive comments on Twitter. Roseanne was cancelled, and it was replaced by a spinoff called The Conners.

Characters on "Parks and Recreation"

Characters on “Parks and Recreation”

37. Parks and Recreation

  • Airdate: April 9, 2009-February 24, 2015, April 30, 2020 (special episode)
  • Episodes: 126
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 6.77

Parks and Recreation is a political satire that takes place in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. The show stars Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, a ditzy bureaucrat who works in the Parks Department of Pawnee. She seems airheaded at first, but she eventually shows her intelligence when she wins a seat on the Pawnee City Council. The show also stars Rashida Jones as Ann Perkins, Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate, Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger, and Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer. These characters, and others, developed into a hilarious band of comedians, and they were helped by excellent writing and direction. Notably, the show received nominations for 14 Primetime Emmy Awards. In 2013, the show received a Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy.

Critics gave the sitcom mixed reviews at first; some said it was too much like The Office. However, the show quickly found the right tone by the second season, especially for Amy Poehler. She proved she had the star power to lead a hit TV series. In 2011, Entertainment Weekly called the show “the smartest comedy on TV.”

American Dad!

American Dad!

36. American Dad!

  • Airdate: February 6, 2005-Present
  • Episodes: Currently airing
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 15.10

This is another adult-oriented, animated sitcom created by Seth MacFarlane and others. American Dad! stars Stan Smith, a right-wing CIA agent who’s the father of an upper middle class family in Virginia. Stan is voiced by Seth MacFarlane, who also voices Roger the alien, a master of disguise who lives in a tree house in the Smith’s backyard. Hayley Smith, Stan’s liberal, hippy-dippy daughter, is voiced by Rachael MacFarlane, while Patrick Stewart voices the part of Stan’s boss, Deputy Director Avery Bullock. Seth MacFarlane has said that frustration regarding the administration of President George W. Bush is what caused him and others to create the show. American Dad! has been nominated for many awards, including four Emmys and two Annies. In 2013, the ASCAP named it the top television series.

While the series has often been called a rip-off of Family Guy, American Dad! is more like an animated version of All in the Family, the classic sitcom in which Right battles Left. Stan Smith is an Archie Bunker-like father that is unable to cope with liberal attitudes, values, and lifestyles.



35. Mom

  • Airdate: September 23, 2013-May 13, 2021
  • Episodes: 170
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 12.29

Based on Mum, a British sitcom, Mom is a comedy series based on the lives of three generations of the Plunkett family: Bonnie Plunkett (Allison Janney), the grandmother; Christy Plunkett (Anna Faris), the mother; and Violet Plunkett (Sadie Calvano), Christy’s daughter. Living in Napa, California, this dysfunctional family and their many friends and acquaintances have encounters and struggles with many issues: alcoholism, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, promiscuity, cancer, gambling addiction, depression, homelessness, death, domestic violence, rape, obesity, and ADHD. At times, it seems like you don’t know whether to laugh or cry for these stressed out folks. The show has garnered many awards, including Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, won by Allison Janney in 2014 and 2015.

The show had seemingly countless guest appearances from stars like Jon Cryer, Rosie O’Donnell, Chris Pratt, Kristin Chenoweth, Ellen Burstyn, Kathleen Turner, Ed Asner, Collin Hanks, Beverly D’Angelo, and many others.

Family Ties

Family Ties

34. Family Ties

  • Airdate: September 22, 1982-May 14, 1989
  • Episodes: 176

This sitcom seems to owe its existence to the presidency of Ronald Reagan. The gist of the plot is the relationship between Steven (Michael Gross) and Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter) and their son Alex (Michael J. Fox). The parents are former hippies and cultural liberals of the 1960s and ‘70s, while Alex is a conservative Republican who wants to be rich. Over the seasons, the other three children—Mallory, Jennifer, and Andy—also tend to follow Alex’s adherence to Reaganomics. The parents on the show were supposed to be the stars, but the popularity of Michael J. Fox’s character made him the show’s primary focus. Family Ties won many awards, mainly for the acting of Fox. The show made him a superstar.

Originally, Mathew Broderick, another rising star, was offered the part of Alex Keaton, but he turned it down.

Three's Company

Three’s Company

33. Three’s Company

  • Airdate: March 15, 1977-September 18, 1984
  • Episodes: 172

Based on the British TV series Man About the House, this sitcom is about three young, single roommates—two women and a man—who have a platonic relationship while living in a multi-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica, California. However, the landlords wonder if something scandalous is going on. The man in the apartment is Jack Tripper (John Ritter). In order to avoid getting evicted, he passes himself off as a gay man, which satisfies the landlords, the Ropers. After the Ropers left the show to make a spin-off sitcom, Don Knotts portrayed the new building manager. He added his wide-eyed jitters to the show. Three’s Company ranked in, or near, the top 10 for Nielsen ratings in its first seven seasons.

Three’s Company went through a protracted developmental process; three pilots were shot, a rarity in American TV. Different writers did their best to Americanize a show that was based on a British sitcom.

Jack Benny (left) with Marilyn Monroe and Eddie Anderson as Rochester Van Jones

Jack Benny (left) with Marilyn Monroe and Eddie Anderson as Rochester Van Jones
Dennis Day with Jack Benny (right)

Dennis Day with Jack Benny (right)

32. The Jack Benny Program

  • Airdate: October 28, 1950-April 16, 1965
  • Episodes: 260

Legendary comedian Jack Benny began his show business career by doing his violin act in the vaudeville circuit in the 1920s. He then went into acting in movies and doing radio programs in the early 1930s. This is when he created The Jack Benny Program, a huge national success. In 1950, Benny moved his radio show to TV, where it ran until 1965. On radio and television, Benny essentially played himself, relying on his signature shtick: he plays the violin badly (though he could actually play it quite well); he’s an incredible cheapskate; he always says he’s 39 years of age; and, in particular, he uses sidelong glances to hilarious effect, often ending them with the exclamation, “Well!” Benny often featured celebrities who were appearing on TV for the first time; some of the big names include Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, and Rod Serling, among others.

While playing Rochester Van Jones, Benny’s valet on the TV show, Eddie Anderson, didn’t play a stereotypical “darkie”; he was smart and often outwitted Benny. Black performers such as The Ink Spots were featured on the show as well. African American acts were allowed to stay in local hotels that welcomed black people.

Promo photo for "Happy Days"

Promo photo for “Happy Days”

31. Happy Days

  • Airdate: January 15, 1975 to July 19, 1984
  • Episodes: 255

Nostalgia for the 1950s and early 1960s became popular during the 1970s. After the great success of the movie American Graffiti (1973), Gary Marshall and ABC decided to launch Happy Days, a sitcom set in those relatively happy times. In this series, Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) plays an average teenage boy trying to cope with the troubles of adolescence in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) plays a tough biker guy who watches out for Cunningham. There is also Cunningham’s best friend, Warren “Potsie” Weber (Anson Williams), who is an aspiring singer. A moderate hit at first, Happy Days soon became the number one show on TV from 1976 to 1977.

Since the early 1990s, Fonzie’s famous leather jacket has been shown in the National Museum of American History.


30. Barney Miller

  • Airdate: January 23, 1975 to May 20, 1982
  • Episodes: 170

This sitcom takes place in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan, NYC. Led by an impressive cast starring Hal Linden as Captain Barney Miller, it depicts the comedic happenstance of generally eccentric detectives in NYC’s twelfth precinct. Also starring Max Gail, Ron Glass, James Gregory, Ave Vigoda, Jack Soo, Gregory Sierra, Steve Landesberg and Ron Carey, the show was shot almost entirely in what was supposedly a squad room of the NYC Police Department.

The TV series seems realistic regarding the life and work of big city detectives, as well as the lives of their support staff and significant others. According to Dennis Farina, who used to work as a Chicago police officer before becoming an actor, Barney Miller is one of the most realistic cop shows on TV.

The show won many awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award in 1982 for Outstanding Comedy Series and another Primetime Emmy Award in 1980 for Outstanding Writing. The series also won Golden Globe Awards for Best Comedy or Musical series in 1977 and 1978; it also won a Peabody Award in 1978.

Cast of "Taxi"

Cast of “Taxi”

29. Taxi

  • Airdate: September 12, 1978 to June 15, 1983
  • Episodes: 114

Starting on ABC and then moving to NBC, Taxi shows the lives of people working at the fictitious Sunshine Cab Company in Manhattan, NYC. Featuring an ensemble cast starring Danny DeVito as Louie De Palma, a runty bully who picks on nearly everyone; Christopher Lloyd as Reverend Jim Ignatowski, a rehabbing Sixties stoner; and Andy Kaufman as a loony mechanic named Latka Gravas, whose country of origin is anyone’s guest!

Most of the members of the cast view cab driving as a temporary job they’ll eventually leave, though cabbie Alex Reiter, the show’s straight-laced, though somewhat neurotic, protagonist played by Judd Hirsch, thinks his job is an acceptable profession and plans to keep it the rest of his life.

A critical and ratings success from the beginning, Taxi was nominated for 31 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning 18, including three for Outstanding Comedy Series. The sitcom was also nominated for 25 Golden Globe Awards, winning four, three of which for Best TV Series—Musical/Comedy. And in 2013 the Writer’s Guild of America ranked it #19 of its list of the 101 Best Written TV Series.

The Donna Reed Show

The Donna Reed Show

28. The Donna Reed Show

  • Airdate: September 24, 1958 to March 19, 1966
  • Episodes: 275

The Donna Reed Show had the titular movie star play Donna Stone in the first sitcom featuring a woman as the central character. Even while doing housework, Reed nearly always looked glamorous; she had a winning personality and seemed game for anything, even boxing with her son, Jeff Stone (Paul Petersen). Costarring on the show were Carl Betz, Paul Petersen, Shelley Fabares, and Patty Petersen.

In an interview in 1964, Reed said, “We have proved on our show that the public really does want to see a healthy woman, not a girl, not a neurotic, not a sexpot…I am so fed up with immature ‘sex’ and stories about kooky, amoral, sick women.” This popular show was nominated for four Emmy Awards, and Donna Reed won a Golden Globe Award for Best TV Star in 1963.

In 1961, Shelley Fabares sang “Johnny Angel” in the episode “Donna’s Prima Donna.” Released in 1962, the single reached #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Not to be upstaged, Paul Petersen sang the song, “My Dad,” also introduced on an episode of the show. The single reached #6 on the US pop chart.

Sanford and Son

Sanford and Son

27. Sanford and Son

  • Airdate: January 14, 1972 to March 25, 1977
  • Episodes: 136

Known as the forerunner of many African American sitcoms, Sanford and Son is a comedy series about a father and son team of junk dealers living in the Watts district of Los Angeles. Using racial humor, edgy patter, running gags, and catchphrases, Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx) and his son Lamont (Demond Wilson) try to eek out a living by selling junk in a poor neighborhood. Fred keeps the laughs going by getting involved in dodgy money-making schemes or by breaking the law in minor ways. Lamont usually has to bail him out of trouble. But the sparks really fly when Fred tangles with Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page), a bible-thumping do-gooder; Fred calls her “King Kong,” and then she fires back, “You old fish-eyed fool!”

As one of the running gags on the show, Fred often faked a heart attack while staggering and groaning, “It’s the big one, Elizabeth!” (Elizabeth was his deceased wife on the show). While filming a TV show in 1991, Redd Foxx collapsed, and people thought he was up to his old shtick. Unfortunately, it was not an act. Foxx died of a heart attack while on the set!

Leave It to Beaver

Leave It to Beaver

26. Leave It to Beaver

  • Airdate: October 4, 1957 to June 20, 1963
  • Episodes: 234

Billed as a children’s TV series told from the point of view of kids, Leave It to Beaver starred Jerry Mathers as Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver, an inquisitive, innocent boy, at times compared to Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. The Beaver can’t seem to avoid trouble, even though he’s basically a good kid and always obeys his parents, although he may lie to them occasionally. When Beaver’s father, Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont), scolds his son, he gives him the best advice any father could give. Although the show never scored high in the Nielsen ratings or won any Emmy awards, Time magazine placed it on its list of the “All-Time 100 TV Shows” in 2007.

Tony Dow, who played the Beaver’s older brother, said this about the shows humor: “If any line got too much of a laugh, they’d take it out. They didn’t want a big laugh; they wanted chuckles.”



25. Bewitched

  • Airdate: September 17, 1964 to March 25, 1972
  • Episodes: 254

Bewitched is a fantasy series about a witch named Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) who, after marrying a mortal man, Darrin Stephens (Dick York and later Dick Sargent), must keep her witchcraft a secret to all except Darrin. She risks exposure multiple times, of course, for marvelous comedic effect. In the early years, the show featured allegorical plots, showing supernatural characters in metaphorical situations. Through the seasons, the show featured some of the best comedic talent like Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur, Agnes Moorehead as Endora, Alice Ghostley as Esmeralda, and Maurice Evans as Samantha’s father. Like many sitcoms on this list, Bewitched has been in syndication for decades.

While the show ranked in the top three shows for its first three seasons, the ratings did start to sag in later seasons, When it aired in 1972 opposite of All in the Family, the highest rated show at the time, Samantha swooped from the sky for good at the end of the season.

That '70s Show

That ’70s Show

24. That ‘70s Show

  • Airdate: August 23, 1998 to May 18, 2006
  • Episodes: 200
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 14.09

That ‘70s Show is about the high school experiences of six friends in Point Place, Wisconsin during the party-hardy days of the 1970s, specifically 1976 to 1979. Now that the Vietnam War was finally over, better days seemingly laid ahead. Featuring an ensemble cast of teenagers and adults, the show depicted the familial entanglements of its various characters while events of the ’70s—the 1973 Oil Crisis, the presidency of Richard Nixon, the sexual revolution, streaking, Stars Wars, and disco—affected the characters in various ways. Perhaps the funniest part of the show is when the characters engage in a pot party known as The Circle. Though nothing is actually passed around or smoked—only mist swirls about them—the kids make silly remarks and tease each other, while laughing almost constantly.

The cast members sing the theme song, “In the Street,” written by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, while riding in a Vista Cruiser during the introduction. Chilton said he received $70 in royalties every time the song was played, an ironic amount given the show’s title.

Modern Family

Modern Family

23. Modern Family

  • Airdate: September 23, 2009 to April 8, 2020
  • Episodes: 250
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 14.54

Done in a mockumentary style, Modern Family involves the lives of three families— nuclear, stepfamily, and same-sex (two men)—living in Los Angeles. Using an ensemble cast, the members of each family interact with members of the other families. The show’s main characters are Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neil), Gloria Delgado (Sofia Vergara), Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen), Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell), Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet), and Haley Dunphy (Sarah Hyland). The sitcom also has many recurring characters, including DeDe Pritchett (Shelly Long) and Pepper Salzman (Nathan Lane). Modern Family has won many awards, including 22 Primetime Emmy Awards and 12 Golden Globe Awards.

In interviews, both Michelle Obama and Ann Romney (wife of politician Mitt Romney) said their favorite TV show is Modern Family.

Scene from "The Andy Griffith Show"

Scene from “The Andy Griffith Show”

22. The Andy Griffith Show

  • Airdate: October 3, 1960-April 1, 1968
  • Episodes: 249

This show stars Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor, the sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina, a small town that’s supposed to be a contemporary place in the 1960s. However, it seemed more like the 1930s; the episodes don’t include African-Americans, and there is no mention of racism, hippies, drugs, anti-war demonstrations, or the Vietnam War. It’s an idealized place seldom visited by violence or major crime, which is why Sheriff Taylor can get by without carrying a gun. The show also features Barney Fife (Don Knotts), Opie (Ron Howard), Bee Taylor (Frances Bavier), and Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors). The series never placed lower than number seven in the Nielsen ratings, and it left the air only because Griffith gradually exited the show, which then became Mayberry R.F.D., starring Ken Berry. That show was eventually cancelled during the rural purge on American television networks.

The show has spawned comic books, board games, and bobblehead dolls. In 2003, the band Rascal Flats released “Mayberry,” a song paying homage to the sleepy little town.

The Office

The Office

21. The Office

  • Airdate: March 24, 2005-May 16, 2013
  • Episodes: 201
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 11.20

Based on the British comedy series of the same name, The Office uses a single-camera setup without a studio audience or laugh track. It contains diegetic music, making it appear more like an actual documentary. Starring Steve Carell as Michael Scott, the regional manager of a paper distribution company in Scranton, Pennsylvania, The Office features many characters caught in awkward situations, at which point they often turn and stare into the camera, looking puzzled, crestfallen, or exasperated, etc. Although it often received mixed reviews, The Office won many awards, including five Primetime Emmy Awards. Steve Carell won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a TV Comedy. It was also one of NBC’s highest rated TV shows.

Jay Ferguson, who created the theme music for the show, said he wrote it “against type.” “It has this vulnerability,” he said, “this yearning to it that soon explodes into this overdone optimism which then gets crushed—which is pretty much what the show is about.”

My Three Sons

My Three Sons

20. My Three Sons

  • Airdate: September 29, 1960-April 13, 1972
  • Episodes: 380

For 12 seasons, My Three Sons was a popular comedy series that originally aired on ABC; it moved to CBS in 1966. The show chronicled the life of aeronautical engineer Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray), a widower, and his three sons, Mike (Tim Considine), Robbie (Don Grady), and Richard “Chip” Douglas (Stanley Livingston). This original cast also included housekeeper William “Bub” O’Casey (William Frawley). Over the years, many cast members joined or left the show, particularly as the sons got married and had children. The only cast members seen through all 12 seasons were Fred MacMurray and Stanley Livingston. In 1969, Steve married widow Barbara Harper (Beverly Garland), whose daughter, Dorothy (Dawn Lyn), also came to live with the Douglas family.

Astonishingly, for the first five seasons of the show, at least 36 episodes were produced each season. In the show’s third season in 1962, 39 episodes were produced! For comparison, there are usually about 20 episodes in a season in modern sitcoms.

The Beverly Hillbillies

The Beverly Hillbillies

19. The Beverly Hillbillies

  • Airdate: September 26, 1962-March 23, 1971
  • Episodes: 274

This rags-to-riches comedy is about Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen), whose swampy land in the Ozarks turns out to be located over a lake of oil. Now a millionaire, Jed moves his family of four and their simple country ways to Beverly Hills, where they unsuccessfully try to fit in with high society. But every time they try to leave, Mr. Drysdale, the manager of the bank holding Jed’s millions, will beg, borrow, or steal to keep the Clampetts from leaving Beverly Hills. Mostly slammed by the critics, the show quickly became one of the top 20 rated shows on TV, and it stayed there for eight straight seasons. Even though the show continued doing well in the ratings, it was cancelled after season nine; in fact, all rural-oriented sitcoms on CBS were axed as well.

“The Giant Jackrabbit,” an episode on season two of the show, became the most watched episode of a 30-minute sitcom in the history of American TV.


18. Married . . . with Children

  • Airdate: April 5, 1987-June 9, 1997
  • Episodes: 259

The longest running live-action sitcom on Fox, Married . . . with Children deals with the vicissitudes of modern urban life in Chicago. Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill) is a women’s shoe salesman who doesn’t get much respect from his wife, daughter, and son. Kelly Bundy (Christina Applegate) plays Al’s ditzy blonde daughter who steals money from Al when she wants something expensive. The Bundys also have a smartalecky dog named Buck that insults the family (voiced by Cheech Marin). The show deals with edgy, adult themes that sometimes caused controversy, leading to boycotts and advertisers dropping the show. Perhaps because of this, Married . . . with Children became an international success; in fact, numerous countries have done remakes of the show. There are different versions in Armenia, Argentina, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, and Russia, among others.

One episode, “I’ll See You in Court,” was initially banned from airing. It was not broadcasted until 2002.



17. Friends

  • Airdate: September 22, 1994-May 6, 2004
  • Episodes: 236
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 52.46

This series is about six friends living in Manhattan. Generally single and in their 20s or 30s, these young men and women are played by an ensemble cast starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer. Friends depicts the romantic relationships, friendships, careers, and intermittent marriages of the six characters. Running for 10 seasons, the show was a big hit as it always ranked in the top 10 of the Nielsen ratings. It was also nominated for 62 Primetime Emmy Awards. It won six, including one for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2002. The series finale was viewed by more than 50 million Americans, and it became one of the most popular finales ever seen on American TV.

Before writing the one-hour finale, the writers watched the finales of other sitcoms and decided that The Mary Tyler Moore Show had the crème de la crème of sitcom finales.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

16. The Mary Tyler Moore Show

  • Airdate: September 19, 1970-March 19, 1977
  • Episodes: 168

This sitcom is about a single woman, Mary Richards (Moore), trying to succeed in the male-dominated world of broadcast news in Minneapolis. The show depicts the second-wave of feminism, which lasted from the 1960s to the 1980s, as women stopped being housewives and joined the workforce. It also deals with numerous controversial issues such as equal pay for women, prostitution, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, marital infidelity, adoption, humor in death, and drug addiction (Mary Richards develops an addiction to sleeping pills but overcomes it). The show did very well with awards, winning 29 Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series from 1975 to 1977. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked the show at number six on its list of the “101 Best Written TV Series of All Time.”

During the sixth season, Betty Ford appears in a cameo. This was the first time a First Lady appeared on an American sitcom.

Will & Grace

Will & Grace

15. Will & Grace

  • Airdate: September 21, 1998-May 18, 2006 (original series), September 28, 2017-April 23, 2020 (revival)
  • Episodes: 246
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 25.3

This show is about four middle-aged friends living in New York City: Will Truman (Eric McCormack), Grace Adler (Debra Messing), Karen Walker (Megan Mullally), and Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes). Will Truman is a straight-talking gay man who’s reluctant to admit he’s gay, while Jack McFarland is openly gay, perhaps to a stereotypical extent. Grace Adler, an interior decorator, is a straight Jewish woman who loves food, while Karen Walker is Grace’s assistant. The show has been praised as a vehicle for helping people understand the LGBT community. It has been nominated for 83 Primetime Emmy Awards, and it won 18 of them.

Will & Grace was the first American TV series starring openly gay male characters, which opened the gate for other gay-oriented TV shows from the late 1990s onward.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

14. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

  • Airdate: October 3, 1952-April 23, 1966
  • Episodes: 435

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet starred Ozzie Nelson, his wife Harriet, and his two sons, David and Ricky. This was one of several sitcoms about musical families in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ’70s; the cast all had musical talent. In fact, Ricky, the youngest of the family, became a teen idol by singing R&B and rock and roll tunes, much to the delight of the girls in the audience. The program started as a radio show, which lasted from 1944 to 1954. In 1952, a full-length movie, Here Come the Nelsons, was released, and it became a pilot for the TV show. The TV series lasted for 14 seasons; it was the longest running live-action American sitcom until it was surpassed by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has surpassed the show. However, there are many more episodes of Ozzie and Harriet.

Ricky Nelson would form the Stone Canyon Band in the 1970s, producing the hit single “Garden Party” in 1972. He died in 1985 in a plane crash; he was 45 years old. In 1987, Ricky was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Cosby Show

The Cosby Show

13. The Cosby Show

  • Airdate: September 20, 1984-April 30, 1992
  • Episodes: 201
  • Highest rated episode by rating/share: 41.3/56

The Huxtables, an upper middle-class African American family residing in Brooklyn, star in this breakaway sitcom. Bill Cosby, who appeared in two unsuccessful sitcoms in the 1970s, finally found a winner with The Cosby Show, which is arguably the greatest sitcom of the 1980s. TV Guide also crowned Cosby’s portrayal of Dr. Cliff Huxtable as the “Greatest Television Dad.” The show also acted as a springboard for other shows starring African Americans, such as In Living Color, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and A Different World (a spin-off of The Cosby Show). Notably, All in the Family and The Cosby Show are the only sitcoms rated number one in the Nielsen ratings for five consecutive seasons. Unfortunately, the series has been removed from syndication due to the sexual assault allegations and later conviction of Bill Cosby.

The series finale aired in April 1992. At that time, the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles were occurring. At the time, Bill Cosby was quoted as pleading for peace.

South Park

South Park

12. South Park

  • Airdate: August 13, 1997-Present
  • Episodes: Currently airing

Appearing on Comedy Central, this show is an adult animated cartoon that satirizes just about everything in a raunchy way. Created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the show depicts the lives of four elementary school kids—Stan Marsh, Eric Cartman, Kyle Broflovsky, and Kenny McCormick—in the town of South Park, a place where the adults are dim-witted, naive, and ignorant while the children have intelligence and wisdom. Cartman can be whomever he wants for his own self-interest; in fact, he’s often the show’s offensive, amoral antagonist, so everyone seems to hate him. The show has always been a huge ratings success, and TV Guide picked South Park as number 10 on their list “Greatest TV Cartoon of All Time” in 2013.

Episodes of South Park can be produced in a matter of days rather than the months needed for hand-drawn animation. Using software such as Autodesk Maya, episodes can cover current events that are only a few days old.



11. Cheers

  • Airdate: September 30, 1982-May 20, 1993
  • Episodes: 275

Cheers is the name of a bar “where everybody knows your name,” as the theme song goes. Located in Boston, the bar is owned by Sam Malone (Ted Danson), who is also the bartender. Malone used to pitch for the Boston Red Sox until he developed a drinking problem. Considered a Don Juan, perhaps even a sex addict, Malone hits on all the hot ladies who frequent the bar, though he never attaches permanently to any of them. The show features an ensemble cast, including Shelly Long, George Wendt, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, and Kristie Alley. Ranked nearly last during its first season, Cheers soon took off. It eventually became the number one ranked show, and it is now considered to be one of the greatest series of all time. It won a stunning 28 Primetime Emmy Awards.

Originally, the part of Sam Malone was supposed to be a retired NFL player, with Fred Dryer, a former defensive lineman, portraying the character. When Ted Danson was picked instead, the character became a former MLB pitcher, which seemed more believable.



10. Frasier

  • Airdate: September 16, 1993-May 13, 2004
  • Episodes: 264
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 33.70

A spin-off from Cheers, Kelsey Grammar stars as Frasier Crane, a psychiatrist who, after divorcing his wife, returns to Seattle. He he moves in with his father, Jim (Jim Mahoney), and his housekeeper and physiotherapist, Daphne Moon. Most of the sitcom’s comedic fireworks erupt from the sibling rivalry between Frasier and his younger brother Niles, both of whom are psychiatrists! Frasier gets a job hosting a call-in radio talk show while Niles (David Hyde Pierce) has a private practice. Critically acclaimed, Frasier is considered to be one of the greatest scripted TV shows ever. It won 37 Primetime Emmy Awards (only Game of Thrones has won more with 59).

Frasier is such a phenomenal pop culture hit that it’s spawned the publication of nine books, including Frasier: A Cultural History (The Cultural History of Television). A revival of the show is planned for the near future!

Two and a Half Men

Two and a Half Men

9. Two and a Half Men

  • Airdate: September 22, 2003-February 29, 2015
  • Episodes: 262

The show is about two men and a boy who live in a beach house in Malibu. The men cavort with pretty young hotties while the kid makes naïve comments filled with double entendre jokes. Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) and his brother Alan (Jon Cryer) try to maintain a promiscuous lifestyle while providing a good home for Alan’s son (Angus T. Jones). Sheen left the show in February 2011 while having a dispute with the show executives. Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher), characterized as a billionaire software wizard, replaced Sheen’s character. Schmidt bought the beachfront house and lets Alan and his son continue to live there. Numerous guest stars appeared on the show, such as Elvis Costello, Hillary Duff, Megan Fox, Mila Kunis, Brad Paisley, and many others.

Angus T. Jones, who left the show in 2013, joined the Seven-day Adventist Church. In an interview, he said the show is “filth that contradicted his moral values.” He also begged fans to stop watching it and, after announcing his permanent departure from the show, said he had been “a paid hypocrite.” But he appeared in a cameo for the show’s finale.

Scene from "The Big Bang Theory"

Scene from “The Big Bang Theory”

8. The Big Bang Theory

  • Airdate: September 24, 2007-May 16, 2019
  • Episodes: 279
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 20.44

This show features a cast of geeks, dweebs, dorks, and other generally brainy, socially awkward folks. Most of them have an avid interest in science, video games, comic books, and sci-fi and fantasy. Among the stars of this sitcom are Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), and Penny (Kaley Cuoco). Sheldon seems to be the quintessential geek. His IQ is 187, he earned a PhD at 16, and he’s a theoretical physicist. He’s also clueless in social situations and sweats the small stuff. The show has ranked in the top 10 since season five, and it became number one in 2018. It’s also been nominated for 216 awards and won 56 of them. This includes seven Emmy Awards. Appropriately, there has been a number of scientists that have appeared on the show, like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, George Smoot, and Brian Green.

A plagiarized version of The Big Bang Theory was discovered by creator Chuck Lorre. Airing in Belarus, Lorre thought they had little chance of forcing it off the air. But when the actors on the show discovered that their sitcom was a word-for-word copy, they quit, and the show was cancelled.

Family Guy

Family Guy

7. Family Guy

  • Airdate: January 31, 1999-Present
  • Episodes: Currently airing
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 22.00

This animated sitcom is about the Griffin family. The show uses metafictional cutaway gags and mercilessly skewers American culture. Nothing is sacred on this satire. Created by Seth McFarland, who began working on the show in college, Family Guy has attained cult status, having sold millions in DVD sales. In 2009, Family Guy was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. Not since the Flintstones in 1961 has an animated series been nominated for the award. The show has also spawned numerous tie-ins, including Family Guy: Live in Las Vegas and Laugh it Up Fuzzball: The Family Guy Trilogy. In 2013, TV Guide picked the show as the ninth greatest TV cartoon of all time.

Debuting in 1999, the show was actually cancelled after three seasons. However, reruns on Adult Swim drew massive ratings, and DVD sales were high as well. This led to the show being revived in 2005. Since Family Guy is produced using hand-drawn animation, it takes about 10 months to produce an episode. Therefore, they rarely mention current events.



6. M*A*S*H

  • Airdate: September 17, 1972-February 28, 1982
  • Episodes: 256

Based on a novel by Richard Hooker and at least somewhat influenced by the 1970 film M*A*S*H, this series is a comedy-drama, or dramedy, that takes place in South Korea during the Korean War (1950-53). Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce (Alan Alda) plays a captain and chief surgeon, one among three surgeons, who tries to maintain good morale as they operate on badly wounded soldiers. At least partially filmed during the waning years of the Vietnam War, the characters refer obliquely to it, as well as the Cold War, without taking a definite stand on either side.

Generally a hit in the Nielsen ratings, the show also garnered many awards and honors. It was nominated for 100 Emmy Awards and won 14. In 1975, it won a Peabody Award because of the show’s profound treatment of wartime characters. The series finale in 1983 was the most-watched television broadcast until it was surpassed by the Super Bowl in 2010.

The series creators, Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds, wanted to produce the show without a laugh track, but CBS disagreed. A compromise was reached that allowed the laugh track but not during scenes where surgeons are operating on soldiers.

Scene from "Seinfeld"

Scene from “Seinfeld”

5. Seinfeld

  • Airdate: July 5, 1989-May 14, 1998
  • Episodes: 180
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 76.26

Created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (creator of Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO), Seinfeld is often described as a “show about nothing.” It simply deals with the craziness of daily life. Jerry Seinfeld plays himself in this sitcom as he pals around with his three best friends, George Costanza (Jason Alexander), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards). Critically acclaimed and highly influential, Seinfeld ranks as one of the best TV shows ever. The show certainly made Jerry a wealthy man.

In 2013, the Writers Guild of America selected Seinfeld as the number two Best Written TV Series of All Time (second to The Sopranos). And who can forget classic episodes like, “The Chinese Restaurant,” “The Parking Garage,” and “The Contest.” Moreover, the sitcom may have created more catchphrases than any other show. Notable ones include “Yadda, yadda, yadda,” “re-gifter” and “double-dipping,” among others. The finale was the fourth highest-rated finale in TV history behind M*A*S*HCheers, and The Fugitive.

The success of Julia Louis-Dreyfus on HBO’s sitcom Veep finally broke the so-called Seinfeld Curse, which occurred after the ending of Seinfeld, when Louis-Dreyfus, Alexander, and Richards tried unsuccessfully to star in their own sitcoms.

30 Rock

30 Rock

4. 30 Rock

  • Airdate: October 11, 2006-January 31, 2013
  • Episodes: 139
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 8.9

Billed as a farcical, satirical sitcom with surreal elements, 30 Rock is about the people working on a sketch comedy show similar to Saturday Night Live in New York City. Created by Tina Fey and starring Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, and many other stars of comedy, the show pokes fun at the corporate side of NBC. 30 Rock makes great use of cutaways, and it occasionally uses elaborate sets depicting scenes that only last a few seconds.

Even though the show didn’t score high ratings, it won 16 Primetime Emmy Awards. In 2013, the show was recognized as one of the best-written TV series of all time by The Writers Guild of America West.

30 Rock debuted during the 2006-2007 season, as did the comedy-drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Both shows dealt with the business side of an SNL-like TV show, but Studio 60 was cancelled after only one season.

I Love Lucy

I Love Lucy

3. I Love Lucy

  • Airdate: October 15, 1951-May 6, 1957
  • Episodes: 180

Few people on the planet haven’t heard of I Love Lucy, one of the forerunners of all TV sitcoms and the first to use an ensemble cast. It was also the first scripted program filmed before a live TV audience. The show stars Lucille Ball, who plays Lucy Ricardo, a housewife who continually tries to wriggle her way into show business in spite of the flack from her husband, bandleader Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz). He wants her to stay at home and behave herself, which she never does, of course. This surpassingly good TV show has never gone out of style, and it is still watched by millions, perhaps billions, and in multiple languages. In 2012, it was crowned the “Best TV Show of All Time” according to ABC News and People magazine.

Executives at CBS were reluctant to cast Desi Arnaz as Lucy’s husband, since he was a Cuban bandleader, until the duo created a vaudeville act and performed it at the Ritz Theatre in Newburgh. The act featured Arnaz’s Latin orchestra, which helped Arnaz get the part in the sitcom.

All in the Family

All in the Family

2. All in the Family

  • Airdate: January 12, 1971 to April 8, 1979
  • Episodes: 205

This show is about a working class family in Queens. Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) rules the roost by demanding that his wife, daughter, and son-in-law act the way white people are supposed to act. Based on the British series Till Death Do Us Part, the show was a groundbreaker for dealing with controversial issues such as racism, homosexuality, abortion, the Vietnam War, and women’s liberation. Bunker often squares off with son-in-law Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner). It’s a clash of the Greatest Generation versus the Baby Boomers. Bunker’s tirades are filled with racial slurs and hilarious malapropisms, but he is basically just a good guy trying to cope with changing times. Notably, all four main characters on the show won Primetime Emmy Awards, and Bravo picked Archie Bunker as the greatest TV character ever.

The show’s creator, Norman Lear, wanted Mickey Rooney to play the part of Archie Bunker, but Rooney declined because he thought the show was too controversial and would certainly fail.

The Simpsons

The Simpsons

1. The Simpsons

  • Airdate: December 17, 1989 to Present
  • Episodes: Currently airing
  • Highest episode rating by viewer count: 33.6

This animated sitcom is about a dysfunctional family of five. Homer Simpson (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) is a clownish, bumbling man who possesses just about every bad trait a father can have, especially his lust for junk food. Of course, just about everyone and everything is satirized on the show. The show can be graphically violent, particularly as shown on The Itchy and Scratchy Show, an incredibly violent recurring cartoon the Simpson kids like to watch.

The Simpsons is the longest running scripted series in American TV. In fact, it’s the longest running sitcom in the world. It has won 34 Primetime Emmy Awards and 34 Annie Awards, and it has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

The show has been banned in China and Venezuela, and it was nearly banned in Russia “for propaganda of various vices.” However, a court dismissed the case.

© 2019 Kelley Marks

jay on September 13, 2020:

You forgot THE OFFICE

Devika Primic on March 30, 2020:

Threes a Company one of my favorites and heard of most of the rest mentioned here.Takes me back down memory lane.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on March 18, 2019:

Thanks for the comment, Angel Guzman. Yes, this article took a long time to complete. I consider it an epic hub. Anyway, on-demand cable TV makes it much easier to binge watch sitcoms. Later!…

Angel Guzman from Joliet, Illinois on March 17, 2019:

Great article! I know this took a lot of time and effort. These are all great shows!! I love Married…With Children, Family Guy, South Park, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, That 70s Show, and the others I am aware of and it be nice to binge watch.

Pat Mills from East Chicago, Indiana on March 01, 2019:

I can’t say i enjoy some of these shows as much as you do, but these shows have endured. I tend to love older comedies like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Tyler Moore, and Barney Miller. An animated series that has amused me has been The Bullwinkle Show. That show is packed full of humor like no other animated series I’ve seen. Thanks for sharing.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on March 01, 2019:

Thanks for the comment, Peggy Woods. I grew up with most of these sitcoms – and I suppose many of them helped me grow up.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 01, 2019:

Oh my! This was a fun journey back in time! Many of these shows entertained and made us laugh. Some still do when seen on reruns. Thanks for the memories!

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