June 10, 2004

Best sitcom ever?

The recent passing of Friends didn't excite much comment around here, and that's clearly a good thing. But what's the best sitcom ever? Clearly there's going to be some age-related issues here; if you're old enough to remember the prime-time eras of MASH, or Bilko or even I Love Lucy then you might reasonably be tempted by any of those. And if you're Anglophile, you might contemplate Dad's Army or Fawlty Towers. But for me, alas, the contenders are all American. In my "nearly made it" spots:-

  • Seinfeld. A work of genius which managed to stay consistently brilliant for nine seasons, something no other sitcom has achieved, and then had the smarts to stop before it went down-hill. No hugging, no learning, characters who were selfish, self-absorbed and obsessed – and hilarious because of it.
  • Frasier. Misses the number one spot because it has been so patchy over its lifespan. If it had stopped around series 5, it would have been the wittiest, most sophisticated comedy ever. But it ploughed on, lost its sparkle and reduced its characters to cariacatures of themselves. Shame.

So my winner would be my dark horse candidate: Scrubs. In a way, that's unfair to longer-running shows, because it's only had three seasons, so it could easily go horribly wrong in years to come. But for those three seasons, it's had the best characters, the funniest lines, the most whimiscal diversions into surreal fantasy, and of course The Todd. If you've never seen it I recomment giving it a try; Season 3 will probably be starting in C4 some time in the next few months.

Any gems I've forgotten?


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  1. Steven Carpenter

    Only Fools and Horses and Yes Minister/Prime Minister would get my vote.

    10 Jun 2004, 21:30

  2. John Dale

    Never seen the appeal of OF&H myself, especially in its later years and with its apparently never-ending series of Christmas specials. YPM was excellent though, but maybe just a teeny bit of a one-trick show; once you heard the double-speak and watched the out-smarting once, you'd pretty much seen all there was.

    10 Jun 2004, 22:08

  3. Chris May

    I've never been able to get on with american sitcoms – they all look the same to me.YPM was funny (although it seems funnier to me now than it did the first time round) but for sheer joy whilst watching, Blackadder (Series 2) is unbeatable. ( Series 4 a close second).

    11 Jun 2004, 08:36

  4. I'd agree with your top 3 probably, but maybe not in that order. Very similar to Scrubs in terms of characters and the surreal was Ally McBeal, again it went on a bit too long though, but it definately had some great moments.

    11 Jun 2004, 08:50

  5. John, I completely agree with your choices! Friends was complete unimaginative drivel and I can't believe I've found someone here (other than my husband, who I've converted) who sees the absolute comedy genius of Seinfeld. When I first came here I had withdrawl symptoms and got Sky with Paramount Comedy so I can watch it. For ages I had the "Soup Nazi" episode in its entirety on my laptop for watching at a moments notice. Incidentally, have you seen "Curb Your Enthusiasm" by Seinfeld's co-creator Larry David? It is hilarious and cringe-ingly embarrassing to watch but much more full-on. It doesn't grab you until you've seen a couple episodes and you get the history they're playing on.
    Second, I have to just say that "Scrubs" has to be the most original comedy in a long time in terms of camera work, writing and strange daydream sequences. A side splitting classic.

    11 Jun 2004, 09:00

  6. Kieran, ya, Ally McBeal rocked. I've developed my own "therapy smile" because of John…..

    11 Jun 2004, 09:02

  7. John Dale

    I can't believe I forgot to mention Blackadder - obviously a work of genius and worthy of a place in anyone's top n list. I'm interested that you rated 2 and 4 as you're favourites; I'd have gone for 2 and 3, I think – 3 partly for Hugh Laurie's classic dimwit.

    Ally McBeal I ruled out because it's not a sitcom.

    Curb your Enthusiasm I admire rather than enjoy; I'm not a big fan of the comedy of embarrassment, which is what CYI is largely about. It's brilliantly done, and if the whole laugh/cringe thing works for you then yes, it's a winner. But the cringing gets in the way of the laughing for me. Frasier suffered from this a little bit too, I think.

    11 Jun 2004, 09:40

  8. Robert O'Toole

    I once had dinner with an American woman who was about to go off to work as a missionary somewhere very remote in the Pacific. When asked what aspects of American culture she would take with her as a civilizing force, she replied: "Frasier. That's the only thing of value that we've ever produced".

    Comeback Dr Crane. Without you the world is doomed!

    Unless of course Tom Good can be persuaded to take up the position of UN Secretary General, thus saving the environment at the cost of forcing us all to wear suits dyed green with surplus garden produce.

    13 Jun 2004, 09:29

  9. In reverse order…

    Blackadder – amazingly funny, and the predecessor of all 'good' British comedy.

    Alan Partridge – Both 'Knowing Me Knowing You' and 'I'm Alan Partridge'. Fantastic stuff.

    Father Ted – No matter how many times I watch it, it never fails to have me in stitches.

    :-)

    14 Jun 2004, 11:09

  10. Paul Strapps

    Probably because I don't watch a lot of TV but my all time favourite is Red Dwarf. It's slowly being released on DVD (although series 1 seems very dated now!) and best of all there's a movie on the way!! :)

    Best comment from Red Dwarf:

    Rimmer: Step up to red alert
    Kryten: are you sure sir…....it does mean changing the light bulb!!

    14 Jun 2004, 11:45

  11. Vitaly Friedman

    Seinfeld, Frasier, Curb your Enthusiasm…

    19 Apr 2005, 19:37

  12. Hjalte

    Well in my opinion Mash, and the cosby show was the best sitcom ever. A little old but they had it all. Humor, Charm and the thing you never can put your finger on.
    Friends had the same things, But in smaller amounds.

    Brgds
    Hjalte (from denmark)

    07 Sep 2005, 21:36

  13. Lorcan McGrane

    Best sitcom lists alway seem BBC-centric what about my 'holy sictcom trinity': Spaced, Father Ted and Black Books alL Channel 4 4,...not to mention Peep Show.

    09 Sep 2005, 01:15

  14. Conchubhar Tuairisg

    What about arrested development?? Original, Quirky, Hilarious characters and situations, no canned laughter.
    Funniest sit-com ever….

    19 Jan 2006, 09:57


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