Media Stew

Pop culture through the lens of TV, movies, and games.

TV's Best Comedies

Top TV comedies of all-time

“TV’s Best Comedies”

Perhaps you have seen the recent online listing of “TV’s 50 Best Comedies—Ever” compiled by Kimberly Potts. Potts, for the unacquainted, is a New York-based entertainment/pop culture writer who has written articles for such publications as Inside TV, TV Guide, US Weekly and Daily Variety.

Any listing of the “best of” is certainly open for debate and discussion among friends and media “experts.” As a connoisseur of TV comedies myself, a listing of TV’s Best Comedies certainly drew my attention.

Potts lists a number of shows that would not make my Top 10, let alone a Top 50 list. Consider, for example, these shows: The Golden Girls (43), Will and Grace (32), and Maude (28).

It is important to consider, what qualities help to determine a timeless comedy. On the one hand, joking about contemporary issues will resonate with original- and recent-aired audiences, but they risk becoming obsolete when viewed by future ones. Comedy that seems timeless, on the other hand, provides a common thread among viewers across different generations. This helps to explain why shows like I Love Lucy and M*A*S*H manage to remain relatively popular across generations.

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Fans of comedies generally agree on a number of shows that they feel are flat-out funny. And, I certainly agree with Potts on many of her top selections; albeit, with a different ranking order. Thus, I have put together my “Top 10 TV Comedies of All Time” list. So, stew on this!

Starting with number ten and moving to my all-time favorite are: Frasier, M*A*S*H, All in the Family, Sanford & Son, Welcome Back Kotter, Soap, Cheers, The Simpsons, Married With Children, and at number one…Seinfeld.

Seinfeld was once criticized as a show about nothing. However, as I have argued previously (see Seinology: The Sociology of Seinfeld), Seinfeld was really a show about everything. And many catchphrases used in this brilliant show have become popular discourse in contemporary popular culture: “Yada, yada,” “Not that there is anything wrong with that,” “Happy Festivus,” and “You double-dipped the chip!” TV Guide named Seinfeld as the number one show of its “Greatest TV Shows All-time.”

Married With Children holds a special place in my heart because of the gorgeous Christina Applegate who played the adorably trampy Kelly Bundy. And who will ever forget that Al Bundy once scored four touchdowns in a single game?!

The brilliance of The Simpsons is very evident. Going back to the Tracy Ullman days, The Simpsons have been on the air for 21 years. Imagine, twenty-one years! Simpsons’ merchandizing can be found around the world. And Time named The Simpsons the best show of the twentieth century. (Potts, by the way, named The Simpsons number 1 and Seinfeld number 2).

Everyone is free to compile their own ranking of top TV comedies, but one thing unites us all—we love to laugh and we love to be entertained. Sociologically speaking, laughing is a good thing, especially in light of rising gas prices and economic uncertainty that confronts so many people. Television provides us with a chance to escape the problems of the world. Comedies, of course, give us something to laugh about.

Krusty the Clown, among the favorite characters on The Simpsons, helps to sum up our love affair with television in the “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming” episode, “Would it really be worth living in a world without television?’

Tim Delaney teaches sociology at SUNY Oswego. Author of such books as Simpsonology: There's A Little Bit of Springfield in all of Us! and Seinology: The Sociology of Seinfeld.

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