Ten best (American)  situation comedies, ever:

  1. M*A*S*H
  2. Sergeant Bilko
  3. The Dick van Dyke Show
  4. Seinfeld
  5. The Simpsons
  6. Arrested Development
  7. Barney Miller
  8. Taxi
  9. Malcolm in the Middle
  10. Cheers

I’m sure we can all agree on that list.

Mike Schilling

Mike has been a software engineer far longer than he would like to admit. He has strong opinions on baseball, software, science fiction, comedy, contract bridge, and European history, any of which he's willing to share with almost no prompting whatsoever.


  1. Your list is pretty good. For whatever reason, I’ve never seen an episode of Sergeant Bilko. Was it on NBC? Because we couldn’t reliably pick up an NBC station when I was a kid.

    I liked MASH a lot when it was on but I find it almost unwatchable now, especially the later seasons with Colonel Potter.

    I would probably replace one of your picks with Hogan’s Heroes.

    • There were 2 great HH jokes on Community this week:

      Jeff explaining to the others that the show was created & aired before the concept of “too soon” had been invented.

      And, the German students referring to the show as “Hogan’s Villains.”

      • Way too soon. But then Robert Clary, who was a prisoner at Buchenwald, was OK with it.

  2. I don’t know why seinfeld or for that matter arrested development is there. Also missing from the list:

    Gilligan’s Island
    I love lucy
    Gomer Pyle
    I dream of Genie
    The Big Bang Theory

        • Heh…just not my thing. And no one in my immediate circle watches it. So I used to think CBS was lying when they bragged about its success. Then I learned it is apparently hugely popular but I remain defiantly indignant.

          • A couple years ago, CBS was canceling sitcoms with higher ratings than NBC’s highest rated sitcom. They don’t need to lie about the popularity of nothing. I actually have a theory that CBS intentionally green lights some ideas as a middle finger to the other three. “See? We can put on the air that show about that twitter account because if it bombs who cares because we’re fishin’ CBS.”

          • BBT might be the one CBS show that cracks my demographic. I occassionally watched King of Queens, mainly because the characters reminded me of myself and friend. We tend to see CBS as the channel with shows featuring ugly dudes with improbably hot wives.

          • I am BBT’s demographic, culturally if not educatedly. It actuallt surprises me that the show isddoing as well as it is. Might actually be because of its own “unattractive guy with hot girl” dynamic.

    • I’ve noted from talking to non-Americans that Seinfeld just doesn’t seem to translate well.

      • My Irish ex-flatmate loved it. Which of course doesn’t disprove your point in general, just that there are some non-Americans who get it.

        • I should have been more specific…it was people for whom English was not their native language that I observed this. Being that Seinfeld is very much a comedy of manners and innuendo, this made sense as a translation issue (would “master of his domain” mean something very different in German?)

    • You don’t know why AD is there? I don’t know why it isn’t #1. Clearly this should have been this week’s barfight.

  3. I think the Mary Tyler Moore show should be on there someplace. Sgt Bilko….wow, that goes back a ways. Somebody is dating themselves. I’m not really sure where, or if, it belongs.

    Cheers- The place where everybody knows that show is aggressively mediocre.

    MASH definitely belongs on the list. It is truly amazing for having been able to switch some many characters and change tone almost completely over its run. The last few years could be so maudlin and preachy, and then powerfully dramatic, with deep fully realized characters and humour all in 22 minutes.

    What about All in the Family?

    RIP Bonnie Franklin who died today. She starred in a popular and fair sit com. One Day at a Time.

    • I remember One Day at a Time; I had a serious crush on Valerie Bertinelli. Sorry to hear Ms. Franklin is gone.

      I’ve only seen Bilko in reruns, of course, but it’s brilliant, each episode a well-built playlet. There’s a best-of collection you can get from Netflix that I definitely recommend. (Avoid the film with Steve Martin like the plague.)

      • I liked Bilko. My Dad used to like it so i saw plenty of reruns as a kid. Who didn’t have a crush on VB as a kid?

  4. None of you watch current TV (aside from Big Bang, which is ok)?

    1. Parks & Rec
    2. Community

    I hear 30 Rock and The Office were big things, too.

    • P&R and 30 Rock are the two clearest descendants of peak Simpsons – Parks has the fully-realized town and recurring supporting characters and heart, and 30 has the sheer velocity and joke density.

      NewsRadio was pretty damn good.

      The Critic rocked.

      • I don’t know if the later, Hartman-less seasons of NewsRadio disqualify it, and The Critic wasn’t long-lived.

        Better Off Ted was also short-lived, but really good.

        • Better Off Ted was amazing, though too short lived for a list like this.

        • The second season of NewsRadio, after the actors all figured out who their characters were, was awesome, but it declined ater that. It’s a shame they didn’t know what to do with Khandi Alexander, leading to her leaving the show. She was simply the most beautiful woman on TV.

    • I would be hesitant to put Parks and Rec on the list just because I feel like my social circle overemphasizes how great it is. I think it’s great, but it might be from the fact that I live and socialize among policy makers all of whom include a little Leslie Knope instead of them.

      • I think “Parks and Rec” works so well because the characters are so great. It took what “The Office” did and did it 1000x better. I can’t ever really identify with story lines outside of individual moments, but the characters are just fantastic.

        • Parks and Rec works on so many levels. The subtle change they made to Leslie between S1 and S2 made the whole thing click. But the storylines are also pretty damned awesome, at least for policy nerds.

          Like I once said on facebook: “I like to think my life is The West Wing, but it’s really more Parks and Rec.”

          • The storylines are indeed great. I just can’t relate to them because I’m in neither politics nor a traditional office setting. But it is indeed a must-watch, and once they hit their groove in Season 2, it’s been bananas.

            Did you ever read the guy behind it’s stuff on the old Fire Joe Morgan blog?

          • FJM was space awesome. (It was a blog consisting of diatribes about how stupid most baseball coverage is, often targeting Mr. Morgan, whose vapidity as an analyst almost matches his utter brilliance as a second baseman.)

          • Nob, the way I had always hear dit told was that there are two kind sof people, those who think government is like The West Wing, and those who think it’s like Yes Minister.

          • Since there aren’t that many baseball fans here, maybe sports coverage in general?

          • Sure! I don’t even know that we need to limit ourselves to sports. We could dissect damn near any type of article with similar visciousness and hilarity. I’d probably stick with sports because it is what I know best, but we could include others who want to employ Ken Tremendous and Co.’s technique and focus not on disagreement, but abject stupidity and poorly constructed non-sentences.

          • There’s an obvious non-sports area, except for no politics.

          • Oh, yea… it’d have to go FP. Let’s do sports. Our more musically inclined people could tackle any particularly infuriating music reviews and the gamers can take on gaming articles, presuming those actually exist. Whatever works. I JUST WANT AN FJM DAY!

          • Regarding video games, you’d pretty much be covering all of it. Very, very little good stuff is written about games.

          • But is it it bad in ways that would amuse a non-gamer? Here’s an example of an FJM piece, which I’m pretty sure works for someone with only a nodding acquaintance with baseball:

            They’re here because they’re the toughest team in the National League.

            Fish all that statistical noise. It’s about toughness. The Phillies are tough. The Phillies are like a hockey team. The Phillies work in an Alaskan cannery 19 hours a day. The Phillies could knock out Kimbo Slice in thirteen seconds.

            And that toughness is the biggest reason I think they’ll win.

            I’m going with “they hit the most HR in the league and have a really good pitching staff.” But whatever.

            “They’re the most mentally tough team” in the field, an NL general manager told me three weeks ago.

            That NL GM? Robert Duvall. Legendarily tough. Tough old sonofabitch. He knows tough. When he said this he was driving in a pick-up truck with 300,000 miles on it, that he built himself, and he was on his way to a black bear-wrestling contest, in which black bears take turns seeing if they can defeat him. And he’s mentally tough, too. He once survived fifty days of waterboarding without giving up any information. The waterboarder? Marlon Brando, on the set of The Godfather. So I think he knows what “tough” is.

      • Naw, it’s really that great. Leslie epitomizes “what would happen if we let a ten year old govern”
        Complete with waffle-shaped candy necklaces.

  5. How did you weigh peak versus longevity? For instance, the Simpsons is but a shell of its former self. Yet Arrested Development couldn’t get a 4th season.

    I never really watched any of the older ones… too young. I remember MASH coming on, but the first few bars of the theme song made it seem like a really serious drama, which turned off my 9-year-old self. I was surprised to learn it was a comedy.

    Did “Curb” qualify? It’s unscripted, or quasi-scripted, so I don’t know if it still qualifies as a “sitcom”.

    • I’d count it as sitcom.

      If Curb isn’t top 10, it should be close.

    • Arrested Development did get a 4th season. It just took several years. It’s airing directly on Netflix this May.

  6. I haven’t watched a sitcom in years, in decades, now that I think about it. Laugh tracks annoy me. I did like the Simpsons and Futurama.

    • Check out some modern single-camera sitcoms. They typically don’t have laugh tracks.

      • Malcolm was the first of those, which would earn it extra historical points, if I had given those.

    • My wife hates laugh tracks, too. But she still really likes Ho I Met Your Motherwgwhich is why I feel it should be on this list.

      • Is “Ho I Met Your Motherwgwhich” some kind of new Welsh gangsta sitcom?

      • It’s my son’s favorite. It’s very pleasant to watch, because the actors are all charming, but it rarely makes me laugh out loud, except for the slap bets.

        • Some of this may go to definitions. HIMYM is great not only for the comedy momentsbut bbecause it it weaved into an epic story which makes otherwise okay jokes better. Two and a Half Men has some great jokes, but the moral nihilism makes it less funny, in the longer view.

          This all feeds into my view that drama needs comedy for us to care about the characters and comedy needs drama to live up to its comedic potential. This was where Seinfeld was not as good for me as it was for others.

          • I used to love, love, ove HIMYM but it has gone on too long. It still has good moments but they should have introduced the mother two seasons ago.

    • One of the great things they did with the M*A*S*H DVDs was add an option to remove the laugh tracks from the early seasons. It made it a much better show, which is saying a lot given the quality of the first 4-5 seasons.

  7. What Kazzy said about current “Simpsons.” I can’t watch it at all anymore, because it’s too damn depressing to see what it’s become. But during its peak seasons (I’d say 2 through maybe 7?), it was easily the best comedy show ever.

    Sadly, your inclusion of “Malcolm in the Middle” but exclusion of “Futurama” makes you dead to me. I must go cover the mirrors.

    • I like Futurama a lot, but I think of it as clever and often touching more than laugh-out-loud funny. Malcolm, on the other hand, well, did you ever see the one where Reese joins a dog pack?

      • I don’t recall that episode. Don’t get me wrong, I liked “MitM” well enough, but wouldn’t have placed it on an all-time best list.

        And I disagree about “Futurama.” I find it consistently hilarious.

        • Reese starts to act like a dog. When the mailman comes to the door, he yells “Go away! You don’t live here! You don’t live here! ” in the exact tone and cadence of a dog barking. It literally (literally literally) had me laughing helplessly.

        • Futurama is bit inconsistent IMO; but it LOOKS great, and when a joke lands, it lands hard. Sam and I went a whole thread once just with favorite Zapp Brannigan moments & quotes.

          “With enemies you know where you stand, but with Neutrals? Who knows? It sickens me.”

        • I miss many jokes in Futurama. The ones I get are funny.

    • And you got to give credit to the Honeymooners and/or I Love Lucy for inventing the format and most of the premises and jokes. (the latter much more enduring, the former would only be rediscovered in our more post-modern time)(because domestic abuse really isn’t funny)

      • Both easily in the next 10. I was going purely on what makes me laugh. The Honeymooners is hit-and-miss for that, though I do love the chef of the future, and the game show where Ralph has to name Swanee River.

    • We can start the fan club. If we work hard enough we might find a third person to join someday.

    • That was to Mike’s list, not the Germans Head reference. HH was cool.

      • Was it? I was sort of joking… Actually, entirely joking…

      • “Ho” I Met Your Mother, “Germans Head”…it’s like Will’s auto-correct is TRYING to get him banned.

        Wasn’t Herman’s Head on around the same time as Andy Richter Controls The Universe? I kind of liked ARCTU, IIRC.

        • HH was on about ten years earlier, at the time Simpsons was still a fairly new hot thing. (with at least two of the same people)

  8. Not familiar with Sgt. Bilko, Arrested Development, or Malcolm in the Middle.
    But I think that Newhart (both I & II) should have a place in the top ten list.

  9. I’m not going to rank mine but my top 5 would look like this

    Big Bang Theory
    Modern Family
    2 Broke Girls*

    Every week I amazed how smart Modern Family is. The intricate way the plots come together really impresses me.

    I never understood Malcolm in the Middle. It seemed like the most depressing show ever.

    * This was a joke. I watch it but it is sooo dumb. It’s a guilty pleasure.

    • I’ve only seen Modern Family once or twice, but I really enjoyed it.

      • Its first couple of seasons were just brilliant. I find it kind of lazy and recycled now, but there remain enough moments of brilliance to keep me watching.

    • Late to the party, but…2 Broke Girls? Man, just the ads (which play relentlessly when I watch Big Bang with On Demand) make me want to take a 2×4 to the TV. It comes across as a show scripted only for the delivery of unfunny one-liners.

  10. I would have a top 3 “personal best” and those three would be
    Herman’s Head
    Sports Night

    That said, I can see the logic behind all of your choices.

    • I love Sports Night. I with it had lasted more than two seasons, and not dropped appreciably in quality in the second one, with all those silly story arcs. (Dana’s dating plan? Jeremy and the porn star? Dan, who had charmed the entire floor Rebecca worked on to impress her, is suddenly insecure socially?)

      • Sports Night is not really a comedy. It was funny at times, but comedy wasn’tthe driver.

    • Wait… People actually liked Herman’s Head? I was joking. Seriously.

      • Fie upon you, sir! I can start my fanclub with Maribou instead, then.

        • Heh… I was only 8-11 when that show was on. I do remember watching it, but mostly thinking it was kind of dumb and was an example of a total bomb of a show. Obviously, I shouldn’t be taken seriously on the matter.

  11. That not one person has mentioned Faulty Towers is a black mark upon this site.

    • Fawlty Towers isn’t (American).

      Otherwise, you would be correct.

      • That response came across as more rude than I intended. I can either add a wink, or we can just pretend John Cleese wrote it…

    • I added American as a qualifier for just that reason. Add in Fawtly Towers, Blackadder, Yes Minister, Reginald Perrin, etc. and there’s no way to keep the list down to 10.

    • The description of how Fawlty Towers came to be is funnier than the entire run of most sitcoms. The Pythons were doing some location shooting, and stayed at a hotel whose owner turned out to be the worst person in the world. While they were eating, he noticed Terry Gilliam using the American-style (switching his fork to the right hand after cutting his meat), and came over to loudly correct him: “You don’t eat that way in my hotel!”. One of them left accidentally left his briefcase behind, and found it had been taken outside and left behind a wall, because the owner was (quite sensibly) afraid it was a bomb. The other five Pythons found another hotel; John Cleese stayed and stated taking notes.

      After the series appeared, the owner’s widow wanted to sue for defamation, but everyone who had known her husband agreed that Basil Fawlty was much nicer.

      • Wait…people switch their forks to the right hand after cutting the meat? Why? Is this common? How is it I have never noticed this?

        I might wield a fork with my right hand when there is no need of a knife; but if you have a knife & cutting to do, the fork stays in the left for efficiency’s sake (IMO Western-style utensils are all about efficiency, & shoveling that food in as fast as it can go).

        • I do this.

          The whole left hand thing drives me crazy anyway, though.
          In less-formal settings I just switch and do fork right and knife left from the start.

    • Years ago, I was in Germany on business, and we were trying to figure out how to handle a difficult customer. One of the marketing guys suggested “Whatever you do, don’t mention the War!”, and I could not catch my breath for laughing

  12. I’m a bit surprised not to see any love for Scrubs. For me, it’s somewhere in the next ten.

    • Agreed. Scrubs kind of turned into a Modern M*A*S*H toward the end, though, as in it changed substantially in tone and became far too much a Zach Braffathon.

      Does Boston Legal count as a sitcom? It fits in the sort of Dramedy angle that M*A*S*H had going.

    • I was a fan of Scrubs for the first few seasons and then they lost me. Part of it was probably a crush on Sarah Chalke. For those that liked the quirkiness of Scrubs I would recommend Cougar Town. It’s not on my all-time five but definitely on my current five. Same producer and some of the same actors. Very similar sensibility and they finally found a good spot for Courtney Cox.

      • Soap had an undeserved reputation for adult themes, when it was really mildly risque, slapsticky good fun. As quoted in the Wiki article Arron links to:

        A University of Richmond poll found that 74% of viewers found Soap inoffensive, 26% found it offensive, and half of those who were offended said they planned to watch it the next week.

        • One can be offended and still find something humorous enough to continue watching.

          Married… with Children fits into that category.

          Also, no mention of Night Court?

  13. I’m also hooked on Wedding Band right now. I thought it was a throw-away when I started watching it but it grabbed me. It’s a 60-minute format and not laugh-out-loud funny but it does grab you. Plus good music.

  14. Hmm. Remove MASH and substitute The Bob Newhart Show(s) – together, they easily outweigh MASH. And swap out Cheers for The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I assume you mean the first Dick Van Dyke Show and not the rather sad second one he did with Hope Lange?

    • A second Dick van Dyke show? Next you’ll tell me there were more than three Star Wars movies.

  15. I’m late to this discussion, but I can’t pass this post without noting that only the first 4 seasons of M*A*S*H belong on this list. Also, at least one of Bob Newheart’s shows should be on there.

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    • If spam bothers to comment on the post and leave a comment that says “I have read the post and have an opinion on the post”, I think that we should reward that as something that we want more of on the internet.

      But next time the comment better danged well be engaging.

  17. I’d divide “modern comedy” and “classic comedy”:


    Modern Family
    Raising Hope — best show about what would be “trailer trash” if the could afford a trailer EVAH
    Simpsons — agree it’s gone downhill, but seasons 1 through ??7?? were awesome.
    News Radio — Agree that more Andy Dick and no Khandi or Phil was a losing formula
    Scrubs — lasted at least 1 season too long
    Night Court — ditto
    Soap — funny as hell

    Dick Van Dyke
    Mary Tyler Moore (the spin-offs were Ok, but not great)
    Newhart I and II — III was just starting to find its wheels when it was cancelled
    I remember Sgt Bilko fondly, but not sure it would stand up today.

    Arrested Development is WAAAAAAAY over-rated
    I tired P&R but a few of the characters are too repulsive for me.
    “The Mindy Project” is fun, but a bit too fluffy for top 10
    The John Larroquette Show was good but doomed ( it’s got a prostitute and doesn’t make her feel ashamed — can’t have that)

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