Here’s a rundown of the remaining shows in the competition–and since we believe in recycling, we’ll be using the write-ups from the first round, since, well, it’s not like these shows have changed in the last two months. Most of the favorites have won, but there were a few surprise early departures. Ralph & Alice Kramden will get their chance to take an actual honeymoon, Misters Bob & David will not be showing off their electric sports bra in this round, Friends was let down and won’t be around in Round 2, and the voters did not respect Cartman’s authoritay so while South Park may be the reigning president of Greendale Community College, it will not be joining us in the 64-man-and-woman-party. Here’s what WILL be there!
The Remaining Seeds!!
14. Beavis & Butt-Head (MTV: 1993-97) – Heh heh! Mike Judge’s ’90s comedy about two vapid teen pranksters who mock music videos all day–intermittently grappling with the future Hank Hill–seems a bit less funny now that we’re so familiar with Eric & Don, Jr. However, in addition to belly laughs, it introduced people to bands like Transvision Vamp, KMFDM, and Soul Coughing.
9. Frasier (NBC: 1994-2005) – One of TV’s most enduring characters, persnickety psychologist Frasier Crane first appeared on screen on one of our top-seeded progams. He was introduced as a recurring Cheers character–Diane’s love interest–but became so popular he would hold a seat at the bar for over a decade. Then he moved from Boston to Seattle, settled in as a talk show host sharing his home with his brother Niles (David Hyde-Pierce) and father (John Mahoney).
7. Futurama (Fox: 1997-2003, Comedy Central 2008-13) – Matt Groening’s passion project would never outlast his longest-running-show-on-Earth, but it hung on. 1990s ne’er-do-well pizza delivery guy accidentally finds himself in the year 3000 where his 104-year-old mad scientist great-great-great-great-etc.-grandson Professor Farnsworth tuns an interplanetary shipping company. Thus we met Bender, Laila, Amy, Hermes and everyone’s favorite lobster man Dr. Zoidberg.
6. Designing Women (CBS, 1986-93) – Linda Bloodworth-Thomason’s tales of the four Southern women (and one Mescach Taylor) of Sugarbaker & Associates boasted an amazing cast of Dixie Carter, Delta Burke, Jean Smart, and Annie Potts. It also featured the craziest contract deal where the libertarian Carter was allowed one on-camera song for every liberal monologue she delivered.
5. Taxi (ABC: 1978-82, NBC: 1982-83) – The fictional mid-town Manhattan Sunshine Cab Company was the setting for this often edgy, always heartfelt Emmy-favorite sitcom. It launched the careers of Tony Danza and Danny DeVito, who was only an astonishing 33 when the show debuted, and featured one of America’s all-time oddballs as the inexplicable Latka Gravas, a goofball mechanic from an unnamed Eastern European country created by the late genius of the bizarre, Andy Kaufman. Try that one today.
4. Bojack Horseman (Netflix: 2014-20) – Newcomer Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s fanciful story of an aging alcoholic ’90s sitcom star dealing with his increasing obsolescence started slowly, but those who stuck with it were blessed with one of the most potently funny and unabashedly meta and pun-happy shows on television. More importantly, its crazy world of sentient animals mixed in with humans gave us one of the most honest and compelling stories of the nature of depression as its core group of an upbeat dog, a plucky cat, a guy, a girl, and the titular horse proved to be more real, relatable representations of humanity than most live action TV shows.
2. The Daily Show (Comedy Central: 1996-present) – From its humble beginnings as a talk show featuring Craig Kilborne and his five questions, this purveyor of “faux news” grew under Jon Stewart’s stewardship into one of the most vital half-hours of television. Stewart took aim at the hypocrisy in politics and media with a sarcastic lean that belied an endless fountain of love for his flawed country–and in the process even got another long-running show canceled with a 15-minute appearance. While successor Trevor Noah’s style is more subtle, it’s been no less effective.
1. Parks & Recreation (NBC: 2009-15) – Another classic that famously got off to a slow start, Amy Poehler’s post-SNL show tried to be too much like The Office (of which it was at one point planned as a spinoff). It took off by its second season when it found its heart, building a universe of unforgettable strivers and screw-ups in the fictional Indiana town of Pawnee. At its center was its pair of platonic icons, the unapologetic meat-eater and libertarian, and unlikely staunch feminist Ron Swanson, and appealingly goofy, but hyper competent future President(?) Leslie Knope. That Nick Offerman never was even nominated for an Emmy renders that whole award show meaningless. It’s also one of three shows in this tourney that spawned its own holiday that has become celebrated in the real world, but theirs even spawned a Lifetime movie.
13. The Odd Couple (ABC, 1970-75) – The original “odd couple” On November 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence; that request came from his wife. Deep down, he knew she was right, but he also knew that some day he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his friend, Oscar Madison. Several years earlier, Madison’s wife had thrown HIM out, requesting that HE never return. Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy? Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
9. black-ish (ABC, 2014-present) – The center of the -Ishaverse, this sharp comedy starring Anthony Anderson as ad exec Dre and Tracee Ellis Ross as anesthesiologist Bow, two parents trying to raise their children in a way that reflects their upwardly mobile status without losing track of where they came from.
7. Monty Python’s Flying Circus (BBC, 1969-75) – Where it all began… after a bunch of different popular shows in different combinations. Easily the most important comedy troupe in history, their absurdist half-hour of semi-connected sketches influenced most modern sketch shows, especially one you’ll see if you scroll down just a tad. Furthermore, Adult Swim practically owes its existence to Terry Gilliam’s weirdo, abstract and often obtuse, and sometimes vulgar intersticial animation.
6. Family Ties (NBC, 1982-89) – In a role reversal, a pair of lifetime hippies have a teenager who is Nixon/Reagan Republican conservative, Alex P. Keaton. The show which also included sisters Mallory and Tina Yothers, became one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1980s, launched the film career of Michael J. Fox, used a minor 1981 hit by Billy Vera & the Beaters for a touching moment, propelling the song to number one, and gave us a classic Christmas episode.
5. Daria (MTV, 1997-2002) – One of two spin-offs from our big upset of the last round, Daria began life, already deadpan, as a bemused foil to the hijinks on Beavis & Butthead. While Mike Judge was busy on the other spin-off (which we’ll get to eventually), Glenn Eichler & Susie Lewis Lynn took on Daria, made her even droller, gave her a goth bestie in artist Jane Lane, as they ridiculed their peers at Lawndale High–including Daria’s cheerleader little sister Quinn.
3. The Office [UK] (BBC, 2001-03) – The only show with two versions in our tournament, Ricky Gervais’ and Stephen Merchant’s dark original took the mundane cubicle life and found delight in its most cringeworthy moments. Gervais’ David Brent had all the crippling insecurity and toxic narcissism of Michael Scott, but with fewer redeeming features and zero self-awareness.
2. The Good Place (NBC, 2016-20) – Mike Schur, co-creator of the American version of The Office and creator of the number one show in our last section, Parks & Recreation, took his world building to another level, the afterlife. Kristen Bell’s Eleanor Shellstrop wakes up to learn from Ted Danson’s Michael that she has made it to the super-exclusive “The Good Place” due to a lifetime of hard work and charity as a human rights lawyer–only Eleanor knows that in real life she was an “Arizona dirtbag” who knowingly pushed fake medicine on the elderly. And that barely tells you anything about this hilarious show with more twists, turns, and re-inventions than Lost
1. The Simpsons (Fox, 1989-present) – It’s The Simpsons. 700+ shows over 32 seasons. What more is there to say? Would you believe Homer was supposed to be 33 when the series started? I have had a cow over that ever since I turned 34.
9. Barry (HBO, 2018-present) – Bill Hader’s twisted creation may just be the darkest program in this whole tournament (while featuring a co-star legendary as one of Hollywood’s kindest humans in Henry Winkler). Barry is a professional killer who decides mid-hit that he would like to quit the contract murder biz and get into the show biz when he spies Gene Cousineau’s (Winkler) acting class. Obviously, getting out is never that easy or we wouldn’t have a show.
7. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix, 2015-20) – Kidnapped as a child and held in an underground bunker by the crazy Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (in some fun Jon Hamm stunt casting), Kimmy is freed at 29 to try to navigate the confusing streets of New York City. Trying to escape her past as a “Mole Woman,” she becomes entangled in misadventures with melodramatic roommate Titus Andromedon and landlord Lillian Kaushtupper, as well as with her boss Jacqueline Voorhees. Like most Tina Fey shows, it was not without its problematic moments, but it was still one of the funniest shows airing in the past five years.
6. Superstore (NBC, 2015-21) – Ending just a few weeks ago, what started as an America Ferrera vehicle evolved into one of the better ensemble cast universes this side of Parks & Rec or The Simpsons. The employees of St. Louis box store Cloud 9 were flawed to the point most of them should have been let go years ago, but what made this show work was exemplified by one of its best episodes when undocumented Mateo is protected by the whole store in an ICE raid. These were some of the most well-drawn, loveable misfits who stood up when one of their own was attacked.
5. The IT Crowd (BBC 4, 2006-13) – Often silly and/or crass, this show about Roy & Moss, two misfits who toil in the basement of a glitzy company, only called up when they need their computers fixed, at its best was capable of the best half-hour of character-driven slapstick/farce on TV. The pair are saddled with a boss, Jen, who longs to be cool and is as miserable to be down there as the rest. “Did someone email us about a fire?”
4. WKRP in Cincinnati (CBS, 1978-82) – Misfits abound in this group, even if many of the ones living on the air in Cincinnati were of the hipper variety. New programming director Andy Travis, charged with reviving a radio station, brings in the rock n’ roll, all the while grappling with a clueless boss, a prissy traffic reporter, a sleazy salesman, a stoner DJ, and Venus Flytrap and Bailey Quarters who were actually pretty competent if memory serves.
3. Atlanta (FX, 2016-present) – Donald Glover’s moody and ethereal Emmy-ruling comedy is another one that gets dark as we follow 30-something Earn Marks as he tries to get his life in order and provide for his kid by hooking on to the rising star that is his cousin, who raps under the name Paper Boi. Its cast alone–led by Glover, Brian Tyree Henry as Paper Boi, and Lakeith Stanfield as Paper Boi’s ultra-eccentric friend and associate–warrants its high seed, even if there are stretches with few laughs.
2. The Larry Sanders Show (HBO, 1992-98) – Garry Shandling went from a show that knows it’s a show to perhaps the best ever show-within-a-show. After frequent guest host Shandling missed out on hosting The Tonight Show in real life, he did a notch better by creating his own iconic series where he played the narcissistic host Sanders, host of a popular late-night talk shows. With his sociopathic boss (Rip Torn) and insecure sidekick (Jeffrey Tambor), Sanders had a toxic workplace trifecta. It’s arguably the precursor of Curb Your Enthusiasm for its ability to get celebrities to inhabit the most awful versions of themselves.
1. I Love Lucy (1951-57) – Over 60 years off-the-air, comedian Lucille Ball’s classic showcase as the prone-to-misadventure wife of bandleader Ricky Ricardo (real-life husband Desi Arnaz) stills stands as the gold standard all comedies are measured against. And while we officially have just the original show listed, this can be thought to embody all the different iterations. Well, maybe except for Life with Lucy, her final series in 1987 which was sadly canceled after 13 episodes. Did you know that Rilo Kiley‘s Jenny Lewis was in that as a child?
9. The Mindy Project (Fox, 2012-15/Hulu 2015-17) – Mindy Kaling’s solo project often struggled to stay on the air, but that was not for lack of critical praise or cult following. A successful OB/GYN, Mindy Lahiri was a total mess when it came to her personal life, especially romance. The series began with her as duped by rom-coms but sort of abandoned that frame, yet even with the revamps, it deserves a place as a classic comedy. Chris Messina shined as her main (but not only) will-they/won’t they.
7. The Jeffersons (CBS, 1975-85) – The Bunkers’ neighbors moved on up from Queens to the east side of Manhattan and stayed there for eleven seasons. If you want to feel old, Sherman Helmsley was 33 when he first played the role of soon-to-be dry cleaning mogul George Jefferson. The series which took place primarily inside the high rise, also featured a rich supporting cast for George to hurl insults at, including Marla Gibbs as Florence, the Jeffersons’ maid and TV’s first interracial couple in Tom and Helen Willis (the latter the real-life mother of Lenny Kravitz). In a cool turn, last year an all new cast read the first episode live, and the 88-year-old Gibbs popped in to play her original role.
6. Key & Peele (Comedy Central, 2012-15) – It’s almost stunning how short this seminal sketch show’s run was before Keegan-MIchael Key became one of the most sought-after character actors and Jordan Peele, one of cinema’s great auteurs. While, admittedly, the duo borrowed a lot from David Chappelle’s abandoned hit program–including the storytelling wraparound–the pair had honed its chemistry so well on MADtv that it doesn’t matter. Between the NFL East-West Game, Luther (Obama’s anger translator), Andre & Meegan, and Mr. Garvey, the show spawned an abundance of unforgettable recurring sketches. They were also vanguards in using YouTube to promote its show.
5. M*A*S*H (CBS, 1972-83) – When this show ended after extending the Korean War for eight years in its alternate universe, its finale was the gold standard for anticipated endings and broke all non-Super Bowl related viewership records–and it’s still the top dog among any episode of a scripted series (although technically the finale was a TV movie or a collection of five episodes). I’ll just say it–we seeded the adventures of Hawkeye, Hot Lips, Trapper John, Radar, Klinger and the rest a tad too low (or more accurately, I did as I made the final list).
4. Fawlty Towers (BBC, 1975-79) – Arguably the funniest and most culturally important show with fewer than 13 episodes (and only one show had fewer–it’s in the next section), John Cleese and Connie Booth’s comedy about the farcical escapades going down in a half-rate Torquay bed & breakfast is an absolute cult classic. Cleese’s best character, Basil Fawlty, a preening, arrogant buffoon had zero redeeming features, yet you still felt for the craven hotelier. Unfortunately, the character of Manuel the Spanish waiter is about as problematic as Cleese’s recent tweets about transgender people, but Manuel’s catchphrase did inspire a very happy and good-natured Scandinavian band, so, does that even out?!
3. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX[X], 2005-Present) – The deranged misadventures of “The Gang” have grown from a 200 dollar pilot filmed by struggling actors Rob McElhenny, Glenn Howerton, and Charlie Day to fourteen seasons and running and a huge cult following (that verges on mainstream). The show was already having some success and didn’t really need the star power of Danny DeVito joining as perverse Frank Reynolds, but it didn’t hurt things. Buoyed by a universe of oddballs surrounding the group’s home location of Paddy’s Pub, it’s one of the most clever (and meta) shows on television–one of those programs where just when you think it’s starting to slip, it delivers an ingenious episode like “The Gang Beats Boggs” or “Time’s Up For The Gang.”
2. Murphy Brown (CBS, 1988-98, 2018) – Did its forgettable and short-lived reboot knock it out of a top spot? Probably not, but this long-running show featuring Candice Bergen (SNL‘s first female five-timer) as a groundbreaking and unflappable investigative journalist is one of TV’s most important show. It gets extra points for the time her having a baby as a single woman broke VP Dan Quayle–remember when he seemed the lowest the GOP could sink? Ah, good times. Bergen’s Brown was based on journalist Linda Ellerbee, btw. Also, don’t deny yourself clicking the show title and watching the 1980s-ist of promos.
1. Arrested Development (Fox, 2003-05/Netflix, 2013, 2019) – the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together. In time, we would come to realize Michael Bluth was about as messed up as the rest of the family. This deliriously funny show was the master of both the live-action cutaway, the running gag and of poking fun at its own low ratings and the perilous fate it was in almost the whole of its original run. It’s been revived twice in seasons I loved but that was not shared by a lot of the fan base. Sadly, the promised movie may now be a non-starter with the passing of Jessica Walter and Jeffrey Tambor’s mistreatment of Walter behind-the-scenes. But we’ll always love it–how many shows go as deep in their references as basing a season-long joke around a forgotten dalliance of long forgotten 1960’s television star George Maharis. Has anyone in this family ever seen a chicken?
10. The Kids in the Hall (CBC/CBS/HBO, 1988-95) – Almost absorbed by the Death Star of sketch comedy when two of its members became SNL staff writers in the mid-1980s, Lorne Michaels changed gears and in 1988 gave David Foley, Bruce McCullouch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson their own series, where the troupe practically invented the idea of alt-comedy with their absurdly hilarious creations, such as the flying pig who entertains people on ATM lines, the head crusher, or the middle manager who goes crazy on a moderate amount of power. I will say the “He’s Hip, He’s Cool, He’s 45!” sketch feels a bit closer to home watching it now.
9. Absolutely Fabulous (BBC, 1992-96, 2001-04, 2011-12) – Ab Fab for short, the soused and debauched antics of Edina and Patsy will never die nor get old–especially if the appearance-obsessed pair played by Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley can help it. Whether making scenes at well-to-do events or heaping way too much abuse on Edina’s prim, proper daughter Saffy, the two were always about 10 steps over-the-top. As a cult phenomenon, it has been revived multiple times, on both TV and the big screen.
6. King of the Hill (Fox, 1997-2010) – Easily Mike Judge’s longest-running show at 13 seasons, the tale of the Hills began on Beavis & Butt-Head with a primitive version of patriarch Hank Hill as the miscreants’ antagonist in sketches like “Frog Baseball.” Relocated to fictional Arlen, Texas, Hill, his proud wife Peggy, precious son/boy-who-ain’t-right Bobby and an ample population of kooky neighbors, the animated show combined genuine heart with belly laughs. It also gave us the late Tom Petty as Lucky, who gave Bobby the opportunity to eat a potato chip right from the line.
5. The Golden Girls (NBC, 1985-92) – Although I just recently found out these characters were supposed to be in their early 50s (NO, just NO!), nothing could stop this beloved classic ’80s show with the absurdly talented class of Arthur, McClanahan, Estelle Getty, and the unstoppable Betty White from being in this tournament with a high seed. The Florida retirees could play both gentle and fairly risque and the humor remains funny to this day.
4. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO, 2014-present) – Welcome! Welcome ! Welcome! The Daily Show/British ex-pat was clearly fairly unsure of what his show would be when he started, but he was quick to discover just how ready a certain segment of the public was for his patented deep dives into topics that might not normally seem interesting, like municipal violations or infrastructure. However, with his wicked wit and embrace of mascots and bizarre running bits (see Adam Driver), he brought to light the pernicious danger hiding in the seemingly banal. And against a common misperception, he is just as ecstatic as a lot of us are to not have Trump to kick around anymore.
3. Bob’s Burgers (Fox, 2011-present) – Similar to how the movie Annie Hall supposedly started as a murder mystery, rumor has it this animated series about a delightfully dysfunctional family running an unsuccessful burger shop (don’t ever call it a diner) had a darker start as well. They were supposed to be a family of cannibals. While the program still does go to some places that are danker than their creepy basement, the misadventures of the Belchers is one of the most flat-out funny shows on television.
2. New Girl (Fox, 2011-18) – Here’s another example of a show that took some time to find its footing, but when it did, it became a classic. Arguably that happened when the show realized that it was more an ensemble about friends sharing a loft rather than a kooky Zooey Deschanel vehicle. The fact that Jess, Nick, Schmidt, and Winston (also CeCe and later Coach) were all fully-formed flawed figures instead of sitcom caricatures was the engine of this charming, yet insidiously funny show. It even featured Curtis “Booger” Armstrong as Jess’ boss.
1. Seinfeld (NBC, 1999-2008) – Speaking of shows which benefitted from evolution, comedian Jerry Seinfeld… yadda yadda yadda… worst finale, yet many still love this and it’s inarguably one of the most important half-hour comedies in history.
8. Freaks & Geeks (NBC, 1999-2000) – Perhaps the most notorious of one-and-done TV shows, Paul Feig and Judd Apatow’s tales of the difficulties of attending high school outside of the cool crowd is not only a beloved cult classic, but spawned the careers of so many major comic figures of the last two decades. Unfortunately, one of the biggest campaigns ever to save a show failed. However, beyond Feig and Apatow, the show featured Seth Rogan, James Franco, Martin Starr, Linda Cardellini, Jason Segal, Busy Phillips and many others.
7. Insecure (HBO, 2016-present) – One of two shows in this section spawned by a successful webseries, Issa Rae became internet famous for her series Awkward Black Girl. With the help of Larry Wilmore, it earned her a chance to showcase her character on HBO where she fleshed it out into one of the best written shows on television as semi-fictional Issa and her best friend Molly try to balance success with giving back to their community, while also longing for love.
6. Broad City (Comedy Central, 2014-19) – And here’s the other show–Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson produced their series of the same name about trying to make it as young creative women in NYC. Amy Poehler noticed how funny the show was, hopped on as producer, and got the pair a deal with Comedy Central. Its premises were usually simple: the duo struggle to overcome an obstacle while trying to figure out whether they were happy. It’s long past cliche to call NYC a character in anything, but few have used the city as their canvas quite as effectively as Glazer and Jacobson did for five seasons.
5. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (CBS, 1970-77) – Yet another show that was created as a showcase for a comic presence that would grow into a great ensemble, Mary Richards found herself thrust from a broken engagement to accidental producer of a Minneapolis evening news program. While the show ended over 40 years ago, it still feels like Mary’s hat is hanging up there above the trees.
4. Chappelle’s Show (Comedy Central 2003-06) – Few hit shows have ended as dramatically and abruptly as Dave Chappelle’s groundbreaking sketch show. Right or wrong, we have to respect someone who walks away from 55 million dollars because he is worried about the effect his comedy would have in his community. In its two-plus seasons, Chappelle gave us Black KKK member Clayton Bigsby, Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Story, the Racial Draft, and got Wayne Brady to poke fun at his squeaky clean image with one of the funniest sketches ever made.
3. Party Down (Starz, 2009-10) – Here’s another show whose legend belies its short life. Rob Thomas (not that Rob Thomas) cribbed some of the craziest tales from his catering days and enlisted some of his famous-ish friends like Adam Scott, Martin Starr (he’s all over this section), Ken Marino, Jane Lynch, and Lizzy Caplan and created ten farcical stories about different gigs. Despite low ratings, he got the green light for a second group of ten, which critics loved as much as the first, but that was that. Or was it? Rumor has it, the show is on its way back with the entire cast. Fingers crossed.
2. Community (Fox, 2009-14, Yahoo! Screen 2015) – There’s no shortage of shows in the high seeds of this tournament whose ratings never matched the passion of its fans. Dan Harmon’s show about incompetent Greendale Community College and seven people who formed a study group there had to sweat every season. In fact, “six seasons and a movie” became a running gag as well as a clarion call for its fans. And even when it got its sixth season (no movie as of yet), those episodes arguably brought down a whole streaming service. That said, no show has as gleefully embraced meta and made concept episodes a central part of its ever-expanding universe.
1. Cheers (NBC, 1982-93) – While the most famous half-hour spent in a Boston bar also was immediately critically acclaimed but struggled to find its audience at first. However, that didn’t last and quickly the story of a 30-something ex-Red Sox pitcher who buys a bar while planning a comeback, and all the loveable kooks who worked and/or drank at the tavern where “everybody knows your name” caught on and would become one of the great programs of all-time, despite its bizarre no-frills promo (seriously, click the title and watch it).
11. The Dick Van Dyke Show (CBS, 1961-66) – One of THE classic sitcoms, Carl Reiner’s semi-autobiographical half hour was a goldmine for three named future legends as Dyke played comedy writer Rob Petrie (ooh, early meta), married to Mary Tyler Moore’s Laura in a well-appointend New Rochelle, NY, home. Time was split between his time in the writers room (which contained Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam) and his home. We miss Carl Reiner.
9. The Last Man on Earth (Fox, 2015-18) – After scouring the country and finding no sign of life after an unspecified plague, Phil Miller returns to his home of Tucson and does all of the sort of Home Alone-y stuff you might expect. Spoiler alert, but the show’s title is all but blown up in the first episode and by the end of the first season it is clear Will Forte’s self-centered klutz Phil is clearly nowhere near the final sentient being on the planet.
7. Fresh Off The Boat (ABC, 2015-20) – Based loosely on the life of celebrity chef Eddie Huang, Nahnatchka Khan’s program showcased the Huang Family as they navigated life in Orlando, Florida, while trying to keep elements of their heritage. As with The Middle, the three Huang sons–Eddie, Emery, and Evan–began as caricatures (hip-hop head, ladies’ boy and mama’s pet) but grew into deeper portraits. FoB also boasts the incredible talents of Randall Park and Constance Wu as the often perplexed dad and social climber mom–but again, those labels don’t begin to tell the tale of the show’s parents.
5. Modern Family (ABC, 2009-20) – This may be a controversial seeding (in either direction, really), but the ultimate extended family sitcom, when it was good, was very, very good, even if at times it could resign itself to coasting on its established characters and tropes–or going in the opposite direction and having the family members do uncharacteristic things. However, when it commited to a concept or leaned into being a door-slamming farce, MF was one of the most well-written shows on TV. Ed O’Neill made a triumphant return to television as a slightly less ridiculous, but often just as prickly a curmudgeon as Al Bundy in Jay Pritchett, patriarch of a family that included his daughter Claire’s standard sitcom family and son Mitchell’s groundbreaking gay couple with adopted Vietnamese daughter Lily.
4. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox, 2013-19/NBC 2019-present) – Mike Schur’s shows are 2-for-2 so far, with another one maaaaybe the top seed of the final bracket. His cop show (co-created with Dan Goor) puts SNL-er Andy Samberg at the center as Jake Peralta, the ace detective of BK’s 99th District whose held back by one thing–his own enormous ego. While it’s a smaller universe than Schur’s other shows, it’s still the ensemble element that allows the show to shine, led by Emmy-nom-magnet Andre Braugher as his rigid and refined Captain Holt (who just happens to also be a gay man who has smashed through barriers in this universe’s NYPD). Only The Simpsons and maybe Bob’s Burgers rival B99 in its success at creating awaited annual event episodes–every year has an elaborate Halloween Heist and a Doug Judy (Craig Robinson as Peralta’s outlaw buddy) adventure.
3. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO, 2000-present) – Larry David releases seasons of his groundbreaking (mostly) improvised show at about the rate you would expect from the world’s most famous curmudgeon. David has let his idiosyncratic freak flag fly for 10 seasons and counting as the Seinfeld co-creator continuously embroils himself in conflicts around Los Angeles, usually of his own making (although no one in his universe comes out smelling particularly sweet). Often the mini-misadventures combine into one grand unraveling of a finale, as when he performed in The Producers or when a series of events led to the burning down of both his spite shop and the shop it was built to spite.
2. Schitt’s Creek (CBC/Pop, 2015-20) – This show could be a slow burn, but for fans, once immersed in the daily indignities of the fallen-from-grace Rose Family–exiled to the backwater town of Schitt’s Creek after an accountant screwed them over–it became a gentle obsession. Dan Levy crafted truly unique characters in Johnny (played by Levy’s dad Eugene), Moira (Catherine O’Hara), David (Dan himself), and Alexis (Annie Murphy). Few individuals could be as entitled and annoying, yet also charming and endearing as this klan, and their neighbors were the sort of TV inhabitants who both seemed impossibly ridiculous yet familiar from our lives in reality. Absurd people exist. We are all absurd ourselves. Anyway, while it remained a cult favorite, it certainly deserves this elevated position. In the last few years, the show has won all the awards, and we love that journey for the show.
1. All In The Family (CBS, 1971-79) – What is there to say about Norman Lear’s masterpiece? The name “Archie Bunker” itself has become a stand-in for every uncouth, casually racist and sexist man from Queens or beyond (it’s no coincidence that our most loudmouthed President is from the same general area). While some mistook Carroll O’Connor’s iconic patriarch as a hero, most saw him as an archtype of a philosophy our society (at least Lear and other’s hoped) was trying to get beyond and perhaps as a symbol of the capacity for change even in the most stubborn of us. Above all else, this show would be long forgotten if the antics of and banter between Archie, wife Edith, daughter Gloria, and son-in law Michael (aka Meathead) weren’t breathtakingly funny.
14. What’s Happening!! (ABC, 1976-79) – This is one of those plucky shows that was always a bit more popular and influential than it seemed at first. If you are of a certain age, the Doobie Brothers will conjure up thoughts of Raj, Dwayne, and Rerun foolishly believing they could sneak a recording device to tape them. The show was actually canceled in the worst way possible, when the studio execs decided they would prefer not to give the stars a raise.
9. Barney Miller (ABC, 1975-82) – Long before Brooklyn Nine-Nine, this show based a few miles to the west in Greenwich Village’s 12th Precinct laid the groundwork for a cop comedy that balanced emotional looks into darker topics with the level of belly laughs of, say, Car 54, Where Are You? (a classic that just missed the cut for this tourney). Hal Linden’s steady Capt. Miller played straight man to an office full of affable kooks just capable to arrest an array of even kookier criminals while attending to a general public that would give the Parks and Recreation meeting attendees a run for their money.
7. Soap (ABC 1977-81) – This was the story of two sisters: Jessica Tate and Mary Campbell–or so the ubiquitous intro would have you believe. At its heart, this show was an insoucient satire of the emotional tics and melodrama of soap operas that evolved into its own compelling family show. It was a show which could include a ventriloquist and dummy, alien abductions, absurd affairs with tennis pros, two wisecracking butlers, storylines about the mafia and erectile dysfunction, while never severing the audience’s heartfelt connection with the characters. It was Arrested Development before there was Arrested Development–a show that was certainly paying tribute to Soap‘s iconic intro and outro with its own spins on those.
6. Fleabag (BBC, 2016-19) – Phoebe Waller-Bridge took Miranda‘s sloppiness, outcast status, and meta asides and sprinted off to a way darker, practically prestige drama place. Ne’er-e’er-e’er-do-well Fleabag’s real name is never revealed–nor is she ever called Fleabag for that matter–and few people have actual names in her universe (save perfect sister Claire) as she staggers between hook ups, mad crushes, bumbles, and cruel fates. Award winning actress Olivia Colman is Stepmom, she has a one-night stand with Arsehole Guy, she is professionally intertwined with Bank Manager. Yet, somehow, the show remains hilarious (and her character oddly compelling) throughout all of this.
5. Newhart (CBS, 1982-90) – Newhart’s second show–famously, a long, Japanese food-fueled fever dream of his first show’s lead Dr. Bob Hartley–finds the world’s calmest comedian as Dick Loudon, the button-down owner with wife Joanna of the Stratford Inn. Constantly beset by its unspecified town’s oddballs, including William Sanderson’s iconic Larry, ever introducing his speechless brother Daryl and his equally silent other brother Daryl, Dick keeps his cool at the center of it all.
4. Veep (HBO, 2012-19) – As politics got crazier and more bizarre in the 2010s, this show felt more and more prescient. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss created her third iconic character (ok, I may be exaggerating Old Christine‘s status to fit my point, but whatever, have you created two iconic TV characters? I sure haven’t!) with the consience lacking political climber who as the series opens holds the titular position, but during the span of the show also was Prez and Civvy. The show thrived on its vast universe of governmental miscreants and fools, including Tony Hale’s sycophantic Gary, Sam Richardson’s indefatigable Richard Splett, and Timothy Simons’ whatever-the-fuck-a-Jonah-is.
2. 30 Rock (NBC, 2006-13) – It’s hard to believe now that at one point people wondered whether this or Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip would be the successful SNL BTS parody debuting in 2006. The one created by and starring the actual former head writer naturally would last seven seasons while its rival would last one–as its creator Aaron Sorkin would generously poke fun of in a cameo. Fey created a world that celebrated, while mocking, the glory of television, while surrounding herself with a talented universe, led by Baldwin as her right-wing executive with a heart of gold boss/mentor, Tracy Morgan essentially playing himself as her excess addicted, yet shamanic star, Jane Krakowski as her vain and insecure longtime friend and former star of the show, and the absolute find in Jack McBrayer as the wide-eyed lover of the Peacock (NBC) Kenneth the Page.
1. The Office [US] (NBC, 2005-13) – While we could argue all day about this being seeded higher than the original, it’s hard to deny the importance of this Americanization of an emerging cult favorite on the current television landscape. Steve Carrell’s “World’s Best Boss” Michael Scott was a tad more relatable and redeemable than Ricky Gervais’ David Brent, but still was at a level of cringeworthy that was somehow–as hard as his screwups could be to watch–also bingeworthy. As ridiculous and incompetent as many of the characters are, and none of the workers and managers at Dunder-Mifflin come off smelling wholly sweet, they were relatable because they weren’t that far off the oddballs anyone who has ever worked in an office have seen (and deep down, we know we’ve all been a few of them at one time or another). And given this show’s staying power among the next generation, there is nowhere this could be but number one.