While Science Fiction/Fantasy is a genre I only dip into to watch occasionally Sitcoms are on the other hand an entirely different beast. They are pretty much my default genre for watching when I want to relax and unwind without engaging too much in the program I'm watching - demanding shows like say The Wire and The Shield are great, but sometimes they're a little overwhelming. Sitcoms on the other hand are just relaxing.
There's a particular note to make about this, you won't see any British sitcoms in the list, this is because I've decided to dedicate an entire section of this feature to British shows and British shows alone. Why? Because I can - but this does mean that the vast majority of shows on this list will be American, mostly because I haven't managed to acquire many Canadian or Australian sitcoms so far.
Additionally, animated shows aren't present here, they've got their own section as well.
Spawned from Cheers and almost equalling the success of it's parent, Frasier is a rather unusual sitcom in that it tends to avoid the low brow humour which many other sitcoms fall back on at times. Kesley Grammer is (almost literally) in the role of his life as Doctor Frasier Crane, who's left the bar to pursue a career in radio.
It's a tightly written and exceptionally clever show, but the reason it appears so low on this list is because of it's tendency to rely on the same style of gag over and over in the later seasons. Essentially things become one big long 'misunderstanding' with Frasier either trying to conceal the issue or making it worse.
Don't get me wrong, I still dig the show and I just adore Peri Gilpin who is all kinds of hot. But at times it's a little much to watch.
It's pretty low on my list because in all honest time hasn't been that kind to the original 20/30 something in New York sitcom. The later seasons in particular suffered a lot from a drop in quality and at times were just plain not funny.
But, it was a huge part of the 1990s and you've probably seen every episode more than once. The earlier seasons in particular are still an absolute delight to watch, when the show is on form it's so funny it's right up amongst the best. For myself it's Matthew Perry's performance as Chandler which remains the high point of the show, he's fantastic and remains so throughout.
This is the show which made a star out of Zach Braff and brought us comedy which could hilarious, utterly bizzare and exceptionally thoughtful and touching at the same time. It's nearly the very definition of 'bitter-sweet television' (another show pips it at the post, but more on that later).
Now if you'd asked me during the sixth or early seventh season, Scrubs might not have got a look in, as it was struggling a little then, but after that superb eighth season finale, which really should have closed the curtain on J.D. for us, I can say at the moment it's one of my favourites. Which is as it should be, because Scrubs is one of the shows which set me on the track of watching American television.
I just hope this ninth season slash spin off doesn't spoil it for me.
A relative new comer to this list and practically a baby compared to the other shows, 10 Items or Less is something which I've only watched over the past month or so. But wow, it's an absolute gem. Like Curb Your Enthusiasm the show is loosely scripted with main plot points and then the scenes are improvised.
It's set in a small fictional grocery store (supermarket for we Brits), Leslie Poole inherited the place after his father passed away and is now the manager (and owner) of the Greens & Grains. He's a well meaning chap who tries hard but is a little dim and rather unethical. His staff is small, but loyal - even if they're not willing to put up with his larger eccentricities at times.
The first season is pretty good, gets going fast and has some great moments. But the second season is better and the third season is just fantastic. This is a show which gets better and better with each (short) season.
The brain child of the lovely SNL alumni Tina Fey, 30 Rock follows the back stage antics of the staff and stars of the fictional "Girly Show". It's an energetic and fun show with masses of laughs and great performances from most of the cast. Tina Fey is superb as Liz Lemon, likewise Alec Baldwin is in the role of his life as Jack. In fact just about every cast member is nothing short of great in this.
My personal favourites are Kenneth - the NBC page with a heart of gold and the naivety to match, Jenna the self centered and insecure star of The Girly Show and Pete Hornberger, the producer and sounding board for Liz's issues (played by the woefully underused Scott Adsit).
A great show which is something you should catch up on, pick up the first and second season combined today!
Why You Should Watch 30 Rock
Heading towards it's seventh season, the hugely improvised sitcom about the fictional version of Larry David's life is just sheer brilliance. It's not for everyone, because this is a show genuinely about cringe worthy comedy and misunderstandings (like Fawlty Towers). But it's just so brilliantly paced and acted that at times it's almost staggering to think that it's mostly improvised.
Curb Your Enthusiasm will be giving us the Seinfeld reunion in it's next season. Which is such a fantastic move in my opinion. Bringing back Seinfeld without actually bringing it back. I have no hesitation in saying that I think the next season of Curb will be nothing short of amazing.
Frankly I can't stand the British version of this show, it's cringe worthy tripe of the highest order and I will always turn the television off or change the channel when it's on. But the US version somehow manages to keep that cringe factor, but dials it down just enough to allow for the shows other virtues to shine through.
I attribute a lot of this to Steve Carrell, who's just a fantastic comedic actor, he made the decision from the start to model Michael Scott not after David Brent but as he felt the scripts read. So he avoided watching the British version of The Office before starting this. The result is that the manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin is still headed by a gigantic dufus who manages to offend and upset people almost every time he opens his mouth, but he's also far more sympathetic and human.
To me David Brent just comes across as a petty, self-centered jerk with no redeeming features what so ever, but Michael Scott on the other hand is a caring human being who just can't relate with others correctly. It really changes the tone of the entire show and as such the entirety of the thing has become a show I'm very fond of.
I wrote yesterday that Neil Patrick Harris (NPH) would be making another appearance in this list, and for those of you who've seen HIMYM it shouldn't be a surprise at all why.
How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) is a fun story which bills itself as 'A love story in reverse'. Father of two, Ted sits down with his children and gradually unfolds the story of how he met their mother. A story which must be absolute agony for the children to sit through, because it's due to start it's fifth season this year.
While the kids might be stuck there being tortured by their boring dad and his overly long story, we as the viewer have a far more exciting treat. We get to watch the events unfold as Ted and his four friends - Marshall, Lily, Robin and the frankly awesome Barney (NPH) - experience them. It's a show which has some mild parallels with Friends; there are five of them, they're in New York. But these superficial similarities are just not important, the show is so funny, clever and original that it's great fun to watch. Especially NPH who is without a doubt the star turn in the show as the frankly awesome Barney.
Lighthearted, fun and filled with just good old laugh out loud comedy it's one of the best sitcoms on our screens at the moment.
The entire cast is fantastic, the stories are hilarious and the guest stars are astounding. It bucked the trend that most sitcoms followed during the 1990s and paved the way for Curb and more importantly my favourite sitcom.
At some point I'll probably put together a Seinfeld tribute week in order to celebrate it's return to the screens via Curb Your Enthisuasm. , I adore the show that much.
Make no bones about it, Arrested Development is my all time favourite comedy show bar none. In many ways I look on it as an evolution of the sitcom and also the spiritual successor to Seinfeld. It's (again) a show about unpleasant people doing unpleasant things to everyone in reach, but this time it's presented in the subtle form of a documentary narrated by Ron Howard.
It centers around the Bluths, a wealthy family who built their fortune around developing properties. But at the start of the show George Bluth Senior is arrested for various counts of fraud (and possible light treason). Leaving the entire company and family in the hands of the middle son, Michael Bluth.
Unusually for a sitcom, Arrested Development features an ongoing storyline which not only builds on previous events but makes extensive use of both callbacks to previous moments/jokes AND significantly it also foreshadows upcoming events as well. This, combined with the sheer quantity of short and subtle jokes makes Arrested Development such a deep, layered show that you can watch it multiple times and still find new things to laugh about.
And what other show has an aged Henry Winkler doing the Fonzie thumbs in the mirror and jumping over a shark before being replaced by Scott Baio?
Unparalleled brilliance and excellence in comedy.
Why You Should Watch... Arrested Development