All true classics, you may not agree with our choice of top 5 comedy TV shows – but you can’t argue that they are all great, surely?
5. Arrested Development (2003-2006, 2013)
Michael: Why are you squeezing me with your body?
Lucille: It’s a hug, Michael. I’m hugging you.
The true definition of a cult comedy, Arrested Development was ignored in its initial run. Frequently moved around by the network and inaccessible to some viewers due to a penchant for inside jokes, the series got a second life when DVD sales and internet adoration were able to showcase what made the series so great.
And that greatness could be boiled down to a perfect picture of television in transition coupled with some of the sharpest, wittiest, and most absurd writing and performances on modern television. What else would you expect from a series about a wealthy family of narcissists and neurotics barely holding it together as their lives and fortune fall apart for our enjoyment?
4. Blackadder (1983-1989)
Edmund: They do say, Mrs M, that verbal insults hurt more than physical pain. They are, of course, wrong, as you will soon discover when I stick this toasting fork in your head.
Leave it to a chameleon like Rowan Atkinson to anchor a show through four series each set in a different era from the Middle Ages to World War I. And that is to say nothing of fantastic turns from Tony Robinson, Miranda Richardson, Hugh Laurie, and Stephen Fry.
There was plenty of humor to be milked from the decline of a family dynasty, and Blackadder did its best to ring from its cast every drop of dark, dry, misanthropy and make it perfectly enjoyable for the rest of us.
3. Seinfeld (1989-1998)
George Costanza: I want to make a good entrance. I never make good entrances.
Jerry: You have made some good exits.
The era of the multi-camera sitcom may be clinging on to life with hits like The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother but the form hit its apex with the 90s behemoth Seinfeld that, like many series at the time, used the singular vision of a standup comedian as its springboard. Unlike other series of its kind, however, Seinfeld was able to ride that wave for a consistently great nine seasons and even then choose to make a graceful exit of its own accord.
A show ostensibly about nothing, the exploits of terrible people and friends Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer nothing less than a show about what it is to be human.
2. Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974)
Art Critic: What a Terrible Joke!
Carol Cleveland: But it’s my only line!
The gold standard of the television sketch show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus brought viewers something completely different before anyone else, presenting an insanely prolific mix of absurd characters, meta style callbacks and references, all on top of biting social commentary.
Created by the sketch group made up of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, Monty Python’s Flying Circus is responsible not only for some of the best comedic bits on television but also for introducing the world to the people that would go on in their individual careers to make some of the best film, television, and art of recent history.
1. The Simpsons (1989-present)
Homer: “Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.”
The Simpsons may have lost some of its steam in recent years to shows like Family Guy or South Park, but when the formula for success is to package your show in a different way it can be hard to compete. There’s a reason that the saying “The Simpsons did it first,” and in many cases, The Simpsons did it best too.
From a small-scale family drama to a loving portrait of an entire American town, The Simpsons has maintained a consistently great rotation of talent while always allowing its core the room to explore. The result is over 500 episodes of important and historic…and flat out funny television.
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