With so many shows on TV, sometimes you just want to settle in with an old favorite for a good laugh. These series are the ones that stand the test of time and never make you question if there’s something better on. They are familiar and reliable, which are two things that one can’t always say in this changing TV landscape.
These are the shows that you can always rely on, the shows are likely playing right now, if you turn your TV on and check cable. The ones that have played in syndication, seemingly forever, etching themselves into our collective consciousness.
Without all the uncertainty attached to a rookie series and without the callbacks needed for a serialized drama, these are 12 Great SitcomesWe Never Tire Of Watching.
It was a show about nothing and everything all at the same time.
Seinfeld just may be the quintessential American comedy, and despite a rough start in the ratings, it ended up ruling the airwaves for years. The series is actually one of the rare ones to starve off cancellation, despite not clicking with audiences when it first debuted. NBC was patient with the comedy and believed in its promise, which is no longer the case in today’s “trigger-happy” TV world.
Based on the standup of Jerry Seinfeld, the series introduced us to numerous colorful characters and catch-phrases that have lived on even though the show signed off in 1999. It’s that type of unique appeal that makes it one of those shows you can watch over and over again.
From “The Bubble Boy” and “The Soup Nazi” to “the vault” and “I was in the pool!”, it’s hard to narrow down the most memorable moments because there are so many. We may never see another like it, though Curb Your Enthusiasm is a nice reminder of days gone by.
Having a series survive and thrive for 25+ years is a Herculean feat, and for an edgy, adult-oriented animated series, it is even more impressive. Spun-off from The Tracey Ullman Show, The Simpsons has quite literally evolved before our eyes. The characters have been more refined, the audio improved and the animation has now gone digital.
Yet the series have never lost its touch and it remains as entertaining and relevant today as it did when it first premiered. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie have become engrained in pop culture and so have their expressions. “D’oh” has even made it into the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
The Simpsons is a special series with a type of humor that makes us want to watch the same episodes time and time again. Luckily, under its syndication deal with FXX (and their separate online portal) fans have even more access to the comedy in new and exciting ways. All of that ensures this generation of streamers and cord-cutters get to hang out in Springfield pretty much whenever they want.
While a massive success now, Family Guy had a hard road to the top and a even harder time staying on the air. After a post-Super Bowl debut (and with The Simpsons as a lead-in) the Griffin family made an immediate impact on viewers. The problem was that impact lessened over time and the show was axed; twice.
Yet because the limited number of episodes did so well on DVD and in syndication, Fox brought back the series. If that’s not a testament to re-playability, we don’t know what is! Created by Seth MacFarlane, the comedy took a few pages out of The Simpsons playbook and in some ways improved on them.
The relationship between Brian, a talking dog and Stewie, a talking baby, have produced some of the best moments in the show’s history. These are fun characters to watch and you never know how far they will push the envelope.
How I Met Your Mother
We’ll start this by saying, even with the fan-disappointing series finale, this is still a solid show.
When it first debuted in 2005, How I Met Your Mother had a mostly unknown cast, aside from Alyson Hannigan, who we knew from American Pie, and Doogie Hower himself, Neil Patrick Harris. The ironic part was that they weren’t even the leads, which spoke to the appeal of the cast to audiences.
Half the fun of re-watching these episodes is re-discovering that cast, which are now bigger stars. The series eventually became a “little engine that could” type story as CBS kept renewing it, despite soft initial ratings, because more and more people eventually realized it was on.
The problem with any serialized series is that it is hard to jump and in and out or go back and re-watch down the line. With a serialized comedy the rules are different, yet with the talented team in control of HIMYM audiences never had either of those problems.
It’s hard to believe, in retrospect, that a show about six friends living in New York City was this popular. Yet 10 seasons and 236 episodes later, Friends has become one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time.
With only one cast member (Courteney Cox) that was somewhat well-known prior to the series, NBC didn’t make it easy for the comedy to initially find viewers, but they showed up regardless. The six leads actually did become fast real-life friends and that chemistry showed every week.
However, it went deeper than that and the more we watched the more these characters seemed like our friends. It’s corny but it’s true and you did begin to see shades of Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Joey and Phoebe in your everyday life.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Before he was a Man in Black or an Oscar-nominated actor, Will Smith was the titular Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. This series ran for 6 seasons on NBC and introduced Smith, already known for his rapping as one half of The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff, to the mainstream in a major way. He was young, fun and charismatic and that made it a hit.
Yet the series went a little deeper than that and proved they weren’t afraid to tackle harder issues, most prominently race relations. Smith and his fellow producers were trying to do something similar to what The Cosby Show had accomplished in the 80’s. The series positively showed a upper-class African-American family on prime time TV, which was a win in and of itself.
Fresh Prince also features a strong ensemble cast including lovable patriarch James Avery and Alfonso Ribeiro, who has embraced his legacy as the dorky Carlton. Together, the humor, acting and of course the appeal of Smith, make this a show that will always grab (and keep) your attention.
The Big Bang Theory
The success and re-watchability of a series like The Big Bang Theory is largely due to its cast, specifically Jim Parsons. Sheldon Cooper is one of the most genius characters ever created on TV and you have to credit the Emmy-winning actor behind him for he brought this eccentric virtuoso to life.
Yet that’s the beauty of the series, the producers and writers have lovingly crafted a true ensemble that has flawlessly grown from three to five to seven. Each character is fleshed out with their own distinct personality and unique place in the group. This wasn’t done to create plot, but to expand it and that’s the difference between Big Bang and other comedies.
The series taps into traditional comedy, geek culture and self-deprecating humor, which no other comedy has done to this level. From soft kitty to the often-heard but never seen Mrs. Wolowitz, it is those little nuances that make this show special and one you always want to re-watch.
The Office (US version)
Like many shows on this list, the US version of the UK hit took a little while to find its stride. However, once it got into its groove, audiences happily went along for the ride. While The Office is an ensemble comedy, viewers likely wouldn’t have initially tuned in if it wasn’t for lead Steve Carell.
The former Daily Show correspondent took full advantage of his big break, but he also made sure his co-stars got equal attention. The Office helped introduce Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer among countless others to the mainstream. After a while they became just as much of a reason to watch as their fearless leader.
The series also didn’t carry a laugh-track and, as a result, forced its audience to think. But the show earned every laugh. While many would argue The Office should have gone off the air a season or two earlier than it did, when you re-watch it back you ultimately won’t care. Instead you’ll just be happy these episodes exist because no series has really filled that void in the intervening years.
Scrubs may be the most underrated series on this list, but it’s also the most though-provoking. To be able to get genuine laughs and real emotion out of a medical series is tough but this show pulled it off effortlessly.
Scrubs is also a comedy that arguably gets better when you watch it again, as you realize a lot of the nuances you overlooked the first time. It also becomes clear just how stacked this series is with talent, including Zach Braff, John C. McGinley and Neil Flynn who now stars in his own show (the equally underrated The Middle).
There is a reason why ABC picked up the show when NBC canceled it. While those additional episodes are nowhere near as good as the originals, it was the spirit of the series that appealed to executives. The show understood its viewers and its viewers understood the show, those two aren’t always mutually exclusive (as ridiculous as that sounds).
Saved By The Bell
If you are a TV viewer of a certain age you grew up watching Saved By The Bell. Part of it was because it is a great show and the other part is because it is ALWAYS on TV. Whether it was NBC, TBS, WGN or some spin-off of Nickelodeon and MTV, Zach Morris and friends have stayed on television way after the actors behind the camera had moved on.
That is the beauty of the show and part of why its appeal is everlasting. You didn’t have to watch it when it was first on to appreciate it or get hooked on the series. Viewers could always find some way to relate to the characters, even when the plots got ridiculous or veered into “after-school” special territory.
Parks and Recreation
What’s so fascinating about Parks and Recreation is that despite a really questionable first season, it soon became one of the best comedies on TV. It survived the chopping block multiple times because eventually, it began to find an audience. While it was never a big audience, it was the right audience. Critics and a loyal following of fans soon latched on and the series even snared a few Emmy nominations.
Parks & Rec is one of those rare shows that got better as it went along, and slowly found its own way (right up to the end). What also makes the series work is that people are still discovering it and wondering why they never caught it the first time around.
While Amy Poehler is the star, watching a younger Chris Pratt and the underrated Nick Offerman and Aziz Ansari (among others) give fans even more of a reason to watch and re-watch for a long time to come.
Saturday Night Live
“Live from New York, it’s Saaa-tur-day Night!”
With over 40 years of episodes to watch and each episode comprised of multiple sketches, you never really know what’s going to pop up when catching a replay. It could be a political skit, it could “Weekend Update” or it could be a sketch featuring one of the show’s countless memorable characters.
Saturday Night Live has always been a rule-breaker that disrupted the traditional model. That was also always part of the appeal, and because of its unique ground-breaking style it captured the pulse of pop culture and froze it in time.
This series has made countless stars and produced countless watercooler moments. In all honestly it may have produced more of them then all the shows on this list combined. Saturday Night Live is still the exception to the rule and that’s why we tune in every week.
How many of these shows do you still watch over and over again? Did we miss any of your favorites? Hit the comments and let us know.
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