The genre of the situation comedy has come a long way since the early days of the 1950s and 1960s, but in many ways, plenty of familiar characters and stories have remained the same. In the early 2000s, the majority of the sitcoms you could find were built upon the same tried and true format that had worked for decades. Many of the most successful early 2000s sitcoms followed the daily lives of an extended family, featuring a childish husband, a nagging wife, annoying children of differing ages, and either grandparents, neighbors, or immature friends.
There were also the occasional sitcoms that focused more on the children, who were usually teenagers dealing with the ups and downs of high school, first loves, puberty, and much more. Sitcoms came a long way between the early days and the early 2000s, but thankfully, comedy has also come quite far since the broad, often off-color humor used in some of these most successful series that defined the era.
10 The King Of Queens
Airing for nine seasons between 1998 and 2007, The King of Queens told the story of the daily lives of Doug and Carrie Heffernan, a working class couple in Queens, New York. Doug, played by a then-unknown Kevin James, worked as a delivery driver, while Carrie, played by Leah Remini, served in various secretarial and business-related roles across the series.
Much of the series' central conflict stemmed from Doug's perennially lazy attitude, as well as the addition of Carrie's elderly father, who came to live in the basement. The humor is about as broad and stereotypical as it could get, with a cast of stock characters in Doug's friends and plenty of outdated jokes based on gender stereotypes.
While traditional nuclear families were definitely present in the sitcoms of the early 2000s, a move toward unconventional family structures—dare we even say, modern families—also quickly became apparent. The sitcom Reba, starring country legend Reba McEntire, aired from 2001 to 2007 on both The WB and The CW.
The family at the center of the series featured the newly divorced Reba and Brock, their three children, and Brock's new and pregnant wife. The series was full of plenty of surprising relationships, such as the successful marriage formed by dimwitted high school sweethearts Van and Cheyenne after their unexpected teen pregnancy, as well as the friendship that formed between Reba and Barbara Jean, despite Barbara Jean having previously been Reba's husband's mistress. Talk about modern.
8 George Lopez
Yet another series to prominently feature an unconventional expanded family was the sitcom George Lopez, which aired for six seasons on ABC between 2002 and 2007. Though the core of the series was the marriage between George and Angie, the series also focused on their two feuding children; George's abusive, alcoholic, free-wheeling mother; and Angie's traditionalist Cuban father.
Other major characters in the series included Ernie, the chubby funny man to George's straight man, and Angie's spoiled heiress niece. Much of the series focused on George's work at an airplane supply manufacturing plant, representing a decided shift away from the typical family sitcoms.
7 Everybody Hates Chris
As we've seen so far, comedians and celebrities were often given sitcom vehicles in the early 2000s in order to capitalize on their fame. But not all of these sitcoms could be described as semi-autobiographical in the way that the series Everybody Hates Chris can be. The series aired on UPN and The CW between 2005 and 2009 and chronicled the life of the fictionalized version of Chris Rock's teenage self in 1980s New York City.
Though only four seasons and just shy of 100 episodes were produced between 2005 and 2009, the series continues to have a lasting impact on the cultural landscape. Terry Crews is now a bona fide A-lister, thanks to hilarious roles in subsequent series like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Tyler James Williams and Tichina Arnold both continue to turn in strong performances.
6 8 Simple Rules
8 Simple Rules is another sitcom that originally relied on the tired stereotypes of an overprotective father trying to micromanage the lives of his daughters. But thanks to John Ritter's stellar comedy work in the first season of the series, as well as sitcom veteran Katey Sagal and future The Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco, the series was elevated above your run-of-the-mill stereotypical comedy.
Ritter's tragic passing at the start of the series' second season forced the show to reinvent itself and confront some deeply emotional material, the likes of which is hard to find in any other sitcom. Later additions to the series included Hollywood icon James Garner as Sagal's old-fashioned father and David Spade as her slacker cousin.
5 Malcolm In The Middle
Long before Bryan Cranston was terrifying viewers everywhere as Walter White in Breaking Bad, he was a member of the family at the heart of the long-running sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. The series aired for seven seasons on Fox between 2000 and 2006 and chronicled the lives of the quirky family, revolving around the unlikely genius son, Malcolm, portrayed by Frankie Muniz.
While the show was ostensibly meant to be about Malcolm, the strength of the cast as a whole and the uniqueness of each of the family's quirky members led the series to become one of the best examples of a true ensemble cast sitcom in recent memory. Clear standouts from the series include Cranston's Hal; younger brother Dewey; and the well-meaning but strict Lois.
4 What I Like About You
Almost all of the sitcoms on this list have focused on either family narratives or friendship circles. It's often hard to seamlessly blend two decidedly different spheres into one cohesive subject. But The WB's What I Like About You, which aired from 2002 to 2006, somehow managed to do just that.
Focusing on the daily lives of Val and Holly Tyler, as portrayed by Jennie Garth and Amanda Bynes, the series was as focused on the relationship between the two sisters as it was on any of their romantic relationships or quirky friendships. With a cast rounded out with the likes of Nick Zano, Leslie Grossman, Wesley Jonathan, Allison Munn, and Dan Cortese, the series was a true tour de force.
3 My Wife And Kids
As one of the longest-running African American family sitcoms of the early 2000s, My Wife and Kids remains incredibly beloved and popular to this day. Airing for 123 episodes between 2001 and 2005, the series starred comedy legend Damon Wayans as the ultimate man child and Tisha Campbell Martin as his almost unbearably stereotypically shrill wife.
Beyond the constant feuding that took place between the still somehow happily married couple, the series focused on the couple's three radically different children: the ridiculous but artistically gifted Junior; the dimwitted but popular Claire; and the brilliant and often scheming Kady. But perhaps the truest star of the entire series was the child genius, Franklin Aloysius Mumford, who stole Kady's heart.
2 That '70s Show
Everybody Hates Chris wasn't the only successful sitcom of the early 2000s to take place in a decade of the past. Arguably the most successful sitcom to fit that criteria was That 70s Show, which aired for exactly 2000 episodes between 1998 and 2006. The series chronicled the lives of a group of teenage friends in the 1970s.
The series was as ridiculous as it was authentic, featuring plenty of madcap adventures for the teenagers, love triangles, drug-addled hazes, and countless lectures from Kurtwood Smith's Red. In later years, the series sort of lost its way, particularly with some significant cast changes. But the early seasons of this vintage-inspired hit remain some of the best comedy in recent decades.
1 Everybody Loves Raymond
Unconventional families are at the heart of most of the successful sitcoms featured on this list, but no family can compare in terms of dysfunction and over-the-top humor to the Barone family of Everybody Loves Raymond. Airing for nine critically acclaimed seasons on CBS from 1996 to 2005, Everybody Loves Raymond chronicled the life of New York Newsday sportswriter Ray Barone, his marriage with his harried wife Debra, his fraught relationship with his jealous older brother Robert, and the overbearing influence of his parents who live right across the street.
The series was unabashed in its use of stereotypes, especially when depicting the larger-than-life Italian family at the series' core. But with an exceptionally talented cast, every familiar joke or scenario felt new again.