What’s the Best Sitcom of the Past 30 Years?

I’m a big fan of the website Vulture; I link to a lot of their stories in my roundups because they do a really nice job of staying on top of pop culture stories and their writers seem to have pretty similar interests to me. They also keep you up to date with a healthy dose of snark and sarcasm, two things that I enjoy almost as much as pop culture. So Vulture and I are pretty much a perfect match; they are doing the kind of work I wish I could do if I had a staff, had actual connections and got paid to consume all the pop culture that I wanted.

They are currently examining an interesting question: What’s the best sitcom of the past 30 years? They are trying to answer this riddle the same way that I think all problems should be solved – with a single elimination bracket system. Seriously – put anything in a bracket structure and you have my attention. Vulture used the same methodology with TV dramas last March, where unsurprisingly The Wire came out on the top of the heap because it is the best television show ever made. For what they are dubbing “the Sitcom Smackdown,” they have selected sixteen comedies to battle it out for ultimate supremacy.


From Vulture.com

From Vulture.com


There were some ground rules for what sitcoms were eligible: the show had to air after 1982; the show had to run for at least three seasons; the show had to be made in the United States and it had to be a sitcom, rather than a sketch show. This explains some of the exclusions from the tournament, but not all. The staff attempted to explain why some fan favorites didn’t make the cut, but I don’t think that all their arguments are persuasive. I don’t agree with the exclusion of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Parks and Recreation or It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia in particular and I think a legitimate case could be made for Frasier and NewsRadio. I personally would have excluded Sex and the City from consideration; I was never as big of a fan of the show as some women and the few times that I’ve caught a re-run, I didn’t think that the show has held up very well over time. I’m also a pretty staunch Golden Girls fan, but I would have been OK with that being excluded. Ideally, I think the bracket should have been expanded to include more candidates – they probably could have done a 32 show bracket without having to scrape the bottom of the sitcom barrel and would have resulted in some more diverse shows making the cut. If you maintain the 16 that were originally selected and add Curb Your Enthusiasm, Park and Recreation, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Frasier, NewsRadio, Everybody Loves Raymond, Scrubs, Archer, The Big Bang Theory, Family Guy, King of the Hill, Will & Grace, Modern Family, Happy Endings, Bob’s Burgers, then I think you have a more interesting discussion.

I also don’t necessarily agree with the ranking that Vulture gave these shows; it seems like one bracket with Louie, Seinfeld and 30 Rock has a more difficult road to the finals than the bracket with Friends, Golden Girls, Roseanne and Malcolm in the Middle.

That being said, I think this is a fun exercise. My personal bracket would look like this:


(Disclaimer: I’ve never seen The Larry Sanders Show and only a few episodes of Malcolm in the Middle)

Golden Girls over Friends is admittedly something of an upset pick; the nostalgia factor probably was in play here. And while both shows are a bit dated upon repeat viewings, I found that I appreciate Golden Girls much more now than I did when I was a kid and I used to watch it on Saturday nights. I get a lot more of the jokes now that I’m an adult; turns out Golden Girls was a much saucier show than I thought.

If you know me at all, you know that the final showdown was pretty much preordained from the get go, though my final choice may be a shocker. I didn’t take the decision lightly; for me, this was the Sophie’s Choice of sitcoms. I so love both Seinfeld and Arrested Development. Perhaps it is the anticipation of new episodes after the original run of the show was cut tragically short, but I had to go with Arrested Development. Seinfeld is amazing, but I gave Arrested Development the slight edge because I think it is a more sophisticated show; not in subject matter, but there are so many layers to Arrested Development that it takes multiple viewings of episodes to process all the jokes that are happening. Seinfeld is a smart show, but Arrested Development laid the groundwork for jokes episodes in advance. It was a structurally more complex show. After some deep soul searching, I’ve got to give the edge to the Bluths over Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer. This will probably keep me up nights.

So what would your bracket look like? What shows are you upset that Vulture left out? What would you have eliminated? Do you agree with my selections? Sound off in the comments below.