Over the last seventy years of TV’s evolution, the medium has had to adapt. Not only visually but also creatively, with more profound and complex narratives. What started as a black-and-white screen box has become an endless sea of streaming services feeding the insatiable need for content. Of all the genres, comedy remains one of the most in-demand.
While getting people to laugh is easy enough, superb comedy is not easy feat. There have been many funny, even hilarious TV shows over the last half a century, but some have taken the genre to new heights. Intelligent writing and great performances have found and brought to us comedy in places we didn’t know we needed it, changing our expectations of TV.
Sitcoms were nothing new when cheers came onto the scene in 1982, but the writing behind it was. The show revolved around Boston bar owner Sam Malone (ted danson) and his barfly patterns. It gave viewers the feeling of being regulars at the bar themselves, grounding its comedy in the sense of camaraderie.
The show was among the first to tease audiences with the ever-dissatisfying trope of two characters that won’t get together despite clearly being in love with and perfect for each other. The series also starred Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane, the star of one of TV’s most successful spinoffs.
How I Met Your Mother
How I Met Your Mother is one of the most successful sitcoms on TV since friends and Seinfeld. The story is told through nine seasons of flashbacks as Ted Mosby retells his two kids how he, well, you know, met their mother.
Yet, there was always more to it than a goofy sitcom about a group of friends in New York City. The show regularly dealt with the turbulence of love, loss, and bitterness, giving it a realistic feel. It allowed moments of intense sadness and tenderness. It also developed the characters, showing viewers their growth over time.
Dave Chappelle was comedy’s most prominent name in the early 2000s, his sketch comedy show running airing from 2003-2006. Before he quit the series, Chappelle’s eccentricity and performance range gave the world some hilarious and iconic sketches.
Chappelle’s Show set the standard for sketch comedy and has influenced countless comedians and sketch shows since airing. While the jokes were often absurd and offensive, many drew from societal issues such as race, showing that comedy is at its best when fueled by the truth.
I Love Lucy
I Love Lucy was a 1950s sitcom starring comedy icons Lucille Ball and Desire Arnaz. Coming from a time when women were expected to be homemakers, Lucille went against the grain remains a feminist icon. The show centered around her antics of her with her husband/bandmate as they reached for stardom.
I Love Lucy aired on Monday nights and was so popular that energy companies reported a drop in utility usage. Behind the scenes, Lucille had a reputation for knowing what she was and was not funny, demanding script rewrites if the jokes were not working. Ball also broke TV code by carrying a baby on air.
The brainchild of brilliant comedian Ricky Gervais, office was originally a dry British sitcom before being adapted by SNL writer greg daniels. Usually, an American remake meant re-filming in different accents. The American office adapted the writing to suit its audience.
Ricky Gervais’ office pioneered mockumentary-style comedy (think Parks & Recreation and modern-family). It was also the first to employ fourth-wall-breaking cringe comedy to bring the audience right into the situation.
Freaks & Geeks
Freaks & Geeks was a Judd Apatow and Paul Feig sitcom about a group of misfits navigating the turbulent world of puberty and high school. Many of the show’s cast are now household names – seth roden (Pineapple Express), James Franco (127 Hours), and Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother).
Though the show only aired for one season, it later gained cult status and taught all comedy a lesson. The writing was intelligent, emotional, and the first to pitch the underdog as the hero. There wouldn’t be movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin or stepbrothers without Freaks and Geeks.
Arrested Development told the story of the Bluths, eleven renowned business icons convicted of fraud and left with nothing. The show boasted an all-star cast including comedy legend Jason Batemanking of awkward Michael Ceraand the ever hilarious David Cross.
Many TV sitcoms aired weekly and had to catch viewers up with flashbacks and exposition. Arrested Development came at the turn of the streaming age and was among the first to do away with that trope. The sitcom changed comedy that came after it, utilizing meta-commentary (as in Rick and Morty) and running jokes that spanned across seasons (like Community).
donald Glover’s comedy-drama Atlanta is one of the most original shows of the 21st century. It follows Glover’s character Ernie who manages his rapper cousin, Paper Boy, during his come up on the hip hop scene.
Atlanta showed that dark, artistic comedy isn’t simply successful; it’s powerful. Glover’s personal life informs the story, and themes of racism, prejudice, and mental health are front and center. The show has earned over fifty awards in the first two seasons, including best supporting actor for LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You, Get Out) and Outstanding Director for Glover.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Curb Your Enthusiasm stars LarryDavid, as his disagreeable day-to-day self living his Los Angeles life. regular stars like ted danson and Jeff lewis are on the receiving end of Larry’s blunt honesty and strict social rules.
Not many comedians have had an impact on comedy like Larry David. David’s character in curve said all the things no one else could, and this foot-in-mouth comedy changed the way the classic wise-cracking protagonist is presented on-screen.
Phoebe Waller Bridge based fleabag on her one-woman show. The dry, unmistakably Waller-Bridge comedy centers around the character referred to as Fleabag as she deals with family, tragedy, and dating in London.
fleabag makes the most of something rarely seen in successful comedy – truly flawed, sometimes unlikeable main characters. Waller-Bridge is known for adding depth to her cast of her, bringing a unique brand of dark humor to the small screen. We have fleabag thank you for more realism in comedy than ever before.
NEXT: Comedies That Were Supposed To Be Bad But Were Good
‘Last King of the Cross’: Ian McShane Cast as Lead Antagonist in Australian Drama
About The Author