Some television shows come and go, but there are some sitcoms that will remain in pop culture forever. With Comedy a more popular industry than ever before, the history of comedy screenwriting, production and performance has served us an array of iconic shows that satirise and challenge our everyday lives.
Recommended by our Head of Comedy, Andrea Powell, here are the comedy sitcoms that have stood the test of time for over a decade, remaining some of the best catalysts for laughter.
Arrested Development (2003)
First airing in 2003, Arrested Development has established itself as a master of foreshadowing in television comedy and meta-sitcoms. Between background gags, clever narration, soundtrack and characters, the shows takes merit in its ability to hook you in with jokes that build a witty and cohesive storyline. Following the oddball Bluth family, their exploits span across everything from real estate fails, fraud fiascos, and a trusty banana stand.
Black Books (2000)
Often described as goofy and creative, BAFTA-winning show Black Books is hailed as one of the most successful and beloved British sitcoms of all time. Full of hilarious proceedings that embrace everyday melancholy, the show follows the romps of bad-tempered and eccentric bookshop owner Bernard Black and his assistant Manny. With the main cast a bunch of misfits, the show has delivered endlessly quotable lines.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990)
Unlike any show before it, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air brought hip-hop style to the mainstream. A fish-out-of-water tale led by a young Will Smith, the sitcom touched on everything from black-on-black prejudice, class differences, racial profiling, sexuality, and identity issues. Full of comedic chops and heavy dramatic turns, the show's ability to break the fourth wall showcases just how relatable, convincing and timeless its characters are.
Technically a spinoff series, Frasier stands out as a classic for taking the typical odd couple concept but adding a father-son twist. With sharp, intelligent scripting, the show is well-loved for the sheer depth of its central characters; the ongoing focus on their relationships with each other and their antics often described as sincerely heartwarming.
Kath and Kim (2002)
A definitive Australian comedy, there's something so irresistible about the plain ridiculousness of Kath & Kim. Created by local talents Gina Riley and Jane Turner, the duo produce, write and star in this series that centres around a mother and daughter living in suburbia. A hilarious twist on the modern life for the average Aussie, the show also brings in the talents of comedic legends Magda Szubanski, Glenn Robbins and more to sign, seal and deliver many iconic lines.
Fawlty Towers (1975)
Celebrated as one of the best situational comedies, Fawlty Towers simplicity is what breeds its clever absurdity. Following a grumpy hotel manager, his domineering wife and their outrageous staff, the show lends itself to witty dialogue and hilarious slapstick situations that escalate character frustrations. From mishaps during fire drills to rumbling class issues, each episode refines physical humour into comic genius.
Freaks and Geeks (1999)
A one-season wonder, Freaks and Geeks is a critically-beloved hybrid of drama and comedy that remains one of the greatest empathetic depictions of teenage struggle and coming of age. With young actors Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, and Busy Philipps carving out their early career as cast, the show is set in early-’80s Michigan; circling around the tumultuous Weir family and the horrors of growing up.
Get Smart (1965)
Get Smart is one of those '60s sitcoms that continues to inspire the genre. Taking the idea of the super-spy and combining it with crazy predicaments, the series follows inept spy Maxwell Smart and his capable partner Agent 99 as they keep the peace between espionage organisations. With comedic references borrowing from The Three Stooges, Charlie Chaplin, and Laurel and Hardy, the series is an essential chapter in comedy sitcom history.
For an Emmy-winning "show about nothing," Seinfeld is an iconic leap into social satire. Playing a fictionalised version of himself, Jerry Seinfeld observes life in New York without the romanticisation of the people and places around him. With a hilarious, love-to-hate cast and pop culture callouts to boot, the rich world of Seinfeld shakes up sitcom tropes to the point it begins referencing itself.
The Mighty Boosh (2003)
This trippy British sitcom is a surreal treat. With every episode taking place in different location—be it jungles, deserted islands, snow or underwater—The Mighty Boosh uses absurdity to deliver skits that are incredibly left-field. Running on a theatrical visual look and musical numbers created by Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, the show at heart is psychedelic in both style and humour.
A little nutty and uncommonly musical, Scrubs is a medical comedy that takes first-person point of view and throws it into overdrive. With moments of extreme optimism padded with surreal slapstick, its eight seasons warps across everything from song-and-dance numbers to moments of genuine heartbreak and drama. Also did we mention? It's indie soundtrack is one of its best accomplishments.