If we could sit around all day watching sitcoms, we would.
Come to think of it, that kind of is what we do all day. Maybe we should re-evaluate our lives. In the meantime, though, all of that network knowledge is probably good for something.
The ’90s: Terrible clothes, terrific sitcoms
It was the last hurrah for the multi-camera sitcom. These were masterpieces (and more than a few bombs) recorded in front of a live studio audience. For better or worse, the formulaic writing evokes a period of bygone television history. The best sitcoms of the ’90s represent the pinnacle of the medium.
Telling a funny story, or several funny stories, and wrapping it up in a half hour. It sounds simple, but only a few of the hundreds from the decade are now considered classics. We’ve taken a look at the last great decade of network television. It killed our youth but awakened our love of the sitcom.
Why do the best sitcoms of the ’90s stand the test of time?
Ooh, I know. Because they’re funny. But there really is a little more to it than that. In our continued effort to kill any humor that might exist in this essay, let us explain:
- It’s more than just a name – It can be tempting for a network to find the funniest stand-up comedians and offer them their own sitcoms. Without the proper concept and writing that translates from the stage, though, nobody’s watching.
- It makes us care (at least a little) – A great sitcom, regardless of the decade, has an ensemble cast you’re invested in. You might say “Seinfeld” shattered this trope with characters who didn’t grow. Well, we’re sorry. We still cared about Jerry and the gang. Even Newman.
- It’s on the air long enough to matter – Unfortunately, some very promising sitcoms never made it past the first season (if that long.) For that reason, we never got to see the idea fully realized. Regardless of how great they started, these shows won’t rank among the best sitcoms of the ’90s.
Here they are in no particular order
If history is any guide, we’re about to get slammed with angry comments below. And that’s okay with us. Really. Our therapist tells us not to take it personally.
Still, we want to keep the cruel remarks to a minimum. So we’re not ranking our list of the funniest ’90s sitcoms. As long as we still love them and the majority of their tubular seasons aired during this radical decade, they qualify. Cowabunga.
We’ll say it: “Frasier” is the best spin-off in the history of the small screen. You could argue that point, but it won’t change our minds. It is an altogether different show than “Cheers.” But it builds on that great sitcom to produce an even better one (in our opinion). The intertwining plots, brilliant wordplay and general pomposity are just as hilarious 20 years later.
Some people say the writing is too high brow to be funny. These people are wrong. It might not be funny to them, but that’s because their sense of humor is broken.
We don’t know anyone who would argue that “Friends” is one of the best sitcoms of the ’90s. Of course, we’ll probably find some after we publish this list. But for us, these six friends represented what we thought adulthood was all about. Of course, we were teenagers back then. As adults, we found it it’s a lot more, like, bills and stuff.
But even through the cruel lens of reality, the show holds up well. Yes, the technology, styles and lingo have (thankfully) changed. But solid jokes and character development keep it going strong.
On at least a daily basis, somebody around here references “Seinfeld.” Too many dismiss it as a ‘show about nothing.’ In fact, it was about everything. From an act as mundane as waiting for a table at a restaurant, nothing was off limits. And what makes it one of the best sitcoms of the ’90s was brilliant writing.
Sure, none of our picks would make the list without great writing. But for “Seinfeld,” it was so great that the show didn’t have to follow the rules. None of the characters grew as individuals. None of the relationships blossomed. It wasn’t your typical feel good sitcom of the ’80s. And perhaps that is why it perfectly represents the counterculture of its decade. But we don’t care about that. We just love it because it always makes us laugh.
Can an animated series qualify as one of the best sitcoms of the ’90s? Of course! Want proof? Well, here is “The Simpsons,” right here on our list! No show has provided more situations and more comedy than this one. We think the fact that this cartoon family is two dimensional has made it so timeless.
Bart, Lisa and Maggie never grow up (except in the flash forward scenes). They aren’t bound by silly concepts like physics. This allows them to continually go back to the well of absurdity and bring up fresh plots after nearly 30 years. But it was the ’90s that defined this show. And if it had attempted to replicate its rise in any other decade, it wouldn’t have been the same.
Martin was something altogether different for television audiences early in the decade. It went on to become one of the best sitcoms of the ’90s, and one of the most influential.
Television provided Martin Lawrence a great medium for his hilarious antics and personalities. And fans ate it up. The show helped pave the way for a decade packed with more diversity in its sitcom lineups. That trajectory continues to the network and streaming shows of today. And we’re all better off for it.
Mad About You
We’ll admit, this one is a bit of a dark horse. We had it narrowed down to several other funny shows for what we considered the wild card spot. They included “Wings,” “NewsRadio,” “3rd Rock from the Sun,” and “Murphy Brown.” There were a couple of other contenders, but we don’t think they’re worth mentioning. (They were all on TGIF.) Maybe it’s because we’re looking back on Paul and Jamie Buchman as older, married folks. But after watching reruns of all the competitors, this one really resonated.
We liked the awkward chemistry between Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt back then. Now, we see that it really does capture the ups and downs of married life. And it does it in a funny and totally quirky way.
The laugh track might be played out, but the best sitcoms of the ’90s never will be.
We hope you enjoyed this trip down television memory lane as much as we did. And if you’re not yet wrinkly and old enough to remember these shows, we hate you. Um, we mean we hope you can appreciate the humor the rest of us saw in them way back then. Share this with your Facebook friends and find out what their list would look like. While you’re at it, let us know what your favorite ’90s sitcom is in the comments section below. Or just tell us how much you hate our list. We’ll take what we can get.
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