Now that television seems to be hit or miss these days, debating the merits of sitcoms in the ’90s tends to be a hot topic. Keep in mind that during that time, we didn’t have DVRs or the ability to record live TV. We also didn’t have the internet to keep our attention (or distract us, as the case may be). We tuned into our favorite shows, and did so with loyalty and love. Sure, we watched because there was no other medium vying for our eyeballs, but we came back week after week because the television during that decade was good. And it is sorely missed.
10. The Larry Sanders Show
Garry Shandling completely nailed the title character as an insecure, egocentric talk show host. Throw in brilliant performances by Rip Torn and Jeffrey Tambor, and you have true comedy. Beyond the obvious, the show also turned out to be a who’s who of Hollywood, featuring countless actors who went on to have impressive careers (including Judd Apatow, Janeane Garofalo, Wallace Langham, Sarah Silverman, and Mary Lynn Rajskub.)
9. 3rd Rock From the Sun
The show was clever, and it also starred some extremely talented and experienced actors in John Lithgow (countless Broadway and film credits), and Jane Curtin (from Saturday Night Live to Kate & Allie to a hefty film career). Each of the main characters was crisp and well-conceived, and above all else, the show was really funny.
8. Home Improvement
The show seemed to be a staple in households across America when it was on the air. It managed to provide something for everyone in the home: a funny tool man for dads in Tim Allen, a down-to-earth and very real mom and wife in Patricia Richardson, and the three boys who had their own touching and downright funny storylines for the kids at home. It really won with everyone.
Love her, hate her, or love to hate her, she had a good show. The Conner clan was an ordinary, working-class family with a big sense of humor. Their story rang true for countless people, and when it didn’t, the family was at least funny. Their non-traditional dynamic was refreshing, and the writers weren’t afraid to touch on serious subjects that weren’t always a barrel of laughs. It remains to be seen how the revival will be received by audiences when it premieres on ABC.
This one flies below the radar (pun intended), but upon closer inspection really does emerge as a top sitcom from the ’90s. First, it really was hilarious. The writers were smart and the actors superbly delivered. Second, did you realize that Wings had several tie-ins with both Cheers and Frasier? Characters from both shows showed up from time to time. Don’t you just love it when all your favorite shows exist in the same world?
5. Mad About You
The dynamic between Jamie and Paul Buchman is something that absolutely stands the test of time. Couples from most any decade can relate to the relationship between the two characters. Plus, you can’t help but love them for every fault that they possess, because it just feels so real. Finally, the chemistry between the actors was spot-on and completely believable until the very end.
4. Everybody Loves Raymond
Perhaps it was the relationship between Ray Romano’s character and his mother (played by Doris Roberts) that held everyone’s attention. Or the very real dynamic among the family as a whole. Plus, similar to what Seinfeld did, this show tended to focus on random, insignificant things from daily life, and how they affected the characters. It was something that so many people could relate to.
Before the show was even created, everyone loved Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier character on Cheers. The show had a built-in audience from the word “go.” Frasier’s pretentiousness was so bad it was good, and the chemistry between him, his brother (played by David Hyde Pierce), and their father (John Mahoney) was brilliant. And of course, you can’t forget the true star of the show: Eddie, the Jack Russell Terrier.
This show might speak more to New Yorkers, but its comedy can definitely be understood by just about anyone. A day doesn’t go by when you can’t say “there’s a Seinfeld episode about that.” Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld really hit on every topic imaginable and managed to find the humor in it. Jujyfruits, seltzer, pretzels, Cuban cigars, handmade pizza, couches, contractors — you name it, they made it funny.
There’s a reason this show can stand the test of time. The love between the actors was palpable (plus, it wasn’t just acting — they were friends off-camera as well), and the jokes were expertly written for each character. We loved Ross and Rachel even before they were an item, and the storyline didn’t grow stale when they broke up. Monica and Chandler’s connection made complete sense, thanks to years of on-screen chemistry. It was just solid all around.