A couple of days ago, I was discussing tv sitcoms with a friend and she said something which I totally disagreed with.
"No matter what you say Roshan, the fact is that there hasn't been a comedy sitcom half as good as FRIENDS in the last decade."

Apparently, it was a popular opinion online as well. But I'm not quite as convinced as you all. 

You realise that it is nearly 19 years since Ross, Rachel and  company first appeared on television ? Granted it was an iconic show and had tremendous ratings, but have there really been no other comedy shows that you felt deserved as much applause ( if not more ) as FRIENDS ?

For the consideration of all those who feel that FRIENDS is the beginning and end of all Tv sitcoms in the last two decades, I would like to suggest a few ( in no particular order ) that bring a smile to my face even today when I come across them.  

01. 30 Rock
  • After a first season that played midway between comedy and depicting the hardships of being a woman in a man's world of producing TV shows, luckily 30 Rock embraced it's silliness outright and went on to be comedic gold. 
  • Tina Fey as the dorky Liz Lemon, Alec Baldwin as her mentor and die-hard Republican Jack Donaghy, Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski as the most overbearing celebrity TV actors you will ever find.
  • Rapid-fire wit with a no holds barred attitude. 

2. Will and Grace 
  • Gay lawyer. Jewish woman. Rich drunk socialite. Gay dancer/actor. Every possible stereotype you could think of was there and the humour bordered from plain funny to downright naughty.
  • A show where the funniest stars were ironically the friends of the two title characters.
  • Was one of the biggest victims of the FRIENDS juggernaut. Deserved better.

 3. Arrested Development
  • The smartest and most underrated comedy of the last decade.
  • Depicts the life of the most dysfunctional family you will ever meet. 
  • After the head of the family is arrested, the prodigal son is forced to take over. The biggest problem for his family's success sadly... is his family !
  • Drawback : I get why people who see one or two episodes would not get much of the humour. The fact is, you need to watch it the way I eventually did : the entire three seasons together. That's when you grasp the brilliance of the script-writers who make even seemingly small events from the first few episodes have a massive significance as the show goes on. 
  • Not laugh-out-loud funny. More of the "Heh. That was cool" variety.

4. Modern Family
  • One of the better comedies of the last few years, giving a mock-documentary style peek into the lives of three inter-linked families.
  • Again, not necessarily laugh-out-loud funny.
  • High feel-good factor. Also tries ( and often succeeds ) in sneaking in a few life-lessons.
  • To get an idea of their sense of humour, check out this hilarious skit they put up for the Emmy awards 'depicting' the most evil star of the show. Hilarious. 

 5. Two and a Half Men
  • Salman Khan is to Bollywood what Charlie Sheen is to Hollywood. He just has to be there, playing himself. 
  • When you come down to it, the show is basically about a rich boozing womanizer and his brother and nephew who stay with him. But you still watch it for Charlie Sheen. 
  • His 'death' on the show pretty much killed the show as well. Sorry Ashton Kutcher.

6. Two Broke Girls
  • The storyline revolves around two girls trying to make a success out of their dream of a cupcake franchise.
  • It works because of Kat Dennings devil-may-care attitude ( which will make the puritans blush ) and Beth Behrs as a heiress now forced to work with her as a waitress after going broke.
  • Definitely 'laugh out loud' funny. 
  • I have a major crush on Kat Dennings. 'nuf said.

7. Happy Endings

  • A more quirky, adult version of FRIENDS perhaps. 
  • Give this show a chance. Like most critics, you will be pleasantly surprised at how funny it is after awhile.
  • After Lily and Marshall ( How I Met Your Mother ), has one of the most hilarious husband-wife duos in the form of Brad and Jane.
  • High feel-good factor. Like 30 Rock, not afraid to embrace it's silliness head on.

8. Rules of Engagement
  • Highly underrated, in my opinion. Again, give it a chance.
  • While being funny and very likable, it also depicts relationships at different levels with each of it's couples ( the long term marriage, the newly engaged and ...well, the womanizer with a PA who detests him ! )

9. Big Bang Theory
  • I did not give it a chance in hell when I heard the concept - 4 nerdy scientist geeks and a girl.
  • But it's actually not just done well, but really blossomed well over the years, adding new characters and even landing some major guest appearances for it's fans.
  • While it is not a necessity, knowing your comic books and sci-fi shows is an added bonus to enjoying some of the jokes.

Consolation prizes :

a) Scrubs : One of my personal favourites, I did not add it in the above list simply because I don't really see it as a comedy. The storylines about this medical show were often brilliant depicting two-three different events and linking them together at the end of the episode. And while the humour was absolutely brilliant, there were too many life-lessons ( I've spoke about this earlier here ) for it to be labeled as just a comedy. Also the ending of the show... one of the most heart warming endings ever. 

b) New Girl :  Single girl living with three male roommates with very 'very' different characteristics. Zooey Deschenal is the USP as the most naturally awkward girl you can find on TV. Again, it was a toss-up between this and Two Broke Girls... I personally prefer the latter.

c) Cougar Town : The only one on this list starring a 'FRIENDS' alumni, this show by the creative team behind 'Scrubs' offers a pretty laidback look on life for a recently divorced wine-chugging mom and her pals, including her ex-husband, her neighbours and her teenage son. Courtney Cox ups the 'Monica Chandler' characteristics a notch ( bossy, domineering yet insecure ). The USP of the show is the feel good factor and the chemistry between the gang. 

d) How I Met Your Mother : Like Scrubs, this is another favourite yet it doesn't make the cut. Why ? Because when you think of it, the USP of this show isn't really the comedy, is it ? It's the brilliance of the script writers. No, not in delaying the reveal of who the mother is ( which is frankly getting a tad annoying after 8 seasons ), but because of the unique methods of story-telling and twists they bring within many individual episodes. Moments from earlier in the episode are revealed to have a different interpretation by the end. Oh yes, and Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson. Annnd the Lily-and-Marshall marriage that most of us wish we could emulate.

e) Community : Filled with pop-culture references and unique methods of story-telling ( including an episode where, believe-it-or-not, the main characters were basically arcade game pixels versions of themselves ), this show which follows a bunch of people trying to pass out of community college is following the road of Arrested Development where it is too smart for it's own good. Pays some wonderful homages to past movies and TV shows. Deserves a better fan base.

What's your take on the list ? Any you would like to add or delete ? 
Or am I totally off-base and none really do come close to FRIENDS ?

Authors note : You, the readers, have added the following sitcoms to the above list.

  • That 70s Show
  • Dharma and Greg
  • Malcolm in the Middle
  • Everybody Loves Raymond
  • Frasier
  • Seinfeld
  • Sex and the City


beingFab said…
My top picks would be Big Bang Theory and Modern Family. And maybe, Community and Scrubs too. I think 30 Rock needs some getting used to, and How I Met Your Mother has some really funny moments.
I'm not a big fan of Rules of Engagement (the characters seem very similar to HIMYM) and Happy Endings (seems to borrow too much from Friends). Yet to watch 'Arrested Development' 'New Girl' and 'Cougar Town'. And as for Charlie, sometimes he makes me ROFL and sometimes he makes me want to puke - no in between there!! But can't deny the superb comic timing of every member of the cast ;-)
all the readers of this blog will be glued to youtube tonight :)
A said…
Nice list, though I have to agree with your friend that none of these come close to FRIENDS ;-)

I am surprised you have not added 'Everybody loves Raymond', 'Fraiser' [filled with sophisticated humour] and 'King of Queens'.
30 Rock does need some getting used to, but I found myself looking forward to every new episode and feeling really sad when the series ended last month.

If you do get around to Arrested Development, my personal suggestion : watch it as a marathon. Atleast a good 3-5 episodes. Then you'll realise why I call it an underrated comedy.

Happy Endings, Rules of Engagement and even HIMYM do have traces of the FRIENDS DNA in them, dont they : a bunch of friends often chatting over (substitute coffee with breakfast/beer/nachos :D) That would work against the first two especially as they are the weakest of the lot, I admit. But recently, I really did start to enjoy Happy Endings ( no pun intended ! ), especially with the quirky Brad n Jane couple.
hehe.. I sure hope so. Hopefully, will get people to tune in to a comedy sitcom they havent watched yet... better than anything current affairs has to offer us anyway !
This nation could use a break from reality !!
I am expecting more FRIENDS fans to pop up soon here, including some of my besties :D

As for the latter bit, I was just focusing on new TV sitcoms ( to combat the 'post-FRIENDS' quote ) so shows like Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, King of Queens and Frasier weren't considered, though all four would easily make the cut.
That being said, I think I am still guilty since if I'm not wrong 'Will and Grace' would have started airing roughly in late 90s. I guess in my mind, I was just remembering it as a '2000s' sitcom.
Tamarind Rice said…
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Karishma. said…
I wouldn't give Cougar Town even a consolation prize. Its BLAH.

But Modern Family, Big Bang Theory and Scrubs are plain love :D <3

Note to self : Must watch Arrested Development :D
let me say something... no offence okke.... i dont like "FRIENDS"...I know many of them who are die heart fan of FRIENDS but they failed to convince me dat it is the best :) still i have a small liking towards 'HIMYM' :)
Rohan said…
Nice list! Having seen the hard disk of the author once I find it hard to doubt the credibility of the author! :P
But these days I am catching up with the new generation malayalam movies. Will start with the series after that!
Anisha said…
I agree! Except for one or two shows which I haven't watched! Not a fan of 2 broke girls though :|
I love Happy Endings and Rules of Engagement and yes they are really underrated shows!
hehe... trust me. I have all of these and much much more. :D

I used to really like New Girl, but it reduced with the arrival of 2 Broke Girls... now again starting to enjoy the quirky ways of Zoey Deschanel once more.

And yes, for me atleast, the latter two are seriously underrated... they arent brilliant shows but they do enough to keep you smiling.
no question of taking offence.. the whole idea is to see what people think. As you can see, everyone's opinions seem to differ to both extremes :D

I enjoy watching HIMYM, but its always more for the wonderful way they keep playing within the episode, springing a surprise on you by the end of it. Again, having said that, after a few weak seasons, this present one has been really good !
haha.. aww. I kinda like Cougar Town :)
But yes, its definitely not at the level of Modern Family or Scrubs. And definitely, give AD a chance... after a few episodes, you will get addicted :D
werw said…
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Arun B Nair said…
I dont know if it was aired in the last decade( I caught it getting replayed on Comedy Central last year), but COUPLING has been one funny sitcom for me. Some comments posted by fans call Friends the poor man's coupling( and personally I agree ;))
Have never gotten around to seeing a full episode of Coupling till date.. it did play, but I dont remember in which channel. Will have to check it out.

P.S. Birthday bumps ? :D
Rachna said…
Sex and the City?
desi Traveler said…
I love Big Bang Theory, another one I like ( not love) is How I met your mother. Modern Family has its sparks in my opinon, and another one that I have developed a liking for is ( though very predictable) Melisa and Joe. Never could sit through an episode of New girl
shibs said…
NICE!...u've summed it up real well!...and yeah, FRIENDS is over-rated...i mean it definitly was a great sitcom...n im a huge fan...still watch the reruns...n rerun it on my laptop wenever im gloomy...but only the initial seasons were real funny...later on the laughs had to be forced...but it does hav the feel good factor...n for some reason i never get tired of watchin em....
but my all time favorite will always be Seinfeld...can relate to a lotta things on that show...every character is like some1 i know in real life...except for Kramer! hes one of a kind...
shibs said…
n in the last decade...has to be Modern Family.... ve to give u the credit for that!...thanx :D
I dont know if I would consider it an outright comedy... it fell into the Scrubs category for me : insightful with comedic elements.
Melissa and Joey is very likeable. It has a high feel-good factor : you know there isnt going to be major drama and conflict so just enjoy the ride. I actually feel we need more of those sitcoms in todays day and age... just something to make us smile and relax for awhile..
For me, FRIENDS peaked with the first half of the 5th season where Monica and Chandler are trying to hide their relationship from the others... that sequence of episodes was gold.
The last couple of seasons.. meh. No standout episodes really, were there ?
As I mentioned in a comment earlier, I've avoided Seinfeld, Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond mainly because I was aiming for a 'post-Friends' show.
Tada.. my good deed of the decade is done !
If you cant teach people medicine, teach them the path to laughter... because laughter is the best medicine ! :D
Binu Thomas said…
Exclusive list doctor. I am a fan of "Rules of Engagement" They have just started season 7 now with 4 episodes already done. As you said, we need to give time to some sitcoms actually flourish. I would add one more sitcom that I liked - "The IT crowd".
Nisha said…
I'm a regular follower of Big Bang, Two and half men, HIMYM and Rules. So much so that wr download the episode as soon as it is aired in the U.S.
But I dont like HIMYM and Two and half men anymore. They have probably a couple of scenes where you can laugh and thats it.
We've been watching According to Jim, Frasier and Hot in Cleveland - they all are pretty good. Have tried several more but get bored ..haha!
I'll watch Happy Endings..sounds good. wonder how there are so many Sitcoms in the U.S. and probably only one Sarabhai in India that could match them. Maybe because we can just have 'clean' comedies and the S word is banned in India! Without that there is a dearth of funny moments. Ah, Grow up India!!
I know.. following and getting todays episode as we speak :)
And it really is a fact.. so many shows have got infinitely better once you've given them some time to settle down and get their rhythm - Rules of Engagement, Happy Endings, Fringe, Bones, Star Trek-TNG etc. Come to think of it, FRIENDS too comes in that same category ( check out Season 1 )
same pinch, Nisha.
I gave Ashton Kutcher a few chances but then gave up on 2 and a half men. Dont even download it anymore. HIMYM lost the track for a few seasons, but the present one has been really good with some really funny ones, really touching ones and more importantly, finally the knowledge that the next girl they show is THE GIRL !!

Havent tried According to Jim and Hot in Cleveland so no real clues there.. Frasier has its niche audience.. you can see hilarious guest appearances of the main character as FRASIER himself in 30 rock.

Give Happy Endings a chance... after a few episodes, they get their groove and it gets really cute and funny.

I dont get Indian serials concept of 'clean'... You can show murders, villainous inlaws, goons, black magic.. but cant mention sex ? Ironically, most of these comedies are fun not because they deal with sex, but because they take a fun attitude towards it, mocking their own prowess ( Barney Stinson, Jack Donaghy ) or just being realistic about it without being awkward ( Will and Grace & even Big Bang theory )
Shimna Gafoor said…
BBT, 2 and a half men(till charlie dies of course!), Modern Family, Rules of engagement top the list..
Two broke girls, HIMYM, Community, and Melissa N Joey follow...
Not a great fan of 30 Rock and Scrubs...
Havent watched much of the others...
But i dont know if I can watch as many repeats of all these (without getting bored) as i can of FRIENDS and BBT..
I have only watched FRIENDS-all seasons, all episodes multiple times. I watched a few episodes of Big Bang Theory and thats it. No time at all ! Also the King of home theatre prefers only sci fi movies and I keep myself far away from that genre ;-)
Anonymous said…
Me and hubby loved 'Rules of engagement', we even enjoyed watching the re-telecasts of the episodes. Other sitcoms we used to watch together was Two and a half man and Everybody loves Raymond. I used to watch HIMYM and Two Broke Girls, when hubby was busy with his laptop. I saw few episodes of BBT and Friends, but never liked them. Others you mentioned, I haven't watched even an episode.
All the above are "used to" because after my baby came into picture, I haven't sat and watched TV even for 15 mins together :(
Rules of Engagement, Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory ,How I Met Your Mother, Scrubs and Arrested Development are all brilliant series in their own right. But, in my heart, none of them will quite reach the kind of fondness Friends did. Perhaps it was because it was the first sitcom that I ever watched. Perhaps it was because the characters were all so lovable. Perhaps it was because the story and the comedy went hand in hand. And perhaps it was because a story initiated 19 years ago is still relevant today. Friends will always rule for me.
Hi Shimna.
For me, I'd gladly watch reruns of Rules of Engagement, Happy Endings, BBT.. even Melissa n Joey which I omitted from the list. Mainly because they have a real feel good factor - you know nothing bads gonna happen to any of the characters.. there isnt much in the form of continuity ( unlike say HIMYM or Arrested Development ).
Of the rest, if time is a factor, look to catch odd episodes of Will n Grace.. no major continuity issues and lots of laugh out loud fun.
so sad... the reason i focused on tv comedy sitcoms is its a great stress reliever.. a break from the sad reality of what life is. Which can be a necessity these days.
Give a shot to a few of them - Modern Family, Two and a half men with Charlie Sheen etc
:) They can be a real stress reliever.. laughter at no extra cost. Am a big fan of Raymond too.. just didnt place it n this list because I was looking for post-FRIENDS options.
You are definitely not alone Deepak. As I mentioned, many were of the same opinion ... that was the origin point of this post itself.

Scary, isn't it ? To think that the show we find so 'us' is actually 19 years olf !
Nirvana said…
Big Bang, like you said, is highly underrated! Yes, its a nerdy show - but its funny as hell! Do you remember Dharma and Greg? Liked that too. And Will and Grace is nice too, as is Rules of Engagement and Malcolm in the Moddle. Btw..... have you ever seen the earlier ones? The Different Strokes and the Growing Pains? Those were awesome too....
Good, enjoyed it..

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Thanks & Regards
Bensie Dorien.
I beat stress reading good writing like yours ! And there are few others we both know of, who can engulf us in another world through their blogs. I will try to download Two and a Half Men and try watching it. :-)
of course I remember Dharma and Greg.. the guy is now there in Criminal Minds... still being serious :D

You don't get to see most of the earlier ones today... the Cosby Show, Charles in Charge, Different Strokes, MASH. Those were some comedic gems.
Give it a shot... for me, most of online net time is limited to random checks via mobile at odd times.. these sitcoms downloaded since pg days ( way back in 2009-10 ) are literally a lfiesaver at the end of a long tiring day of blood and bones
Ritika said…
Out of all the shows you listed,i think big bang theory is just class apart! Actually Jim Parson is class apart!

I totally agree there are some worthy shows but there is just something
about friends that connects you to all those characters..you almost want to be a part of it :)

Ps: loveeeeee 2 broke girls
True Jim parson stands out in that show... I love how they've actually allowed the characters to evolve over the seasons.. 2 and a half men never even attempted to try any such thing with their leads ( ironically, same producers )

As you can see, you're not alone in that very sentiment regarding FRIENDS.

And yes, totally a fan of 2 Broke Girls :D Kat Dennings <3
Nisha said…
I forgot to mention... no series can beat FRIENDS...atleast till seasom 6!
I mean if I've already seen it 10 times and you say a dialogue and I can tell you the episode and I can still smile.. it has to have something which other series don't :)
for me, the best part was season 5... after they return back from england and Chandler n Monica are trying desperately to hide it.. that set of episodes is gold... the one with 'I'm Joey. I'm a pervert' and the best being the 'but they dont know we know they know' hahaha :D Poor Joey !!
Pretty much. Are we that static or was the show so ahead of it's times??
Inara said…
You missed the "70s Show"! Too funny!
Absolutely brilliant ! I don't know how I missed it while making this list. Definitely...
static ? I would say any day that we have regressed ? In the mid-90s ( the FRIENDS ers ) I really doubt if you had Asaram Bapu types telling the whole media about whether a girl boarding a bus at night reflects on her morality...
amit said…
Friends was the last sitcom I watched religiously. I kind of liked 'Sex and the city' but not as much as Friends. Then I tried Sopranos and gave up midway. Somehow, I don't like the idea of watching sitcoms now. I would rather watch a good movie. Short and sweet and can be finished in 2 hours. :)
i actually prefer sitcoms for exactly the opposite reason : because they dont end in two-three hours. you can revisit the characters, see what goofy antics they're upto and look forward to more.
Anonymous said…
grey's anatomy..it was different from everyother sitcom it doesnt make you laugh aloud but it has a definite story line and was not jus dating and eating
This post was purely based on Comedy sitcoms... Grey's Anatomy, Wonder Years.. these would be in a separate category altogether.. they are brilliant for the way they teach life's litt;e lessons while also keeping you engaged for so many seasons.
Illeen said…
Another show I quite enjoyed was 'Full House'.. it was sweet and funny too.

HIMYM has become a drag now..
Illeen said…
Another show I quite enjoyed was ' Full House '.. it was funny and sweet.

Big Bang Theory , Two and a half men (the one with Charlie sheen of course) are really good. HIMYM has become a drag..
Full House was clean, sweet humour. You had three fantastic comedians in their prime there and that helped a lot.

HIMYM really lost the plot in between for a few seasons, but I'll give them their due: the present season airing internationally has been brilliant, going back to the old gags and focusing on ending the story rather than simply dragging it along.
Anonymous said…
Arrested Development is much better than FRIENDS and actually the best comedy there is. I've heard That '70s show, Malcolm in the Middle and 30 Rock are also very great though personally never seen them. The Big Bang Theory was great once, still nice but way overrated now. Well personally I don't even like comedy (genre) so couldn't care much.
I think you would love the insanity of 30 rock... get past the first season and the fun begins in full flow from then on :D

And I'm due for a non-comedy sitcom list, I guess :D
give inbetweeners a try. the british version ofcourse. not the cheesy and lame american one :\
Ismail M said…
Arrested Development is gold(though the recent season 4 didn't really rise to our expectations)!

Modern Family is perhaps the most consistent show of our times... Rarely, do they have a misstep... The increasing number of Emmy wins is a testament to that...

30 Rock- I've kept it aside for binge-watching, but I keep hearing great things about it...

The Big Bang Theory is genius! The actors make it look easy, but I'm gonna guess that creating a sitcom out of four geeks isn't the world's easiest job...

I'd like to mention two sitcoms, that I haven't been mentioned above.
The Office (US version) more than held its own against its British version, and turned out to be a fantastic sitcom in its own right. I know that seasons 8 and 9 lost its shine after Steve Carrell left the show, but its the only sitcom whose last episode made me as emotional as 'Friends' last episode, when it ended

'Veep' is another great comedy great series, which has completed two seasons, and is on its way to being a cult classic. Revolving around an ignored female U.S. Vice President & her staff, it has a fantastic cast headed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus(Seinfield), Tony Hale(Arrested Development) & Anna Chlumsky(the adorable daddy's girl in 'My Girl').