The first televised sitcom (short for situational comedy) premiered in 1946 and went by the name of “Pinwright’s Progress.” Chronicling the many troubles of shop owner J. Pinwright, it ran on the BBC for just 10 episodes before wrapping in 1947.
That same year, “Mary Kay and Johnny” became the first televised sitcom in America. It starred real-life couple Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns and took place in New York’s Greenwich Village, telling the story of a bank employee and his eccentric wife.
From these foundations there came an omnipresent format that continues to thrive to this day. (Check out the best classic TV shows available to stream right now.)
In the decades since, the TV sitcom has grown in every possible direction. There are now animated sitcoms, single-camera sitcoms, and mockumentary-style sitcoms, to name just a few modern examples. Yet no matter how wide-reaching the genre becomes, it still relies on the same time-tested recipe of putting engaging characters in funny situations. (More of a movie buff? Here are the best comedy movies available to stream.)
Even when we put animated fare aside, the live-action sitcom remains indisputably wide-reaching in scope. Shows like “Arrested Development” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” take the original formula well past its terrain and we’re not just talking about the single-camera set-up or absence of a laugh track.
Over in England, the original version of “The Office” or current programs like “This Country” perform a similar feat. Mix that in with more traditional fare such as “I Love Lucy” and “The Big Bang Theory” and you end up with a truly robust TV landscape, whereby viewers are spoiled for choice. Here’s the best of the best.
To determine the 50 best live action sitcoms, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on user rating and popularity from the Internet Movie Database. Television shows tagged with the keyword “sitcom” on IMDb were ranked based on an index consisting of average IMDb user rating and IMDb popularity score. Only sitcoms with at least 2,500 IMDb user votes were considered. Data was collected October 2021.