Sitcom Heaven: We Name TV’s Greatest Comedy Lineups of All Time

by | January 26, 2011 at 8:19 PM | TV News

Part of TV's greatest sitcom lineup?  (CBS)

Part of TV's greatest sitcom lineup? (CBS)

What makes a sitcom lineup great? It’s a question we’ve set out to answer now that NBC has taken the unusual step of cramming six comedies onto the air in a single night on Thursdays – starting with “Community” at 8/7c, followed by the new “Perfect Couples,” “The Office,” “Parks & Recreation,” “30 Rock” (at 10/9c) and “Outsourced.”

So what are the best comedy blocks ever assembled? We established our own subjective criteria. For our informal study, a lineup had to have at least four comedies in a row to qualify (before 1962, comedies were not strung together in any number greater than three); preferably, the lineup would remain more or less consistent for at least two seasons; and the shows had to be either high-rated or at least well-remembered, if not beloved.

Here’s what we came up with:

Runners-up: Before we get to our Top 10, some honorable mentions – Fall 1964, Thursdays on ABC: “The Flintstones,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “My Three Sons,” “Bewitched”; Fall 1965, Wednesdays on CBS: “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show”; and Thursdays on CBS: “The Munsters,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “My Three Sons”; Fall 1987, Mondays on CBS: “Frank’s Place,” “Kate & Allie,” “Newhart,” “Designing Women.” Incredible, isn’t it? “The Munsters” and “Gilligan” back-to-back on a single night? Who wouldn’t love that?

And now, our Top 10:

No. 10: Fall 1986, Saturdays on NBC: “The Facts of Life,” “227,” “The Golden Girls,” “Amen.” Marla Gibbs, Sherman Hemsley, the “Golden” gals, plus “Mrs. Garrett” all in one night? That’s TV heaven.

No. 9: Fall 1985, Fridays on ABC: Speaking of incredible TV pairings, how about Emmanuel Lewis and Gary Coleman on the same network on the same night: “Webster,” “Mr. Belvedere,” “Diff’rent Strokes,” “Benson.”

No. 8: Fall 1978, Thursdays on ABC: Another great lineup – future comedy greats Robin Williams (“Mork & Mindy”) and Billy Crystal (“Soap”), plus the beloved characters of “What’s Happening” and the legendary ensemble of “Barney Miller.”

No. 7: Fall 2007, Sundays on Fox: Talk about staying power – it had never been done, or even tried, before Fox strung together these animated powerhouses: “The Simpsons,” “King of the Hill,” “Family Guy,” “American Dad.”

No. 6: Fall 1975, Monday on CBS: Of these four sitcoms, three were spinoffs: “Rhoda” and “Phyllis” (from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”), and “Maude” (from “All in the Family,” which preceded “Maude” at 9 p.m.).

No. 5: Fall 1978, Tuesdays on ABC: “Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “Three’s Company,” “Taxi.” ABC definitely had a comedy winning streak going on in fall 1978 (see No. 8, above). What can you say about a Tuesday lineup that included Richie Cunningham (future director Ron Howard) and The Fonz; Laverne, Shirley, Lenny and Squiggy; John Ritter (plus Norman Fell and Don Knotts); and the whole gang from “Taxi”? It seems impossible, but all that talent was available on free network TV in a single evening way back when.

No. 4: Fall 1991, Tuesdays on ABC: Many seasons later, ABC struck gold again on Tuesday nights with one of the highest-rated comedy lineups of all time – “Full House,” “Home Improvement,” “Roseanne,” “Coach.”

No. 3: Fall 1984, Thursdays on NBC: This is the sitcom lineup that ushered in an era of comedy dominance for NBC that lasted into the early 2000s. Behold: “The Cosby Show,” “Family Ties,” “Cheers,” “Night Court.”

No. 2: Fall 1993, Thursdays on NBC: Some might quibble with this lineup’s inclusion of “Wings,” but that series emerges as the best of all the sitcoms NBC tried at 8:30/7:30c on Thursdays throughout the ’90s. And what can you say about a lineup that also boasts “Mad About You,” “Seinfeld” and “Frasier”?

And the No. 1 TV comedy lineup of all time is: Fall 1973, Saturdays on CBS: Few would argue with our choice for No. 1, particularly those old enough to have watched this incredible, never-to-be-duplicated collection of legendary megahits, four of the most critically acclaimed comedies of all time, followed by the most uproarious variety show ever made – “All in the Family,” “M*A*S*H,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “The Carol Burnett Show.” All we can say is, Wow.