What are the best comedy series of all time? Comedy is a TV genre that ultimately wants to get viewers laughing. Whether it’s through dark satirical humour, slapstick silliness, or a TV show focusing on a group of characters who keep finding themselves in, you guessed it, comedic situations. Basically, there are a lot of ways that comedy translates onto our screens.
So, the options for choosing the best comedy series list are honestly completely overwhelming. For our list, though, we’ve chosen to focus on constructing a selection of TV series that pay homage to both the old and new, the finest from the UK and US, and most importantly, the series’ that we think will continue to stand the test of time in the comedy landscape.
Of course, opinions will be divided, and we wouldn’t expect any less. Our list, while limited to ten titles, doesn’t mean we don’t have a huge love for all the other comedy series out there. It’s just the shows we’ve deemed worthy of a spot based on their genius writing, excellent cast list, iconic creators, and overall “this will make you laugh” rating. Without further ado, let’s get into the list of the best comedy series.
What are the best comedy series of all time?
- The Office (US)
- Parks and Recreation
- Fawlty Towers
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine
- Peep Show
- Blackadder the Third
- The Thick of It
The Office (2005-2013)
The choice between the original UK The Office and the US adaptation is an ongoing debate. With the original Office coming out in 2001, a US remake came in 2005 with the quite popular movement of recreating the storyline for American audiences with new actors and a new setting.
Since people like to pick a favourite, we have, and we’ve got to give it to The US Office. Let’s not forget that creators of The UK Office, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, are both executive producers on the show, so it’s not like we don’t get to enjoy their tongue-in-cheek and borderline offensive humour that has so clearly been injected into this incredibly successful adaptation.
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Whilst the entire first season follows the same storyline as the UK version, albeit with the infamous David Brent replaced by Michael Scott (Steve Carrell), The Office US saw the UK’s two-season run and raised it to nine glorious seasons packed with humour, emotion, and so many memorable quotes we can’t possibly keep up.
Every character has their own depth and wit thriving inside the otherwise monotonous day-to-day runnings of a paper sales office that transforms the idea of a workplace into a mockumentary that connects viewers to the onscreen characters like never before. It takes the genius format of the UK and transcends it into a show that has the re-watchability of a truly great comedy.
Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)
If you know comedy, you know Amy Poehler. And if you know Amy Poehler, then chances are you’ve heard of her writing and starring role as Leslie Knope in the US sitcom Parks and Recreation. If you haven’t, then you’re in for a treat.
In fact, writers of The Office US, Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, are responsible for creating this wonderful mockumentary set to the backdrop of local government, specifically the Parks department, in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana.
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The employees of the Parks department are a group of incredibly likeable characters with stony-faced boss Ron, clumsy Jerry, apathetic April, slightly lost entrepreneur Tom, and confident Donna, all bringing completely opposing personalities to the workplace.
Parks and Recreation has an incredible way of making you care about a town that doesn’t exist and the people in it whilst also being full of jokes and memorable TV moments.
Fawlty Towers (1975-1979)
Is there anything more quintessentially British than the bumbling incompetence of hotel owner, Basil Fawlty? One of Britain’s standout comedy actors, John Cleese, encapsulates everything so witty and sarcastic about the British sense of humour through his acting prowess and the artistry of the show’s writers.
Basil Fawlty, along with his wife, Sybil, run their very own hotel in the seaside town of Torquay. The comedy unfolds as they battle their way through the everyday runnings of their establishment with questionable staff choices and a collection of tricky guests.
It’s hard to grasp that this show only ran for two seasons, totalling 12 episodes, given how much it is still referenced today. It’s also quite hard to believe that so many accidents can occur under the same roof, but that’s the beauty of comedy. It doesn’t matter as long as it brings joyful tears to the eyes of the audience.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-2021)
A comedy series with nine(-nine) lives. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a single-camera comedy that premiered in 2013 and is set in the 99th police precinct of Brooklyn, New York City. In 2018, after five seasons, Fox cancelled the show. But not without uproar and a bidding war that ultimately led NBC to revive it for three more seasons, breathing life back into a comedy that hadn’t quite run its course.
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You’ve heard his name twice before, and you’ll hear it again; writers Michael Schur this time teaming up with Dan Goor, also of Parks and Rec, are the masterminds behind this one. It’s also got a line-up of great cast names from Andy Samberg, Terry Crews, Stephanie Beatriz, Chelsea Peretti and many, many more.
Throw in all the guest appearances on top, and you’ve got the dynamite to make a sitcom all about the goings on of officers within a busy police precinct, solving cases, facing danger, and building relationships with colleagues.
Peep Show (2003-2015)
Peep Show is the pinnacle of how British TV, and specifically Channel 4, fancied taking a risk with comedy in the 2000s and 2010s. Mark (David Mitchell) and Jez (Robert Webb) are roommates who couldn’t be further away from each other on the personality spectrum.
We’ve got Mark, a straight-laced, work-oriented, anxiety-ridden man on a hunt for success in both career and love, and Jez, his drug-loving, lazy, dysfunctional counterpart, with no interest in either of Mark’s pursuits.
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And yet, they’re the best of friends who seemingly have the same amount of success in life as each other, despite the drastic differences in how they seek it. You’ll have heard of one of Peep Show’s co-creators too, Jesse Armstrong, who has since gone on to create Fresh Meat and the incredibly successful HBO drama, Succession.
What can we say about Friends that hasn’t been said a thousand times? Of course, it earns a spot in the best comedy because it is truly an iconic TV masterpiece that seamlessly weaves the lives of six friends over ten seasons of love, loss, work, relationships, family, and all importantly, of course, friendship.
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Even though it aired between 1994 and 2004, it’s still an incredibly watchable series that viewers find relatable as well as easy to watch. Friends Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe are household names in the comedy scene, and their onscreen chemistry felt like you were truly watching a group of pals coming together and living their lives out for our viewing pleasure.
In 1989, Seinfeld broke the mould of what was socially acceptable for a comedy series on TV. It made viewers learn to love and hate characters whilst also putting one iconic stand-up comedian at the front and centre, naming the show after him and proving you don’t need a whole host of characters to make for a compelling TV show.
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Jerry Seinfeld used his real-life experiences to shape this show and twist it into quirky tales that captivate the audiences, much as his stand-up did. The transfer to TV has, even after over three decades, continued to have support from die-hard fans. No surprise, given that it often appears on the greatest sitcoms of all time lists and makes its way onto our best comedy series list here.
Blackadder the Third (1987)
While Blackadder has four different sitcoms equally four eras of British history, we’ve chosen to award Blackadder the Third with the crown for best comedy series of all time on our list.
The iconic BBC show follows the Blackadder dynasty through time with an incredibly impressive list of comedy actors from Rowan Atkinson as Blackadder, Tony Robinson as Baldrick, Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent, and appearances not limited to Stephen Fry, Robbie Coltrane, and Miranda Richardson.
A mixture of sharp wit and incredibly silliness that so easily slots into the British comedy genre, Blackadder the Third follows the British Regency era in the last 18th and 19th early centuries. And stellar writers behind the show, with co-writers Richard Curtis (Love Actually) and Ben Elton (The Young Ones) spearheading the show.
The Thick of It (2005-2012)
Armando Iannucci, the genius behind Alan Partridge, wrote and created the political satire, The Thick of It, in 2005. Focusing on the British government, the drama series is based on the fictitious Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship, run by the incredibly sweary and terrifying minister, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi).
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Malcolm deals with crisis management, ironically, so considering his own management of a crisis is to completely lose it as a vein of incompetence runs through each episode, with Malcolm being sure to throw insults at his fellow colleagues throughout. The Thick of It utilises the popular mockumentary style of comedy to bring the inner workings of a political office to life – even if in an entirely obscene caricature way.
Finally, where everybody knows your name. Cheers, the sitcom based in a bar owned by retired baseball pitcher, Sam Malone (Ted Danson), is over four decades old now, but that doesn’t stop it from being described by other comedians turned TV show writers such as Amy Poehler and Michael Schur as one of the greatest examples of a TV sitcom there has ever been.
An inspiration for a lot of comedy shows today, Cheers demonstrates that a show can be full of friendship, humour, wit, and comedy that will truly last all based in a classic setting with no bells and whistles. It’s a bar with friends, but the complexity of their relationships and the iconic storylines can all take place within the confines of the bar without the glitz and glam of big action events or anything too over the top. It’s simplistic and, as such, allows for the show to breathe.
So, you’re hopefully suitably laughed out after working your way through this list, but if you’re not, we’ve got plenty more to enjoy with our best comedy movies of all time list, or look ahead to new comedy shows with our guide to the Frasier reboot release date or the Barry season 4 release date.