TV comedies have changed since viewers were first introduced to the charming Lucy Ricardo in I Love Lucy. While the concept of wise-cracking jokes and outlandish acting performances are more common in TV comedies, the essence of what makes a show stand out is the unlying themes that connect with viewers. Family sitcoms have seen a surge of interest and recognition for its work towards progressing the sub-comedy genre.
Most recently, Modern Family and The Goldbergs ended their respective decades-long run. The success of their longevity can be attributed to the diverse range of acting abilities and well-mastered craft of comedy. While Modern Family focused on a modern version of today’s American family, The Goldbergs introduced viewers to a period American family sitcom based loosely on the creator, Adam F. Goldberg‘s childhood.
10 ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ (2000-2006)
One of America’s most dysfunctional TV families of the early 2000s, Malcolm in the Middle followed the title middle child, played by child star Frankie Muniz. The talented Malcolm navigated life in the midst of a less-than-average family well into young adulthood. Actor Bryan Cranston gained fame for portraying the happy dimwitted family man, Hal Wilkerson.
Malcolm in the Middle ran for six seasons in a prime slot on FOX. While things seemed crazy and chaotic at times in the lives of the Wilkerson family, the high jinks and missteps of the show make for great escapism for the average viewer. The show gave a peek into a family living just above the poverty line while underlying the drama with great physical comedy.
9 ‘Family Guy’ (1999-)
A cornerstone in adult animation comedy, Family Guy has made its mark on American audiences for 22 years. The long-running show follows Peter Griffin (Seth MacFarlane) and the rest of the Griffin family and their talking dog, Brian, as they make their living against the backdrop of a crazy little Rhode Island town. MacFarlane voices four of the main characters while Seth Green and Mila Kunis lend their voices to the wacky town.
Following Super Bowl XXXIII on January 31, 1999, Family Guy made its debut to American audiences. Over the years, the show has managed to capture the hearts of audiences with its quirky characters and parody of pop culture moments. Family Guy helped launch the successful but short-lived spin-off, The Cleveland Show.
8 ‘Shameless’ (2011-2021)
Based on the British sitcom under the same name, Shameless follows the lives of a Southside Chicago family, the Gallaghers, living way below the poverty line with their alcoholic father, Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy). The real parental figure comes in the form of the eldest sibling, street-smart Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum) as she manages the family through misadventures.
Shameless aired on Showtime in 2011 and ran for 11 seasons before ending back in 2021. The show maintained strong ratings throughout its run even as its lead, Rossum, left the show in 2018. Shameless gave viewers a realistic look into the lives of the lower class in America and the effects of alcoholism and family trauma. Both Macy and Rossum earn massive ratings and award nominations for their career-defining roles.
7 ‘Supernatural’ (2005-2020)
During its incredible 15-season run, Supernatural became one of the longest-running American live-action fantasy series ever. Supernatural told the story of Dean and Sam Winchester (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki), two brothers, hunting monsters across the United States in search of their missing father. Created by Eric Kripke, the show managed to use themes of real-life urban legends and weave a creative monster-of-the-week storyline seen in most procedural cop dramas.
After Kripke fulfilled his goal of 5 seasons, he stepped down as showrunner with Sera Gamble and various other executive producers taking over for the rest of the series. While most of the show’s first five seasons focused on famous urban legends and typical monsters, the latter seasons dove more into religion and spiritual themes. Supernatural has attracted massive fanfare and new fans since its ending. Many of the series’ stars attend the various Supernatural theme conventions worldwide yearly.
6 ‘Modern Family’ (2009-2020)
Modern Family is a modern take on multi-generational family themes and values. The show follows three diverse families as they live close to each other in suburban Los Angeles. The show ran for eleven seasons and continued to amass high ratings. Modern Family starred the talented cast of Ed O’Neil, Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet.
The comedic show showcased three types of well-known family topes including same-sex and the nuclear family. Different from other family-centric shows, Modern Family spoke about themes in a light-hearted way not seen since the 70s. During its run, Modern Family maintained their very strong ratings and ended with numerous Academy Award wins.
5 ‘The King of Queens’ (1998-2007)
The King of Queens showcases a middle-class married couple living in New York. Delivery man Doug Heffernan (Kevin James) and his wife Carrie (Leah Remini) enjoy their life together until Carrie’s father, Arthur (Jerry Stiller), comes to live with them.
The King of Queens leaned into the regular Joe trope of Doug that helped excel in their ratings while Carrie showed a strong-willed working woman. James and Remini proved to be the comedic powerhouse duo long after the show ended.
4 ‘The Originals’ (2013-2018)
A spin-off of the popular teen drama, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals explored family drama amid supernatural elements. The Originals focused on the original vampire family, seen in The Vampire Diaries, as they sought to reclaim their land in New Orleans from a long-forgotten foe.
The show brought fan-favorite The Vampire Diaries villain Klaus Mikaelson(Joesph Morgan) to the spotlight. Similar in themes and teen soapy drama as its parent show, The Originals lean heavily on family values and royalty themes. The show ran for five seasons and launched yet another TVD spin-off, Legacies.
3 ‘Snowfall’ (2017-2023)
FX’s Snowfall takes a look into the lives of residents in South Central during the rise of the 1980s cocaine/crack epidemic More closely, the show follows small-time drug dealer Franklin Saint (Damson Idris) who finds himself taking advantage of the new drug trade.
Along with his weed dealer Uncle Jerome (Amin Joesph) and Aunt Louie (Angela Lewis), Franklin Saint takes on the title of kingpin while moving product for a CIA operative. Drawing comparisons to The Wire, Snowfall helps showcase the longstanding rumor that the CIA introduced crack into 1980s Los Angeles.
2 ‘Schitt’s Creek’ (2015-2020)
Created by Dan Levy and his father, Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek is a family-centric sitcom aired in Canada but gained worldwide recognition in later seasons. After losing all their wealthy fortune to their shady business manager, the Rose family is forced to move to the rundown small town of Schitt’s Creek they purchased once as a joke.
The show was praised for its comedic timing and heartfelt storylines. Along with Dan and Eugene Levy starring as father and son, the show also starred Annie Murphy and Catherine O’Hara.
1 ‘Good Times’ (1974-1979)
A spin-off of Maude and set within the All in the Family universe, Good Times became a staple in American family comedies. Set in the Chicago public housing, Good Times showcased the ups and downs of a good-spirited poor family. The show was the first sitcom to showcase a Black two-parent household.
Good Times broke barriers during its run and was a hit for six conductive years. Touching on issues that plagued the Black community and providing thoughtful lessons helped increase the show long after its run.
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