In honor of TV Guide Magazine's 60th anniversary, senior critic Matt Roush names the 60 greatest comedies of all time. Here are the top 10, and pick up the new issue (on sale now) to see numbers 11 through 60.
1. I Love Lucy(1951—57) By now, we've gone beyond mere love. We're talking adoration. The timeless, pioneering show created the model for the most classic form of theatrical TV sitcom and brought us the wacky redhead, her bandleader husband and their long-suffering neighbors — all as potently funny as a bottle of Vitameatavegamin.
2. All in the Family(1971—79) TV comedy came of age in the Bunker household, a crucible of combative attitude spewing from bigoted curmudgeon Archie. His clashes reflected the turbulent times, and while this groundbreaking look at a polarized society wasn't always pretty, America embraced this bold and hilariously honest clan.
3. Seinfeld(1990—98) For a show allegedly about nothing, Seinfeld was something special: an outrageously irreverent cultural phenomenon and a crazy-quilt comedy of unrepentant bad manners that defined an era of must-see Thursday TV. Jerry and his gang — Elaine, Kramer and George — were maestros of their neurotic domain, an ironic urban universe of catchphrases and running gags that still resonate.
4. The Honeymooners(1955—56) Home is where the heart is, even if it's a run-down Brooklyn tenement — the setting for this enduring classic of blue-collar blues, embodied by Jackie Gleason's immortal Ralph Kramden. He and Alice were the flip side of Lucy's fabulous Ricardos, but they and the neighboring Nortons were rich where it mattered: with hard-knock humor that left us marveling, "Baby, they're the greatest!"
5. The Simpsons(1989—present) Satire flourishes on Sunday nights for the mutant nuclear family of Springfield, led by the hapless Homer. Subversive yet comforting, packed with visual and verbal gags that skewer all sacred cows — but don't have a cow! — this animated masterpiece is one for the ages.
6. The Mary Tyler Moore Show(1970—77) America's sweetheart made it after all on her own. And with apologies to her boss, Mr. Grant: Who didn't love Mary Richards's spunk? There was ensemble magic in the WJM newsroom and in Mary's Minneapolis apartment building, each character deftly defined and wittily written. A true gem.
7. M*A*S*H(1972—83) War may be hell, but we were in heaven watching the shenanigans of the Army medics cutting up amid the carnage of the Korean conflict, which lasted only a fraction of the duration of this blockbuster seriocomic hit. Rarely have laughter and tears flowed in such affecting unison.
8. The Cosby Show(1984—92) It took a beloved comedian's universal wit and wisdom on parenting to revive the then-moribund sitcom genre and make the loving and lovable Huxtables the nation's first family for relatable, multi-generational laughter. The kids grew old, but Bill Cosby's worldview never does.
9. Cheers(1982—93) Everyone knew their names: Sam, Diane, Carla, Coach, Cliff, NORM!, Woody, Rebecca. Being a barfly on the wall in this Boston watering hole put you in great company, amid wisecracking misfits who felt like instant best friends. Rising from the ratings basement to the top of the charts, Cheers spawned an equally beloved spinoff, Frasier, that lasted another 11 seasons.
10. Saturday Night Live(1975—present) An incubator of talent that has produced more stars than we can count, this influential showcase for live, often politically barbed comedy and cutting-edge music is more than a show — it's an institution.