It’s scientifically proven that laughter is good for you. So, if you’re stuck at home, bringing a bit of humour into your life is not a bad idea. Luckily, there are hours and hours of classic comedy shows available on streaming services, and we’ve put together this list of the 30 best sitcoms to help you pick what to watch next. Whether you like you want laughs that are feelgood or cringe-worthy; broad or subtle, there’ll be something for you below – our collection of the most efficient joke delivery systems the United Kingdom and the United States have ever produced.
Even without including animated classics like The Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, and Rick & Morty there’s plenty here. And with most shows’ standard offerings running at half an hour or less – and many episodes suitable for standalone viewing – it’s easy to dip in and out of the 30 best sitcoms to stream whenever you have a spare few minutes. Not that an epic binge is going to be a problem, either…
We haven’t ranked these shows because, let’s be honest, deciding whether Fawlty Towers is better than Friends or Fleabag is superior to Father Ted is no joke. Instead, they’re listed in chronological order based on the date the first episode aired. So take a look at the 30 best sitcoms to stream right now and work out where you want to start – because laughter is a very serious matter.
Fawlty Towers (1975-1979)
UK: BritBox, Netflix
Just as everybody in the UK can tell you what a Dalek is, Basil Fawlty is British shorthand for any pompous and/or tetchy middle-aged man you might meet behind a counter. That’s how much John Cleese and Connie Booth’s hotel-set comedy has become part of the national consciousness, and why it regularly tops lists of the best sitcoms of all time. The customer service is generally disastrous, but across its famously brief 12-episode run it’s packed with excruciating situations specifically designed to drive Basil wild. Just don’t mention the war…
UK: Not currently available
US: Netflix, Hulu
Influential, sophisticated, and boasting a higher gag hit-rate than should be legal, Cheers is arguably the pinnacle of the American ensemble comedy. A Boston bar is the perfect setting for a sitcom because it allows its ensemble of dysfunctional characters to relax and simply be – whether they’re staff or customers. While psychiatrist Frasier Crane is the one who got his own spin-off series, any one of the regulars could have sustained their own show, and Sam and Diane’s tumultuous romance in the early seasons is one of sitcom-land’s great romances. Nearly 30 years after the final beer was pulled, it’s still time at the bar.
UK: All 4
“No hugging and no learning” in a self-confessed “show about nothing”. That’s the formula that sustained Seinfeld for nine successful seasons, as comedian Jerry Seinfeld and fictional friends George, Elaine, and Kramer shoot the breeze in New York City. A critical darling and a ratings smash, the show is – along with Friends – the definitive American sitcom of the '90s, and one of the most influential comedy shows in history.
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-1996)
US: Coming to HBO Max in May
Adding a modern spin to the classic ‘fish out of water’ comedy, the show centres on a young Will Smith (also the name of the rapper-turned-actor's character) who has to leave his beloved Philadelphia home after getting in one little fight with a local bully. Fortunately, Will has a rich aunt, a disciplinarian uncle and some snobbish but loveable cousins based in the ultra-rich Californian neighbourhood of Bel-Air – a story re-told every episode in those much-beloved credits.
Absolutely Fabulous (1992-2012)
UK: BBC iPlayer, Netflix
US: Amazon Prime Video, BritBox, Hulu
With a name like Absolutely Fabulous, it would have been a tad embarrassing if this show was bad. Luckily, Jennifer Saunders’ sitcom – inspired by a French and Saunders sketch about a PR exec still trying to live the up-all-night, drug-fuelled existence of her younger days – is an all-time classic. There’s plenty of fun to be had with the role reversal comedy of Eddy’s relationship with sensible teenage daughter Saffy, but the standout is Joanna Lumley as the unstoppable force of nature that is Patsy Stone – a genuine comedy icon.
UK: Available to purchase
Any character from Cheers could have made for a good spin-off show, but the one we landed with is Frasier – and what a surprisingly excellent choice. The show, which centres on a downbeat radio psychiatrist, quickly outgrew Cheers, losing almost all similarity. Kelsey Grammer's central performance anchors this beloved sitcom, while David Hyde Pierce as Fraser's brother Niles, Jane Leeves as Daphne, Peri Gilpin as Roz, and John Mahoney as Martin Crane round out the excelent ensemble.
US: Coming to HBO Max in May
There’s a reason Warner Media paid big money to get Friends on its new streaming service, HBO Max, when it launches in May 2020. A quarter of a century since the first episode aired, the ongoing story of six 20-somethings in New York still boasts multi-generational appeal few sitcoms can match. Yes, it occasionally feels dated, but the chemistry between the six leads is electric, most of the rapid-fire gags still stand up, and whenever you need a bit of comfort viewing, it’s good to know that Friends will be there for you.
I’m Alan Partridge (1997-2002)
US: Not available
When the death of a guest leads to the cancellation of his beloved chat show, Knowing Me, Knowing You, Alan Gordon Partridge winds up in a sordid little grief hole – sorry, travel tavern – and sitcom history is made. The first series is precision engineered comedy of embarrassment, as Alan manages to make every situation he encounters more awkward than should be humanly possible. In fact, the highly quotable first series may be the best thing its star/co-writer Steve Coogan has ever done – one hell of a compliment. That the second series feels a slight disappointment is only because the first is so brilliant. Back of the net!
UK: All 4, Britbox
If you came of age in the UK in the late-’80s or ’90s, chances are no sitcom has ever spoken to you quite like Spaced. Yes, it’s about 20-somethings in a houseshare and yes, it has a core cast of six characters, but that’s where the Friends similarities end. While writers/stars Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson (now Hines) are effectively writing about two people who knew they should be getting jobs but would rather sit at home playing videogames, their comedy does so much more. The show is loaded with whip-smart pop culture references, and – thanks to director Edgar Wright – its distinctive visual style works miracles on a meagre budget.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-present)
UK: Now TV
US: Amazon Prime Video (up to season 8), HBO
Loads of the sitcoms available to stream feature excruciatingly awkward moments, but when it comes to the comedy of embarrassment, nothing comes close to Curb Your Enthusiasm. Seinfeld co-creator Larry David plays a heightened version of himself, turning social faux pas into a hilarious artform in pretty much every interaction he makes. Largely improvised yet sublimely structured, the show’s best watched through your fingers. Though if you can bear to stick with it, Curb Your Enthusiasm is the ultimate, most extreme cringe binge out there.
UK: Available to purchase on Google Play
There have been a half-dozen TV shows set in hospitals, but none are as funny or relatable as Scrubs. Zach Braff John plays J.D., the show's narrator (for the first eight seasons at least) and central character. And while Braff's comedic timing make this a great watch, it's his chemistry with the central gang – Sarah Chalke's Elliot, Donald Faison's Turk, John C. McGinley's Perry, and Judy Reyes' Carla – that makes Scrubs so special.
The Office UK (2001-2003)
US: Hulu, BritBox
Given its huge cultural legacy, it’s easy to forget just how groundbreaking the Slough-set sitcom was when it turned Wernham Hogg regional manager David Brent into a household name – and shorthand for how not to run a team. Heavily influenced by This is Spinal Tap, The Office’s laughter track-free, mockumentary format made most of its contemporaries feel instantly dated. It’s an excruciating watch at times, but co-creators/writers/directors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant find plenty of humanity in their characters – particularly in the touching non-romance between salesman Tim and receptionist Dawn.
Arrested Development (2003-2019)
US: Netflix (all seasons), Hulu (seasons 1-3)
With most sitcoms, you can watch the episodes in pretty much any order and not miss out. That’s not true of Arrested Development. Arriving at just the right time to capitalise on the dawn of the DVD box set binge, the ingenious, self-referential story of the Bluths (a millionaire family who redefine dysfunctional) is built around gags that pay off whole episodes – occasionally whole seasons – later. Originally cancelled after just three seasons, it became a word-of-mouth hit, and turned its cast into stars. The Netflix-bankrolled resurrection couldn’t quite recapture the magic of the early days, but it’s still good to have the Bluths back.
Peep Show (2003-2015)
UK: All 4, Netflix, Britbox
From The Liver Birds to Men Behaving Badly to Friends, the flatshare has always been a major weapon in the sitcom writer’s arsenal. Nobody had done it quite like Peep Show, however, as writers Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain literally get inside their lead characters’ heads. Via inner monologues and point-of-view camera we saw the inner thoughts of wound-up Mark Corrigan (David Mitchell) and his waster mate Jez (Robert Webb), a device the scripts use to extract maximum cringe factor from every single situation – hilarious and awkward in equal measure. The show also gave a breakout role to future Oscar-winner/national treasure Olivia Colman.
The Thick of It (2005-2012)
UK: BBC iPlayer, Netflix
US: Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, BritBox
Before Peter Capaldi stepped into the TARDIS as the Doctor, he was busy turning swear words into poetry as ruthless spin doctor Malcolm Tucker. Armando Ianucci’s scathing satire delights in highlighting the ineptitude of the Westminster’s political classes, with MPs and advisors of every ideology given free rein to make themselves look stupid. Tucker’s the one sane man clearing up increasingly farcical messes – and he subsequently got to drop F-bombs on Washington in movie spin-off In the Loop.
The Office US (2005-2013)
UK: Amazon Prime Video
A US remake of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s groundbreaking workplace sitcom felt like a terrible idea when it was first announced – and a pilot episode that felt like a mediocre cover version of the original did little to change that feeling. But it wasn’t long before Michael Scott and his co-workers at the Scranton, Pennsylvania, branch of paper merchants Dunder Mifflin found their own, very different groove. Like its forebear, the show still finds humour in the mundanity of office life, but there’s a warmth here that’s rarely visible in the original.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005-present)
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has cemented itself as one of the most daring, outlandish comedies of all time. Centred on four friends who hate each other (à la Seinfeld, but with more swearing), the show has expertly forced us to think critically about very real topics, all while crying-laughing at things we maybe shouldn’t. And, unlike other sitcoms, Sunny never forces us to like the terrible main gang. In fact, it’s probably better if we don’t root for them at all.
How I Met Your Mother (2005-2013)
Yes, the ending may be controversial, but for the majority of the show's 93 episodes, How I Met Your Mother is gleeful sitcom goodness. Josh Radnor's Ted Mosby narrates the story as the entire series is told in flashback form, with Ted retelling how he met his children's mother. Did he need to go into quite this much detail? No. Did we love almost every second? Absolutely.
The IT Crowd
UK: Netflix, All 4
This cleverly titled UK sitcom centres on a group of misfit IT workers who fester in the basement of a British corporation, only going upstairs to unplug computers – and to, of course, plug them back in again. Sounds slightly uninteresting, yet this gang manage to get into all sort of hijinks, mainly thanks to them all being particularly anti-social. The show became star-making for its central cast, with Chris O'Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson, and Matt Berry all now household names. Plus, with Chris Morris and Noel Fielding act as recurring cast members, what's not to love. Just don't go in expecting any good football chat.
30 Rock (2006-2013)
UK: Now TV
US: Amazon Prime Video, Hulu
Tina Fey took that old adage that you should “write what you know” to heart when she crafted 30 Rock – though it’s unlikely her time as head writer on Saturday Night Live was ever as hilarious as the sitcom she created. Set behind-the-scenes on a comedy sketch show, 30 Rock sees Fey’s Liz Lemon negotiating star egos, questionable management decisions, and a disastrous love life via lightning-fast quips, hilarious cutaways, and bizarre situations. At the show’s heart is Lemon’s platonic relationship with Alec Baldwin’s wonderfully deadpan studio boss Jack Donaghy. We want to go to there.
Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009)
UK: Now TV
US: Amazon Prime Video, HBO
How do you transfer a musical stand-up duo’s act to TV? Answer: you get them to play fictionalised versions of themselves as struggling musicians trying to make it in New York. Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie’s efforts to make it as New Zealanders in the big city are beautifully crafted, but what really makes the show stick in the memory is the songs, a succession of superlative comedy tracks spoofing everything from David Bowie to Marvin Gaye to hip hop to Lord of the Rings. Their manager Murray (Rhys Darby) is pretty good too.
The Inbetweeners (2008-2010)
UK: All 4, BritBox
Most screen depictions of US high school life are glamorous affairs, filled with good-looking jocks, wise-cracking loners, and teens with astonishingly high levels of emotional intelligence. The Inbetweeners is the polar opposite. Set in an ordinary British sixth form, the surprise hit captures the mundanity of school, while nailing the crude way teenage boys talk to each other. The situations that arise during Will, Simon, Jay, and Neil’s constant hunt for sex may be extreme and embarrassing, but the show gets away with it because the characters aren’t grown-ups – and few recent TV shows have brought more words into the national lexicon.
Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)
UK: Amazon Prime Video
US: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu
Originally conceived as a spin-off from The Office, Parks and Recreation took a similar workplace mockumentary format and applied it to local politics. The first season is undeniably patchy, but a few well-observed tweaks turned Pawnee, Indiana, into an essential destination, with Amy Poehler making enthusiastic bureaucrat Leslie Knope an icon. Most remarkable, however, is that despite the constant bickering, you actually feel that the characters genuinely like each other – a tricky balancing act to pull off.
UK: All 4, Netflix
US: Hulu, Netflix
While it fell just short of the #SixSeasonsAndAMovie prophesised by Abed in the series, Community got way closer than anyone could have expected – especially given the tortured behind-the-scenes history of the show that saw a cancellation, a shift of network, and creator Dan Harmon fired and subsequently reinstated. In theory it’s about a ragtag bunch of students at a community college who form a study group, but it’s so much more than that. Funny, surreal, self-aware and meta, it embraces its geekiness much more wholeheartedly than The Big Bang Theory.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-present)
The Office/Parks and Rec team turn their attentions to the detective show and, while they junk the documentary-style pieces to camera, every other element is all present and correct. That means a perfectly formed ensemble of memorable characters, a spot of workplace romance, and plenty of zingy dialogue. The Nine-Nine also have a couple of extra trump cards in their hand – day-to-day life in a police precinct is much more exciting than making paper; and in deadpan department head Captain Raymond Holt, the show has a comedy hero for the ages. Bingpot!
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015-2019)
Kimmy Schmidt, the eponymous lead character in Tina Fey’s 30 Rock follow-up, may just be the most unwaveringly good-natured person anywhere on this list. After all, she’s spent half her life imprisoned underground by a cult leader, and yet still manages to find the good in everyone she meets. Luckily, the characters around her – notably aspiring singer flatmate Titus Andromedon and weird landlady Lillian – stop things from getting syrupy as Kimmy negotiates modern New York. If it’s possible to be cynically optimistic, this show is it.
UK: BBC iPlayer, Amazon
US: Amazon Prime Video
What’s still left to say about Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s award-hoovering TV adaptation of her own one-woman stage play? The situations are excruciating, every single character deeply flawed, but Waller-Bridge carries the whole thing with her impeccable performance as the unnamed title character. Whether struggling to keep things together after the death of her best friend, or fighting temptation in a relationship with Andrew Scott’s Hot Priest, she’s vulnerable, believable and incredibly funny. Her fourth-wall-breaking asides to camera are also brilliant.
The Good Place (2016-2020)
US: Netflix (seasons 1-3), Hulu (season 4)
With a hand in The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, writer/producer Michael Schur has something of a Midas touch when it comes to sitcoms. That’s possibly why NBC gave him such free-rein to create a sitcom that genuinely breaks the mould – where else would silly puns flow seamlessly into complex musings on philosophy? Over four seasons, the afterlife-set comedy constantly reinvented itself, yet always felt like it knew where it was going. By the time we finally said goodbye to the wonderful ensemble, we felt like we knew them – the farewell episode is one of the all-time great sitcom finales.
This Country (2017-2020)
UK: BBC iPlayer
A spiritual successor to The Office, This Country takes its mockumentary cameras to a village in the Cotswolds, to track the going-nowhere lives of cousins Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe (played by writers/creators Daisy May and Charlie Cooper). Impeccably observed, the show keeps its situations (more or less) real, the comedy coming from its characters’ musings on life and their interactions with fellow locals – Paul Chahidi’s eternally patient vicar is a standout. But beyond the comedy, it’s a rare exposé of life in England’s forgotten towns – there’s social commentary behind the laughs.
Derry Girls (2018-present)
UK: All 4, Netflix (season 1 only)
The writing on Derry Girls is so good that you could base it anytime, anywhere, and still have a brilliant sitcom. However, it’s the setting that gives the show poignancy and lifts it to instant classic status, as four girls (and a wee English fella) at a Catholic girls’ school in Derry grow up against the backdrop of Northern Ireland’s Troubles – and a soundtrack of classic ’90s tunes. Featuring dead nuns, a hot priest, and a disastrous exchange with a Protestent boys’ school, the situations are brilliantly constructed, and the gags non-stop.