Even during the best of times, one of my favorite ways to unwind is by plopping down on the couch with a cold beverage and watching hour after hour of one of my favorite all-time TV shows. While I love a good mystery or thriller, sometimes my mind just needs a break from overthinking the connections and machinations of a twisty plot like on Homeland, and my mind craves the comfort of a sitcom from years gone by. That's when I pull up one of my favorite shows from the list below and settle into the sofa for a bit of self-care.
I'm sure you're going to be reading a lot of similar lists over the coming weeks as you try to decide how to spend your newfound time at home, and no two lists are going to be the same. While some may focus on critically acclaimed shows or "undiscovered" gems, I've chosen to focus my list on the snack-sized shows that make me happy. I hope some of them bring a smile to your face over the next weeks as well.
I've done my best to indicate which streaming service these shows are on (if any), but most are also available for purchase from services by Google, Amazon, Apple, etc. Shows will often bounce from service to service, and you don't always know how long they'll stay on your preferred streamer. Also, many shows are only partially available on a streaming service (select episodes or seasons). Just know that I've tried to make this list as accurate as possible at the time of publication, but the ultimate destination of these shows may change over time.
Oh, one more thing. I couldn't decide on the best way to group these shows other than chronologically, so I've categorized them roughly by decade. True, some bleed over from one decade to the next, but I've placed them where (or when) they were most relevant to me.
- First choice: Three's Company — DVD on Amazon
- Second choice: Laverne and Shirley — Hulu
- Honorable mention: Happy Days — CBS All Access
I'm not quite old enough to remember any of these during their original series run, but I am old enough to remember watching reruns after school in the early to mid-80s. All three of these series were pretty wholesome (especially Laverne and Shirley and Happy Days), and each had a fun amount of classic slapstick comedy and live audience or laugh track guffaws.
These 70s shows are a little harder to find consistently on streaming services, so you might have to buy a season (or a show) at a time from a service like Amazon Prime Video or Google Play to see if you like it, or you might have to gasp order a DVD or Blu-ray. But if and when you do, you'll have them to fall back on forever!
- First choice: Golden Girls — Hulu
- Second Choice: Family Ties — CBS All Access
- Honorable Mention: Full House — Hulu
The 80s were my formative years as a kid, and I remember them as the peak decade of family-oriented sitcoms (or maybe it's just because that's what I was mostly allowed to watch). I loved the hippie/yuppy dichotomy that took place on Family Ties even before I understood really what that was all about, and the Golden Girls' Miami home reminded me of my grandmother's Texas Gulf Coast vacation home (minus the three other old ladies).
And who can forget the Tanners on Full House, which is even more relevant in recent years with Fuller House succeeding as a new Netflix original, and Aunt Becky getting into trouble for bribing people to get her real-life daughters into college?
- First choice: Frasier — Hulu
- Second choice: Will & Grace — Hulu
- Honorable mention: Newsradio — Crackle, Amazon Prime Video
If the 80s were my formative years as a kid, the 90s was when I transitioned from childhood to adulthood. That's the decade where I began and graduated high school and college, when I got married, and when I had my first job(s). So my taste in T.V. changed accordingly during these ten years, but I still preferred comedy series. The easy picks here would be Friends (my all-time favorite), Seinfeld, or even the Simpsons, but I wanted to go just a bit off the main path here (because let's face it, you're already binging those shows).
Frasier was arguably the best sitcom of the 90s, and one of the most critically-acclaimed and well-written shows of all time. Will & Grace ushered in some of the most loveable (and annoying) characters on T.V., and Newsradio is low key one of the best shows of the 90s (R.I.P. Phil Hartman).
- First choice: Scrubs — Hulu
- Second choice: Psych — Amazon Prime Video
- Honorable mention(s): Monk — Amazon Prime Video; IT Crowd Netflix
In the 2000s, I transitioned into full-on adulthood and found some of the shows that still have a pull on me to this day. Scrubs, Psych, and the IT Crowd have some of the best all-time bromances on the small screen, with J.D. and Turk hanging out in the halls of Sacred Heart Hospital, while Sean and Gus fight crime in Santa Barbara and Roy and Moss avoid the ignorant elites from the office basement.
Adrian Monk may not be easy to love at first, but it becomes endearing to see how he manages to solve mysteries despite his unbearable OCD. In fact, Monk would have the easiest time self-isolating out of any character from any of the shows on this list!
- First choice: The Good Place — Netflix
- Second choice: Parks and Rec — Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix
- Honorable mention(s): Modern Family — Hulu; Blackish — Hulu; Brooklyn 99 — Hulu
The 2010s just ended a few months ago, so they feel fresh in our minds, but they began over ten years ago! Shows from this era are some of my family's favorites, and we have been binging The Good Place, Modern Family, Blackish, and Brooklyn 99 from start to finish.
It's no surprise that Parks and Rec is another of our favorite shows in recent memory, as it was created by the same writer/producer team that put out The Good Place and Brooklyn 99, among others. It's also one of the easiest shows to find across services, as the last time I checked, it was available on Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video.
Grab your remote
I hope this trip down memory lane produced a few smiles for you, and that you dive down the rabbit hole with one or more of these shows soon. Even if you're not subscribed to all of these streaming services, chances are you can find some good classic comedies on the services you have access to.
I wanted to mention before signing off that if you are an Amazon Prime member and have a Fire TV device, you can stream tons of free shows and movies on their IMDB TV app, including hit 80s shows like Who's the Boss and Alf.
Let us know what you liked from this list, and what you would add to it, decade by decade!
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