The best TV comedies on Peacock

The best TV comedies on Peacock

Clockwise from top left: The Office (Screenshot), Saved By The Bell (Photo: Chris Haston/Peacock), Cheers (Screenshot), and Johnny Carson hosting The Tonight Show (Screenshot)
Clockwise from top left: The Office (Screenshot), Saved By The Bell (Photo: Chris Haston/Peacock), Cheers (Screenshot), and Johnny Carson hosting The Tonight Show (Screenshot)

Streaming libraries expand and contract. Algorithms are imperfect. Those damn thumbnail images are always changing. But you know what you can always rely on? The expert opinions and knowledgeable commentary of The A.V. Club. That’s why we’re scouring both the menus of the most popular services and our own archives to bring you these guides to the best viewing options, broken down by streamer, medium, and genre. Want to know why we’re so keen on a particular show? Click the links for some in-depth coverage from The A.V. Club’s past. And be sure to check back often, because we’ll be adding more recommendations as shows come and go.

Have you heard? Peacock has The Office. But it also has two of the other shows that continued NBC’s Thursday night sitcom legacy into the 2010s—30 Rock and Parks And Recreation—plus Cheers, Frasier, and other must-see classics from the network that Peacocks comedy (you say the “Peacock”), as well as rerun staples from its network rivals like Everybody Loves Raymond and Roseanne. All that and a surprisingly savvy Save By The Bell reunion? Why, it’s enough to make a person say “Hey, hey, hey, what is going on here?”

In the mood for something more dramatic? We’ve got you covered there, too.

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30 Rock

30 Rock

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Screenshot: 30 Rock

The further away television gets from 30 Rock’s time on the air, the more prescient the sitcom becomes—especially when it comes to all things NBC. Which is maybe the last thing anyone would’ve thought when it first premiered, compared to the series that was supposed to succeed, Aaron Sorkin’s funny-for-the-wrong-reasons Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. However, Tina Fey’s absurd and quick-witted comedy lasted for seven seasons, created a television legacy, and spawned a comedic style and sensibility that made shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and (the woefully underrated) Great News work. It also left us with the greatest life advice possible: “Never follow a hippie to a second location.” [LaToya Ferguson]

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A.P. Bio

A.P. Bio

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Photo: Vivian Zink/NBC

Glenn Howerton rose to fame playing one of the worst people on TV, a character that It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has often (and not implausibly) suggested could be a serial killer. So it’s no stretch for the once (and future?) Dennis Reynolds to embody A.P. Bio’s Jack Griffin, a selfish, callow, callous figure whose slouchy-stylish uniform of cowl-neck cardigans and joggers indicates a recent personal crisis and dueling desires to appear both above it all and inordinately invested in what other people think of him. Thinking is Jack’s business, but by the time he comes literally crashing into NBC’s new single-camera sitcom A.P. Bio, the Harvard philosophy scholar has tumbled from his lofty perch and come to in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, where a desperate public-school system has installed him as the Advanced Placement biology teacher at Whitlock High School. [Erik Adams]

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

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Photo: John P. Fleenor/NBC

One of the 2010s’ funniest sitcoms is also one of its simplest: a throwback workplace comedy, set at New York police station populated by a lovable cast of eccentric cops. Brooklyn Nine-Nine quietly exemplifies the way diverse casting can produce better television, with characters whose eclectic backgrounds generate fresh comedic ideas—and thereby deepen the audience’s affection. Brooklyn Nine-Nine crams in more visual gags and one-liners into a single episode than some series scatter across an entire season. It’s also surprisingly plotty, with crime stories that function as legitimately gripping mysteries. As consistently excellent as it is unpretentious, this show is one of the era’s purest pleasures. [Noel Murray]

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Cheers

Cheers

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Screenshot: Cheers

Of all the American sitcoms produced in the 1980s, Cheers feels most like a culmination of what was going on in the ’70s. It’s as if the show took the basic precepts of an MTM show like The Mary Tyler Moore Show or The Bob Newhart Show, then honed them to the sharpest possible point. Every element was perfectly calibrated for maximum comic value, every cast member precisely chosen, and each character played a specific role within the ensemble. Even the show’s barroom setting seemed calculated. And yet Cheers never felt dry or airless. Creators Glen and Les Charles built a show about a gang of lovable losers, much like they had learned to do while working on Taxi. But the central device of the will-they/won’t-they romance would never be done better. Ted Danson and Shelley Long hooked up, then broke up, then hooked up again, and Cheers somehow made it enthralling every time. Some of that may have been due to co-creator James Burrows—unquestionably the most influential multi-camera director in television history—who kept the pace light and effervescent and gave Cheers a sense of elasticity that allowed it to survive even the departure of Long, a move that effectively cleaved the show into two different series. The first is a witty romantic comedy about a dunderhead and the bright barmaid who tries not to love him; the second is a more traditional workplace farce. Both are terrific. [Emily VanDerWerff]

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Everybody Hates Chris

Everybody Hates Chris

In this autobiographical sitcom from Chris Rock, Rock’s fictionalized self is played by Tyler James Williams in a breakout performance. In the roles of Rock’s flawed parents, Terry Crews and Tichina Arnold set new standards for a TV dad and mom. But as put-upon as the eponymous character might be, Everybody Hates Chris is groundbreaking for its portrayal of a Black family whose lives aren’t just defined by their struggles. [Danette Chavez]

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Everybody Loves Raymond

Everybody Loves Raymond

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Screenshot: Everybody Loves Raymond

Everybody Loves Raymond is one of the most psychologically rich traditional sitcoms in television history. Its characters love each other, but it’s not hard to believe that all of them should move to separate continents to stop driving each other up the wall. Created by Phil Rosenthal and series star Ray Romano and based on Romano’s stand-up, the series’ premise is as old as sitcoms themselves: A husband (Romano) and a wife (Patricia Heaton) struggle to raise a family and deal with the pressures of life without wanting to kill each other. Raymond compounds the conflict by placing Ray’s parents within the show—played by Doris Roberts and Peter Boyle—across the street, ready to barge into the lives of their son and his wife at a moment’s notice. [Emily VanDerWerff]

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Frasier

Frasier

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Photo: David Rose/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank (Getty Images)

Steeped in the memory of one of TV’s greatest ensembles, Frasier was inherently familiar. When it debuted on September 16, 1993, its charms were immediately recognized, even if the premise was hardly groundbreaking. Workplace humor had bled into family-centered sitcoms in the past, and trumpeting your lead character’s multiple divorces was hardly taboo by the mid-’90s. Frasier’s theatrical staging, which turned most episodes into 22-minute plays, and innuendo-filled farcical humor were inspired by Norman Lear’s oeuvre and series like Three’s Company and Fawlty Towers, respectively. But, as Frasier and his equally snooty brother would argue—and the show’s five consecutive Outstanding Comedy Emmys might contend—the classics are never out of fashion. [Danette Chavez]

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The Johnny Carson Show

The Johnny Carson Show

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Screenshot: The Johnny Carson Show

Not The King Of Late Night’s short-lived, eponymous primetime variety series, but selections from his historic run on The Tonight Show—edited to omit any reference to The Tonight Show. Of course, there’s an argument to be made that Carson was a bigger name than the talk show whose grasp on the national conversation and sense of humor took hold under his tenure, particularly during the years of often chummy, occasionally lubricated TV comedy documented here. But really, it’s titled this way because these shows are owned by Carson Entertainment, and The Tonight Show is owned by NBCUniversal. Intellectual property: It’s fun! But not as fun as seeing the superstars of yesteryear, clad in polyester and/or shoulder-swallowing lapels, yukking it up between Johnny and Ed.

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Odd Mom Out

Odd Mom Out

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Photo: Bravo

Based on creator and star Jill Kargman’s successful novel Momzillas, Bravo’s second scripted drama, Odd Mom Out, is a tale as old as time: Author writes book exposing the bad behavior of the wealthy elite while simultaneously enabling readers to feel morally superior and live vicariously through all of the soapy, sordid details. [Alexa Planje]

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The Office (U.S.)

The Office (U.S.)

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Screenshot: The Office

From our list of the best TV series of the 2000s:

America may always be imitating our British forebears, but the U.S. version of Ricky Gervais’ astounding comedy of cruelty managed to make the original’s single-camera mockumentary premise its own. Key to the translation’s success: a more sympathetic boss played by Steve Carell, a more confident (and competent) relationship between co-workers Jim and Pam, and a divergence from the plots provided by its predecessor. By the second episode, when Michael Scott assigns each employee with an ethnic identity to teach a lesson about diversity—but leaves out “Arab” because “It’s too soon”—it was abundantly clear that creator Greg Daniels was pointing the show in its own direction. As the seasons have piled up, the writers have innovated to delightful effect; witness last season’s Michael Scott Paper Company arc, which revealed new facets of the main characters without throwing any of the show’s ample investments away.

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Parks And Recreation

Parks And Recreation

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Photo: NBC

As Leslie Knope, Amy Poehler was the heart of this big-hearted show, rallying her motley staff (and occasionally the Pawnee community) into greater versions of themselves through sheer enthusiasm for people and the power of civic participation. Making uncynical humor look easy, the show’s writers and cast built something sweet in the city of Pawnee that, like its inspiration 870 miles away, is worth returning to repeatedly. Li’l Sebastian alone is proof: Parks And Recreation was this decade’s original good place. [Kelsey J. Waite]

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Roseanne

Roseanne

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Screenshot: Roseanne

Based in the fictional factory town of Lanford, Illinois, Roseanne concerns a nuclear family rotating around the titular force of nature at its center. While [Roseanne] Barr is undeniably the loudly beating heart of the show—so much so that producers’ efforts to remove her when she became problematic proved futile—the rest of the Conner clan are its other vital organs: John Goodman as dad Dan, Laurie Metcalf as ever-present sister Jackie, Lecy Goranson (and later her replacement, Sarah Chalke) as older sister Becky, Sara Gilbert as middle child Darlene, and Michael Fishman as youngest son DJ. (Okay, DJ isn’t exactly vital; let’s call him the show’s spleen.) The manner in which the Conners snipe at and mess with each other has earned Roseanne a reputation for mean-spiritedness, but the family members’ loyalty to and twisted affection for one another are evident throughout the series, particularly in the early seasons. The Conners are very much the sort of people who laugh to keep from crying, and their dark, cynical worldview is both a symptom of and a salve for the indignities they face as a blue-collar, moderately educated family just trying to get by. If that sounds suspiciously like another working-class TV family that debuted around the same time, well, it’s meant to. [Genevieve Koski]

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Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live

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Photo: NBC

Saturday Night Live grew out of the dream of a legendary television entertainer who became a culture hero to his generation. That man’s name was Johnny Carson, and his dream was to take more vacation time from The Tonight Show. To this end, Carson sought to increase the value of his own reruns by instructing NBC that he was no longer good with affiliate stations being allowed to air them on weekend late nights. This development reignited the daydream some at the network had of colonizing that patch of broadcast real estate with original programming. That opened the door for two guys who formed an uneasy alliance based on their shared identification as members in good standing of the Baby Boomer generation: 30-year-old writer/comedian-turned-producer Lorne Michaels, and 28-year-old NBC executive Dick Ebersol. Though Michaels and Ebersol were still pretty young, they weren’t as young as they used to be, and they’d figured out that other members of what used to be called “the ’60s generation” might feel like spending part of a weekend evening sitting at home, watching the kind of entertainment they’d always had to seek out at concert venues and comedy clubs.

Allegations that SNL isn’t funny anymore, which go hand in hand with charges that it’s “lost its edge,” date back at least as far as 1979, when that cutting-edge journal of the electronic arts TV Guide ran an article called “Saturday Night Moribund.” (Yes, plays on the show’s name go back at least that far, too.) When really old people make these charges, they mean that SNL has lost the freshness and counterculture vibe it had in the mid-’70s. But it had that vibe because it was a necessary component to connecting with its target audience then. As the show became more successful, it became bigger, less intimate, and splashier, but it has also changed to fit the times. At some point it turned into an institution, and institutions are conservative by nature. That doesn’t mean the show’s politics became conservative, though that’s sometimes been the upshot of its efforts to embody, and never challenge, the zeitgeist. (The story that Lyndon Johnson looked up from the evening news and announced that he knew he’d lost Middle America on the Vietnam War because he’d lost Walter Cronkite is apocryphal, but it’s true that people in the first Bush White House breathed a sigh of relief when they watched Saturday Night Live during the 1991 Gulf War and saw that, rather than satirizing the rationale behind the war, the show was doing sketches harshly ridiculing dumb ol’ reporters who thought they had any business asking questions about it.) [Phil Dyess-Nugent]

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Saved By The Bell (2020)

Saved By The Bell (2020)

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Photo: Chris Haston/Peacock

Great News creator Tracey Wigfield’s vision of Saved By The Bell 2020 wouldn’t work with another Zack at the helm. Yes, there is another Zack roaming Bayside’s halls—Mac Morris (Mitchell Hoog), son of Zack and lover of babes—but don’t expect the gritty Riverdale treatment. Mac is Zack, but dumber and nicer to nerds. His best friend (and occasional rival) is Jamie Spano (Belmont Cameli), a blend of Mario Lopez’s Slater and Tommy D from The New Class. Their Lisa Turtle is Lexi (Josie Totah), a transgender fashion icon with her own reality show, Becoming Lexi: I Am Me. Together, they cook up schemes, lust after love interests that disappear after a single episode, and make life hell for the long-suffering Principal Toddman (John Michael Higgins), who’s every bit as sweet and doofy as Mr. Belding. But they are not our protagonists. They are, in the eyes of the school’s new transfers, dopey, seemingly unknowable specimens ensconced in a world unencumbered by class struggle or meaningful consequence.

It’s through these transfer students—Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez), Aisha (Alycia Pascual-Pena), and Devante (Dexter Darden)—that we view Bayside with a kind of awed bemusement. And therein lies the ingenuity of Wigfield’s vision: By shifting protagonists to Bayside outsiders, she and the writers are able to resurrect the weird, reality-detached charm and aesthetic of the original while also using it to show the absurdity of wealth through the eyes of the lower-class. This Bayside is a bubble, a satirical vessel for exploring how privilege resists change. And, without taking itself too seriously, the show mines this tension for stories that, by and large, feel fresh in the realm of modern teen comedies. The poor kids struggle with their newfound privilege. They fear they’ll be stereotyped. They advocate for reform in a system that favors the rich. You’ll hear the occasional “bitch” or “damn,” but the show mostly sustains the original’s wholesomeness, delivering sweet, tween-friendly lessons about being true to yourself and giving others second chances. [Randall Colburn]

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Superstore

Superstore

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Photo: Trae Patton/NBC

The retail employees of Superstore have survived to one of the sweetest spots of a sitcom’s evolution, when the characters have come into focus, the cast chemistry is properly calibrated, and the writers can start harvesting the crops of storylines they planted in the show’s earliest stages. In season four, that meant heartwarming (and occasionally quinceñeara-ruining) romantic payoff for Amy (America Ferrera) and Jonah (Ben Feldman), but it also meant a streak of winning episodes whose big laughs arrived on the surface of long-simmering, deeply relevant plots about the whole Cloud 9 crew. Sometimes those plots involved a lurking Easter Bunny or the disappearance of a whole cage full of exotic birds, and sometimes they involved labor organization and draconian immigration policy. Whatever directions the season went, it all embodied the spirit it went out with, as the staff rallied to show they’re a force greater and more resilient than the building that brought them together—a fitting exclamation point for creator Justin Spitzer and his time as showrunner. [Erik Adams]

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The Weird Al Show

The Weird Al Show

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Screenshot: The Weird Al Show

“Inspired” by Pee-wee’s Playhouse the same way Oasis may have been influenced by The Beatles—the shows even share a set designer—The Weird Al Show casts the parody king as an cave-dweller who learns a series of valuable life lessons alongside such pals as Bobby The Inquisitive Boy, a second-rate, sexually ambiguous superhero named “The Hooded Avenger,” a sexy female spy, and a stunt hamster. Meanwhile Yankovic’s predilection for watching lots and lots of television presents a perfect venue for clever parodies of television commercials and insipid children’s programming. [Nathan Rabin]

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