The Best Sitcoms Of The ’70s, Ranked (According To IMDb)

In the 1970s, sitcoms changed and became more real. While the sitcoms of the 1960s involved many outlandish plots and over-the-top and cartoon-like characters, like The Addams family or the Munsters, the ’70s featured stories about family life, the workplace, and of course, the politics of the time period. Parody of these elements was a common thread shared by almost all sitcoms of the era.

RELATED: 10 Sitcoms From The ’70s Everyone Forgot About

Stories and characters became more relatable to audiences, making many TV shows from this era absolute classics, and a reflection of the culture in the 1970s. Given the dreary and pessimistic world situation during the 1970s, this kind of comedy became a much-needed escape from everyday problems.

Updated on October 1st, 2021 by Derek Draven: Despite American TV dominating the decade, not all of the best ’70s sitcoms came from the US and, in fact, the highest-ranking on IMDb came from across the pond. Each of these amazing shows deserves to be remembered and passed down through the generations for reasons beyond just nostalgia alone.

15 Happy Days (1974–1984) – 7.4

The characters of Happy days in a portrait

• Available to stream on Paramount+

At first glance, Happy Days looks like it was made in the 1950s, which was exactly the point. In reality, it was a bigger-budget sitcom that would serve as a template for many of the successors to follow in the 1980s. Led by a stellar cast including future director Ron Howard, Happy Days ran for a full decade before calling it quits.

The series never reached critical mass, but it did keep going strongly, thanks to loveable characters, fun storylines and plenty of gags. Unfortunately, as the writers began running out of material, so too did the laughs. It was the sitcom that ended up coining the pop culture phrase “jumping the shark,” due to one especially notorious episode.

14 The Jeffersons (1975–1985) – 7.4

George and Louise Jefferson sharing a moment in The Jeffersons

• Available to stream on Starz

One particularly notable All In The Family spinoff show was The Jeffersons, focusing on the Bunkers’ black next door neighbors who eventually make it big in business, and move into an affluent apartment. This allowed the main characters of George and Louise Jefferson to flourish on their own, with some great stories to boot.

The decision to expand on the All In The Family formula by focusing on Archie Bunker’s equally bigoted nemesis George was a great move. Like its parent show, The Jeffersons faced many of the social and political woes of the time head on, with no apologies or cares given except how to make people laugh.

13 Three’s Company (1976–1984) – 7.5

Jack, Janet and Crissy in a portrait from Three's Company

• Available to stream on Fubo

Three’s Company was a bit more popular during the early half of the 1980s, but it got its start in 1976, the same year that VHS tapes and the Concord made their debut. The premise of one single guy living together with two women in the same apartment was a novel idea that made for some hilarious gender gap storylines.

The show’s three main leads were some of the most loveable on television, and John Ritter’s performance has become iconic within the annals of sitcom history. The mixture of zesty storylines, sexual tension and gut-busting physical comedy made Three’s Company an underrated, yet still appreciated sitcom hit.

12 Taxi (1978–1983) – 7.6

• Available to stream on Hulu & Paramount+

Taxi is a fun comedy about the everyday lives of a few taxi drivers in New York City. The chemistry between the characters was spot on, thanks to some excellent casting decisions. In turn, the show helped either launch, or solidify the careers of many of the stars at the time.

The cast included Danny DeVito, pre-Who’s The Boss star Tony Danza, pre-Grease star Jeff Conaway, and Christopher Lloyd, before he took on the iconic role of “Doc” Brown in the classic ’80s flick Back To The Future. New Yorkers especially enjoyed the brand of off-beat comedy, which was cathartic in an age when the city was plagued with violence.

11 The Odd Couple (1970–1975) – 7.8

• Available to stream on Hulu & Paramount+

Tony Randall and Jack Klugman starred in this hilarious sitcom about two divorced men living together in an apartment in Manhattan. They are the complete opposite of each other, which lead to interesting conflicts, and lots of laughs. It was an adaptation of the play of the same name, as well as the iconic 1968 film.

The series was just as popular as the movie, if not more so. Produced by Gary Marshall, known for creating other 1970s sitcom hits including Happy Days and the spin-off Laverne and Shirley, The Odd Couple is still an absolute classic, featuring one of the best dynamic duos in television history.

10 Sanford And Son (1972–1977) – 7.9

• Available to stream on Starz

This series involved a father and son, Fred and Lamont, and the situations they get themselves involved in as junk dealers. Fred is always trying to find over-the-top ways to make money, and Lamont always needs to find a way to help clean up the inevitable mess that followed.

RELATED: 10 Hit Sitcoms From The 70’s That Wouldn’t Fly Today

The series was groundbreaking, and it featured many controversial issues, mostly involving racism. Fred and Lamont may be two completely different characters, but they are both lovable and fun to watch. The dynamic between the two brings a lot of heart to this sitcom.

9 WKRP In Cincinnati (1978–1982) – 7.9

• Available to purchase on Prime Video

Many workplace comedies are available to stream right now, and many of the current ones got their inspiration from sitcoms like this one. The show centered around the lives of a group of people running a radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio. The cast consists of many great actors, including Gary Sandy, Tim Reid, and Loni Anderson. There are many fantastic songs used throughout the series, which was an important theme of the show.

The concept of the series was so simple, but it soon turned into sitcom magic. The chemistry of the cast deniable, as was the inventive storytelling built on the back of a premise that should have made the writing more difficult, rather than less.

8 Are You Being Served? (1972–1985) – 8.0

The staff of the ladies and gents department of Grace Brothers in Are You Being Served

• Available to stream on BritBox

This laugh-out-loud sitcom came courtesy of the zany British during the 1970s, focusing on the ladies and gents apparel section of the Grace Brothers department store. The entire show was a jab not just at the sales goods trade, but Britain’s class warfare system that was still clinging to relevancy amidst the backdrop of a social shift.

The show featured madcap hilarity from one episode to the next, whether it was malfunctioning sales display units, new gimmicks to drive sales, or the unbelievably risqué sexual double-entendres. The characters themselves were larger than life, and their duplicitous and irredeemable personalities were part of what made the show such a hit.

7 Soap (1977–1981) – 8.1

Jodie talking to a friend at a restaurant booth in Soap

• Available to stream on Tubi

This hilarious sitcom acts as a parody of daytime soap operas, and includes many serious plotlines such as kidnapping and murder. Parody was a major focus of the show, which is what made it work so well. The series had a fantastic ensemble cast, including future film star Billy Crystal.

The performances are great, the writing is spectacular, and the series paved the way for the future of television and particularly the sitcom format. Soap took many risks featuring controversial storylines, but it was emboldened by the unexpected runaway success of All In The Family, which broke new molds.

6 The Bob Newhart Show (1972–1978) – 8.1

Bob Newhart sitting in a chair in The Bob Newhart Show

• Available to stream on Hulu

Comedy legend Bob Newhart stars in this hilarious sitcom as Dr. Robert Hartley, a psychologist who gets involved in ridiculous and hilarious situations with his wife, patients, and colleagues. Both settings gave Newhart a dynamic and shifting range of material to work with, in his favor.

RELATED: 10 Male Sitcom Characters From The ’70s That Would Never Fly Today

This series, similar to The Dick Van Dyke Show, struck a balance between the lead’s work life, and his life at home with his wife, adding to the creativity and variety of the storylines. It helped turn Bob Newhart into even more of a comedic legend.

5 Barney Miller (1975–1982) – 8.1

• Available to stream on Fubo

This show took place at a New York City police station, and focused on Captain Barney Miller’s various in interactions with staff and others who cross his path. The series was groundbreaking, featuring many controversial topics, while acknowledging many cultural differences between different characters.

Barney Miller was situated in New York City, which was a hotbed of out-of-control crime during the 1970s. It was especially popular with actual real-life police officers around the country, who felt that despite its comedic tone, it was an accurate portrayal of law enforcement at that time.

4 The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977) – 8.1

• Available to stream on Hulu

Mary Tyler Moore first rose to fame in the 1960s sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, before starring in this classic show as Mary Richards, a single woman who moves to Minneapolis to start a new chapter in her life. She becomes an associate producer at WJM-TV in the newsroom, where she works with a variety of characters including Lou Grant, Ted Baxter, and Murray Slaughter, with legend Betty White joining the cast later in the series.

The series is considered one of the best-written sitcoms of all-time, even going so far as to spark several spinoff shows. With one of the most recognizable theme songs of all time, this series is considered a sitcom classic, and a must-watch for fans of the genre.

3 All In The Family (1971–1979) – 8.3

• Available to stream on IMDb TV

No other comedy broke down more cultural barriers than All In The Family, driven by the outrageous Archie Bunker, a traditionalist bigot who grew as a person as the series progressed. It was feared that the show would spark riots across the country, but All In The Family actually helped bridge more divides than it caused.

The political climate of the 1970s was a central focus of the show, with radically liberal Mike Stivic battling against his no-nonsense, stuck-in-his-ways father-in-law Archie Bunker. No topic was too hot enough, and the mixture of straightforward, unapologetic comedy, hilarious dialogue and loveable characters made it a ratings hit for years.

2 M*A*S*H (1972–1983) – 8.4

The characters of M*A*S*H inside a field hospital

• Available to stream on Hulu

This monster hit TV show from the 1970s focused on the staff of an Army hospital during the fateful Korean War. This series is a perfect example of “laughter is the best medicine,” using comedy to balance out the horrors of a very costly, and politically precarious war.

M*A*S*H  was one of the most-watched TV shows of all time, and the popular finale is still the one of the highest rated series finales of all time. The decision to focus on a war that America had mostly forgotten, as opposed to Vietnam was a stroke of genius, even if many of its messages would later fall on deaf ears.

1 Fawlty Towers (1975–1979) – 8.7

Basil Fawlty and his hapless posing in Fawlty Towers

• Available to stream on BritBox

John Cleese took a break from his Monty Python gig to head up this beloved classic Britcom. The deadpan comedy style was suited towards a particular kind of viewer, but Fawlty Towers had enough cross appeal to make it one of the highest rated sitcoms of the entire decade.

Basil Fawlty blundered his way from one misadventure to the next as he tried to run his hotel. Unfortunately, the challenging guests, incompetent staff and his own poor temper made that impossible, to the great delight of viewers rolling around on the living room floor with laughter.

NEXT: 5 Most Influential TV Shows Of The 70s (& 5 That Deserve To Be Forgotten)

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Christian Craig
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He is a student at The Ohio State University. He has a passion for film and television and strives to entertain others through his writing.

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