Must See TV: The 8 Strongest Primetime Sitcom Lineups Over The Past 30 Years

alex rat poison

Remember the glory days of last week, when we had Parks and Recreation to look forward to on Thursday nights? Yeah, that was fun, though not as fun as last year, when 30 Rock, Community, and Parks and Recreation single-handedly elevated NBC from “that network with The Voice and a whole bunch of garbage” to “that network with The Voice and a whole bunch of garbage, and some excellent Thursday night shows.”

(I’ll leave it to you to decide where season nine of The Office falls into that equation.)

But now, Parks is gone, at least for the time being, and with the possible exception of Parenthood, there’s almost no reason to watch NBC anymore. That’s a far cry from the near-past, when it was THE place for TV comedy, and not the unintentional comedy of Dr. FaceHands. So many of the best primetime sitcom lineups belong to NBC, which is why I looked back at every Big Four scheduling block over the past 30 years to find the 10 strongest, based equally on the show as a whole and said show’s quality in that particular season. Here they are, in chronological order.

1985-1986, NBC Thursdays

8 pm: The Cosby Show
8:30 pm: Family Ties
9 pm: Cheers
9:30 pm: Night Court

cosby show

The first of many NBC Thursday night entries, which makes The Voice -> Sean Saves the World -> The Michael J. Fox Show all the more depressing. Cheers and The Cosby Show are two of the greatest sitcoms of all-time, not to mention the shows that made NBC Thursday THE night for TV, while Night Court starred John Larroquette and was honored in an episode of 30 Rock, two very good things. Though not as good as that Bill Cosby GIF.

1994-1995, NBC Thursdays

8 pm: Mad About You
8:30 pm: Friends
9 pm: Seinfeld
9:30 pm: Madman of the People

seinfeld kramer

Seinfeld and Friends, that’s why this one’s here. So let’s talk about Madman of the People, one of my favorite Thursday night sitcoms that was mega-popular when it leeched off Seinfeld‘s ratings, but no one remembers anything about it anymore. Other classics: Union Square, Hope & Gloria, and of course, Boston Common (Thursday night: 8th highest rated show; Sunday night: 51st). At least that one gave a young Zach Galifianakis a gig.

1997-1998, NBC Tuesdays

8 pm: Mad About You
8:30 pm: NewsRadio
9 pm: Frasier
9:30 pm: Just Shoot Me

work-out-fine

Disregard Just Shoot Me, a finalist in the Worst Shows to Air for the Highest Number of Seasons contest (its bitter rival: According to Jim), and concentrate on the always-underrated NewsRadio. As for Fraiser and Mad About You, the former was far better than the latter, and they’re both funnier than their current “catch repeats on Hallmark Channel, tonight at 7 p.m.” tag might otherwise insist. But mostly: NewsRadio.

2002-2003, Fox Sundays

7 pm: Futurama
7:30 pm: King of the Hill (repeat)
8 pm: The Simpsons
8:30 pm: King of the Hill
9 pm: Malcolm in the Middle
9:30 pm: Andy Richter Controls the Universe

bobby-hill-potato-chips

If only because it’s the only lineup with FIVE good-to-great shows, including the perpetual-inclusion-in-every-cancelled-too-soon list Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Futurama at its peak, and The Simpsons before the downward spiral became a flush. (If you’re wondering why a golden-era Simpsons lineup wasn’t picked, that’s because in 1993-1994, it was paired with In Living Color, which excellent, and The Sinbad Show and Herman’s Head, which no. A year later, it moved to its current Sunday home…with House of Buggin’.)

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