Sitcoms have entertained us for decades. No matter how much television continues to evolve and adapt, the sitcom has managed to remain relevant. Often involving single-episode plots, they remain easy to tune in and out of without ever having to worry about serialized continuity. We can happily tune in to see our main character subjected to insults, embarrassed and end up in some ridiculously funny circumstances.
However, over the years there have been certain sitcoms that although they do poke fun at their central characters, they've managed to maintain a sense of warmth about them. These shows don't just make us laugh, they make us smile. The essence of family is a key theme in these shows — something which always warms our hearts. Let's take a look at five heart-warming sitcoms that also have no challenges making us laugh.
The Emmy Award winning Frasier was actually a spin-off of the incredibly successful Cheers. However, the success of Frasier would actually go on to arguably eclipse its parent show. Kelsey Grammar provided us with one of the most memorable characters in TV history in Dr. Frasier Crane who reluctantly must change his life when his retired father Martin (John Mahoney) and his dog come to stay with him. After hiring help in the form of Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves) — who dazzles his eccentric brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) — the unorthodox family would go on to become one of TV's most beloved.
Whether Frasier was listening to someone's problems on his radio show alongside his producer Roz (Peri Gilpin) or trying desperately to best his father in chess, the series was rich with hilarious moments.
However, the home setup provided us with many rich familial moments. Who could ever forget the heart-warming reconnection of Frasier and his father, or the will they/won't they storyline of Niles and Daphne.
When you think of the modern sitcom, you can't help but think of Frasier. It may be over 20 years old, but it has aged with class and is as funny — if not more so — as the best of today's comedies.
Hot In Cleveland
Hot In Cleveland is basically a collection of comedy legends all placed into the one show — and boy, did it deliver. Three somebodies from Los Angeles are on their way to Paris when their flight emergency lands in Cleveland. With a new outlook on life, Melanie, Victoria and Joy decide to give the new environment a try, buying a lovely house. There's just one catch — the house comes with the elderly caretaker, Elka (played magnificently by the incomparable Betty White).
Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli) is the the most sensible one among the three, while Wendie Malick's self-obsessed Victoria Chase is definitely the most hilarious, with a desire to win an Emmy and an intense hatred for Susan Lucci. Frasier's Jane Leeves plays the often dry Joy who always clashes with Elka. The chemistry between the four leading ladies is off the chain and proves that a small cast can still put on one hell of a show.
However, amid the jibes and capers, there is always room for a sweet moment between the ladies — particularly Joy and Elka, who always manage to bury that hatchet briefly, right before turning on each other once again.
Hot In Cleveland was TV Land's first ever original series, running for an impressive six seasons and featuring a string of guest stars from Susan Lucci to Glee's Chris Colfer. Without a doubt, it's one of the funniest shows I have ever watched!
The word "timeless" barely scratches the surface when we talk about the legacy that Bewitched has left behind. Undoubtedly the most iconic show on this list, Bewitched ran for an incredible eight seasons between 1964 - 1972 and has become the measuring stick for all sitcoms to follow.
Witch Samantha marries mortal Darrin, much to the distaste of the majority of her witchy family. However, she tries to learn to do things for herself, becoming a housewife in the process. With bewitching blunders and magical mistakes, Bewitched is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud. No matter how much Darrin tries to change her, and despite Samantha's continued struggles to adapt to the human world, he eventually learns to accept her for who she is. Furthermore, Samantha never allows herself to be absorbed by the 1960s suburban lifestyle and always maintains her identity as a powerful, independent woman.
Watch the classic opening credits from Bewitched:
Enriched with hilarious spells and off-the-wall characters, the series' strongest moments are always the family-orientated ones. Whether it's Samantha and Darrin's heartfelt moments with each other and their children, or the hilarious love/hate relationship between Darrin and mother-in-law Endora, Bewitched ticks all the boxes of what a perfect sitcom should be: Hilarious and heartfelt.
Not only is Bewitched arguably the greatest sitcom of all time, it is widely considered one of the greatest TV shows of all time — and rightfully so.
On the surface, British sitcom Vicious may be about an elderly couple who hurl insults at each other while they're busy acting like they are superior to everyone else. However, underneath, it's a statement about how two men's love for each other has endured and thrived for over 50 years despite it not being considered "acceptable" for most of their lives. Acting legends Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi both excel as the quick-witted and highly strung couple Freddie and Stuart.
Yes, the first season may be rife with insults and offensive comments. But as you move into Season 2 and later the standalone final episode, you begin to see a lot more heart-warming moments between the two and their hilariously crazy friends Violet (Frances De La Tour) and neighbor Ash (Game of Thrones' Iwan Rheon). Furthermore, Freddie's brother Mason (Philip Voss) was never short of a dry-witted comeback and Marcia Warren shined as the sometimes forgetful but always hilarious Penelope.
With outrageously sharp insults and equally crude comebacks, Vicious is comedy gold. But it also highlights the importance of love and friendship — Freddie and Stuart are very close to each other and their friends, even if they don't always admit it. With an exceptional cast and strong writing, Vicious could have been the next Absolutely Fabulous had it been on the air for longer. But in the three years it was on, it made us laugh, smile and sometimes even cry — everything a good sitcom should do.
Melissa & Joey
If Melissa Joan Hart is headlining a sitcom, you know you're going to enjoy it. ABC Family's 2010 "hitcom" Melissa & Joey ran for four seasons and broke records for the network.
The series centered around congresswoman Mel Burke who was having a hard time balancing raising her imprisoned sister's teenage kids and her career. She ultimately hires the man who her sister and brother-in-law had wronged in their scheme, Joe Longo (Joey Lawrence). Constantly referring to himself as their "freelance" nanny, Joe looks after Lennox and Ryder as they grow from teenagers into adults. What ensues is a hilarious battle of the minds between Mel and Joe as they constantly try to best each other at everything they do.
Lennox (Taylor Spreitler) is also never far from a witty comeback or compelling story while Ryder (played by Jurassic World's Nick Robinson) is always ready to deliver a flurry of dim but hilarious responses.
The dynamic between the four isn't just fun, it's electric. The chemistry between the actors and their characters just embodies what the show is about: family. And when a sitcom has family at its core, it's destined for great things.
So if you're at a loss for what to watch and are looking for something that will both make you laugh and make you smile, why not pick one of these heart-warming sitcoms? During their runs, these shows highlighted why the best of sitcoms are based around family — because they're full of hilarity and full of heart.
What's your favorite sitcom? Let me know in the comments below!