15 Best Sitcoms Of The 70s Ranked

The best sitcoms of the ’70s feature a blend of stand-out humor, progressive themes, and memorable characters, here’s the standouts of the group, ranked from worst to best. 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.

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. Despite American TV dominating the decade, not all of the best sitcoms of the ’70s came from the US and, in fact, some of the most critically acclaimed 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 Sanford And Son (1972–1977)

Available to stream on Prime Video.

One of the best sitcoms of the ’70s, Sanford and Son 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.

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. The show was so well-received that after it ended, it got a continuation with its supporting characters called Sanford Arms, and a spinoff called Grady. A revival was attempted, but Demond Wilson didn’t want to return as Lamont.

14 Three’s Company (1976–1984)

Available to stream on DirecTV and Pluto TV.

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, making it one of the best sitcoms of the ’70s.

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. At one point, Three’s Company was the highest-rated midseason show ever broadcast on network television and ratings only went up as the series went on. It got a TV movie in 2003 and a rumored in development film in 2016.

13 Are You Being Served? (1972–1985)

Available to stream on BritBox.

This laugh-out-loud sitcom Are You Being Served came courtesy of the zany British during the 1970s, focusing on the ladies and gents apparel section of the Grace Brothers department store. One of the best sitcoms of the ’70s 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. The sitcom got its own movie, a compilation special, a revival episode in 2016, a spinoff titled Grace & Favour, a stage adaptation, and an Australian adaptation.

12 The Bob Newhart Show (1972–1978)

Available to stream on Hulu.

Comedy legend Bob Newhart stars in one of the best sitcoms of the ’70s 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.

The Bob Newhart Show, 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. The Bob Newhart show was so well-received that it got two Emmy nominations and two Golden Globe nominations for Newhart. The episode “Over the River and Through the Woods” was ranked 9th on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.

11 Happy Days (1974–1984)

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, and its legacy proves that it’s one of the best sitcoms of the ’70s. 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. Regardless, the show has quite the legacy, seeing Robin Williams’ onscreen debut as Mork. Henry Winkler donated Fonzie’s jacket to the National Museum of American History and his character was ranked 4th on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time. There have been reunions, revivals, spinoffs, comic books, animated series, and musicals made about Happy Days.

10 Soap (1977–1981)

Available to stream on Fubo TV.

One of the best sitcoms of the ’70s 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. The series was nominated for 17 Emmys, winning a few for Richard Mulligan and Katherine Helmond. It was also nominated for two Golden Globes, seeing another win for Katherine Helmond.

9 WKRP In Cincinnati (1978–1982)

Available to purchase on Apple TV.

Many workplace comedies are available to stream right now, and many of the current ones got their inspiration from one of the best sitcoms of the ’70s. WKRP in Cincinnati 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 was undeniable, as was the inventive storytelling built on the back of a premise that should have made the writing more difficult, rather than less. Widely considered as the blueprint for the workplace comedy, WKRP in Cincinnati was nominated for 10 Emmys, winning 1, three Golden Globes, and won a Humanitas Prize.

8 The Odd Couple (1970–1975)

Available to stream on Paramount+.

Tony Randall and Jack Klugman starred in one of the best sitcoms of the ’70s about two divorced men living together in an apartment in Manhattan. They are the complete opposite of each other, which leads 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. Both Tony Randall and Jack Klugman were nominated for Emmys every year that the show ran, with Klugman winning two and Randall one. Klugman was also nominated for two Golden Globes, winning one.

7 Fawlty Towers (1975–1979)

Available to purchase on Vudu, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV.

John Cleese took a break from his Monty Python gig to head up this beloved classic Britcom and one of the best sitcoms of the ’70s. The deadpan comedy style was suited to 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. Aside from being named the best British television series of all time by the British Film Institute, the show won three BAFTAs. Even John Lennon, Kate Bush, and Martin Scorcese were quoted to be fans of the series.

6 Barney Miller (1975–1982)

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Barney Miller was one of the best sitcoms of the ’70s and took place at a New York City police station, focusing 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. Barney Miller won three Emmy Awards, but was nominated for many more. In addition, the show won two Golden Globes and was nominated for seven more. It also received a Peabody Award in 1978.

5 Taxi (1978–1983)

Available to stream on Paramount+.

Taxi is a fun comedy about the everyday lives of a few taxi drivers in New York City, and one of the best sitcoms of the ’70s. 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, such as Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, and Christopher Lloyd.

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. Taxi ended up winning 11 Emmys and two Golden Globes, in addition to a slew of nominations.

4 The Jeffersons (1975–1985)

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

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 episodes 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. One of the longest running sitcoms in history and one of the best sitcoms of the ’70s, The Jeffersons was the first sitcom to prominently feature an interracial couple. The show ended up winning two Emmys but was nominated for 12 more, as well as eight Golden Globes, two Image Awards, and a Young Artist Award.

3 M*A*S*H (1972–1983)

Available to stream on Hulu.

This monster hit TV show and one of the best sitcoms of the ’70s 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. During the TV show’s 11-year run, it was nominated for over 100 Emmy Awards, eventually winning 14. M*A*S*H also won eight Golden Globes, seven Directors Guild Awards, and many more.

2 All In The Family (1971–1979)

Available to stream on Freevee and Pluto 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 and turned out to be one of the best sitcoms of the ’70s. 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. All in the Family has spawned the most spinoffs of any primetime televisions series (five in total), and it was the first ever series to see each of its lead actors win an Emmy. It won 21 Emmys in total, eight Golden Globes, and was given a Heritage Award for its cultural and social impact.

1 The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977)

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show revolutionized the way that women appeared on television forever, and was one of the best sitcoms of the ’70s. 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, this series is considered a sitcom classic, and a must-watch. The Mary Tyler Moore Show won 29 Emmys, a record that remained unbroken until Frasier in 2002, a Peabody Award, and three Golden Globes. It was the first female-dominated sitcom in television history, and while still a product of its time, was highly progressive.

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