In the past 25 years, American sitcoms have become all-consuming. You can’t flick through the TV anymore without encountering at least half a dozen episodes of US sitcoms old and new (of course, Friends is on a constant loop, so you can always find that). Whilst most American sitcoms are quite formulaic and not in the least bit funny (unlike our home grown British ones … check out the list … you know you want to) every once in a while, a big steaming pile of molten gold lands on your tele-box and has your sides splitting for 10 years (as US sitcoms never know when to end, just look at The Big Bang Theory).
- Liz Lemon – 30 Rock (Tina Fey)
Tina Fey is a goddess of the comedy world and one of her most successful projects is 30 Rock … but anything with Alec Baldwin is going to be good! Fey loosely adapted her own experiences as the head writer for one of America’s most loves shows, Saturday Night Live, and morphed it into a twisted version of the truth. The result is one of the most refreshing and original sitcoms of the 21st Century. Liz Lemon herself is a neurotic “sexually frightened know-it-all” who you just can’t help but fall in love with … but, Tina Fey could stand in a room for three hours doing nothing and I’d still think she was hilarious.
- Gob – Arrested Development (Will Arnett)
Many of the sitcoms talked about on this list feature an ensemble cast that is all brilliant, which makes my job harder. Trying to pick the best character from Arrested Development is like trying to pick your favourite pizza topping! They’re all good, so why single one of them out?! I choose Gob because I always looked forward to seeing him on screen and he never disappointed. He may be one of the most infuriating characters in television history, but this failed magician, failed romantic, failed human is a genius creation, played to perfection by Will Arnett (the voice of Lego Batman, don’t you know?) … he also spawned the ‘I’ve made a huge mistake’ meme with his never not funny catchphrase.
- Sheldon Cooper – The Big Bang Theory (Jim Parsons)
There was a time when Big Bang was one of the best sitcoms on TV and then it didn’t end when it should have and has become a giant shit-show that is currently shitting on all of its fans with its mediocre shitty writing and shitty acting and shitty shit! However, Sheldon will always remain one of the best comedy creations, with Jim Parsons’ perfect performance as the scientist-nerd, who hates social situations and at best dislikes everyone he meets. A character like Sheldon shouldn’t work, however Parson’s performance, coupled with the script, make it impossible to hate him. Sheldon Cooper is the only reason people still watch the show (and Kaley Cuoco’s, Penny, to be fair, but that’s got nothing to do with her performance).
- Karen Walker – Will & Grace (Megan Mullally)
If you want a refresher on the show, check out my recommendation from a few weeks ago … shameless plug alert … I could have chosen any of the main four cast as they are as good as each other, to be fair, however I find that Karen is the one that makes me laugh out loud the most. In a similar way to Sheldon, she shouldn’t work as she’s mean, lazy, selfish, and cruel, but the show cleverly shows us that she does have heart from time to time, which helps when she shows a complete lack of regard for anyone’s feelings, even when her chauffer nearly kills someone or she sprays the plumber with her perfume before insulting his looks, intelligence, and scent. She’s a wonderfully horrid character, but one that steals every scene she’s in with a well-placed bitchy comment or eye roll.
- Raymond Holt – Brooklyn 99 (Andre Braugher)
Another show where I could have picked any of the main cast (Boyle nearly made this list), but I had to go with Captain Holt for his sheer brilliance. A character that rarely shows emption and always speaks in a dull monotone, yet is forever being hilarious. The show, which is a cross between Parks and Recreation and Arrested Development, but set in a New York police station, has seriously been declining since the second series, but it is still worth a watch thanks to Andre Braugher’s loveable and fearsome Captain Holt. “VINDICATION!”
- Alan Harper – Two and Half Men (Jon Cryer)
I had to almost toss a coin for this entry, as I needed to decide between Jon Cryer’s Alan and Charlie Sheen’s character, Charlie Harper, for they are both excellent throughout the run of the underrated Two and Half Men. I settled with Alan, however, because although he is at times annoying and pathetic, Jon Cryer’s physical comedy elevated the show’s farcical elements to the heights of Frasier or Fawlty Towers. Two and a Half Men is genuinely one of the most hilarious sitcoms ever written and it’s largely down to the incredible performance that Cryer gives.
- Phil Dunphy – Modern Family (Ty Burrell)
Once more we have a sitcom where I had a smorgasbord of characters to choose from (I almost went with Cam), but in the end, I settled for the shows heart, Phil Dunphy. Phil is the type of man you would hope your daughter would marry (unless you’re Jay, of course) as he’s funny, kind, sensitive … yes, he can be infuriating and cringeworthy at times, but his heart is always in the right place, even if whenever he tries to do something for anyone, it invariably goes wrong. Ever the drama-queen, he’s the guy you would love to be in your modern family.
- Niles Crane – Frasier (David Hyde Pierce)
Niles just may be my personal favourite sitcom character of all time, because you can’t help but love this man. For a genius psychiatrist, he’s an absolute idiot (just not as much as his genius psychiatrist brother, Frasier). David Hyde Pierce is a master of psychical comedy, whether it’s cutting his finger and then passing out at the sight of his blood, or wafting his groin around in his boxer shorts so that his ‘sperm become more mobile’. Where Niles is at his best, however, is his constant pursuit and unrequited love of his father’s English carer, Daphne Moon. Series after series go by as he chases her affections, without her even realising. Frasier is in the top three greatest ever sitcoms, and Niles Crane plays a large part of that.
- Dr Cox – Scrubs (John C. McGinley)
Ah, Dr Cox, a very strong contender for the number one spot, but alas, beaten out by a palaeontologist … which would really annoy him. Dr Cox is a narcissistic, bullying, borderline-sociopath, who you can just never bring yourself to hate. He tortures anyone beneath him at the hospital (and anyone above him, really), he despises his wife, his family, and his friends, with the only people he ever shows affection for being his son Jack, his brother-in-law Ben (don’t get me started, I will start crying…) and Carla. Beneath all of that is a troubled mind, who when given the chance will show you what he’s made of: a deeply moral person who cares more about the lives of his patients than anything else. The show is a massive tear-jerker and it’s usually always down to the wise-words of Dr Percival Ulysses Cox.
- Ross Geller – Friends (David Schwimmer)
To be honest with you, I didn’t want to put Ross first because I actually find Friends slightly overrated (please don’t tell anyone I said that), but come on, it’s Ross! … I was also scared of Red Ross, to be fair … Ross is one of the most brilliantly realised sitcom characters in existence and although there is a number of people on the internet who despise him, the majority of us can live safe in the knowledge that he is the best thing about Friends and without him, the show would have been very boring indeed. The funniest Friends moments always concern Ross, whether it’s laughing at him (which it usually is) or laughing with him. I’ve learnt lots from Ross over the years. I’ve learned never to wear leather trousers on a date; never to keep teeth bleach on for longer than it says; always listen to spray tan instructions … and most importantly of all … PIVOT!
I had to leave of a whole host of amazing and funny characters from the list in order to keep it at a round ten, so there could perhaps be a sequel list in the works for future. Hopefully, James hasn’t noticed that Chris Pratt isn’t on this list … Make sure you don’t tell him on Twitter @MugwumpBlog