The National Broadcasting Company, usually known as NBC, is a huge commercial television network that is headquartered in New York City. It is a current subsidiary of Comcast and is also the oldest major broadcast network in the United States. The company once belonged to General Electric, but they were forced to sell it off due to antitrust charges in 1930.
This broadcasting network started out as a radio network in 1926 and was originally a part of the Radio Corporation of America. It entered the world of television in 1939 and has been distributing legendary shows to the American populace since. NBC is known for riveting dramas like Blacklist, police procedurals like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and event talent shows like The Voice.
NBC is also a big player in the comedy television arena. The network has hosted some of the best sitcoms of all time and is notable for being the third network to host Mary Kay & Johnny — the very first American sitcom. As time has passed, more and more sitcoms and other comedy shows have come to NBC. If you want to know a little more about the very best of these hilarious shows, read on as we go over the Top Twenty NBC Comedy Shows of All Time.
This satirical sitcom was created by Tina Fey, and originally came to NBC in 2006. It draws heavily on Fey’s prior experience writing for Saturday Night Live and focuses on the behind-the-scenes action of a fictional comedy show. The show is called 30 Rock in reference to 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, the site of NBC studios and where Saturday Night Live is written, produced, and performed. This film uses surrealist humor to parody corporate America and is noted for its prominent use of smash cuts (sudden scene changes that show a brief discussion between characters).
This show received a lot of recognition during its seven-year stint on NBC. It was even nominated for 22 Primetime Emmys in a single year — the most of any comedy series ever. Over the entire life of the show, it has been nominated for a total of 103 Emmys and won sixteen of them. It has also been named the 21st best-written TV series of all time by the Writers Guild of America. The show ran for seven excellent seasons, providing plenty of viewing material for any of our readers who haven’t yet seen 30 Rock.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Legendary sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air originally aired in 1990. This NBC classic is well-known for its fictionalized version of Will Smith — played by Will Smith — and the various situations he gets himself into. There is a special emphasis placed on how his street-smarts and lifestyle clash with his well-to-do relatives, the Banks family. This show is incredibly famous for its title theme and was responsible for launching Will Smith’s acting career.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran for six seasons, and a total of 148 episodes were aired. The show has been nominated for an Emmy and two Golden Globes and has won two Young Artist Awards (for Ross Bagley), two Image Awards, and an ASCAP Film and Television Music Award for Top TV series. Though there have been rumors of a reboot, Will Smith shut them down quickly. So, unfortunately, the show is probably over — but it will always hold a special place in NBC fans’ hearts.
My Name is Earl
Greg Garcia is the man behind My Name is Earl, a sitcom that originally aired on NBC in 2005. The show follows Earl Hickey — a small-time crook who ends up turning his life around after winning big on a scratch ticket. After winning the money, he decides that he wants to fix his past wrongs. So, he ends up getting into all sorts of comedic situations as he attempts to make amends for these transgressions. This show ran for four seasons and went off-the-air in 2009.
This series was critically well-received, winning praise from many for the jokes and message beneath them. It has also been nominated for two BAFTA awards, and succeeded in winning an Emmy for Outstanding Writing and Directing in a Comedy Series. It has received nominations for some other awards as well. All-in-all, this show was quite successful during its four-year run.
Based on a BBC series, The Office was a hit on NBC, running for about eight years. It was adapted for the American sense of humor by veteran writer Greg Daniels (writer on King of the Hill and The Simpsons). The show takes the form of a mockumentary, using a single-camera setup and lacking a laugh track or studio audience. It focuses on the day-to-day lives of employees at Dunder Mifflin, and initially starred Steve Carrell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinksi, Jenna Fischer, and B.J. Novak.
Throughout the life of the series — it ran for a total of nine seasons during its NBC stint — the cast changed several times. Despite this, it managed to achieve critical acclaim and four Primetime Emmy wins, including an Outstanding Comedy Series award in 2006. Overall, the show did quite well during its time on the air. Rumors abound of a 2018 reboot of the series that will feature some of the original cast (excluding Steve Carrell) and some new faces.
This 1980s NBC sitcom was a legendary take on the move from cultural liberalism to cultural conservatism. It starred Michael J. Fox as a young Republican, with his ex-hippie parents being played by Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter. The show plays on the relationship between these two opposing viewpoints for much of its humor and ran for seven seasons from 1982 to 1989.
This early entry in Michael J. Fox’s career ended up bringing him three consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. He also won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series. Family Ties was incredibly well-received and is a legendary comedic entry on NBC with a distinct political slant.
One of the most-recognizable television shows ever created, Friends originally aired on NBC in 1994, and went for ten seasons until 2004. It starred some of the biggest names in entertainment — including Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer. These talented entertainment professionals played the roles of six friends living in Manhattan and has been a huge influence on all subsequent American sitcoms.
This show is one of the most popular television shows ever created. It achieved 62 Emmy nominations, and even won the Outstanding Comedy Series award in 2002. The show is rated 7th on Empire magazine’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. It has received much more recognition and has been included on many more “greatest” lists — such as lists from TV Guide and the Writers Guild of America. Friends will go down in history as one of the best shows ever hosted on NBC.
The sci-fi comedy ALF aired on NBC from 1986 to 1990. This show stars Gordon Shumway — an Alien Life Form (hence, ALF) who crash landed on earth. It follows his exploits on Earth alongside the Tanner family. The Tanners are suburbanites who help ALF hide from the Alien Task Force (a part of the military that catches aliens) and eventually grow to love him. This show has 102 episodes total and ran for four great seasons.
ALF appealed to a lot of people, particularly people with young children in their families. It has even won a People’s Choice Award in 1987 (Favorite New TV Comedy Program) and a Kids’ Choice Award the next year for Favorite Show. ALF himself also achieved a Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite TV Actor. Though the show was cancelled, NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff is on record saying that it was “a big mistake”.
The long-running sitcom Cheers came out on NBC in 1982 and ran for over ten years with a total of 275 episodes spread across eleven seasons. This show is set in a Boston bar, the eponymous Cheers, and focuses on the interactions between a group of locals that meet there. It is quite famous for the main theme written by Gary Portnoy called “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”, which was also the catchphrase of the show.
Cheers is another one of the most popular television series ever that is featured on NBC. It has received widespread critical acclaim from the first season to the last. In fact, it was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series at the Emmy Awards every single season that it was on the air. It ended up earning 28 Emmys, was included on several “best of” lists, and spawned an incredibly popular spin-off — which we will discuss next.
This show was a spin-off of Cheers based around the life of psychiatrist Frasier Crane. Like the show that spawned it, it ran for eleven seasons (starting in 1993 and concluding in 2004). It focused on Crane’s return to Seattle, and the process he undergoes while building a new life. Many characters from Cheers appeared in this show, making cameo and crossover appearances.
Frasier made its mark in the television industry as one of the most successful spin-offs of all time. It is also highly critically-acclaimed and won 37 Primetime Emmy Awards — breaking a record previously set by The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It held this record until it was broken by Game of Thrones in 2016. However, it still is tied with Modern Family for the most consecutive Outstanding Comedy Series wins, as it pulled in five of these awards from 1994 to 1998.
The Golden Girls
The Golden Girls is an NBC classic, aired from 1985 to 1992. It stars Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty. The show focuses on the interactions between the stars as they share their Miami home and get into a lot of comedic situations. It ended up running for seven seasons, all of which received great critical acclaim.
This show won Outstanding Comedy Series twice, as well as three Golden Globes for Best Television Series. One of the coolest achievements that The Golden Girls boasts is being one of only three shows in which each star had received their own Emmy award. This sitcom is consistently ranked among the top television shows and is greatly influential on many other shows and writers.
Another great NBC sitcom, NewsRadio premiered in 1995 and ran for five seasons until it was cancelled in 1999. The show focuses on an AM news radio station in New York City called WNYX, and the lives of its eccentric owner and hilarious staff. The show made use of a lot of sight gags and physical humor but was also notable for well-written dialogue that was full of pop culture and news references related to the times.
NewsRadio consistently received positive reviews, but never really had the ratings to match. This lead to the demise of the series — which is unfortunate, because the characters and story still had a lot of life to them. Despite this, NewsRadio has been phased out of most networks. Few networks on which you can catch reruns of the show exist today.
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
The late-night talk show hosted by Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show, has been playing on NBC since 2014. It is the seventh version of The Tonight Show and follows the same general formula each night. It opens up with Fallon performing a comedy monologue, and then goes to sketches and games. There is also a guest interview section at the end of the show, followed by a musical performance. Moments from this show have gone viral, due to Fallon’s timely and hilarious commentary.
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has always garnered positive reviews and has even been nominated for nine Emmy awards, of which it has won two. Whether he is appearing as himself, Donald Trump, or Vladimir Putin, Jimmy Fallon is sure to bring a smile to your face on this nighttime program. He has signed a contract to remain on as the host until at least 2021, so we have plenty more of this show to look forward to.
One of the most famous satires of the contemporary secret agent genre is the NBC comedy series Get Smart. It is an older show, as it was first released in 1965. The show focuses on the secret agent Maxwell Smart (Agent 86) and his partner as they fight crime — with Smart’s bumbling personality and insistence on strict rule obedience usually complicating things considerably. The show ran for five seasons and concluded in 1970.
Get Smart was quite well-received at the time of its release, gaining a lot of fans and traction in the television world. It has also spawned a number of sequels, including a 2008 film remake and a 1995 revival series of the same name. The original series also won seven Emmy Awards, including two back-to-back awards for an Outstanding Comedy Series in 1968 and 1969. It is deeply-ingrained in popular culture and is even considered a notable work by the Museum of Broadcast Communications.
Will & Grace
Will & Grace was a sitcom that aired from 1998 to 2006, and recently restarted in 2017 — all on NBC. The series focuses on Will Truman (a gay lawyer) and Grace Adler (a Jewish interior designer) and their relationship. It features a few other characters, and deals with themes of marriage and divorce, casual sex, and gay and Jewish cultural stereotypes. The series had an original run of eight seasons over eight years and was among the most successful shows with a gay main character.
It did not have a great initial reception, with many critics panning the portrayal of gay characters and the similarity of the plot material to other contemporary sitcoms. However, as time went on, the show became more mature and dealt with these themes in a more subdued and politically-correct manner, without sacrificing its integrity or humor. Will & Grace has been nominated for 83 Emmys and has won sixteen. The main characters also hold three Screen Actors Guild Awards each for Best Performance by an Actor [Actress] in a Comedy Series.
The pioneering sitcom Seinfeld started out in 1989 on NBC. It ran for approximately nine years, nine seasons, and 180 episodes. This sitcom was one of the first shows to be “about nothing” — that is, every episode focuses on telling stories of daily life. The show focuses on Jerry Seinfeld, Elaine Benes, Cosmo Kramer, and George Constanza as they navigate the trials of life in the late 20th century. It was revolutionary in its field and is greatly influential to this day.
Seinfeld has also been ranked among the best television shows of any category, making top lists in Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, and Rolling Stone, among other magazines. It was also recognized as the second-best TV series of all time by the Writers Guild of America. TV Guide rated it the best. It also received a plethora of awards, including Emmys, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Parks and Recreation
The top political satire on NBC was, without a doubt, Parks and Recreation. It had a run from 2009 to 2015 and was comprised of seven seasons. The show centered around Leslie Knope — a Parks Department official from the (fictional) town of Pawnee, Indiana. It had a great cast and was well-written and funny — and it only improved with time.
Though the initial reviews of Parks and Recreation were mixed, the second season reevaluated the formula and implemented many popular changes. This led to widespread critical acclaim, as well as a total of eight Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe for Amy Poehler (actress who plays Leslie Knope), and another Golden Globe nomination. It was even named the number one television series of 2012 by Time Magazine. The show was cancelled, but with 125 episodes there is plenty of viewing material for any comedy fan.
This medical dramedy originally aired on NBC in 2001 and remained on this network for eight years and seven seasons. It is a fast-paced series, focusing on slapstick comedy and vignettes. Most of the humor of the show was presented through the daydreams of Dr. John “J.D.” Dorian, the main character in Scrubs. The show is also famed for many guest appearances by famous film actors.
Scrubs did quite well on NBC, even receiving a Peabody Award. It was eventually moved to ABC for the final two seasons and was officially cancelled in 2010. It has been nominated for many Emmys — seventeen to be exact — and won two of them. It also has won the Humanitas Prize in 2002, 2008, and 2009. This is given out to visual entertainment that promotes meaning, dignity, and freedom.
The series Community was created by Dan Harmon, and originally aired on NBC, moving to Yahoo! Screen for its final season. The show focuses on an ensemble cast from a Colorado community college. The humor of this show is marked by a lot of pop culture references, parodies of tropes, and a sizeable amount of meta-humor. The appealing mix of writing and acting led this show to receive many positive reviews.
Community eventually developed a cult following, and appeared on many “best of” lists from 2009 to 2015. It has been nominated for many awards (though it has only won a few) and will continue to be loved by its fans for the foreseeable future. You can catch this show on Hulu if you are interested.
Saturday Night Live
This live television comedy show was originally created in 1975. It has been on the air since, providing timely and contemporaneous laughs, alongside ridiculous skits and humorous commentary on the world. Saturday Night Live has had 43 seasons — over 840 episodes — and still doesn’t have a tired formula. It is highly likely that this show will remain on the air for many years.
Saturday Night Live has been nominated for hundreds of awards, and has received 64 Primetime Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards, and four Writers Guild of America Awards. It has been listed numerous times on various “best of” lists — including by Time magazine. It holds records for the most Primetime Emmy Award nominations, sitting at 231 nominations currently.
Saved by the Bell
The final entry on our list is Saved by the Bell. This sitcom was a reboot of Good Morning, Miss Bliss from the Disney Channel. It was generally a lighthearted comedy, but occasionally dealt with more serious issues (such as drug use, death, women’s rights, and homelessness). The show followed a group of friends in high school and their principal during its run on NBC from 1989 to 1993.
Saved by the Bell inspired a couple of spin-off series — namely, Saved by the Bell: The College Years and Saved by the Bell: The New Class. It has also been included on several “best of” lists. It even scored a spot on the 20 Best School Shows of All Time list, created by AOL TV. It will be remembered fondly by original fans for years to come.