17 Underappreciated TV Comedies That Are Available to Stream Right Now
If you need an escape, these overlooked streaming sitcoms will get you laughing.
Watching TV shows in this streaming age is exceedingly easy. Just fire up your Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon account, and check out the bounty of television at your disposal. But selecting the right show to watch during difficult times? Therein lies the challenge. These days, the value of a truly diverting sitcom cannot be overstated—these shows deliver not only laughter but an escape. And while there are certain shows on streaming that everybody seems to be watching all the time (hello, Friends), don't deny yourself the joy of digging up a neglected sitcom and discovering its pleasures all for yourself. The series on our list have either been underappreciated, forgotten, or not given their due. Here's your chance to change that, from the comfort of your own living room: Check out these 17 overlooked TV comedies to stream.
Grace & Frankie (Netflix)
This Netflix original series stars Hollywood greats Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as a pair of women whose lives are thrown into disarray when their husbands—played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, respectively—reveal that they're gay and are leaving their wives for each other. Grace and Frankie never exactly got along, but soon realize they have to rely on each other to get by. With the sixth season now released, Grace & Frankie has been a reliably amiable, funny, and rewarding sitcom for Netflix, despite often being overshadowed by flashier shows. Fonda and Tomlin really deliver, and the supporting cast and guest actors—from June Diane Raphael to Marsha Mason to Estelle Parsons to Peter Gallagher—are superb.
Party Down (Hulu)
A show that was truly ahead of its time, Party Down was the creation of a post-Veronica Mars Rob Thomas, who pivoted from teenage detective noir to pitch-perfect comedy. The series centered on a catering company in Los Angeles run by Ken Marino, whose employees were all either waiting to land their big Hollywood break or whose brush with fame was long in the past. The cast was one of the best you're ever likely to find on a TV series, including Adam Scott as a former TV commercial star whose catchphrase haunts him, Lizzy Caplan as the aspiring actress who's his love interest, plus Jane Lynch, Martin Starr, Ryan Hansen, and later Megan Mullally, who replaced Lynch after Lynch was cast on Glee. The series originally aired on Starz, with Netflix—before they ever started producing their own original content—experimenting with releasing the episodes the same week they aired. Given another few years, Party Down could have been one of the earliest streaming comedy hits. Alas, after two seasons, Starz pulled the plug. Now, all 20 episodes are streaming on Hulu.
Who could have expected that mega-successful TV producer Chuck Lorre (Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory) would deliver his best TV comedy in the form of his most unheralded. Allison Janney won a few Emmys for her role as a recovering alcoholic whose wayward daughter (Anna Faris) is also in recovery, but all things considered, Mom doesn't get the love it should. Which is too bad, because it's evolved into an honestly remarkable show about women in recovery learning to manage their own lives and atone for their mistakes. Janney and Faris are excellent, forging a mother-daughter bond that is wholly unique among their TV contemporaries. And the supporting cast, including Jaime Pressly, Mimi Kennedy, Kristen Johnston, and William Fichtner, is one of TV's most underrated. It's streaming in its entirety on Hulu.
Frasier tracks the adventures of Cheers alum Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) as he crosses the country to Seattle to live with his blue-collar father (John Mahoney) and work as a radio therapist. After the monumental success of Cheers, you'd have thought a spinoff might have been underwhelming. After all, wasn't the whole charm of Cheers that it was a huge surrogate family of characters congregating at the bar day after day? But Frasier managed to become its own smash hit in part by not trying to replicate the Cheers vibe. Instead it became about two persnickety brothers (Grammer and David Hyde Pierce as Niles Crane), their bemused dad, his live-in caregiver Daphne (Jane Leeves), and Frasier's flinty radio producer, Roz (Peri Gilpin). This tight ensemble delivered everything from modern-day farce to character-based pathos. The years since it has aired may have dulled its accomplishments, but it is highly worth a revisit as it streams on Hulu.
A post-Friends Matt LeBlanc starred on this Showtime series as a heightened version of himself: Matt LeBlanc, former Friends actor, looking to pick his career up with a new show. That's how he ends up crossing paths with married British screenwriters Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig), who don't initially want LeBlanc on their show, but are saddled with him via the network. Episodes is a clever inside-Hollywood comedy with a revelatory performance by LeBlanc, who gets to be funny in a completely different way than Joey Tribbiani ever was. All five seasons of the show are streaming on Netflix.
Happy Endings (Hulu)
ABC's gone-but-not-forgotten sitcom was about six friends living in Chicago whose comedic struggles in life and love were packed with enough rapid-fire jokes to satisfy anyone's comedic appetite. Featuring a note-perfect cast, including Adam Pally, Eliza Coupe, Damon Wayans Jr., Casey Wilson, Zachary Knighton, and Elisha Cuthbert, the series melded joke-dense writing with performances that were both heightened and genuinely lovable. In the post-Friends era, any show about a group of mostly-single twentysomethings in a big city got placed in the Friends shadow, but Happy Endings was the rare series that actually felt worthy of the comparison. All three seasons are streaming on Hulu.
Great News (Netflix)
Created by 30 Rock writer Tracy Wigfield and executive produced by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, Great News was in many ways NBC's follow-up to 30 Rock. The show followed life at a TV news program, with Briga Heelan starring as a young woman getting her big break working for The Breakdown and dealing with her meddlesome mother (Andrea Martin), who gets a job as an intern at the show. The cast is incredibly funny, with Martin as the MVP, but also John Michael Higgins, Adam Campbell, and eventually Fey herself. The biggest surprise, however, was Nicole Richie playing an endearingly vapid co-anchor. The show ran for two short seasons, and is streaming in its entirety on Netflix.
Better Off Ted (Hulu)
Life in the absurd world of the corporate biochemical industry—which is to say, research and development into the things scientists can invent and turn into household products—was the premise for this deeply silly and deeply funny comedy, which ran for two seasons on ABC. Creator Victor Fresco (who'd previously created Andy Richter Controls the Universe and would go on to create Santa Clarita Diet) managed to create a familiar workplace comedy while also layering on an almost surreal atmosphere of corporate sociopathy at the fictional Veridian Dynamics. Arrested Development's Portia de Rossi was a particular highlight as a domineering true believer of a boss. The entire series is available to stream on Hulu.
This 1978-1983 comedy featured one of the greatest collections of talent in its era. The story of a group of taxi drivers and their ornery dispatcher starred Judd Hirsch, Marilu Henner, Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, Jeff Conaway, Christopher Lloyd, Andy Kaufman, and Carol Kane. Not to mention that the show was co-created by the great James L. Brooks, who, shortly after the series ended, won the Oscar for directing Terms of Endearment. It was one of the most lauded TV shows of its era, but it often goes unnoticed these days when the great TV shows are discussed. It's worth diving back into, though, and the entire five-season run of the series is available to stream on Hulu.
The Bob Newhart Show (Hulu)
Comedic legend Bob Newhart starred in two sitcoms that established him as one of the greatest deadpan leading men in TV history. The later one was Newhart, a show whose series finale was a mind-bending stunt where Newhart's character got whacked on the head by a golf ball and woke up in bed next to his wife from The Bob Newhart Show, the newer series being all a dream. The original show saw him playing a psychologist dealing with eccentric patients, co-workers, and his snappy wife (Suzanne Pleshette). The series lasted six seasons, spawned at least one drinking game (drink every time another character says "Hi, Bob"), and is available to stream in its entirety on Hulu.
From executive producer Mindy Kaling came this short-lived series about Vince (Anders Holm), a Brooklyn gym owner whose Peter Pan lifestyle is upended when his high school girlfriend (Kaling) sends their young teenage son, Michael (Josie Totah), to live with him. Michael is gay and theatrical and very fancy, the total opposite of Vince. The series is charming, funny (especially Andy Favreau as Vince's sweet, uncomplicated brother, Matthew), and more than occasionally heartwarming. All 10 episodes are available to stream on Netflix.
Catastrophe (Amazon Prime)
Amazon's stealthily great comedy about marriage, kids, and taking what life throws at you was created by its stars, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney. They play, funnily enough, Sharon and Rob, who meet and have a fling and then are gobsmacked to discover she's gotten pregnant. They decide to get married, have the kid, and live in England (he's American)—and as you can imagine, there are some wrinkles in this arrangement that stubbornly refuse to be ironed out. It's one of the best relationship comedies of the decade, and it's a great chance to watch Carrie Fisher in one of her last screen roles.
Cybill (Amazon Prime)
This '90s CBS sitcom brought Cybill Shepherd back to TV for the first time since the great Moonlighting. A quasi-remake of the British comedy Absolutely Fabulous, it starred Shepherd as an actress struggling to regain her former (middling) stature while dealing with two adult children (Alicia Witt and Dedee Pfeiffer), two ex-husbands, and a boozy best friend, Maryann (Christine Baranski). Though it was Cybill's show (check the title), Baranski ran away with it, winning an Emmy for its first season and generally stealing every scene she was in. The show lasted for four seasons and even at the time it aired, it was never appreciated enough. You can rectify that by streaming it on Amazon Prime.
The Last Man on Earth (Hulu)
The quirky comedic persona of former Saturday Night Live star Will Forte is the driving force behind this comedy about the aftermath of a deadly virus that seemingly wipes out the the entire world population, except for one man. One by one, he begins to encounter other survivors (including Kristen Schaal, Mary Steenburgen, and January Jones) and alienates each and every one with his selfish, ridiculous personality. The comedy in The Last Man on Earth is very silly, but the plot is smart and inventive, with the show ending up in a very different place than it began—from season to season and even from episode to episode. The whole series is streaming on Hulu.
The excruciating awkwardness of adolescence is the subject of Hulu's original series PEN15. Series creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle play 13-year-old versions of themselves, best friends trying to navigate the terrifying social landmines of junior high in the mid-1990s. The series is tremendously well-observed when it comes to its specific era, as well as the experiences of girls at that age. It's also a very sweet story of two best friends who are so devoted to each other while at the same time trying desperately to break into whatever next social milestones are currently just out of their reach.
The Golden Girls (Hulu)
The day-to-day goings on of a Miami household of three single women of a certain age—Dorothy (Bea Arthur), Blanche (Rue McClanahan), and Rose (Betty White)—as well as Dorothy's mother, Sophia (Estelle Getty), deserves its place as one of the most groundbreaking, perfect TV series of all time. But it doesn't always get mentioned in the same breath as all-time greats like I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Friends, which is a real shame. The comedic chemistry among the four leads is a thing of beauty, and something few sitcoms could ever establish. Whether they're dating, dealing with their families, commiserating over cheesecake, or taking a walk out to the lanai, these four women felt like family to their audience—and to one another. You can stream the entire series on Hulu.
As much as you think you're appreciating Cheers, you're probably not appreciating it enough. The quintessential hang-out comedy, Cheers ran for 11 seasons and weathered a few crucial casting changes—replacing the late Nicholas Colasanto with Woody Harrelson, and the departing Shelley Long with Kirstie Alley—and somehow stayed the sharply-written comfort comedy it always was. Anchored by the great Ted Danson, it featured one of TV's most perfect supporting casts, including Emmy winners Rhea Perlman and Bebe Neuwirth. Cheers was long the anchor of NBC's celebrated Thursday night lineup, succeeded by era-defining shows Seinfeld and Friends and later, The Office. The popularity of these shows in recent years has overshadowed an older show like Cheers, but it's highly worth checking out on either Netflix or Hulu.