When it comes to funny TV shows, I'd argue that the 90s was the greatest decade for sitcoms. Are my memories tinted rose because I grew up during those years? Maybe! But even so, those shows were good.
There's no denying the fact that the sitcoms of the 90s were some of the most influential of all time. A few of them haven't aged well, but many of them have—and they're still great today.
What Counts as "The 90s"?
Because a lot of these shows had particularly long lifespans, some of them ran into the early 2000s before they ultimately left television.
For the purposes of this article, I'm going to consider any TV show that had at least half of its run between 1990 and 1999 or ran through more than half of the decade.
With that guideline, I should be able to get all of the shows that dominated TV during the 1990s while ignoring shows that are predominately thought of as 1980s or 2000s shows.
Additionally, I'm not going to include any animated shows, as they're a different beast entirely and they deserve their own list.
15. Saved By the Bell (1989)
Created by Sam Bobrick
Starring Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mario Lopez, Dustin Diamond
Comedy, Family, Romance
86 episodes (4 seasons)
Saved By the Bell is a goofy show that screams 90s. Zach Morris and his friends grow up before our very eyes. There's romance, hijinks, and Mr. Belding. What more could you want from a sitcom?
The success of the show is truly undeniable that it led to many spinoffs, including a reboot. And never forget the Funny or Die videos that took Saved by the Bell (and other sitcoms) into dark and unusual places.
14. Boy Meets World (1993)
Created by Michael Jacobs and April Kelly
Starring Ben Savage, Rider Strong, William Daniels
Comedy, Drama, Family
158 episodes (7 seasons)
Boy Meets World stars Ben Savage, the brother of Fred Savage (the star of The Wonder Years). The show follows Ben's character Cory and his friends as they grow up and experience the world.
The show is actually quite similar in structure to The Wonder Years—which had a five-year run that ended when Boy Meets World started—but, in the end, I think it's a more effective story overall.
13. Home Improvement (1991)
Created by Carmen Finestra, David McFadzean, and Matt Williams
Starring Tim Allen, Patricia Richardson, Earl Hindman
204 episodes (8 seasons)
Probably the most iconic line from Tim Allen's Home Improvement isn't a line at all. Instead, the show is known for his iconic grunt.
The clumsy Tim "The Toolman" Taylor hosts his own home improvement show while raising a family. His ineptitude is what makes the show hilarious, and the interesting dynamic with his family and friends really rounds out the classic sitcom.
12. NewsRadio (1995)
Created by Paul Simms
Starring David Foley, Stephen Root, Andy Dick
97 episodes (5 seasons)
The 90s had its fair share of zany showbiz workplace sitcoms, but one of the best and most underrated of them was NewsRadio. The series stars Kids in the Hall member Dave Foley as a by-the-books news radio director who has to keep his ragtag news team organized.
The series is packed with workplace antics, done by unforgettable comics, including Vicki Lewis as eccentric secretary Beth and Phil Hartman as brash news co-anchor Bill. Give it a watch if you haven't!
11. The Nanny (1993)
Created by Fran Drescher and Peter Marc Jacobson
Starring Fran Drescher, Charles Shaughnessy, Daniel Davis
Comedy, Family, Romance
146 episodes (6 seasons)
The Nanny is the brainchild and signature project of comedienne Fran Drescher, so much so that it's impossible to think of her without recognizing her character of Fran Fine and her iconic laugh.
The trope of the out-of-shape caretaker is nothing new for sitcoms, but The Nanny made it fresh, largely thanks to Drescher's charm and her camaraderie with her cast of colorful characters. To this day, it's a classic sitcom that's worth revisiting.
10. Everybody Loves Raymond (1996)
Created by Phil Rosenthal
Starring Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton, Brad Garrett
210 episodes (9 seasons)
Ray Romano became a household name largely thanks to the success of Everybody Loves Raymond, the sitcom where everything that happens in the Barone residence is tinged with dysfunction.
Ray has nowhere to go and no other option than to coddle his family, especially his demanding parents Marie (played by Doris Roberts) and Frank Barone (played by Peter Boyle).
Other characters are equally memorable, with the standout being doofus brother Robert (played by Brad Garrett). As a comedy series about middle-class life and everyman scenarios, it really is timeless.
9. Married With Children (1987)
Created by Ron Leavitt and Michael G. Moye
Starring Ed O'Neill, Christina Applegate, Katey Sagal
259 episodes (11 seasons)
Married With Children is a show that would probably never fly in today's culture, but at the time it was hilarious in its own offensive way. The interactions between Al Bundy and his wife and children—and even complete strangers—are absurdly great.
Ed O'Neill is the MVP of the show, taking Bundy as the prototypical husband to over-the-top places that surpass even the most obnoxious animated sitcom dads. The raunchy, tongue-in-cheek humor has made Married With Children a long-time favorite.
8. Family Matters (1989)
Created by William Bickley and Michael Warren
Starring Reginald VelJohnson, Jaleel White, Darius McCrary
Comedy, Drama, Family
215 episodes (9 seasons)
What started as a show about a black Chicago family quickly evolved into the Steve Urkel show. The iconic nerd took the world by storm with his clumsy antics and his undying love for Laura Winslow.
He causes more problems for the Winslow family than anything else, but they keep coming back for more—and even though the show jumps the shark in latter seasons, it's still entertaining to the end.
7. Mr. Bean (1990)
Created by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis
Starring Rowan Atkinson, Matilda Ziegler, Robin Driscoll
14 episodes (1 season)
Slapstick is the foundation of all comedy. That's why the physical comedy and wacky gags of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and The Three Stooges remain timeless to this day. Oh, and don't forget Mr. Bean!
As Rowan Atkinson's most popular character, Mr. Bean gave him the liberty to break norms and act out his man-child antics. Despite only running for 14 half-hour episodes, Mr. Bean made him into one of the most recognizable funnymen on the planet.
6. The Larry Sanders Show (1992)
Created by Dennis Klein and Garry Shandling
Starring Garry Shandling, Jeffrey Tambor, Wallace Langham
90 episodes (6 seasons)
As satire of late-night talk shows and sitcoms, The Larry Sanders Show was a unique sell. It stars Garry Shandling as the titular talk show host: a humble presenter on camera, but a frantic person behind the scenes.
Despite its well-deserved praise, the unconventional format can be a lot to take for sitcom fans. Nowadays, The Larry Sanders Show is regarded as the show that changed the sitcom formula—and it's still funny!
5. Murphy Brown (1989)
Created by Diane English
Starring Candice Bergen, Grant Shaud, Robert Pastorelli
260 episodes (11 seasons)
Candice Bergen is one of TV's most reliable comediennes who can easily land a punchline, but she more than stretched her witty talents with the highly successful Murphy Brown. She stars as the titular journalist, who keeps overcoming her challenges to advance her career.
One of the charms of this groundbreaking sitcom is its balance between lighter moments and hard-hitting issues. All it takes is a well-grounded lead who can beat the odds, much like Bergen herself.
4. Frasier (1993)
Created by David Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee
Starring Kelsey Grammer, Jane Leeves, David Hyde Pierce
264 episodes (11 seasons)
Frasier is the perfect example of how good a spinoff TV series can be. In fact, it stands on its own so well that a lot of fans might forget that Dr. Frasier Crane originally came from Cheers (which would definitely be on this list if it came out at the right time).
What separates Frasier from Cheers is the endless clever banter and comic tension in Frasier's apartment and his radio show. Truly a classic.
3. Friends (1994)
Created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow
236 episodes (10 seasons)
Friends is one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time. The crew of Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe make up some of the most recognizable characters in television history. Even people who haven't really seen Friends know who they are.
Their story unfolded over the course of 10 seasons and managed to keep fans glued through its entire run. The show is funny, heartwarming, willing to push the limits, and gets so much right.
2. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990)
Created by Andy Borowitz and Susan Borowitz
Starring Will Smith, James Avery, Alfonso Ribeiro
148 episodes (6 seasons)
I had a really hard time ordering the top three shows on the list. Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and the number one show on this list all have some incredible aspects...
...and in the end, I feel good calling Will Smith's comedy about a kid from Philly who moves to ritzy Bel-Air the second-best sitcom of the 90s.
And it's not just because it was groundbreaking! The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air will make you laugh, cry, and wonder how Will Smith is able to get in so much trouble without getting kicked out!
1. Seinfeld (1989)
Created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld
Starring Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander
180 episodes (9 seasons)
The answer to which show should be number one was in front of me the whole time: of course, it's Seinfeld. Jerry Seinfeld and his hilarious friends come together for a nearly perfect television show about nothing.
Each episode is a nicely contained little story that's enjoyable for everyone, and Seinfeld pioneered all kinds of tropes and storylines that would eventually become sitcom clichés. It even ends with a fantastic episode, which is more than most shows can say.