Which Sitcom Reigns Supreme?

For many college students, sitcoms are a form of social currency. These shows form the basis of in-jokes, provide experiences for friends to bond over and establish many of the quintessential catchphrases of pop culture. Out of the hundreds of shows that populate this oversaturated market, a special few stand apart as the defining sitcoms of the 21st century. After surveying the Cedarville student body, here are the top five sitcoms of the 2000s.

The Office
by Hunter Johnson

“The Office” is the quintessential sitcom, perfectly combining every key ingredient of a great comedy show.

Steve Carell plays the office’s wildly clueless boss Michael Scott. Carell somehow gives layers to this absurd character, imbuing him with a well-meaning innocence that underlies his ludicrous behavior. Playing Michael’s obnoxiously dutiful assistant Dwight Schrute is Rainn Wilson, who deftly blends an exaggerated hunger for power with a giddy enthusiasm for the small, often geeky, things in life.

Meanwhile, the other two leads, Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer), give “The Office” an added dimension of drama. Over the course of the series, the ups and downs of Jim and Pam’s relationship evoke every conceivable emotion, standing out among typical sitcom pairings as one of the most beloved romances ever seen on screen.

These four characters lead the show, but they barely scratch the surface of its eclectic cast. Be it Kevin, Stanley, Phyllis, Oscar, Toby or Creed, “The Office” boasts a diverse group of lovable, eccentric personalities who create an offbeat atmosphere that illuminates the screen.

The strength of these character dynamics derives from a top-notch writing staff that most sitcoms could only dream of replicating. The show’s creator Greg Daniels brought the lighthearted, slice-of-life tone, producer Jennifer Celotta contributed many of the quieter dramatic moments, and producer Paul Lieberstein (Toby Flenderson himself) was responsible for a lot of the darker, cringe worthy humor.

The main reason for the show’s ridiculous success is how rewatchable it is. Perhaps it’s the delightful office romances, the absurd antics of Michael and Dwight, or the sense of relatability that people find in these characters. No matter the reason, it doesn’t seem like people will stop enjoying “The Office” anytime soon.

Parks and Recreation
by Breanna Beers

Originally envisioned as a spin-off of “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation” is original, hilarious and kind-hearted. The show can be enjoyed as either an incisive political satire or an entertaining and occasionally heartwarming comedy, but its best moments come when those two elements intertwine.

Self-aware and rarely over-serious, P&R is an essentially liberal show that relentlessly pokes fun at liberalism. It avoids potentially polarizing politics by placing its pro-government protagonist in the inefficient parks department of an irrelevant Midwestern town, giving the viewer the emotional distance to appreciate the snark.

Yet while P&R takes place in the context of politics, it is built on friendship. Progressive idealist Leslie Knope’s (Amy Poehler) enthusiasm is frequently squashed by her mustachioed libertarian supervisor, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), but they are clearly portrayed as dysfunctional comrades, not as hero and villain. Rather than destroying their relationship, their differences actually strengthen it.

The show makes it clear that Ron and Leslie are both fundamentally good people who genuinely care about each other. They are passionate in their beliefs yet are able to be so without hating those who disagree — a seemingly miraculous feat even back in 2009 when the show first aired.

The show’s politics stand out to me because that’s how I was introduced to it, but the civic discourse is only the backdrop to the show’s true theme. At its heart, “Parks and Rec” is about friendship, and the fact that it portrays friendships among such different people makes it that much sweeter.

by Abby Hintz

“Friends” is the best sitcom and you cannot change my mind.

Premiering all the way back in 1994, the show has gained the added benefit of presenting a time before its primary audience, Generation Z, was born (or at least old enough to watch sitcoms). Through what amounts to a TV show time capsule, Gen-Zer’s have gotten to see an idealized picture of the culture and style of the late 90s and early 2000s.

Viewers of “Friends” will always be able to relate to at least one of the six main characters. The cast’s personalities are wide-ranging, but each is hilarious and endearing in its own way. Whether you relate to Monica’s OCD, Chandler’s defensive humor, or Joey’s ineptitude, “Friends” has something for everybody.

The actors’ chemistry is palpable and draws the audience in. Throughout the show, several different relationships form within the group. Most end in cringe-worthy (albeit entertaining) breakups, though one couple (no spoilers) ends up happily married. Despite all the relationship drama, however, the group all remain close friends.

If you haven’t watched “Friends,” then you are missing out on a multitude of quotable moments, from “Ms. Chanandler Bong” to “We were on a break!” Most of the moments are hilarious because of the highly specific scenarios from which they arise, which means you’ll only understand them if you know their context.

Trust me, I felt left out for most of my life until I was finally persuaded to watch this show last summer. Thankfully, I can now banter with “Friends” quotes, which has added a new level of sophistication to my conversations. So watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

New Girl
by Lauren Ryan

A delightful mixture of humor, wit, and comradery, “New Girl” draws its viewers into the sitcom dream of getting to live with your best friends.

The story begins when Jess (Zooey Deschanel) moves into a tiny New York apartment with three guys: the lovable grouch Nick (Jake Johnson), the self-proclaimed “top dog” Schmidt (Max Greenfield), and Latvian basketball-pro Winston (Lamorne Morris). As she navigates Nick’s dirty socks, Schmidt’s obsessive cleanliness, and Winston’s lengthy showers, she finds her happy place with her middle-school best friend Cece (Hannah Simone).

This unforgettable crew typically hangs out in their loft, a place for light-hearted jokes, dinner parties, and the occasional emotional breakdown. It is in this place that these strangers first become friends and, later, a veritable family. They tease each other about their weaknesses, but they also have each other’s back when the moment calls for it. Overall, the show has a comfortably laid-back tone that makes viewers feel as if they are also a part of the loft family.

What makes “New Girl” great is how its characters grow throughout the series. Jess learns to be more flexible, Nick gains more confidence, Schmidt learns humility, Cece grows kinder, and Winston becomes more self-aware. Yet they are still real people with everyday problems, and the show makes a point to focus on the characters’ daily struggles even in the midst of their growth in a way that feels authentic and relatable.

by Ben Hiett

On the surface, “Community” follows the antics of the sardonic Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) and his motley group of friends, but at its core, it’s a satirical commentary on classic sitcom tropes. This careful balance of irreverence and sincerity makes it a sitcom unlike any other.

The word “meta” doesn’t even begin to describe how showrunner Dan Harmon meticulously crafts and layers the show’s offbeat, referential humor. The writing is gleefully self-aware, especially in the case of Abed (Danny Pudi), a nerdy movie buff who interprets the events of the show through the lens of cinematic storytelling.

“Community” is an extraordinarily high-concept show. Entire episodes are devoted to lampooning a particular sitcom trope or a specific film genre. These parodies are not meant to mock these tropes but rather to celebrate them in all their clichéd glory. However, even the most intricately crafted concept episodes would fall flat without characters to laugh with and invest in.

Harmon creates each character to superficially check the boxes for a classic sitcom stereotype, but then he turns these stereotypes on their heads. They’re not only lovably wacky misanthropes but also vulnerable, often dysfunctional human beings. The situations they find themselves in are usually ridiculous and over-the-top, but they also have to deal with the personal consequences of those situations.

“Community” is a show with a lot going on. It’s not made for casual watching or to just have on in the background. Rather, this wildly original take on sitcoms works to earn its audience’s attention with its masterfully planned-out humor and ridiculous yet relatable characters. Its specific brand of weird might not be for everyone, but for those who enjoy it, it’s a hilarious, off-the-wall delight.

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