Classic sitcoms have been and continue to be an important part of American culture. They are watched in syndication, studied in college courses, and remembered as breakthrough roles for some of the world’s biggest stars. Here are some of the best, and most influential, comedies of the black-and-white era.
1. I love Lucy (1951-1960)
The queen mother of all television sitcoms, I Love Lucy was not only immensely popular in its day, but remains so today as well. Moreover, its production had an enormous impact on the industry as a whole. Today’s television comedies can thank I love Lucy for moving the industry officially to Los Angeles, utilizing a multi-camera setup for the first time, and making reruns a popular option for shows about to end.
2. The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)
Arguably the most beloved television show of all time, The Andy Griffith Show launched Ron Howard into stardom and made Don Knotts a television legend. It continues to be immensely popular today, and, by featuring a widower as its main character, was responsible for opening up family comedy plotlines to include more possibilities than the previously uniform “married couple” shows.
3. The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971)
The Beverly Hillbillies was such a ratings success that it launched a series of rural-themed sitcoms, including Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. Its theme song and perfectly-crafted scenario of a hillbilly family living a Beverly Hills lifestyle makes it one of the most memorable shows ever on television.
4. The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)
The Dick Van Dyke Show is now known as a progressive sitcom for its day because the producers allowed Mary Tyler Moore to wear Capri-style slacks once every episode. Lucille Ball had in fact already worn such a style in I Love Lucy. Regardless, this show propelled both Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore into long and successful careers. Lasting only five seasons, it was the first show to leave on its own accord as a hit rather than run until cancellation.
5. The Honeymooners (1955-1956)
It is truly remarkable that a show with only 39 episodes could leave such an indelible mark on the American consciousness. The Honeymooners was one of the first shows to break the mold of a suburban or middle class family and has become known as a true blue-collar comedy.