Sitcoms are the unsung heroes of television; rarely granted the same level of respect and awards recognition as their more dramatic peers, but always a favourite of viewers at the end of a long day.
Netflix has acquired a sizeable selection in recent years, from American hits like Schitt’s Creek and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, to some of the all time British greats including The Vicar of Dibley and The Office.
There’s also plenty of original offerings to pick from, such as the Halloween-themed zombie comedy Santa Clarita Diet and the endlessly zany Lady Dynamite from comedian Maria Bamford.
Read on for our full list of Netflix’s best comedies.
A brilliant Canadian sitcom about a deliciously entitled family discovering what life is like when all your money runs out. The show, which is currently on its sixth season, follows the privileged, once-wealthy Rose family, who attempt to rebuild their lives in the amusingly named titular town.
Dad Johnny bought Schitt’s Creek as a joke in 1991, when money was no object. Now, it’s the only place they can think of to go, and they are hoping for a hero’s welcome, but they are in for a rude awakening. You’d think, if you owned the town, you could at least expect a comfy bed for the night but reality is much grimier…
Forced to live in adjoining motel rooms, the family of four – including grown-up spoilt children David and Alexis – have to make the best of a bad situation. A nightmare for them to live through, a delight for us to watch. If our word isn’t enough, the show recently swept the comedy categories at the 72nd Emmy Awards.
Santa Clarita Diet
Those who like their comedy with a dark edge need look no further than the delightful Santa Clarita Diet, starring Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant. This unconventional sitcom follows successful estate agents Sheila and Joel Hammond, whose lives are turned upside down when one of them dies… and then comes back to life.
That’s right, Sheila returns from the dead as a living zombie, retaining her mental faculties but suffering an insatiable desire for human flesh. What follows is an utterly anarchic zom-com about a couple prepared to stick together through literally anything, no matter the consequences.
While it draws on horror themes, Santa Clarita Diet is a comedy first and foremost, although viewers squeamish about gore may find it’s not quite their cup of tea. Barrymore and Olyphant are a dynamite pairing, delivering two absurdly high energy performances.
Sadly, Netflix cancelled the show before its time, but Santa Clarita Diet’s three seasons are still well worth a watch for the show’s rollercoaster storyline and uniquely twisted sense of humour.
This charming sitcom starring Zooey Deschanel ran for seven seasons in total, telling the story of what happens when a dorky primary school teacher moves in with three guys she doesn’t know. Initial concerns about her messing up their “bachelor pad” fall away as the gang become good friends, but still have to navigate the personal problems life has to throw at them.
While not the most revolutionary sitcom of all time, there’s something distinctly comforting about the show’s warm sense of humour, helped along by a winning ensemble cast. Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone and Damon Wayans Jr star alongside Deschanel and the charismatic crew will easily worm their way into your heart.
Master of None
This excellent sitcom from former Parks & Recreation star Aziz Ansari was a huge hit when it arrived in 2015, winning an array of plaudits for its offbeat charm and quickly developing a devoted fanbase – with a second season following two years later to an equally positive reception.
The series follows Dev Shah, a 30-year-old actor played by Ansari, as he faces various struggles in his personal and professional life, struggling with modern dating and the etiquette of social media. The character is based on Ansari’s own experiences, and indeed his real parents also appear in the series.
With guest appearances from the likes of Danielle Brooks, Claire Danes, David Krumholtz, Noah Emmerich, Bobby Cannavale and John Legend, both seasons of the show are packed with ambitious episodes and lots of laughs – and a third season hasn’t yet been ruled out.
2020 has been a year when finding something to laugh about has been more important than ever. Lockdown comedy Staged, starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant as fictionalised versions of themselves, was a real joy – and probably the best example of TV made during the height of lockdown.
The concept couldn’t have been simpler: the actors – who had previously starred together in Good Omens, had been cast in a West End play before lockdown and were continuing to press on with rehearsals over Zoom along with their director Simon Evans, also playing a version of himself.
Over the course of six episodes the pair get into all sorts of petulant squabbles – including a running gag over whose name should appear first in the credits – and chat to a range of guest stars, with highlights including Dame Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson. And for those that enjoyed the show the first time round there’s even better news: the versions of the episodes added to Netflix contain previously unseen footage that wasn’t included in the original BBC One broadcasts, with each episode running to 22 minutes.
I’m Alan Partridge
Steve Coogan’s seminal character has returned in numerous TV shows throughout the year, but few of them can beat this hilarious sitcom – which followed on from chat show parody Knowing Me Knowing You. The series follows the socially inept and self-satisfied Partridge as he settles into a new job as a radio DJ on Radio Norwich, desperate for a return to television.
His interactions with friend Michael (Simon Greenal) and personal assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu) are frequently priceless and though there are a fair share of cringeworthy moments you’re never far away from a proper belly laugh.
The series ran for only 12 episodes, with the first batch of six seeing Alan living in a hotel after being kicked out by his long-suffering wife and the second finding him living in a static caravan with his new, much younger girlfriend Sonja.
Writer and actor Michaela Coel is attracting all sorts of praise just now for her tremendous BBC One series I May Destroy You – and you can watch her earlier series Chewing Gum in its entirety on Netflix.
The sitcom is very different in tone from her more recent show but is no less impressive, focusing on Tracey (Coel) – a shop-assistant in her mid-twenties who was brought up in a strictly religious flat and who decides it is finally time to lose her virginity, a task she soon focuses all her energy on.
The series was based on Coel’s earlier play titled Chewing Gum Dreams and won praise for its surreal charm, its sharp scripts and for the wonderful BAFTA-winning central performance from Coel herself in the lead role. It also stars John MacMillan, Robert Lonsdale and Tanya Franks.
The IT Crowd
One of the greatest sitcoms to ever grace Channel 4 is now available to binge in full on Netflix. The pilot episode takes you to the depths of Reynholm Industries HQ, where IT specialists Roy (Chris O’Dowd) and Moss (Richard Ayoade) have operated with no supervision for some time. That is, until they’re joined by relationships manager Jen (Katherine Parkinson), who attempts to whip them into shape.
The IT Crowd plays like a far superior version of The Big Bang Theory, with a wonderfully zany and often surreal sense of humour. Watch out for hilarious supporting roles for the likes of Chris Morris (Brass Eye), Noel Fielding (The Mighty Boosh) and Matt Berry (What We Do in the Shadows).
Hilarious and at time heartwarming, Derry Girls a perfectly light comedy despite being set during the Troubles in Derry, Ireland.
Created by Lisa McGee, Derry Girls follows teens Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), her cousin Orla (Louisa Harland), their friends Clare (Nicola Coughlan), Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) and Michelle’s English cousin as they navigate adolescence during the 90’s in Northern Ireland.
With Siobhán McSweeney frequently stealing the show as Sister Michael, the headmistress at the group’s Catholic girls’ school, this charming series is full of hysterical romps, relatable teenage hiccups and end-of-the-century references that’ll leave you desperate for season three (it’s on its way!).
The Thick of It
We’ll level with you now: this isn’t a political satire you can watch with the whole family. Not unless they like their language strong. Extremely strong. Like, a c-word thrown in almost every episode strong.
Somehow, though, the swearing never actually feel gratuitous in this fast-paced comedy following the inner-workings and mishaps of Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship. In fact, swearing is made an art form in the show, thanks to the near-perfect scripts from Armando Iannucci and terrifyingly funny performance from Peter Capaldi as machiavellian spin doctor Malcolm Tucker.
Although non-politicos may feel a tad lost as events move at lightning-speed, a wave of scathing put-downs (“He’s so dense that light bends around him”, “Your dress is way too loud, I’m getting f***ing tinnitus here”) will keep all laughing.
This show is the definition of a cult hit. Either you’re obsessed with it and like to go round making chicken noises when you discuss it, or it has passed you by. This is the time to catch up, though, as TV’s most dysfunctional family has made its home on Netflix.
The series, starring Jason Bateman and Portia De Rossi, was the brainchild of Hollywood director Ron Howard and originally ran on Fox for three seasons from 2003 to 2006. It’s the story of a spoilt, once-wealthy family who continue their lavish lifestyle despite the fact they can no longer afford it.
After its cancellation there was a long wait before Netflix revived the show in 2013, much to the excitement of its loyal fanbase. But the show’s return to screen has not always been smooth, and the controversy surrounding Jessica Walters and Jeffrey Tambor in the run-up to season five certainly coloured fans’ expectations and left us wondering what the future of the show would be. But it doesn’t change the ground-breaking impact the series once had.
Created by Rick and Morty’s Dan Harmon, Community follows an eclectic group of Greendale community college students led by fraudulent lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) as they try to complete their diplomas whilst becoming involved in ridiculous shenanigans.
Although Community sounds like your typical sitcom, its meta-humour, parodical style and heavy-use of pop culture references picked up a cult following over its six seasons. The show also catapulted the likes of Alison Brie, Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino and Ken Jeong to fame and scored an Emmy win in 2011.
What happens when Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz and South Park writer Pam Brady pool their creative talents? One of the most absurd sitcoms in recent memory, that’s what.
Lady Dynamite tells the story of stand-up comedian Maria Bamford, who attempts to rebuild her life and career after being hospitalised with bipolar II disorder. This series provides a respectful depiction of mental illness, drawing from Bamford’s real experiences, but does so through a truly surreal comedic lens. Every episode is packed with hilarious jokes and zany editing tricks, as well as a cast of larger-than-life characters.
Bamford is superb in the lead, but she’s not alone. Other stand-outs include Fred Melamed as hapless manager Bruce Ben-Bacharach, Mary Kay Place as Maria’s overbearing mother and Anna Gasteyer as ruthless talent agent Karen Grisham. Fans of Arrested Development will feel right at home here.
The Vicar of Dibley
A classic British comedy, The Vicar of Dibley stars the hilarious Dawn French as Reverend Geraldine Granger, the new female vicar for Oxfordshire village Dibley. Although her arrival initially causes a stir within the parish council, Dibley’s inhabitants soon grow to love Geraldine as she attempts to raise the village’s public profile, match-make Alice Tinker (Emma Chambers) and Hugo Horton (James Fleet), and find love herself.
Witty and full of heart, The Vicar of Dibley is a timeless Richard Curtis triumph which boasts various star-studded guest stars (Hugh Bonneville, Keeley Hawes, Richard Armitage, Peter Capaldi) and a hilarious cast with buckets of chemistry.
It only seems right to start with the most popular TV show ever made. Gen Z might turn their noses up because of a few outdated jokes, but for most of us this series has a special place in our hearts. Whether you were watching for Ross and Rachel’s will-they-won’t-they love affair, Joey’s silliness or Phoebe singing about smelly cats, it’s a series that defined a generation and can be rewatched over and over again. While we’ve just about quelled the urge to ask for ‘The Rachel” at the hairdressers, we’ll never stop wanting to be mates with this lot.
Although it’s never hard to find this series somewhere on the telly (we’re not complaining, these are the kind of repeats we love!), Netflix gives us the chance to either binge a series from start to finish or hand-pick our favourite episodes – the one with Ross’s sandwich, the one with the apartment swap, the one where Ross and Rachel were on a break – whichever one you fancy. The dream.
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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
A show about a 29-year-old woman escaping from 15 years of enforced confinement in a bunker, imprisoned by a doomsday cult leader, doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs! But this is a bizarrely joyous and upbeat sitcom from the brilliant mind of Tina Fey.
As Kimmy (played superbly and sweetly by Ellie Kemper) breaks out into the real world everything is new and surprising. Rather than being traumatised she’s like a Disney princess, finding happiness in everything she sees. Kimmy ends up living with fabulous aspiring Broadway star Titus and working as a nanny for vain, self-centred mum Jacqueline, played 30 Rock star Jane Krakowski. As she gets to grips with the big bad world, it turns out she is much smarter than most of the people who have been living in New York City their whole lives.
Watch out for Jon Hamm, who is a million miles from Mad Men as the cult leader.
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Ever since The Office exploded onto the scene at the turn of the millennium, completely changing the expectations of viewers in modern comedy, every project that Ricky Gervais has been involved with on the small screen (whether with his Office writing partner Stephen Merchant, or alone) has garnered a huge amount of excitement in the TV comedy world.
Regarded by many as some of Ricky’s finest TV work since Extras, After Life is – as you would expect from Gervais – a very awkward and at times quite troubling comedy that explores the theme of grief. Following the story of a man called Tony whose life is turned upside down after his wife dies of cancer, we see a man who, after contemplating suicide, decides instead to take his misery out on the rest of the world by saying and doing whatever he likes.
It’s a lot funnier than it sounds, and the second season recently arrived on Netflix – so fill your boots.
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Truly one of the most binge-able, easy-going series you’re likely to find anywhere.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is hardly a deep-dive into the psyche of police detectives and the criminal underworld – instead, it’s a terrific playful comedy following the misadventures of the boyish, immature Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg), eager-to-impress Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) and a host of other wacky individuals under the stoic, often despairing stewardship of Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher).
Each of the characters brings something special to the table, whether it’s Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) the loveable try-hard or super-sarcastic lone wolf Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti). There’s a vibe of The Office (US version) throughout as the 99th precinct engages in just about every activity possible outside of their professional remit.
It’s hard not to fall for the show’s bouncy charm with some hilarious recurring themes and very cleverly written episodes, including the must-watch annual Halloween Heists. Noice.
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Often hailed as one of the best British sitcoms of all time, Fawlty Towers is a must-watch for anyone wanting to see comedy done right. Set inside a fictional hotel in Devon, John Cleese stars as rude owner Basil Fawlty who farcically attempts to keep the establishment running with help from a staff of big personalities.
Prunella Scales puts in an iconic turn as his bossy wife Cybil, supported by Connie Booth as level-headed waitress Polly and, of course, Andrew Sachs as Spanish waiter Manuel. It’s hard to believe only 12 episodes of this series were made, given the immense impact it has had on the landscape of British comedy.
You might think that revisiting teenage sexual experiences would be no laughing matter, but this hilarious, intelligent show proves otherwise. Otis (Asa Butterfield) is a teenage boy unable to spend his evenings doing what a lot of teenage boys might be doing, and while he’s struggling to get any satisfaction, his mother Jean – played to perfection by Gillian Anderson – couldn’t be more relaxed about the whole thing. She’s a sex therapist after all, and every time she tries to talk to her son about intimacy, he becomes more repressed about it.
But life changes when Otis realises he can sell his mum’s advice to his fellow pupils, all of whom are facing their own sexual insecurities. As we see Otis become more confident we also follow his best friend Eric, as he becomes more open about his sexuality and Maeve, the coolest girl in school who is facing her own demons. One of the biggest shows of the decade, and rightly so.
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Never has a Slough paper merchants got so much attention. This was the comedy that changed everything: almost every funny show that followed for the next few years was directly influenced by The Office and the mockumentary series soon made an international star out of its lead actor and co-writer Ricky Gervais.
Gervais plays David Brent, a boss who makes you cringe with his terrible jokes and desperation to be famous, but who is ultimately a decent bloke. While he comes up with game-show formats in his office, Tim (Martin Freeman) mercilessly winds up office geek Gareth (Mackenzie Crook), by putting his stapler inside a jelly or hiding his chair. Mostly it’s to impress receptionist Dawn (Lucy Davis), in the hope that one day she might leave her nightmare fiancé Lee.
Romance, pranks and big laughs made this unmissable viewing – and it’s still just as funny today.
Before the Cornetto trilogy, director Edgar Wright had already teamed up with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for this hilarious and pop culture reference-laden comedy, which was created by Pegg and Jessica Hynes (then Jessica Stevenson).
The series ran for two seven episode series back in 1999 and 2001, and follows Daisy Steiner (Stevenson) and Tim Bisley (Pegg) a pair of twenty-somethings who move in together despite having only just met – and who soon get caught up in all manner of hijinks as they try their best to avoid the responsibilities that come with adulthood.
The series is bolstered by an excellent supporting cast that includes Frost, Katy Carmichael, Mark Heap and Julia Deakin and won huge acclaim for its heart, its wit and its slick direction – no surprise given the projects the stars went on to work on in the future. A must for any Wright and Pegg fans.
You’ve no doubt seen a cartoon horse parading about your Netflix home screen at some point over the last few years, but BoJack Horseman is actually an adult animated comedy series and has garnered a cult reputation online for its black comedy and surreal humour. The brainchild of Raphael Bob-Waksberg, BoJack ran for six seasons before drawing to an ambiguous close, typical of the show.
Some critics have genuinely hailed BoJack as one of the greatest TV series of all time – including non-animated shows. It tells the story of an anthropomorphic horse, voiced by Will Arnett, a has-been star from a 90s sitcom who intends to return to the public eye with an autobiography. Far from a child-friendly cartoon, the series covers a diverse range of topics from depression, addiction, racism and sexism to name but a few.
It’s a truly unique, league-of-its-own dark comedy that should command great respect for the way in which it handles huge topics in its own quirky manner.
Rick and Morty
The cult of Rick and Morty truly took over the world in 2017, several years after the launch of its first season on Netflix in 2014. Pickle Rick was an inescapable social media sensation for weeks on end, while the fandom spilled out into the wider world when a McDonald’s publicity stunt involving a limited release of Szechuan sauce – featured in the show – sparked riots across the US with police called to multiple restaurants after the condiment ran out of stock, much to the fury of queuing fans.
Circling back to the show itself, Justin Roiland – voice of both title characters – and Dan Harmon put their minds together to create the madcap animation phenomenon, a sort of surrealist parody take on Back to the Future. The selfish, alcoholic Rick drags his grandson Morty along on numerous inter-dimensional travels in realms akin to those of Futurama.
The cynical, often fourth-wall smashing, comedy is not for everyone, with some episodes falling a little flat – in a purely subjective sense – but the show is mostly filled with outstanding comedy, clever commentary and writing, and is well worth at least dipping your toes in the water.
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Robert Webb and David Mitchell are all grown up now, with wives, children and columns in posh newspapers. But in their early days they gave us a brilliantly fresh sitcom that would become Channel 4’s longest-running comedy (airing from 2003-2015). It no doubt would have carried on for longer had David and Robert not deemed themselves too old for it.
The double act played Mark and Jez – one’s a socially awkward loan manager, one’s a childish slacker. They met as students, hailing themselves the “El Dude Brothers” and together they’re two dysfunctional flatmates trying to fit into the adult world. Spoiler: they fail. Spectacularly. Again. And again. And again.
Everything about this show felt energetic and exciting – not just the performances and the jokes, but also the camera work. We see everything from the characters’ point of view, meaning the actors sometimes have cameras strapped to their heads to achieve this effect (seriously!). It all helps to create the show’s unique perspective – while comedies about losers are commonplace, this series always felt distinctive.
Watch out for Oscar winner Olivia Colman, who stars as Mark’s love interest, Sophie. She went to Cambridge with David and Robert, and worked extensively with them before Hollywood beckoned.