On a recent “Jeopardy!” episode, one of the contestants, Mike Nelson, alighted upon a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Nelson — “an actor originally from Chesterton, Indiana,” as the “Jeopardy!” announcer Johnny Gilbert introduced him — selected an $800 clue that triggered a Daily Double.
It was Anderson Cooper’s first night guest-hosting the show, but Nelson had a different man in mind as he made his wager. “I’ve always wanted to say this,” Nelson said. “Let’s make it a true Daily Double” — and here Nelson closed his eyes and lifted his hands as if to signal for some kind of celestial field goal — “Alex.”
From family stories to band-of-misfits hangouts, classic rom-coms to workplace mockumentaries, cringe comedies to antihero showcases, and some shows that defy definition, these are the hundred series that have made us laugh, think, occasionally cry, and laugh all over again.
For more than eight decades, the sitcom has both marked the times and provided a balm against them.
From Rob Petrie tripping over his ottoman on The Dick Van Dyke Show to Ilana face-planting on a Broad City subway car; from The Honeymooners’ Ralph Kramden barely containing his frustration with Ed Norton to Atlanta’s Paper Boi doing the same with his cousin Earn; from Lucy Ricardo getting drunk on Vitameatavegamin to Fleabag enjoying Gin in a Tin with the hot priest, the genre’s most beloved characters have been by our sides.
To choose the 100 greatest sitcoms ever, we first had to decide how to define the term. Sketch comedies were out, from the explicit, like Saturday Night Live and The Muppet Show, to the more ambiguous, such as The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Ditto comedy-drama hybrids that ran around an hour — Freaks and Geeks, say, or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Half-hour dramedies presented a blurrier picture; we took those on a case-by-case basis, applying our own version of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous definition of obscenity: “I know it when I see it.” Where Enlightened and The Wonder Years seemed to fall just too far over the drama side of the line, for example, Atlantaand Better Things had enough comedy to qualify. This list is also composed entirely of English-language comedies, primarily American ones, with a handful of British and Canadian shows making the cut.
Today, we say Happy Birthday to the original man behind “Jeopardy!” — Art Fleming.
Born on May 1, 1924, Fleming is remembered for being the host of the first version of the television game show “Jeopardy!,” which aired on NBC from 1964 until 1975.
He was born to parents William and Marie Fazzin, who immigrated to New York City from Austria. In high school, Fleming was a successful athlete on his high schools’ football team. He later attended Colgate and Cornell Universities, where he had a spot on the football and water polo teams at both colleges.