‘Seinfeld’ Only Ranks No. 3 on Rolling Stone’s List of the Best TV Sitcoms of All Time

Die-hard fans of any sitcom will vehemently claim their show is the best. But Seinfeld, the “show about nothing” is still regularly quoted and referred to even though it’s been off the air for more than 20 years. It’s also why fans were outraged when Rolling Stone listed the Best Sitcoms of All Time and placed The Simpsons in the top spot. Seinfeld came in at number three, and many see it as a slap in the face to the series’ legacy.

(L-R) Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jerry Seinfeld
(L-R) Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine Benes and Jerry Seinfeld as Jerry Seinfeld | Joey Delvalle/Getty Images

Rolling Stone’s criteria

Before coming up with their Top 100 list, Rolling Stone first needed to define the term “sitcom.” Sketch comedies like Saturday Night Live were out, along with one-hour dramedies. The team reviewed half-hour dramedies on a show-by-show basis — something like The Wonder Years was considered more drama than comedy and kept off the list. From there, the selection team analyzed how these sitcoms influenced later TV shows and how funny they were.

The Simpsons ended up in the top spot, with Cheers following at number two. Seinfeld third, I Love Lucy fourth, and All in the Family rounded out the Top Five. Sure, picking out the Top 100 Sitcoms is subjective and would never please everyone, but Seinfeld fans weren’t happy to see their beloved show topped by the longest-running scripted series

Why was ‘Seinfeld’ Third?

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The show took mundane, everyday occurrences like waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant or searching for a car in a parking garage and turned them into a hilarious comedic event. That was the beauty of Seinfeld. It was one of the first shows to feature characters that maybe weren’t the best-intentioned people. 

Indie Wire claims that the reason Seinfeld was so popular is that it broke the traditional comedy formula. There’s weren’t plot arcs or character development. Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer never grew or changed as the series progressed. Instead, they took the minutiae of everyday life and made a successful series out of it. 

While the show was a complete success, the Rolling Stone team still felt that the two shows influenced the TV sitcom genre more. Cheers formulated the intense romantic chemistry between Sam (Ted Danson) and Diane (Shelley Long), a move that comedies long after continuously copied, and The Simpsons — well, it’s in its 32nd season. 

The rise of the animated series

The Simpsons practically invented the adult animated series. Since its debut in 1989, the show proved time and again that the public loves their TV mixed with parody and pop culture references. At its core, The Simpsons is about family relationships with a slew of jokes strewn in. Over time, the series became more polarizing as it intertwined political and social satire into its familiar joke setup. It’s recently been picked up for its 33rd and 34th seasons.  

The series pioneered the way for other animated adult shows to follow, one of the reasons it’s Rolling Stone’s top pick. Without The Simpsons, the long list of adult animation wouldn’t exist. Considering the show is now entering its fourth decade, it’s easy to see why its formula gets copied so often. The Rolling Stone team agreed and couldn’t help but add other animated shows to its list. 

The list includes other animated shows like Big Mouth at 93, Futurama at 74, Rick & Morty taking spot 71, King of the Hill at 41, Bob’s Burgers in at 37, the controversial South Park at 22, and finally BoJack Horseman finished at 20. Without The Simpsons, the addition of so many animated shows wouldn’t exist. 

While Seinfeld definitely influenced the comedies that came after it, it’s hard to argue placing The Simpsons at the top considering the show influenced a whole new genre.