What is the Best Sitcom Of All Time: An Examination Of NYMag's March Madness Bracket


NCAA March Madness gives us many great things (buzzer beaters, upsets, drama), but perhaps its most influential and prevalent addition to the world — especially the pop culture world — is the bracket. That collection of lines that pits two things against one another, with each winner advancing until there is only one line left and one winner remains is the perfect way to map out a tournament. And the NCAA Tournament isn’t the only one using brackets.

Now, it seems that there is a bracket for everything (see: candy, best movie sequel, and the best The Wire character), especially in March. Last year, Vulture over at NYMag busted out a bracket to decide the best television drama since 1990 (The Wire emerged victorious). This year, they’re at it again to decide the best sitcom of the past 30 years. The tournament is a great idea, but Vulture is failing to pull it off with a maligned and inconsistent process of picking the winner of each bracket. It would also help if they could decide what a sitcom was.

Vulture chose what they thought were the best 16 sitcoms of the past 30 years. They decided to go with the last 30 years because that’s when Cheers started up, ushering in the evolution of the sitcom that has left us where we’re at today with gems like Parks and Rec and New Girl. From those 16 sitcoms, a judge chooses a winner, and that winner moves on. Thursday marked the end of the first round. The bracket pictured above shows the eight remaining sitcoms in the running for "best sitcom ever": Cheers, Arrested Development, Friends, Roseanne, The Simpsons, Community, Sex and the City, and Seinfeld.

The only glaring mistake is picking Sex and the City over 30 Rock. Starlee Kine judged that 30 Rock was inferior even though she asked in her story: "Is Sex and the City even a comedy?"

Meanwhile, in the match-up of Louie against Seinfeld, Carina Chocano writes, "Can we really even call Louie a sitcom?" Even while asking the question, she lauds the great show and appears to be leaning towards picking Louie as winner before doing the right thing and picking Seinfeld (who, in my opinion, should win the entire competition easily). As commenter HOBGOBLIN puts it: "So, Sex & the City beat 30 Rock, even though the author accepts that SATC is really more of a dramedy than a sitcom. But Louie loses because it is not a sitcom. I know we are dealing with different authors, but the lack of consistency is frustrating."

Frustrating indeed. This is only one of the inconsistencies. Cheers beat out The Office even though judge A.J. Jacobs said, "If I had 22 minutes left in my life before I bled out from the Ebola virus, I’d watch an Office over a Cheers." Meanwhile, Friends beat Golden Girls because if you give judge Willa Paskin a remote control, "Friends is the one [she] want[s] to see."

One show wins because it isn’t a sitcom and another wins because it is. Then one show wins because it’s more watchable and another loses even though it is more watchable.

The competition to decide the greatest sitcom is a great idea, but it needs to be more consistent. Overall, the judging has been quite fair. Even though there have been contradicting judgments, I have been able to wrap my head around the decision of each winner.

Except for Sex and the City beating 30 Rock. Shame on you Vulture, when you can't decide what a sitcom is, you probably shouldn't be judging the best one ever.