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35 Shows Like Friends You Should Be Watching

Since 1994, David Crane and Marta Kauffman's "Friends" has been a juggernaut in television and culture at large as audiences worldwide have returned over and over again to the six friends that will "be there for you." The premise is deceptively simple: 20-something friends in New York City hang out, mostly in a coffee shop, over the course of ten years. Rachel, Ross, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, and Joey all became household names as everyone could identify with at least one, if not more, of the characters.

The inimitable chemistry of the cast elevated the series to a beloved sitcom that influenced many others thanks to its focus on friends (who are like family) rather than careers or love interests. This is the power of "Friends," as for many, these fictional friends really do feel like family.

"Friends" isn't the first show to focus on friendship, but it helped open the door for other series to explore these types of relationships in different settings. While at the heart of the series is the theme of chosen family, the show is also about figuring out who you are, which often requires the help of people you love. While some at Vox argue that "Friends" ruined comedy as executives sought to replicate its success, luckily, a number of shows have carved their own unique space in the wake of "Friends." So, read on to find out 35 shows that can also "be [your] lobster" and fill that "Friends"-shaped space in your heart.

Happy Endings

Perhaps the closest contender for the new "Friends" is David Caspe's "Happy Endings." This series aired from 2011 to 2013 and although it never reached the cultural heights or mass consumption of "Friends," Digital Trends notes that it developed a devoted fanbase obsessed with this sitcom about six friends living in Chicago. The series begins with a shift in a close-knit group: ditzy Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) unexpectedly leaves V-neck lover Dave (Zachary Knighton) at the altar, and their friends have to deal with this sudden split. There's the married couple of bossy Jane (Eliza Coupe) and candle-loving Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.); hot mess Max (Adam Pally); and looking-for-love Penny (Casey Wilson).

"Happy Endings" is like "Friends" mixed with a dash of mild sociopathy, a sprinkling of biting wit, and a peppering of blackout drunk Italian fluency. The chemistry of the cast is undeniable and the show has a type of black humor that's not present in "Friends." "Happy Endings" really is a show about friends hanging out and doing weird things all while being codependent and sometimes mean to each other (with love, of course). It takes the "Friends" foundation, shakes it up, and brings it to an absurd place that's as much "Arrested Development" as "Friends." Significantly, "Happy Endings" represents a friend group that isn't only straight white people, which grounds it more in reality even as it also seems to exist in some other "amahzing" reality filled with "dramaaaaa!"


Before hitting it big with "Fleabag," British writer and actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge took her own stab at a "Friends" type show with 2016's "Crashing." In the series, she plays free spirit Lulu, who moves into an abandoned hospital that's been turned into affordable housing, where Anthony (Damien Molony), her childhood friend and crush lives. Lulu befriends others in the hospital: Kate (Louise Ford), Anthony's control-loving fiancee; Sam (Jonathan Bailey), a sleazebag with a secret soft spot; Fred (Amit Shah), a sweet gay guy who gets close with Sam; Melody (Julie Dray), an existential French artist; and Colin (Adrian Scarborough), a lonely divorced man who becomes Melody's muse.

In typical Phoebe Waller-Bridge fashion, "Crashing" is off-kilter and demented as these characters engage from darker places of self-consciousness, insecurity, and grief more than their "Friends" counterparts would ever dare. The series is hilarious, with a mix of dry humor, physical gags, and melancholy that is ultimately about a group of people struggling to figure themselves out. "Crashing" explores the tension between the face we put on for others and the one that we show only to our most intimate people. Waller-Bridge told The Guardian that she loves writing "vulnerable rascals," so with Lulu as a guide, "Crashing" shows us a world of people straddling that line between maturity and immaturity, adulthood and youth. Sadly, the series is only six episodes, but it's one worth revisiting over and over again.


One of the strongest and most significant shows about friendship is Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore's "Insecure," based on Rae's web series "Awkward Black Girl." Rae co-created and stars in this series as Issa, a woman in her late 20s living in LA who is navigating questions of friendship, love, and her career. Issa struggles to figure out what she wants, whether that's if she wants to be with her long-term boyfriend, Lawrence (Jay Ellis), or work in the non-profit world. She does all of this with the help of her friends: perfectionist lawyer Molly (Yvonne Orji), wild and confident Kelli (Natasha Rothwell), and settled adult (ish) Tiffany (Amanda Seales).

Although Issa and Lawrence have a Ross and Rachel "will they or won't they" arc, the central relationship of "Insecure" is between Issa and Molly. They're platonic life partners who see each other through everything and the fourth season explores a subtle but impactful shift within their relationship in a way that's not usually explored on TV. Where "Friends" familiarized the world with the sound stage version of New York, "Insecure" is inextricably situated within Los Angeles, which is as much a part of Issa's world as her friends and lovers. "Insecure" is often laugh-out-loud funny (with Kelli, in particular, stealing all the scenes she's in), but it's also rooted in a real emotional space as Issa and her friends try to grasp who they are and what they want.

Will & Grace

Vulture remembers that in the 1990s, the place to be every Thursday night was parked in front of NBC's "Must See TV" programming block, which included "Friends," "Seinfeld," and "ER." NBC struck gold again with Max Mutchnick and David Kohan's "Will and Grace" in 1998, which brought something new to TV: a gay protagonist. "Will and Grace" centers around Will (Eric McCormack), a gay lawyer, and Grace (Debra Messing), a straight interior designer, who are roommates in New York City. Will's other best friend is the self-centered Jack (Sean Hayes), who "fell out of the gay tree, hitting every gay branch on the way down" while Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) is Grace's super-rich, vodka and pill-loving assistant who keeps things "real" for the gang.

While aspects of "Will and Grace" don't age well (i.e., its treatment of lesbians as a joke) and many called the show out for its stereotypical portrayal of gay men, ultimately, "Will and Grace" was a trailblazer for LGBTQ representation, as noted by the Belfast Telegraph. It was the first prime-time show to feature openly gay characters whose identities go beyond their sexuality. For many in the LGBTQ community, chosen family is highly significant, so it's not surprising that this is at the heart of "Will and Grace." Like "Friends," "Will and Grace" has some of the most memorable and hilarious sitcom characters around, and despite its issues, the show has a cast with undeniable chemistry and talent.

Parks and Recreation

Greg Daniels and Michael Schur's "Parks and Recreation" explores the lives of a group of people in the fictional small town of Pawnee, Indiana. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) is an enthusiastic bureaucrat in Pawnee's Parks department who loves her job, civic duty, and waffles. The series follows Leslie's journey as she attempts to take care of her town and engage with local politics, all while dealing with friends, boyfriends, and townspeople who don't always understand that she has their best interests at heart. The people in Leslie's world include Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), her rugged, private, libertarian boss, Ann (Rashida Jones), her number one best friend, April (Aubrey Plaza), a cynical but secretly ambitious intern, and Tom (Aziz Ansari), a flashy assistant who's bigger than this town.

Like "Friends," "Parks and Recreation" makes use of a brilliant ensemble cast of individually talented actors who elevate each other to new heights. They're great on their own, but the magic is when they interact with each other, which introduced the world to gems like Donna (Retta) and Tom's "treat yo self" lifestyle, Jean Ralphio (Ben Schwartz) and Mona Lisa Saperstein's (Jenny Slate) competition for who's "the woooorst," and the entire cast getting blackout drunk on snake juice. "Parks and Recreation" is a hilarious show with heart that grounds this sitcom in emotional spaces like the sadness of a friend moving away or the bittersweet feeling of growing up and growing out of what you've always known.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

When Rachel shows up at Central Perk in the pilot of "Friends" after leaving her fiance so she can be a self-sufficient woman, many may not have batted an eye. After all, a single, independent woman on TV wasn't groundbreaking in 1994. But it was in 1970 when "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" premiered and characters ranging from Rachel to Liz Lemon all have Mary Tyler Moore to thank for opening the door, as observed by Entertainment Weekly. James L. Brooks and Allan Burns co-created the series, which is about Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore), a 30-year-old woman who breaks off her engagement to work as an associate producer at a Minneapolis news station. Mary befriends her brash neighbor, Rhoda (Valerie Harper), and often butts heads with her harsh (but secretly kind-hearted) boss, Lou (Edward Asner).

"The Mary Tyler Moore" show had a long-lasting impact on television. In fact, the creators of "Friends" cited the series finale "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" as the "gold standard" that influenced them (via the Los Angeles Times). Mary Richards was not only an unmarried, independent woman, but she was someone who looked outside of marriage and family, as Rhoda and her other friends are as important to her as any boyfriend. "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" was revolutionary in depicting young adults dealing with issues -– like aging, career insecurity, and a longing for self-realization -– that were situated in a real-life, complex space.

How I Met Your Mother

Craig Thomas and Carter Bays' "How I Met Your Mother" was one of the first shows to take the "Friends" torch, premiering a year after the "Friends" series finale and following a group of 20-somethings living in New York. Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) is telling his kids the very long, very convoluted story of how he met their mother. Ted is a hopeless romantic on a quest for true love and he's bolstered on this search by his friends: kindhearted lawyer Marshall (Jason Segel), death-stare-enthusiast Lily (Alyson Hannigan), misogynistic womanizer with a secret romantic side Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), and independent, commitment-averse ex-girlfriend, Robin (Cobie Smulders).

Ultimately, "How I Met Your Mother" is a show about a group of friends who grow together rather than about the search for love. The series finds a balance of archetypes -– like the romantic, the player, and the working woman -– but it fills out these limitations with long-running gags, the chemistry of its cast, and witty writing. Aspects of "How I Met Your Mother" don't hold up now (or even when it was on the air) -– Barney's horrendous misogyny is especially tough — and the show represents a world that seems to only be made up of straight white people, which absolutely shouldn't be overlooked. The series is correcting some of these missteps with its spin-off, "How I Met Your Father" but the original still works in many ways to fill the "Friends" void.

The Mindy Project

For some fans of "The Office," Mindy Kaling's Kelly Kapoor was a favorite character (and excellent meme source), so it was a treat to see Kaling star in her own show, "The Mindy Project." Kaling created this series, which follows Mindy Lahiri (Kaling), an OB/GYN in New York City. Mindy navigates her personal and professional life, which often bleed onto each other as her co-workers become an integral part of her life. Danny (Chris Messina) is another doctor as well as Mindy's enemy-turned-best-friend-turned-love-interest, Jeremy (Ed Weeks) is a pompous British man who runs the office, and Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) is a goofy but charismatic nurse with a dark past.

"The Mindy Project" combines the humor and ensemble dynamic of a show like "Friends" with the workplace comedy situation of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" to create something unique, peculiar, and totally Mindy Kaling. Mindy (the character and Kaling herself) is the heart of the show, which she demonstrates by embodying a multi-dimensional space of kindness, confidence, snark, and insecurity. She does all this as she struggles to balance both work and pleasure with her plan in a way that many professionals can relate to (all while trying not to be mistaken for Jaden Smith). Even though Mindy is an accomplished doctor who has worked hard to get where she is, she also is at times unsure of herself and challenged in ways that are understandable.

New Girl

Elizabeth Meriwether's "New Girl" is the Los Angeles version of "Friends" as it's about a group of 20-somethings sharing an apartment that they in no way could afford in the real world. Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel) is a quirky, optimistic schoolteacher whose relationship suddenly ends, so she moves in with three guys she doesn't know. She meets curmudgeonly slacker Nick (Jake Johnson), sex-obsessed, self-proclaimed "baller" Schmidt (Max Greenfield), and talented but lost former basketball player Winston (Lamorne Morris). Jess discovers a whole new world of strange "man" rules, complicated drinking games, and sexual tension — but more than that, she discovers a whole new family with these Craigslist weirdos.

"New Girl" hits that sweet spot of a cast with good chemistry, memorable jokes, and relatable storylines. All of the characters struggle with their sense of self. Schmidt was once overweight and is constantly dealing with his insecurities of being an outsider, while Nick was once bound for law school and then dropped out, only to realize he doesn't know what to do or how to finish things. The beauty of the show is how these characters help each other figure these things out. It's hard to imagine anyone in "New Girl" thriving on their own, but together, they discover their best (and most surprising) selves. Winston is a "natural" cat dad, Nick and Schmidt are friends that share a bathroom towel (and sometimes underpants), and Jess is happiest in a loft with three sort-of grown men.

The Comeback

Anyone who loved Phoebe on "Friends" can get their Lisa Kudrow fix in the very un-Phoebe-esque satirical comedy, "The Comeback." Kudrow stars in the series, which she co-created with Michael Patrick King, and plays Valerie Cherish, a has-been sitcom actress who lands a new role after years of not finding work. The mockumentary-style show follows Valerie as she "got it:" a role in the sitcom "Room and Board." Valerie prepares to re-enter the spotlight and find a new place for herself in an ageist and sexist world that often has a short shelf-life for actresses.

"The Comeback" is a meta look at Hollywood. In the series, Cherish is taking part in a reality show called "The Comeback," which is supposed to be a companion piece to "Room and Board." Valerie can be simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking as she struggles with a return to a world she once knew but that no longer embraces her and instead, more often than not, humiliates her. Narcissistic, insecure, and lacking self-awareness, Valerie should be someone that audiences hate, but in Kudrow's hands, she's compelling and emotional. A particular standout is her relationship with Mickey (Robert Michael Morris), her hairdresser and best friend. In some ways, the show is more similar to "The Office" due to its super high cringe factor, but any fan of Lisa Kudrow would be remiss to miss out on "The Comeback."


Darren Star's "Younger" explores intergenerational friendships in New York as Liza (Sutton Foster), a 40-year-old woman, lies about her age to get a job. Liza is recently divorced and starting over but discovers that no one is willing to hire a 40-year-old woman in a lower-level position, which is all she's qualified for since she left the book world to raise her daughter. So, Liza says she's in her mid-20s and gets an assistant job, where she joins the world of 20-somethings as she befriends fellow assistant Kelsey (Hilary Duff) and dates Josh (Nico Tortorella), a 26-year-old tattoo artist.

"Younger" puts a new spin on "Friends" as it integrates older people into its friend group. Although Liza's coworkers don't know how old she is, she still has ties to her actual younger self in Maggie (Debi Mazar), her best friend, offering a nice juxtaposition to Liza's interactions with her younger social network. "Younger" is a sweet comedy as Liza is thrown into a world of online dating and social media and the lingo the kids are using nowadays. However, it's grounded in the harsh reality of an ageist world — after all, is the idea of a woman having to lie about her age to get a job really so far-fetched? It's a realistic premise shown in a "Friends" type of way, with humor, beautiful people, and a New York City that doesn't seem to have any rats or unsavory creatures.

30 Rock

Although the satirical workplace sitcom "30 Rock" might be most closely aligned with "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," it is also a show about friendship. Tina Fey created and stars in "30 Rock" as Liz Lemon, the head writer of an SNL-type sketch show. Liz is determined to "have it all" by building a strong career and pursuing a love life as well. It proves harder than she thinks as Liz is constantly torn between wrangling talent like the volatile Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and her delusional best friend, Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), dealing with her misogynistic boss with daddy issues, Jack (Alec Baldwin), and dating losers like Dennis (Dean Winters).

"30 Rock" uses absurdist humor to expose both Hollywood and society, which often see older professional women limited. The series feels like a Godard-esque workplace comedy with bizarre jump cuts and flashbacks, but it remains grounded thanks to Liz, whose insecurities and desires to figure it out in a world that doesn't give her many options to do so are very real. Ultimately, Liz can't do it alone. While she's surrounded by a group of weirdos, narcissists, and sociopaths (only Jenna would poison someone to get a date with a hot paramedic), they're HER weirdos, narcissists, and sociopaths. "30 Rock" works so brilliantly because everyone in its ensemble cast brings something different to the table. There's no typical "straight guy" in this world as everyone's a bit of a freak — in the best possible way.

The Golden Girls

While "Friends" may have set the standard for a series about the friendships of 20-somethings, Susan Harris' "The Golden Girls" stands out as the golden standard for comedies about people who are a bit past their mid-20s. "The Golden Girls" centers around a group of women in their 50s who all live together: vivacious and sexually active widow Blanche (Rue McClanahan), naive widow Rose (Betty White), and cynical divorcee Dorothy (Bea Arthur). They're joined by Sophia (Estelle Getty), Dorothy's no-filter mother, as they navigate this new stage of life without their husbands, where they date men, meet their first lesbian/Lebanese women, and get mistaken for sex workers and thrown into jail.

"The Golden Girls" is a classic not just because of its subject matter. It stands the test of time because of the chemistry of its cast combined with its sharp, biting wit as the women (especially Dorothy) don't hold back when it comes to commenting on each other or society at large. While the "Golden Girls" characters deal with typical sitcom fare -– developing friendships, searching for love, and finding themselves -– it's refreshing to watch people we don't always get to see encounter these issues. Of course, age is a significant part of "Golden Girls," but it's not the only part, nor is it something that stops any of the women from living life to the fullest.

Arrested Development

While "Friends" is based on the premise that your friends can become your family, Mitchell Hurwitz's "Arrested Development" is about a family becoming family. The series centers around the self-centered and materialistic Bluth family, who lose all their money and have to rely on each other to get by. Michael (Jason Bateman) is the prodigal son who wants to break ties with his family but gets sucked back in when they hit financial troubles. He attempts to work with his mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter), who loves martinis and "all" of her children equally, and his siblings -– magician Gob (Will Arnett), "motherboy" Buster (Tony Hale), and selfish twin sister Lindsay (Portia De Rossi) -– to keep the family afloat but it's not so easy when everyone is just looking out for themselves.

"Arrested Development" is much more eccentric and absurdist than "Friends," but it shares qualities of running gags that don't get old, an excellent ensemble cast, and a through-line of people discovering themselves through their connections to others. On paper, the Bluths are atrocious –- selfish, manipulative, and cold –- but on screen, they're hilarious and complex. It's hard to imagine any other actors or writers being able to make this work, but in the hands of talents like Jessica Walter, Will Arnett, and Tony Hale, the show is taken to a level that's made it a cult classic and one of the most critically-acclaimed series of all time.


Phoebe Waller-Bridge created, wrote, and stars in this series as "Fleabag," a razor-sharp woman who's trying to sort out the various messes of her life. Fleabag owns a cafe that she began with her best friend, who recently died, but struggles to keep her business afloat while dating terrible guys, making self-destructive decisions, and dealing with (or often avoiding) her grief and trauma. Fleabag is often at odds with her uptight sister, Claire (Sian Clifford), whom she loves but loves to torture even more.

"Fleabag" was an immediate hit with audiences and critics alike (both seasons have 100% on Rotten Tomatoes) as many found Waller-Bridge's perception of the world to be refreshingly funny, honest, vicious, and heartbreaking. Fleabag often breaks the fourth wall in the series to speak to the audience, which creates intimacy (by inviting us in) and distance as the character is scared of getting too close to those around her and instead chooses to comment on everything from this safe distance. While "Fleabag" doesn't share too much with "Friends" besides Fleabag's discovery of surprising power in vulnerability and connecting with others — like her sister or the hot priest (Andrew Scott) of Season 2 — it's worth watching for anyone who wants to see what Metacritic ranks as one of the best-written and most unique comedies around.

Kim's Convenience

Ins Choi and Kevin White's "Kim's Convenience" (based on Choi's play of the same name) is about the Kims, a Korean-Canadian family in Toronto. Proud and blunt Appa (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) was a teacher in Korea and later moved to Canada with his kind but meddlesome wife, Umma (Jean Yoon). They now run a convenience store, where they deal with regulars and keep an eye on their youngest, Janet (Andrea Bang), an aspiring photographer who feels a bit stifled by her parents. The Kims' eldest, Jung (Simu Liu), is estranged from the family after having a rough patch as a teenager where he stole from his father but secretly starts reconnecting with his mother and sister.

"Kim's Convenience" is a sweet sitcom that presents a new perspective on the classic workplace comedy as it focuses on an immigrant family rather than the middle or upper-class white people that usually feature in this genre. The series finds rich material in the clashes between the first generation Kim children and their more traditional parents, as well as between the Kims and others in the world who may see them in narrow-minded or stereotypical ways. Family is at the heart of this show, which explores what it means to define your own place rather than letting others tell you who you are. It's a similar theme used in "Friends," which also gives the characters room to surprise themselves and others with their growth and self-development.

Chewing Gum

Writer and actor Michaela Coel first made a name for herself with 2016's "Chewing Gum," which she both created and stars in. Coel plays Tracey, a 24-year-old virgin and devout Christian who is determined to finally have sex. Tracey is in a long-term relationship with an equally religious man, Ronald (John MacMillan), but she wants to dump her closeted boyfriend and sleep with the poet, Connor (Robert Lonsdale). Sex is as alien to Tracey as Mars, so she enlists the help of her best friend Candice (Danielle Isaie) and others to learn the strange rules of the world of sex, desire, and love.

Tracey is wide-eyed and open to a world that she doesn't know, and the series pushes things to an extreme as Tracey licks Connor's eyelids as foreplay and makes her a poetic attempt at talking dirty. While the show seems quite unrelated to "Friends," in some ways, Tracey is like Rachel as she too is a sheltered woman who hasn't been given any tools for self-knowledge or even self-discovery. Tracey is starting from scratch with her journey into adulthood and sexual empowerment, which isn't so far from Rachel's hopelessness in the pilot of "Friends" — even if they find themselves in this position for very different reasons. It's a common conundrum for young women of all backgrounds, who are more often than not denied the means to self-empowerment or fulfillment (especially sexual), and it's one that "Chewing Gum" examines brilliantly.

Sex and the City

"Friends" was a leader of the "beautiful and glamorous young people living in a shiny New York" genre, but Darren Star's "Sex and the City" brought this to a more provocative place. "Sex and the City" centers around sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) as she lives in New York along with her best friends: cynical lawyer Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), conservative romantic Charlotte (Kristin Davis), and the very sex-positive publicist Samantha (Kim Cattrall).

When "Sex and the City" premiered in 1998, there was no other show like it as it focused on a group of 30-something single women not only having a lot of sex but talking about it and enjoying it in hilarious and sometimes brutally honest ways. Thanks to "Sex and the City," people everywhere learned about the questionable ethics breaking up via Post-It, the power of fake nipples, and the thrill of eating cake out of the garbage.

Elements of "Sex and the City" are super problematic as it's about people who are white, skinny, and (mostly) straight with endless disposable wealth. However, what makes the show powerful is its centering on female friendship and the possibility of women being platonic life partners. Carrie and her friends decide to be each other's soulmates and the fact that they make this choice at all -– in addition to showing the ups and downs of intimate female friendships –- makes "Sex and the City" a must-watch for any fan of "Friends" (or friendship).

The Good Place

Michael Schur's "The Good Place" takes the existential question of what it means to be human and answers it in the afterlife. Eleanor (Kristen Bell) is a lone wolf with questionable morals who dies and winds up in "The Good Place," a utopia for morally upstanding people that is run by cheerful Michael (Ted Danson). Eleanor thinks she was sent there by mistake and tries to cover her presence by spending time with Chidi (William Jackson Harper), a philosopher and her assigned soulmate who tries to teach Eleanor about ethics. Eleanor and Chidi befriend Jason (Manny Jacinto), a small-time criminal who's also in the wrong place, and Tahani (Jameela Jamil), a self-centered philanthropist. As this gang gets settled into this new utopian life, they start to discover that perhaps the Good Place isn't so good after all.

Although "The Good Place" is a sitcom, in some ways, it's much more than that as it explores questions of morality and ethics. Eleanor and the others must confront themselves in a way they actively avoided in real life, which leads to hilarious results. The series is unique with its emotional core as Eleanor commits to a type of self-awareness, growth, and vulnerability that she never had in her mortal existence. While the characters initially begin as archetypes -– Eleanor is selfish, Chidi is brainy, and Tahani is spoiled –- they all grow as they both encounter various challenges in the afterlife and learn from each other.

Living Single

Yvette Lee Bowser's "Living Single" preceded "Friends" by a year and may have directly led to its creation as it explores the relationships of a group of six single people living in a Brooklyn brownstone. Khadijah (Queen Latifah) is an editor of a Black magazine who lives with her happy-go-lucky cousin, Synclaire (Kim Coles) and snooty but bougie Régine (Kim Fields). Their unofficial other roommate is Maxine (Erika Alexander), a sharp-tongued lawyer, along with their upstairs neighbors, the stockbroker bro Kyle (T.C. Carson) and Overton (John Henton), the sweet handyman of the building.

Bowser created "Living Single" when white people were primarily the ones given power both on and off-screen, and Entertainment Tonight has documented the influence of the show, which was immediate and long-lasting. In an oral history of the show, Bowser noted that she "was a very frustrated writer on a show about Black people where there were basically no Black people in power behind the scenes, so that set the tone ... I could create what I felt were more well-rounded depictions of us" (via The Atlantic). "Living Single" accomplishes that with its sharp writing and cast that has amazing chemistry (seen in unscripted moments like this), which brought a combination of humor, warmth, and emotions to the series. What makes "Living Single" really stand out is its centering of Black female characters and friendships that have been further explored by series like "Insecure" but remain too rarely seen on TV even today.


Created by James Burrows and brothers Glen and Les Charles, "Cheers" is perhaps the ultimate "hangout sitcom" as it looks at the lives of a group of employees and regulars of the Cheers bar, "where everybody knows your name." Ted Danson is Sam, the owner of Cheers, a recovering alcoholic and lothario who tries to connect with others. Diane (Shelley Long) is his on-and-off-again love interest, who grew up with upper-class privilege and works at the bar after leaving her fiance. Other characters include waitress Carla (Rhea Perlman), who hates her customers, and Coach (Nicholas Colasanto), a sweet bartender who tends to forget orders but occasionally surprises with non sequitur words of wisdom.

Before Ross and Rachel, there was Sam and Diane, whose up-and-down relationship Esquire notes as being the first serial sitcom storyline. "Cheers" was a cultural phenomenon, and the Los Angeles Times reported that 93 million people tuned into the 1993 series finale, making it the second most-watched finale to date. Like "Friends," the series hit the sweet spot with a brilliant cast that plays off each other and adds crackling energy to the "Cheers" bar. Audiences couldn't get enough of the "Cheers" gang, so they flocked to see its spin-off, "Frasier," centered around one of the regulars at the bar. "Cheers" works because, at the end of the day, it's about a group of strangers who become friends and then family and consistently choose each other, even if they'd occasionally rather be doing something else.

One Day at a Time (2017 Reboot)

When Norman Lear produced "One Day at a Time" in 1975, the series was notable for focusing on a white divorcee raising her teenage daughters alone. Lear wanted to update this, so he brought in Gloria Calderón Kellett and Mike Royce to develop a new "One Day at a Time" for Netflix, which stars a Cuban-American family instead. Divorced mother Penelope (Justina Machado), an army veteran who has PTSD, is raising her two teenage kids –- cool kid Alex (Marcel Ruiz) and queer nerd Elena (Isabella Gomez) –- in Los Angeles. Penelope enlists the help of her lively mother, Lydia (the always exceptional EGOT-winner Rita Moreno). Their landlord Schneider (Todd Grinnell) is a privileged man-child who just wants to be part of the family, and together they encounter love, heartbreak, and fun.

"One Day at a Time" is both classic and modern as it adheres to the conventions of the genre -– an ensemble cast, live studio audience, archetypal characters -– but infuses all of this with a freshness and emotional intelligence not always seen in comedies. It's often laugh-out-loud funny but can also make you cry (okay, sob) as it explores issues like Penelope's PTSD, Elena's rejection by her father after she comes out as gay, and Schneider's relapse into alcoholism. Family is at the heart of "One Day at a Time," which looks at how we can support and challenge those we consider family (both chosen and not).

Grand Crew

Phil Augusta Jackson's "Grand Crew" premiered in 2021 and follows a group of six mostly male 30-somethings who hang out at a bar in Los Angeles and talk about their lives (while occasionally living them too). Noah (Echo Kellum) is a rom-com lover who desperately wants his life to be a romantic comedy; his sister, the emotionally avoidant Nicky (Nicole Byer), is looking for love; Sherm (Carl Tart) and Anthony (Aaron Jennings) are roommates who are sometimes at odds over things like kombucha; and Fay (Grasie Mercedes) is new to this grand crew, whom she met while working at the bar.

Show creator Jackson has written for series like "Insecure," "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," and "Key and Peele," and brings his sharp eye for humor and absurdism to "Grand Crew," which results in some surprises (like Noah imagining his ex as one of the wild inflatable tube men outside car dealerships). "Grand Crew" positions itself as a Black male version of "Friends" as the bulk of the relationships are between these male characters (although Nicole Byer adds a very welcome energy and perspective to it). It's not often that we get to see shows that are just about male friendships, and it's refreshing to see this in a comfortable (and comforting) genre like a sitcom.


Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld's "show about nothing" premiered in 1989 and introduced millions to the "yada-yada" world of Jerry (Seinfeld), George (Jason Alexander), Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and Kramer (Michael Richards). "Seinfeld" is about these four sometimes obnoxious, often morally questionable, and always hilarious friends living, loving, and trying to get soup in New York City. Superficially, they could be seen as archetypes –- Jerry is the straight man, Kramer is the eccentric goofball, George is the neurotic one (okay, they all are), and Elaine is the progressive (ish) one –- but they're so much more than that.

The plotlines of "Seinfeld" can be ridiculous –- George pretending to be a marine biologist to impress a woman and then having to actually save a whale, for example –- but they're also rooted in very human spaces like longing, insecurity, and jealousy. Many of the stories of "Seinfeld" are mundane but taken to an extreme and absurd level (like an entire episode centered around waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant). "Seinfeld' takes the sitcom format and transforms it so that even this unoriginal premise of a group of friends living in New York City becomes completely original in the hands of Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, and the whole cast. Its postmodern and self-referential nature has become legendary and has never been replicated with the same success (even if you consider Seinfeld's claim that "Friends" ripped off his show), which makes "Seinfeld" a must-watch for any sitcom lover.


"Friends" co-creator David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik created "Episodes," which stars Matt LeBlanc as a satirical version of himself. The series is about the BAFTA Award-winning couple, Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig), who move to Hollywood to adapt their British sitcom for an American audience. While they're promised it will be a copy and paste job with minimal changes to their show, they're soon faced with pressure from the network to change almost everything, including the lead. Sean and Beverly are forced to hire Matt LeBlanc in the "erudite, verbally dextrous headmaster" lead role, a part that he's totally wrong for. While Sean succumbs to LeBlanc's charms, Beverly is less entranced by him and soon, all three are caught in a triangle that's as tense as it is hilarious.

Fans of Joey Tribbiani will be thrilled to see Matt LeBlanc playing a heightened version of himself. The "Episodes" version of LeBlanc is arrogant, self-absorbed, and has a short attention span, which leads to lots of laughs as well as a twinge of pathos as you watch him take on a role that even he knows isn't right for him but that he's determined to play because he needs a hit. The "Friends" cast has had mixed results in breaking away from the characters that made them mega-famous and LeBlanc, in particular, seems to have struggled (he was the only one to do a "Friends" spin-off), so it's exciting to see him in this funny meta role.


Steven Moffat's "Coupling" is the British "Friends" that follows six 30-something friends -– three men and three women –- who navigate love, life, and friendship. Neurotic Steven (Jack Davenport) starts dating the Type A Sue (Sarah Alexander). They navigate their new relationship with the help of their best friends, insecure Jeff (Richard Coyle) and beauty-obsessed Sally (Kate Isitt), and their exes, sex-obsessed Patrick (Ben Miles) and self-absorbed Jane (Gina Bellman).

"Coupling" displays the humor and wit that British comedies do so well, and it stands out for its juxtaposing of the male and female perspectives. Much of its humor lies in the very different ways all the characters see the same situation, but the different ways that the men and women talk about it. It's a wonder that these people connect at all, as they frequently seem to live in different realities. "Coupling" takes the same idea of "Friends" and brings it to a raunchier and sometimes more complex space as the characters are more multifaceted and less shiny than their American counterparts. This may be due more to cultural differences between American and British humor. As Ricky Gervais wrote in Time, the British "are more comfortable with life's losers," leading to characters who are self-deprecating and rarely saying what they mean or feel. This all is evident in "Coupling," which takes the archetypes seen in "Friends" -– Monica's perfectionism, Rachel's vanity, or Chandler's insecurity -– and dials it up to an 11 to hilarious effect.​

The Sex Lives of College Girls

While "Friends" initially focuses on characters in their mid-20s, Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble's "The Sex Lives of College Girls" explores the lives of a group of friends just entering adulthood. The series centers around four roommates who are beginning their freshman year together: Bela (Amrit Kaur) is an Indian-American and sex-positive aspiring comedian; Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet) is a work-study student who's in over her head after leaving her small town; Leighton (Reneé Rapp) is a closeted lesbian hiding behind the social mask of an entitled New Yorker; and Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott), is a star soccer player who's trying to keep her affair with her coach a secret.

"The Sex Lives of College Girls" is a modern sitcom that showcases a world that's both heightened in the way TV shows can be but also grounded in reality. The series uses fun TV college tropes like naked parties and drinking games, but it also deals with issues like misogyny, the struggle to keep both a job and good grades, and the closet. As great as "Friends" is, it can be difficult to watch in a world where visibility is changing on and off-screen. This reality makes it exciting and empowering to have comedies like "The Sex Lives of College Girls" offer the comfort of a sitcom while bringing it to a new, more diverse space.

Broad City

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson's "Broad City" is based on their web series of the same name and essentially is a show about two best friends living, sometimes succeeding, and often getting high in New York City. Amy Poehler executive produced the series, which stars Glazer and Jacobson as themselves. Ilana is extroverted, sex-positive, and hardly-working, while Abbi is more introverted, secretly weird, and artistic. Over the course of five seasons, Abbi and Ilana deal with various ups and downs as they try to succeed in the Big Apple, including Ilana sleeping with her doppelgänger, Abbi tripping on mushrooms and accidentally killing her boss' cat, and Ilana almost dying from a shellfish allergy for the sake of friendship.

As with any great comedy, "Broad City" works because of the chemistry of its stars, who are best friends in real life. It subverts the odd couple trope as Abbi, the seemingly "straight man" of the duo, is a total freak herself (in the best way). The show portrays intimate, strong female friendship that's woefully unexplored on television, and in both this and its representation of both Ilana and Abbi's sexual identities, it's as empowering as it is laugh-out-loud funny. Only "Broad City" can go there with a storyline about Abbi exploring sexuality in exciting new ways and then elevate it to the next level by framing this as the "greatest moment" of Ilana's (not Abbi's) life. If that's not female power and friendship, then what is?

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Rob McElhenney's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" is like "Cheers" and "Friends," if those shows were about narcissists and sociopaths. The series follows "The Gang," a group of "friends" (if a "friend" is someone who manipulates, abandons, and sells you out) who run and work at Paddy's Pub. McElhenney stars as Mac, the insecure and wannabe tough guy; Dennis (Glenn Howerton) is the psychopathic, overly sexual one; Dee (Kaitlin Olson) is Dennis' twin sister, the occasional voice of reason who is actually quite violent; Charlie (Charlie Day) is angry, possibly illiterate, and has a substance abuse issue; and Frank (Danny DeVito) has a gambling addiction and prides himself on being "feral."

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" takes friendship and nosedives into the abysses of its shadows. After all, any human relationship has the potential for things like insecurity, jealousy, selfishness, and manipulation. "It's Always Sunny" uses all of this as its foundation as it centers around a group of people obsessed with themselves and with scheming, no matter the cost to anyone else. They're all more than willing to conspire against each other, and each character thinks that they're better than the rest but, of course, they're all the worst. Clearly, something has resonated with the shadow selves of audiences as the series has made history as the longest-running live-action scripted comedy of all time as there's something cathartic in watching people behave in ways that perhaps we all wish we could sometimes.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Michael Schur and Dan Goor's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" takes the police procedural and brings it to a comedy space where it's far more in line with "Friends" than it is with "NYPD Blue." Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) is a goofy but brilliant detective in Brooklyn's 99th Precinct, where he see-saws between butting heads with his boss, the no-nonsense and highly moral Captain Holt (Andre Braugher), and having fun with his coworkers. There's Charles (Joe Lo Truglio), his food-and-Jake-obsessed best friend; secretive and apathetic Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz); and Jake's love interest, the perfectionist and uptight Amy (Melissa Fumero).

Michael Schur also co-created "Parks and Recreation," and like that series, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is a workplace comedy with as much heart as laughs. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" benefits from an all-star cast of comedic talents (other cast members include Chelsea Peretti and Terry Crews) that bring gags like the annual Halloween Heist episodes to an epic level. However, the series stands out in its ability to situate the show in reality as it explores Captain Holt's rise to the top as a gay Black man and Terry's experience of being racially profiled by other police officers while out on a run. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is a show about chosen family -– after all, these are cops who spend all waking hours together — and like "Friends," it shows just how important it can be to have people in your life that will always be there for you.


Inspired by a New York Magazine article, the classic "Taxi" follows a group of working-class taxi drivers who try to follow their dreams while driving cabs in New York City and avoiding the wrath of their immoral, bullying dispatcher, Louie (Danny Devito). Alex (Judd Hirsch) is the cynical "everyman" at the center of the chaos, whose even-keeled nature makes him a natural support for the others: the often-losing but always-kind boxer Tony (Tony Danza), single mother and aspiring artist Elaine (Marilu Henner), and Latka (Andy Kaufman), the eccentric mechanic from an unknown country.

"Taxi" deals with serious subjects like sexual harassment, addiction, and sexual identity while continuously returning to the question of "what happens if you can't make your dream come true?" The series is a star-making turn for its incredible cast as it marks some of the earliest works of people like Danny Devito, Tony Danza, and Christopher Lloyd. Beyond that, the series is a showcase for Andy Kaufman's, whose subversive, sometimes chaotic energy adds something unexpected to the sitcom form. Similar to "Friends," "Taxi" is about a group of different people who learn to be there for each other when things aren't going their way.


Dan Harmon's "Community" explores what happens when you make a family out of a group of people who have nothing in common. Jeff (Joel McHale) is a lawyer who lied about getting his undergraduate degree, so he enrolls in a community college to get a degree and practice law again. Jeff is manipulative, so he starts a fake Spanish study group to spend more time with his crush, the "progressive" slash pretentious activist Britta (Gillian Jacobs). Others quickly join the group, including perfectionist Annie (Alison Brie), movie-and-TV-obsessed Abed (Danny Pudi), and bigot Pierce (Chevy Chase), among others. The gang often finds themselves partaking in various schemes, either with each other or the dean of the school (Jim Rash).

"Community" is a more extreme version of "Friends" as it begins with a group of people who have no ties to each other. It makes hilarious use of these differences as the characters are often juxtaposed against each other, and each one believes him or herself to be "better" than the rest even though they're all terrible in their own particular ways. From the get-go, Jeff is a narcissistic schemer, which sets the stage for some of the wacky, off-kilter things that happen — but he does learn to look out for others over time. They all do, as "Community" follows an interesting arc of anti-heroes turning into "heroes," which is fun to watch, especially in the hands of people like Joel McHale, Alison Brie, and Donald Glover.


Kenya Barris' "Black-ish" centers around the Johnsons, an upper-middle-class African-American family in Los Angeles. The heads of the Johnson family are Dre (Anthony Anderson), an advertising executive who will do anything to protect his reputation and shoes, and Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross), an anesthesiologist who tries to stay calm in the face of Dre's chaos. Dre is anxious that their four kids aren't "Black" enough as they live in a predominately white suburb and a time when Obama has almost always been president. Dre is determined to teach his kids how to be Black while Bow is more concerned with making sure everyone is getting taken care of.

"Black-ish" stands out for a number of reasons, not least of which is its expression of joy. While the series isn't afraid to delve into racism, the 2016 presidential election, and police brutality and does so in poignant ways, "Black-ish" is rooted in the idea of love and life and the experience of these things by the Johnson family. This comes across in part because of the talent of the cast as it's very easy to believe they're all a family that is having fun together, which is what most closely aligns this series to "Friends." "Black-ish" is frequently laugh-out-loud funny as there's much humor to be mined in the quest for parents to give their kids the best lives possible while at the same time, wondering if they've messed them up for good.

The Jeffersons

"The Jeffersons" was a spin-off of "All in the Family," which, like its predecessor, changed the shape of sitcoms in ways that are still seen today. The show centers around outspoken businessman George and Louise or "Weezy" Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford), whose recent financial success allows them to move from Queens to Manhattan. Life changes when they change boroughs as the Jeffersons (along with their son, Lionel, played by Mike Evans, and later, Damon Evans) meet and eventually befriend their neighbors, the interracial couple of Tom and Helen Willis (Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker).

Audiences first met the Jeffersons as Archie Bunker's neighbors and nemeses in "All in the Family," and it's exciting to see them as the leads in "The Jeffersons." George has his own Archie-like qualities of stubbornness, narrowmindedness, and rudeness, but he's also a family man who's doing his best. Louise is his foil as she presents a calming, logical presence in their home, and as the Jeffersons start to embrace the Willises into their lives, their understanding of family changes. "The Jeffersons" was revolutionary for its depiction of both an upper-middle-class Black family, which would later influence shows like "Black-ish" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," its representation of an interracial couple, and its exploration of issues like class differences and racism (via The Huffington Post).

Derry Girls

Lisa McGee's "Derry Girls" goes back in time and across the pond to tell the story of teenage friends in mid-1990s Northern Ireland. Set in the city of Derry during The Troubles (which started there), the series follows Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), an ambitious but insecure teenager who's trying to find her independence within her strict Catholic school. Erin's best friends are her eccentric cousin Orla (Louisa Harland), sensitive and naive Clare (Nicola Coughlan), extroverted rebel Michelle (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), and the often confused James (Dylan Llewellyn), Michelle's British cousin who's been forced to enroll in their all-girls school.

While "Derry Girls" focuses on characters who are younger than those in "Friends," it does share some key similarities in that it's set in the '90s (to a perfect Cranberries-heavy soundtrack), and it's often spit-take funny. "Derry Girls" is framed by actual historical events, like conflicts between Catholics and Protestants and a visit by President Clinton, but the trials and tribulations of Erin and friends are absurd in a way that only sitcoms can do. For example, the gang gets tossed in detention, "Breakfast Club" style, only to be discovered peeing in the trash can next to a dead nun. Like "Friends," "Derry Girls" is about a group of people trying to figure out who they are with the help of friends, and it does so in a way that's mostly funny, sometimes poignant, and often a bit hard to understand — you might consider watching it with subtitles.