It would be easy to dismiss sitcoms (or situation comedies) as silly, mindless entertainment, but there's a reason so many of them — from I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Cheers and Seinfeld — have endured as pop culture mainstays. Since the premiere of the first U.S. sitcom, Mary Kay and Johnny, in 1947, the genre has become much more than a simple platform for witty one-liners and thunderous laugh tracks. Rather, it's a table setting for family values as well as social and political commentary. From dom-coms, or “domestic comedies,” such as The Brady Bunch and The Jeffersons, to dramedies, or “dramatic comedies,” like M*A*S*H and Night Court, sitcoms are signs of the times, reflecting and even reshaping the lives, feelings, relationships, and experiences of their audiences.
In fact, some of the biggest and most groundbreaking moments in television history have happened on sitcoms. Think: Lucy (Lucille Ball) giving birth on I Love Lucy, Ellen (Ellen DeGeneres) coming out on Ellen, and the death of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) on M*A*S*H. There are also countless examples of sitcoms tackling difficult topics such as racism, misogyny, divorce, and disease. Sitcoms make us laugh, of course, but the best ones also make us think. Here are some of the most memorable quotes from sitcoms over the past nine decades, since the format first made its television debut.
Everybody has a heart; you just have to find the location.
— "The Goldbergs," “The New Landlord” (1949)
Ever since we said ‘I do,’ there have been so many things that we don't.
— "I Love Lucy," “The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub" (1951)
I don't know why I am always gettin' my britches caught on my own pitchfork.
— "The Andy Griffith Show," “Runaway Kid” (1960)
Courage is something you can't be afraid to have.
— "M*A*S*H," “The Price of Tomato Juice” (1975)
The meaning of life? That's simple. Try to be happy, try not to hurt other people, and hope to fall in love.
— "Family Ties," “Alex Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” (1989)
How a person looks on the outside isn’t nearly as important as who they are on the inside.
— "Full House," “Shape Up” (1990)
The great moments of your life won't necessarily be the things you do; they'll also be the things that happen to you.
— "How I Met Your Mother," “Right Place Right Time” (2009)
I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.
— "The Office," “Finale” (2013)
As the man once said, the harder you work, the luckier you get.
— "Ted Lasso," “Trent Crimm: The Independent” (2020)
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