The 20 Best Free TV Shows on Peacock

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The 20 Best Free TV Shows on Peacock

Hey, Peacock is here! One of the biggest things that differentiates NBCUniversal’s app is that it has a free, ad-supported tier. Though there are some big-name shows behind the paywall (like and all of Peacock’s new original series—which CAN be sampled for free to start, as well as a rotating number of other series), there are plenty of great shows you can watch right now.

Below you’ll find our ranking of the available free series on Peacock, with a note that there are also a lot of reality shows we haven’t mentioned that are good for bingeing, if that’s your thing. Also, in some cases, Peacock is only carrying a limited number of seasons for certain shows on the free tier (for instance, just one season of both Cheers and Frasier, and the first few seasons of The Office). But it’s a good way to sample what Peacock has before making the decision to pay for its premium services.

One more note: We’re not including many classic TV shows in the list below, because you don’t need us to tell you to watch Leave It to Beaver, Little House on the Prairie Columbo, Airwolf (!), Murder She Wrote, Saved by the Bell, The Munsters, The Adventures of He-Man, Woody Woodpecker, The Rockford Files, and Saturday Night Live. But those are also available to stream on Peacock!

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20. Weeds

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Created by: Jenji Kohan
Stars: Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould, Justin Kirk, Kevin Nealon, Elizabeth Perkins, Romany Malco, Demián Bichir
Original Network: Showtime

Watch on Peacock

Before Walter White broke bad or Piper Chapman started selling panties, Weeds introduced us to the privileged protagonist who resorts to crime when faced with dire circumstances. In this case, meet Mary Louise Parker’s Nancy Botwin, a suburban mom-turned-marijuana dealer desperate to keep her family afloat after her husband dies of a heart attack. As with so many Showtime series, Jenji Kohan’s precursor to Orange Is the New Black skidded out of control as Nancy sunk deeper and deeper into the black market, but in its first season especially, Weeds offered a ballsy, bawdy send-up of conformist thinking and the American Dream, aided by gonzo comic support from Kirk, Nealon, and the deliciously petty Perkins. Plus, its title sequence, featuring Malvina Reynolds’ 1962 ditty “Little Boxes,” is one of premium cable’s most memorable. —Matt Brennan


19. Everybody Hates Chris

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Created by: Chris Rock, Ali LeRoi
Stars: Tyler James Williams, Terry Crews, Tichina Arnold, Tequan Richmond, Imani Hakim, Vincent Martella
Original Networks: UPN, The CW

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Chris Rock is one of the funniest comedians of all time. This is far from a controversial stance. Upon developing a period sitcom about his Brooklyn childhood for the (now defunct) UPN back in the mid-2000s, however, the question emerged of whether or not his brand of knowing, acerbic comedy could survive the transition to network TV. The answer proved to be both yes and no. From the opening seconds of its pilot, Everybody Hates Chris positions itself as an incisive, utterly confident comedic tour-de-force that is perfectly in line with Rock’s brand. And yet, in the hands of co-creator/showrunner Ali LeRoi, the show aimed to be much more than simply the comedian’s stage work reformatted into TV storylines. The result was a family sitcom that both harkened back to the Norman Lear comedies of old, while still retaining the rapid pace and tight construction of the best single-camera productions. The show was never more successful, however, than when it came to its casting, with Tyler James Williams demonstrating immense charisma and comic timing as a young Chris; meanwhile, Terry Crews and Tichina Arnold would promptly enter the pantheon of great TV couples as Chris’ larger-than-life parental units. And though low ratings and frequent schedule shifts would ultimately snuff Chris out after four seasons, it quickly sketched out its place as one of the greatest sitcoms of the new millennium. —Mark Rozeman


18. Parenthood

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Created by: Ron Howard, Jason Katims
Stars: Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard, Monica Potter, Erika Christensen, Sam Jaeger, Savannah Paige Rae, Sarah Ramos, Max Burkholder, Joy Bryant, Miles Heizer, Mae Whitman, Bonnie Bedelia, Craig T. Nelson, Tyree Brown
Original Network: NBC

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Parenthood always was a good drama, but, over the course of its six seasons, it matured into a great one. The NBC series was palpably real. The Bravermans are us. Each episode, the show provides insight into what it’s like to be part of an extended, loving, and meddling family while giving viewers the opportunity for a nice cathartic cry. Family dramas are the hardest type of one-hour programming—they must keep viewers engaged without a weekly patient to cure, crime to solve, or case to litigate. That’s why a family drama frequently will turn to the television trope of giving a lead character a disease. But what Parenthood did with the Kristina (Monica Potter) story arc was profound. The series thrives when it demonstrates the minutia of life. While Kristina battled breast cancer, she’s also dealt with life’s smaller moments. Life, the show subtly points out, doesn’t stop for cancer. So often on TV, a disease will befall a character only to be wrapped up in one or two episodes after a few requisite maudlin moments. But Kristina lived with cancer and Potter gave the performance of her career. She evoked empathy from the viewer while never allowing the viewer to pity Kristina, and in doing so, Parenthood quietly became one of the best shows on TV paving the way for NBC’s next big family drama This is Us. —Amy Amatangelo


17. New Amsterdam

Created by: David Schulner
Stars: Ryan Eggold, Janet Montgomery, Freema Agyeman, Jocko Sims, Tyler Labine, Anupam Kher
Original Network: NBC

Watch on Peacock

“How can I help?”

When New Amsterdam, NBC’s break-the-system medical drama, first premiered as part of the network’s Fall 2018 prime-time slate, this simple question was repeated so often and with such unflagging sincerity by Ryan Eggold’s pot-stirring Medical Director that even Paste’s own former TV editor, Matt Brennan (a self-proclaimed New Amsterdam apologist!), declared its “metronomic refrain” absurd.

And yet, as anyone who’s watched the series grow into itself over the past two years might tell you, Dr. Max Goodwin’s How can I help? has evolved from the kind of cheesy catchphrase my fellow critics derided as prime-time pabulum, to the kind of bullishly anti-cynical mission statement it’s hard not to find inspiring—not least coming from a blockbuster broadcast medical drama. Because here’s the thing: As many unbelievably sweeping, pie-in-the-medical-sky changes as Max seems to make at New Amsterdam in those first few episodes, the systemic injustices and bureaucratic nightmares baked into American healthcare are so deeply rooted that even a white savior complex as well-meaning and robust as Max’s has proven not nearly enough to dismantle it all in one go. Or two. Or three. Or a hundred.

That’s okay. With more than 40 episodes already available for new viewers to catch up on—and with the likelihood that many of those same viewers will find themselves caught up in the shards of America’s broken healthcare system, the longer both the pandemic and current historic rates of unemployment persist—there’s more than enough of Dr. Max Goodwin’s brand of break-the-system fantasy not just to hold us for the moment, but to inspire more of us to turn to our communities and take up the metronomic refrain, How can I help?Alexis Gunderson


16. Psych

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Created by: Steve Franks
Stars: James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson, Maggie Lawson, Kirsten Nelson, Corbin Bernsen
Original Network: USA

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When USA debuted Psych, it was just a little show about a fake psychic who solved crimes. The network was in the nascent stages of its “blue sky” period, a time that included Burn Notice, White Collar and Royal Pains. Now that this phase is essentially over, it’s easy to declare Psych the best of the no-heavy-watching-required bunch.

Starring James Roday, Dule Hill, Timothy Omundson and Maggie Lawson, the comedy-mystery hybrid was decidedly lighter than most shows centered around solving murders. Frequently hilarious, the series relished in spoofing the pop-culture landscape and tapped into the zeitgeist both past and present. Almost every episode was themed around a trope, genre, or specific film or TV show. Psych ran for eight seasons and 121 episodes, so don’t be a myopic Chihuahua—dive in. Wait for it. Wait for iiiiiiiit… —Shannon Houston


15. House

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Created by: David Shore
Stars: Hugh Laurie, Lisa Edelstein, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard, Jennifer Morrison, Jesse Spencer
Original Network: FOX

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Hugh Laurie shined as the cranky and brilliant titular character who never believed his patients (they always lie) and could solve even the most complex medical cases (Note: it’s never lupus). The series was the pitch-perfect mix of the Case of the Week (often introduced in the cold open as some seemingly healthy guest star falls ill) with ongoing story arcs that followed the will-they-won’t-they romance of House and Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), the lives of House’s often randy interns, and the long-running bromance between House and his best friend Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). It’s a winning TV prescription playing out again today on ABC’s The Good Doctor, which is also produced by House creator David Shore. —Amy Amatangelo


14. A.P. Bio

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Created by: Mike O’Brien
Stars: Glenn Howerton, Lyric Lewis, Mary Sohn, Jean Villepique, Tom Bennett, Patton Oswalt
Original Networks: NBC

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A.P. Bio has quietly become one of the best sitcoms on TV today due to the strength of its ensemble. It’s in full display in an episode like “Wednesday Morning, 8 A.M,” where instead of juggling two or maybe three storylines like a typical sitcom episode, it presents a series of interconnected vignettes, each of which focuses on a different major or recurring character at Whitlock High. It gives the entire cast a chance to shine and also acts as a good introduction to pretty much every character on the show. It’s a modern-day “22 Short Films About Springfield,” but from a series that continues chugging along as TV’s most underrated sitcom. —Garrett Martin


13. Monk

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Created by: Andy Breckman
Stars: Tony Shalhoub, Bitty Schram, Jason Gray-Stanford, Ted Levine, Traylor Howard
Original Network: USA

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“Homicide detective with OCD” might seem like a cheap concept on paper—after all, Detective Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub)’s obsession with the tiniest of details is an easy, plausible explanation for his uncanny ability to solve even the most convoluted crimes by episode’s end. But Monk used its central character’s mental illness as so much more than plot device; though the show was a procedural, character development was always its driving force. We continue to learn bits and pieces of Monk’s backstory (his wife Trudy was killed by a car bomb, resulting in his nervous breakdown and worsening of his OCD), we watch as his mental health gradually improves, and through it all we’re treated to an expert blend of comedy and drama that makes it so obvious why Shalhoub was nominated for eight Emmys (taking home three) for the role. —Bonnie Stiernberg


12. Bates Motel

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Created by: Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin, Anthony Cipriano
Stars: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Olivia Cooke, Nicola Peltz, Nestor Carbonell, Kenny Johnson
Original Network: A&E

Watch on Peacock

When telling the origins of a horror icon, a fine line must be walked. For one, you run the risk of losing the mystery that made the original characters so terrifying to begin with. Bates Motel, however, has created a backstory for Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) that makes the psycho of Psycho sympathetic. But Norman is always just a second away from behaving horrifically. Over the course of the show, Highmore goes from confused teenager to schizophrenic maniac, and in doing so, given a performance that rivals Anthony Perkins’ take on the character. Playing off this evolution is the incredible, hypnotic Vera Farmiga as his mother Norma. Of course Norma’s story has to end tragically. But when watching mother and son together, there’s hope that the story will diverge from the way we know it must go, and there’s the constant fear that what we know must happen can occur at any point. By expanding on the Norman Bates story, Bates Motel has taken an iconic character and enriched him with a haunted history that makes him even more fascinating as we watch his descent into madness. —Ross Bonaime


11. Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

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Created by: Austin Winsberg
Stars: Jane Levy, Skylar Astin, Alex Newell, John Clarence Stewart ,Peter Gallagher ,Mary Steenburgen, Lauren Graham
Original Network: NBC

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Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is a pure delight. A show that is 1000% guaranteed to put a smile on your face, get your feet tapping and leave you humming a happy tune. I defy you to not be in a good mood after watching it. Jane Levy stars as the titular character who, after an MRI gone awry, can suddenly hear the soundtrack of people’s lives. Their innermost thoughts set to a Beatles song, a Whitney Houston ballad or a Katy Perry number. Because Zoey is privy to people’s innermost thoughts whether they are singing about sexual desire or loneliness or marital frustration, she tasks herself with solving their problems. But by adding the extra layer of full on, big musical numbers everything Zoey does seems natural. Musicals, by their very nature, require a huge willing suspension of disbelief. The show also isn’t afraid to tackle big emotional problems from the sudden death of a parent to a husband who doesn’t respect you to being your true self to everyone. It’s NBC taking a risk. As far as musical TV series go, for every Glee or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend there’s a Cop Rock. For network television to be airing, promoting, financing a show like this is a sign that broadcast TV isn’t throwing in the towel to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or (heaven help us) Quibi. NBC has come to play, thank you very much. And that’s something to sing about. —Amy Amatangelo


10. Kingdom

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Created by: Byron Balasco
Stars: Frank Grillo, Jonathan Tucker, Matt Lauria, Nick Jonas, Kiele Sanchez, and Joanna Going
Original Network: Audience Network

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The best way to describe Kingdom is that it’s sort of like Friday Night Lights if the show were about mixed martial arts instead of football. The character-driven series, which ran from 2014 to 2017 on AT&T’s Audience Network, stars Frank Grillo as Alvey Kulina, a former champion fighter who now runs a gym with his girlfriend and business partner Lisa (Kiele Sanchez) where he trains fighters, including his sons Jay (Jonathan Tucker) and Nate (Nick Jonas), and former MMA star Ryan Wheeler (FNL’s Matt Lauria), who’s just gotten out of prison at the start of the show. You don’t need to know much about the sport of MMA to enjoy the show; while it is an integral part of who these men are, it’s also just the vehicle through which creator Byron Balasco delivers complex stories about family, loyalty, purpose, and redemption. And although Kingdom is anchored by tremendous performances across the board—the actors leave their blood, sweat, and tears in the cage—it’s the beating heart at the center of the show that ultimately makes it worth watching. — Kaitlin Thomas


9. Downton Abbey

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Created by: Julian Fellowes
Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Laura Carmichael, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Joanne Froggatt
Original Network: ITV/PBS

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The lush, swirling period piece Downton Abbey is never short on drama or general strife. The ensemble series is extraordinarily well-acted (as evidenced by Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Joanne Froggatt, Jim Carter and Brendan Coyle all receiving Emmy nominations), and there’s perhaps no easier way to describe some of the plot twists than fucking nuts, a term we strongly feel the saucy Dowager Countess would approve of. Amnesia? Yup. Temporary paralysis? Got it. Murder conviction? Oh, big-time. In less capable hands, these stories would’ve likely flown off the rails and veered into the completely ridiculous, but the talented cast of Downton Abbey manage to always handle it with aplomb. As the seasons progressed, many more tragedies would befall the Crawley family, making for some of most compelling television in recent memory, and all capped off with one of TV’s most satsifying finales (and then, another hugely satisfying movie). —Bonnie Stiernberg


8. Alfred Hitchock Presents

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Creator: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Alfred Hitchcock, Harry Tyler, John Williams
Original Networks: CBS, NBC

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It may be a little bit of a stretch to truly call Alfred Hitchcock Presents “horror,” as it were, but it was definitely high drama in the style created by the master of suspense. Hitchcock, of course, knew true horror, whether via The Birds or Psycho, and threads of these films, along with thrillers such as Notorious or North by Northwest, are woven into the long-running show’s DNA. Take the ultra-macabre episode “Man From the South,” starring horror icon Peter Lorre as an insidious old man with a truly nasty proposition for a young gambler played by Steve McQueen. Lorre’s character promises to give McQueen his Cadillac … if McQueen can successfully strike his Zippo lighter 10 times in a row. If he fails? Then Lorre will cut off McQueen’s finger as punishment. It’s a sadistic, weird premise that has since been adapted again multiple times, including by Quentin Tarantino in 1995’s Four Rooms, but none of them can touch Hitchcock. —Jim Vorel


7. Friday Night Lights

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Created by: Peter Berg
Stars: Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Taylor Kitsch, Jesse Plemons, Aimee Teegarden, Michael B. Jordan, Jurnee Smollett
Original Network: NBC

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Who ever thought football, a sport infamous for its meatheads and brute force, could be the cornerstone of one of television’s most delicate, affecting dramas? Heart-rending, infuriating, and rife with shattering setbacks and grand triumphs—Friday Night Lights is all of these, and in those ways it resembles the game around which the tiny town of Dillon, Texas, revolves. “Tender” and “nuanced” aren’t words usually applicable to the gridiron, but they fit the bill here, too. Full of heart but hardly saccharine, shot beautifully but hyper-realistically, and featuring a talented cast among which the teenagers and parents are—blessedly—clearly defined, the show manages to convince episode after episode that, yes, football somehow really is life. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. —Rachael Maddux


6. Frasier

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Created by: David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee
Stars: Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, John Mahoney, Peri Gilpin, Moose
Original Network: NBC

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Many classic sitcoms are paeans to blue-collar family life, but Frasier was the odd show that made cultural elites and eggheads somehow seem like lovable characters to a mass audience. Both Frasier and his brother Niles can be infuriatingly snobbish, but audiences soon found that when their petty jealousies were directed at each other, they could also be hilarious. The show quickly became an off-hand representation of the idea of “smart comedy” on TV, but it was also still a sitcom full of relationship humor. Viewers waited a hell of a long time in particular for the long-teased relationship between Niles and Daphne to finally come to fruition (seven full seasons). Frasier, on the other hand, is never really lucky in love, but he was always better as a semi-depressed single, turning his probing mind on himself. —Jim Vorel


5. Cheers

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Created by: James Burrows, Glen Charles, Les Charles
Stars: Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Kirstie Alley, Rhea Perlman, Nicholas Colasanto, John Ratzenberger, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, George Wendt
Original Network: NBC

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It was more than a bar where everybody knows your name. It was a lifestyle. Cheers rarely left the confines of the bar, but was able to weave slapstick comedy, romance and drama into the 11 seasons it was on the air. It started as the worst-rated series (74 out of 74) but climbed its way to the top 10 during the third season. Two casting changes couldn’t even slow it down. The ensemble all won awards in acting, and the show itself won four Outstanding Comedy Series awards. Unlike many sitcoms that touch on serious social issues, the show never felt like an after-school special. Everything was done with sophisticated humor. —Adam Vitcavage


4. Battlestar Galactica

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Created by: Glen A. Larson (original), Ronald D. Moore, David Eick
Stars: Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Michael Hogan, Aaron Douglas, Tricia Heifer, Grace Park, Tahmoh Penikett
Original Network: SyFy

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There’s often a dichotomy in art between the epic and the personal. Smaller stories, those dealing with the kinds of challenges we regularly experience-family, romance, friendship, work, money-connect because they’re familiar. We watch epic films like Braveheart or Lord of the Rings to get caught up in struggles much greater than we face and vicariously inherit the satisfaction of seeing them overcome. But then we read novels with minimal plots to see people like ourselves make the same stupid mistakes we do and come out on the other side having changed. Science fiction is almost entirely the domain of epic stories-working through a relationship gets completely overshadowed with the fate of humanity on the line. This is one of the main things sci-fi fans love about the genre and also what many people hate about it. So when people say that Battlestar Galactica is a show with a broader appeal than sci-fi, this is partly what they’re getting at.

Creator Ronald D. Moore took the bare bones of a campy 1970s series and completely reimagined it, bringing a realism that sci-fi hadn’t quite seen before. The ship itself is aging and cramped. Quarters are claustrophobic, leading their inhabitants to live in a hyper-sensitive fishbowl-everyone is in everyone else’s business. But where Battlestar Galactica trumps other sci-fi stories in the minutia, it also beats them at their own epic game. Each season propels the main story arc along at light speed. A limited number of Cylon models are perfect human replicas—“skinjobs” who’ve infiltrated the human fleet. Their relationship with humanity grows more complex as disagreement arises within their ranks. And humanity’s search for the mythical Earth is full of constant surprises.

Nearly every season is better than the last (even the misguided mess of a finale has its emotionally wrenching moments). With no alien civilizations to discover, Moore turns his lens inward on the species we know best. All the tensions in life are examined: religion vs. science, safety vs. freedom, the needs of the many vs. the needs of the few, conscience vs. loyalty, passion vs. commitment. And the show’s big question—”What does it mean to be human?”—is explored on every level, big and small. (Note for new viewers, make sure you watch the miniseries first) —Josh Jackson


3. 30 Rock

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Created by: Tina Fey
Stars: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer, Scott Adsit, Judah Friedlander
Original Network: NBC

Watch on Peacock

The spiritual successor to Arrested Development, 30 Rock succeeded where its competition failed by largely ignoring the actual process of creating a TV show and instead focusing on the life of one individual in charge of the process, played by show creator Tina Fey. 30 Rock never loses track of its focus, and creates a surprisingly deep character for its circus to spin around. But Fey’s not the only one who makes the series so outstanding. Consistently spot-on performances by Tracy Morgan—whether frequenting strip clubs or a werewolf bar mitzvah—and Alec Baldwin’s evil plans for microwave-television programming create a perfect level of chaos for the show’s writers to unravel every week. 30 Rock doesn’t have complex themes or a deep message, but that stuff would get in the way of its goal: having one of the most consistently funny shows ever on TV. Suffice to say, it succeeded. —Sean Gandert


2. The Office (U.S.)

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Created by: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Greg Daniels
Stars: Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, B. J. Novak
Original Network: NBC

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Ricky Gervais’ immortal Britcom deserves full marks for establishing this comedy franchise that killed the laugh track and introduced us to a hilarious bunch of paper-pushing mopes. Defying expectations that it would pale in comparison, NBC’s The Office became an institution unto itself. Before there was Steve Carell’s Michael Scott and endless “that’s what she said” jokes, there was Ricky Gervais’ equally clueless David Brent and his fantastical dancing. Before there were John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer’s adorable Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly, there were Martin Freeman and Lucy Davis’ star-crossed Tim Canterbury and Dawn Tinsley. And, of course, before there was Rainn Wilson’s assistant [to the] regional manager, Dwight Schrute, there was Gareth Keenan—Mackenzie Crook’s retired Territorial Army member, who is both obsessed with his slightly senior workplace status and his one-sided friendship with his boss. Still, long-running, Emmy-winning American spinoff remains a streaming mainstay as comfort TV, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. —Nick Marino and Whitney Friedlander


1. Parks and Recreation

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Created by: Greg Daniels, Michael Schur
Stars: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones
Original Network: NBC

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Parks and Recreation started its run as a fairly typical mirror of The Office, but by its third season, the student became the master. Fleshed out with oddballs and unusual city quirks (that are terribly relatable), Pawnee quickly became the greatest television town since Springfield. The show ultimately flourished with some of the most unique and interesting characters in comedy, who remain beloved thanks to the utter joy this show always delivered. With one of the greatest writing staffs on all of TV, watching Parks and Recreation—with its gentle heart and excellent humor—only gets better with time. —Ross Bonaime and Allison Keene



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