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January 20, 2012 4:00 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend mindlessly relaxing American sitcoms to me along the lines of How I Met Your Mother, Community, New Girl, Happy Endings etc. I'm currently under massive amounts of stress and these are the only things that help me relax.

I am suffering intensely from stress at work and my only fail-safe method of relaxation is to come home and slump in front of the TV watching American sitcoms.

I don't want anything too clever, ironic, or mock-documentary-style. I just want to sit back and let it wash over me. I like the whole "group of well-lit attractive friends who always hang around in the same bar"-style of sitcom. I'd rather avoid laugh tracks. Out of the sitcoms I listed, I like New Girl best because the characters are quite sympathetic, so character-storylines that you can really get behind are a plus too.

Please don't recommend British comedies, I am in the UK and have a good knowledge of those already! I also don't really find them as relaxing as the American ones.
posted by Ziggy500 to Media & Arts (65 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
If you have Netflix Streaming, last I checked they have every season of the 1980s sitcom Soap. It's slapsticky, but has complicated characters and character-driven plotlines, plus it has some of the meta-deconstruction of the genre like Community does.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:05 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Parks and Recreation is a refreshing diversion that's funny, smart and easy on the mind. Also Seinfeld works for stress, especially if you've seen every episode a thousand times, watching it starts a become a meditative zen-like experience (considering and laughing at things you forgot or never saw before) that continually produces a comforting relaxing experience in times of stress.
posted by mbx at 4:12 AM on January 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

I know what you mean. Usually I watch something really great, but sometimes I feel like something dumb and easy. Do you get Hulu in the UK? From there, I would recommend Happy Endings to fit your "attractive friends who always hang around the same bar" sitcom.

Also, Mary Tyler Moore episodes are good therapy for when you feel like you are the little guy in a fight against the world. There are several episodes streaming on hulu from the first 3 seasons. (There is a laugh track, though, but I don't mind laugh tracks in retro TV as much.)
posted by shortyJBot at 4:21 AM on January 20, 2012

Seconding Parks and Recreation. It's pretty much the smartest, sweetest, happiest sitcom I've seen in a long time.
posted by fight or flight at 4:30 AM on January 20, 2012 [9 favorites]

Maybe I'm biased because I was watching more TV back then, but I think that the 1990s was the golden age of sitcoms--I think there are so many watchable shows from that era that are funny without being corny, and good production values without having an overly slick or produced feeling. "Mad About You" and "Dharma and Greg" are two well-acted couples comedies about very likeable (but of course very different, hence the fodder for the laughs) characters.
posted by drlith at 4:38 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is Canadian, but Corner Gas is light and funny.
And it is not current, but Will and Grace fits this need for me.
posted by girlpublisher at 4:42 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you have Netflix, I highly recommend Party Down and Archer. Especially Archer. God yes, Archer.

Are you watching it now? You should be.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:46 AM on January 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

Thirding Parks and Rec. It starts off more mock-documentary than it really is. The first season can be a slog, but it is SO worth it.

If you don't mind an hour long, mostly comedy dramedy, I highly recommend Psych.

If you can get past the laugh track, The Big Bang Theory might work.

Maybe Raising Hope or Modern Family.

And Better Off Ted, although you might be heartbroken by its untimely demise. Or maybe not, you're in the UK and you're used to short TV runs.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:51 AM on January 20, 2012

30 Rock and Better Off Ted
posted by Blake at 4:51 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Northern Exposure MIGHT work...although it's tone may be more "gently quirky and heartwarming" than "fashionable friends hanging out in a bar". But the "heartwarming" never really gets too sacchrine, and the "quirky" characters are endearingly distinctive rather than just "weird".

If you're also looking for sheer all-out farce, go with Laverne and Shirley.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:52 AM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Go back in time a ways:

Cheers - Not attractive, but homely-in-a-good-way folks hanging around a well-lit bar.
Northern Exposure - Every character is sympathetic, and treated with dignity... what's amazing is that despite this, the show is funny and engaging.
The Adventures of Pete and Pete - Yeah, it's a kid's show. It was also the best damn thing on TV in the '90s. Weird characters in surreal situations, yet very sweet and warm.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:54 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another older one that I think is still on Hulu is Newsradio, which is a pretty well-written screwball comedy.
posted by gauche at 4:58 AM on January 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

Did you ever watch Friends? You probably have, but it's maybe been a while? It's like, the apex of 90s sitcoms, and undeniably relaxing, charming, and all of that stuff. It sort of saturated culture for a while but it honestly does stand up in retrospect. It's got laughter but it's studio audience laughter, less canned.

Also super heartwarming and charming and quite laugh-track free is the classic Wonder Years, although it might make you cry from all the emotions you'll inevitably be feeling. It will be the good sort of cry though.

Seconding Cheers and Pete and Pete, and actually the Cheers sequel, Frasier, might be more up your alley than its predecessor - the characters are compelling and you become attached to them, particularly Frasier's father and brother, and everybody in it is that level of well-off and capable that you don't feel so bad when they're in trouble - you can laugh along with everyone.
posted by Mizu at 5:00 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Big Bang Theory is light like HIMYM. I found Melissa and Joey on Hulu and accidentally watched an episode and actually really liked it.
posted by k8t at 5:06 AM on January 20, 2012

NewsRadio is a classic. You may also like Black Books - it's BBC, but pretty light and entertaining enough. My girlfriend gets a kick out of Up All Night with Will Arnette and . . . a lady whose name I can't remember. Most of the episodes should be on Hulu.

You may also enjoy USA network's mini-genre of sitcom procedurals. Very light hour-long shows that are like CSI in appearance, but more like Seinfeld or Cheers in style. Psych is the best one, but I've heard good things about Burn Notice as well. They are nicknamed 'diet pepsi' television because they are so airy and affable.
posted by Think_Long at 5:13 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

ooops, missed the british comedy bit. sorry.
posted by Think_Long at 5:14 AM on January 20, 2012

It's new, but Suburgatory is terrific. No laugh track. It's a father-and-daughter family sitcom, lots of well-lit and attractive scenes. Also, if you're up for more typical family sitcoms, Malcolm in the Middle is awesome (although hard to find -- they never released DVDs past Season 1 in the states -- but hey, while confirming that I just realized they're apparently now on Netflix Streaming -- win!). And I second (fifteenth?) Parks & Rec and Modern Family.
posted by pie ninja at 5:29 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

King of Queens
posted by Telpethoron at 5:31 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you seen Two Broke Girls? An old British sitcom that I like is Keeping Up Appearances. Just so you get an idea of my taste in shows, I am a fan of Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and Modern Family. I also watch CSI Las Vegas because my boyfriend George Eads is on that show and I want to support his acting.
posted by Yellow at 5:32 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Psych was this for us until we watched all the seasons on netflix.
posted by ejaned8 at 5:44 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

My Boys

Here's the Netflix summary:
Sportswriter P.J. Franklin (Jordana Spiro) has a tight group of guy friends with whom she enjoys poker nights, beer and pizza parties and going to the games, but all those men hanging around tend to get in the way of romance in this riotous TBS sitcom. P.J.'s tomboy inclinations are encouraged by her brother (Jim Gaffigan) and other male chums, but her one female friend, Stephanie (Kellee Stewart), encourages her to flaunt her feminine charms.
posted by zinon at 5:45 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

People have mentioned Modern Family kind of in passing here, but it is absolutely in the Pantheon of all-time sitcoms at this point. Great characters, really funny, heartwarming family connections, no stress. There is very little of what I call "cringe comedy" in it, which is what I call things like The Office, Extras, Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc. in which you are supposed to laugh at the extremely awkward social situations the protagonists put themselves in. That type of comedy actually stresses me out, and I can't watch too much of it.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:48 AM on January 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Cheers, Taxi, Night Court, Frasier.
posted by empath at 5:52 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

nthing King of Queens and Big Bang Theory.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 5:58 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cheers, Newhart, and Frasier sound like they might be up your alley, though they do have laugh-tracks. NewsRadio shares some structural elements with Community and Arrested Development. Parks and Recreation is nominally mock-documentary style, but it's not cringe-humour-based like, say, The Office (at least if you skip the first season of P&R, which you should.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:58 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Big Bang Theory does this for me.
posted by crankylex at 6:11 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Based on the page title, I'm assuming you've already watched Friends.

I want to second Parks and Rec and Big Bang Theory. I'd add Mike and Molly. I actually think House could work here, too, even though it's more of a drama and a little darker.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:17 AM on January 20, 2012

I have been surprisingly taken with Cougar Town. It's really silly, a bit irreverant, and has made me laugh out loud at times. Don't let the name put you off. After about the first 3 episodes it's not really about Courtney Cox being a cougar. It's sort of like Friends but with more drinking, less clothes, and no laugh track.
posted by like_neon at 6:20 AM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Going off of the "no laugh track preferred," I found this (undoubtedly incomplete) list of sitcoms without laugh tracks. Going over that list, it seems that Scrubs might best fit your other requirements as well. (Strange to me that I'm recommending this, because it was never my cup of tea, but a lot of people seem to like the show.)

I really enjoyed Malcolm in the Middle, although it's family-centered rather than group-of-friends. I like the "family that fights amongst themselves, but sticks together like glue if anyone outside attacks them" trope, but admittedly some people find it overly negative.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:25 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Based on the page title, I'm assuming you've already watched Friends.

Friends has also been repeated four times a day on Freeview for 10 years now.

Malcolm in the Middle is awesome (although hard to find -- they never released DVDs past Season 1 in the states -- but hey, while confirming that I just realized they're apparently now on Netflix Streaming -- win!)

Malcolm in the Middle is on channel 5 every day (or one of its spinoff channels).

I also really enjoyed Better Off Ted (and am a huge HIMYM and Big Bang Theory fan).
posted by ellieBOA at 6:28 AM on January 20, 2012

Well, Two and a Half Men (pre- Kutcher) is pretty much a standard for the genre. The laughtrack doesn't bother me much. Big bang Theory... laughtrack DOES bother me much. And the 'look how geeky this is, see the geekyness? GEEK!' Ahem.

Arrested Development. 30 rock? These both might be too clever... (not that I actually watch 30 rock..)

HECK YEAH! A. Pete & Pete.
posted by Jacen at 6:29 AM on January 20, 2012

Cheers, Taxi, Night Court, Frasier

Wings is another sitcom in the "workplace buddies" genre. It was created by the same producers as Cheers and Frasier although it's generally considered to be the weakest show out of the three. Might work as relaxing not too clever sitcom fodder though.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:32 AM on January 20, 2012

Parks & Recreation is gentle, sweet natured and funny with sympathetic, well-acted characters.

Modern Family is mostly pleasant to watch too; though there's one character ("Phil") whose storylines get into cringe territory sometimes.

30 Rock is funny, very little cringing.

I know people said "Seinfeld" but I disagree, its characters were such unpleasant people that the whole thing was an ordeal to watch (that said, the Festivus episode is one of the funniest half hours of TV ever created.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:49 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Everyone's said it but, Parks and Recreation is just a really nice show about nice people that is also hilarious. I'd skip the first series.

Also: the last couple of series of The Big Bang Theory, which is my current kind of embarrassing guilty pleasure. The nerd humour's gotten less mean and more affectionate, and I've found the addition of girl nerds has really brought the whole thing up. It does have kind of a jarring laugh track.

Cougar Town is a perfect suggestion for the same kind of feeling as shows like Happy Endings, but the characters a bit older. It's the kind of thing I'll always watch on a plane, if you know what I mean. Scrubs is by the same guy and is very funny and good-natured, especially the first few seasons, but is set in a hospital and sometimes is also sad. I think it was way more influential than people give it credit for on the current crop of goofy single camera shows.

I love Community but part of its thing is kind of a bizarre and occasionally disturbing deconstruction of this style of sitcom so you might not find it as relaxing. Same with 30 Rock, it's a good show - early seasons were great - but it's more sharply satirical.
posted by SoftRain at 6:55 AM on January 20, 2012

Modern Family
Big Bang Theory
Parks & Rec
2 Broke Girls
I find "Burn Notice" though not technically a comedy, fun brain candy.

Some older or no longer on comedies for you

Better of Ted
Third Rock from the Sun, It's an oldy but a goody just don't watch the last season as it sucks.
Due South is fun, silly, relaxing and a cop show with Mounties.

Some of those may have a laugh track though, I have to confess I am one of those people who don't notice that.
posted by wwax at 6:56 AM on January 20, 2012

My stress levels and I thank you all for your suggestions! Looking forward to checking all of these out.

Good to know that Parks and Recreation gets better because I only saw one episode from season 1 and got bored halfway through - I will try again with season 2 onwards.
posted by Ziggy500 at 7:02 AM on January 20, 2012

Nthing Cougar Town (ignore the name, ABC marketing picked it for them and the people making the show hate it), Archer, and Better off Ted as ensemble comedies that aren't trying to be too clever. You may also want to check out some of the dramedy series on SyFy, such as Warehouse 13 and Eureka.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:02 AM on January 20, 2012

The Big Bang Theory is so effective in this regard that it is the go-to in our household after we've had a big fight and are just starting to make up.
posted by Acheman at 7:04 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Big Bang Theory, Rules of Engagement, Seinfeld(I don't think it's an "ordeal" to watch but ymmv), Will and Grace...others from the 90s that people have listed.
posted by fromageball at 7:11 AM on January 20, 2012

Lots of good shows here already (Scrubs, Better off Ted, Archer, Modern Family, Party Down, etc.)

If you like sketch comedy you might like Portlandia.

Also you should definitely watch Sports Night (I can't believe no one has mentioned it yet).
posted by ephemerista at 7:20 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Better off Ted is delightful.
posted by synapse at 7:30 AM on January 20, 2012

Parenthood always seems to make me smile without asking for too much thought in return.
posted by Weeping_angel at 7:33 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

fuck yes better off ted
posted by elizardbits at 7:35 AM on January 20, 2012

Becker. Good, mindless, harmless, take-you-by-the-hand fun. And it's neat spotting everyone who shows up working for Mad Men later.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:39 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

2 Broke Girls. Totally ridiculous but very relatable.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:42 AM on January 20, 2012

Frasier is currently on daily at 08:25 Channel 4 (09:25 on Channel 4+1).
posted by humph at 7:46 AM on January 20, 2012

Would an animated sitcom count? King of the Hill is basically my go-to for this. Unlike many animated shows aimed at adults, it maintains a heavy dose of realism, so wacky, impossible things generally do not happen; like most animated shows, it does not have a laugh track. It's also well-written, funny, and very sweet and comforting.

Seinfeld is my other go-to for mindless TV, but that may be because I've seen it so many times that I find it comforting. A fair bit of it is cringe-humor, though, and it has a laugh track. If you decide to give Seinfeld a go - and it could work - I strongly recommend that you stick with the early seasons, when the characters are more neurotic than detestable and the situations are more mundane than zany.

It's already been mentioned, but Scrubs is another one that could work. It's kind of corny, but it draws you in.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:08 AM on January 20, 2012

I've been away so long that I don't even know if C4 still has its Friday night block of American comedy (having checked: no, but they are showing New Girl) but I'm going to focus on Parks & Rec, Cougar Town, Modern Family and possibly Raising Hope, which is the spiritual successor to My Name Is Earl, and if you haven't seen My Name Is Earl, then add that to the list. All great ensemble comedies, neither demanding nor overbearing.
posted by holgate at 8:10 AM on January 20, 2012

The Middle (different than Malcolm in the Middle, although it has a similar vibe) is pretty good.
posted by candyland at 8:23 AM on January 20, 2012

My absolute favorite way to end the night after a day of work and kids is either King of Queens or Big Bang Theory. I've seen every episode of King of Queens a million times but I still laugh every time. I just started watching Big Bang Theory on TBS recently and love it to pieces.
posted by daydreamer at 8:24 AM on January 20, 2012

Also you should definitely watch Sports Night (I can't believe no one has mentioned it yet).

Yes great show, but...

I'd rather avoid laugh tracks.

The laugh track on Sports Night is very off-putting.

Most the sitcoms I know are more family centric, but I remember Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place being pretty funny (if you can find it).
posted by zinon at 8:42 AM on January 20, 2012

Traffic Light is charming. It only lasted one season, but every episode is solid.
posted by homodachi at 9:24 AM on January 20, 2012

The Big Bang Theory is filmed in front of a live studio audience. I'm sure they have paid laughers to get people going though.
posted by ljesse at 9:48 AM on January 20, 2012

Gilmore Girls is one that I can't help but love. It's an hour long, no laugh track funny/sweet show about a mom and daughter in a small east coast town called- they talk fast, are quirky and funny and the townspeople are all quite lovable. Also some light angst to keep it interesting.
posted by Bibliogeek at 9:53 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you can stand the laugh tracks, I'll go ahead and nth Frasier. My wife is on her second watch-through of the seasons. It's pretty light stuff, and I definitely wouldn't rank it up there in terms of actual comedy with shows like 30 Rock or Arrested Development, but I totally find it relaxing and pleasurable to watch.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:03 AM on January 20, 2012

I think the second season of Sports Night did not have a laugh track. Loved that show.
posted by merejane at 10:16 AM on January 20, 2012

Pushing Daisies is sweet & wonderful. Watch all episodes here
posted by belladonna at 10:49 AM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Of the classics, I really enjoy The Golden Girls.

And here's another vote for Modern Family.
posted by Dragonness at 11:57 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Barney Miller. It's consistently good, begins to wane a bit in the final season, but great characters, and often cited as one of the more realistic portrayals of police work in America.(even though it's a comedy)

Also consider any three-camera show attributed to James L Brooks
posted by CarlRossi at 12:06 PM on January 20, 2012

The L Word.
Focuses more on their relationships and emotional good-n'-bad and less so on sets. Mainly sticks with the coffee shop and their houses and/or apartments. Introduces sets gradually. Not a comedy, but decently funny now and then.

I really like this show. ^_^
posted by DisreputableDog at 1:29 PM on January 20, 2012

Modern Family- yes, it's a bit mockumentary, but you quickly overlook that and latch onto the characters

posted by peachtree at 1:34 PM on January 20, 2012

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia!

They all "work" a the same bar. If you need a break from the stress of your job, escape to these worthless, yet hilarious individuals who have no regard for anyone but themselves.
posted by mjthomas at 3:17 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Zinon states that the Sports Night laugh track is horrible. And it is. But the producer, Aaron Sorkin, was very much against having a laugh track, and managed to slowly phase it out across season one, until I don't remember there being a trace of it in season two. Sports Night is one of the all-time best of the American sit-coms, in my opinion, and is woefully under the radar.
posted by thebrokedown at 4:35 PM on January 20, 2012

Raising Hope fits your needs perfectly.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 8:50 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just came to also recommend My Name Is Earl and holgate beat me to it. Good ensemble cast, good humour, no laugh track.
posted by like_neon at 7:43 AM on January 23, 2012

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