Some sitcoms get by on the charm of their characters, like a little show called Friends or more recently, Modern Family. But many are strengthened by a really good setting. And the best setting? A workplace. Many TV comedies have portrayed the ins and out of working in certain industries to hilarious results. Whether it be an office setting or an airplane hanger, there’s a show for every kind of workplace.
Since TV’s been around there have been shows depicting what it’s like to work in retail, editorial, retail, and more. Sometimes the best way to deal with your long day at work is to come home and watch your industry be lambasted on television. Here are some of the best, and funniest, workplace comedies in TV history!
What’s a better workplace than a bar?! Ted Danson stars as Sam, a baseball player turned bar owner who tends to his bar and his eccentric regulars. The ensemble cast makes the bar feel like home (“where everybody knows your name…”) and definitely makes you wish that was your neighborhood hangout. Cheers remains one of the most popular sitcoms of all time and one of the best glimpses of bar-life a TV show can offer.
Workaholics has a pretty deceiving name, since these guys spend more time trying to figure how not to work than anything else. The three main “workaholics” graduate college and enter the workforce as telemarketers and basically professional goofballs. Their days in the telemarketing office is full of things you only wish you could do at work. Lots of pranks, a little bit of rudeness to customers on the phone, and a whole bunch of sassing the boss. Can we get a job with these guys?
16. Ugly Betty
While the premise seems a little troublesome on the surface — an “ugly” girl gets a job at a fashion magazine where she’s completely out of place, haha — it’s one of the workplace comedy greats. Betty (America Ferrara) takes her life at the magazine in stride, providing a view at what it’s like to be a normal person in an industry where looks are valued too much. Plus, a look at the ins and outs of creating a fashion magazine, while fictionalized for the show, is fascinating.
15. WKRP in Cincinnati
This cult classic sitcom follows a crew at a radio statio after the format is abruptly changed from jazz to rock n’ roll and they need to navigate the stark difference. The staff is a mix of new blood and old vets trying to come together and make their station a success. It’s a sharp look at the inner workings of the radio industry, full of humor and silliness. And despite being an early ’80s hit, it’s still as relevant as ever, even in a changing media landscape.
14. It’s Always Sunny in a Philadelphia
If Cheers defined the workplace comedy set in a bar, the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia completely corrupted it. The Paddy’s gang works hard at not working at all, managing to stay afloat while drinking roughly 90% of the their stock themselves. Their penchant for schemes and tricks usually gets them into some trouble… not that they care. They’re always willing to do basically anything — including crack — as long as it doesn’t involve actually doing their job or being good people. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This is one workplace you don’t see often on TV: the office of a spy operation. Sterling Archer (H. John Benjamin) works with his mother, a slew of eccentric coworkers, and an on-again-off-again lover as they spy and sleuth for rich clientele. It’s a hilarious look at the spy industry which regularly includes highly illegal activity and Russian interference (hmm, sounds familiar). If being a spy is really that exciting and fun, sign us up!
Another look into the world of broadcast radio, this time at a morning show in New York City. The wit, sarcasm, and fast-pace will draw you right into this classic sitcom. The station is full of coworkers that are more like family and who get into some legitimately absurd situations. While this one veered a little far from realistic at times, it was still smart and serious when it needed to be. And for that, we’d be happy to tune into WNYX.
11. Party Down
While many depictions of struggling actors and artists on TV are of bright-eyed waiters and hostesses, this show takes a more realistic approach. A bunch of wannabe Hollywood stars work together catering parties from bat mitzvah’s to porn awards all while trying to achieve their actual dreams. They’re cynical and sometimes angry about their stagnant place in the service industry, and it makes the show all the more realistic but no less hilarious. Plus, Adam Scott can work with me any day.
When the workplace is the White House, you know you’re in for an interesting TV show. Selina (Julia Louis Dreyfus) is the Vice President-turned-President navigating politics in the most absurd and hilarious ways possible. While this fictionalized version of the White House definitely isn’t anywhere close to real life (though we wish), it’s a fun twist on TV politics. Selina Myer is MY President.
9. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) was the original single gal doing it all for herself. When she breaks up with her boyfriend and moves to a new city, she becomes the associate producer of the evening news at a low-rated station. Richards was an independent career-driven woman at a time when those were few and far between. The show chronicled her time spent putting out fires at the station and helping her friends manage their own personal issues. It’s a great look at the life of a woman who works hard and gets what she wants, all while being something other that a pretty girl in front of the camera. She helped run that news station and got paid in the process. Inspiring.
This workplace comedy follows the life of medical interns at a teaching hospital. It’s funnier than it sounds. The show gives the ins and outs of hospital life in the most ridiculous ways possible. Throughout the series, we see the hospital staff start out as “scrubs” at the bottom of the barrell and rise in the ranks to success in the medical field. Plus, there’s a whole lot of singing on the show. Obviously it’s not super true to real life, but we can hope, right?
There are no other comedies on TV that celebrate working as a cabbie, and for that, Taxi will always reign supreme. The show follows the taxi cab biz in New York City as a group of cabbies try to make some money and move forward in their lives. We can almost guarentee the taxi business isn’t as hilarious and amiable as the show makes it seen (we’ve all had a creepy cabbie drive us around), but the show gives a good look into an overlooked profession. Not everyone is an office worker or doctor — sometimes people are just working a job to get by and trying achieve their dreams on the side.
6. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
There are plenty of police procedurals on TV, showing the hard-luck life of being a cop. But there are very few comedies that depict life in this industry, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine is certainly the best. The show gives us a glimpse into the silly detectives working at the 99th precinct in New York City. While there is no way these cops would be able to get into the hijinks they do and still be great at solving crimes, it’s fun to imagine a world where law enforcement isn’t as scary and unapproachable, but instead is full of guys like Andy Samberg.
This may be the only show ever set at an airplace hanger. Wings does not, in fact, cover the boneless honey barbecue wing indistry — it’s all about airplanes! The unique workplace comedy is set at a small Nantucket airport run by two brothers. The show follows the airport workers as well as the regulars who fly in and out. It’s a different kind of work environment than you usually see on TV and that makes it all the more fascinating.
One of the most common jobs in the world is one you don’t really see on TV all that often: retail. Superstore takes a surprisingly realistic look at the world of working in a big box store. There are good days, and then there are days where every customer makes you want to quit on the spot. The show tackles everything from getting health care at work to inter-store dating. As someone who’s worked the #retaillife I can attest to the scary accuracy of the show!
3. Parks and Recreation
This workplace is right in the title, and this show is all about the parks and recreation department in rural Indiana. The dedicated staff, led by the uber-dedicated Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), work to restore and maintain parks in their small town as well as convert new spaces into beautiful pieces of nature. They put on festivals and fairs, and even make the “smallest park in Indiana”! Few towns have the dedicated resources to parks and recreation that Pawnee does, but it makes you feel good about the world to think there are people out there working hard to just to make the world a more natural and beautiful place.
2. 30 Rock
This is a glimpse into a total dream job. Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and her staff work at 30 Rockafellar Center, running a comedy sketch show à la Saturday Night Live. It’s a hilarious, and often stressful, look into what it takes to run a show of that magnitude. And if anyone knows, it’s Fey – who had a long tenure as SNL‘s head writer. The look inside the writers room and board room of the fictionalized NBC is any comedy nerd’s dream come true.
1. The Office
The show is literally called The Office — how much more “workplace comedy” can you get?! The crew at Dunder-Mifflin includes caricatures of basically everyone you’ve ever worked with. The likeable guy, the egotistical boss, the prankster, the cynic — everyone. But it never feels hokey or forced, it just feels like a real working environment. For better or for worse! There’s even office romance and feuds, because every good workplace has crazy ~drama~. Few shows do working life better than The Office (and its British predecessor!) did.