Friends cast drinking milkshakes
NBC | NBC

Truth Is, '90s Sitcoms Will Always Have A Leg Up On 2000s Sitcoms

At the risk of sounding like an old man yelling at clouds passing by, I'm going to go out on a limb and make a grand sweeping statement: sitcoms today, by and large, suck.

They've become totally dishonest and care more about not pissing off their audience than they do about genuinely making them laugh. For this reason, '90s sitcoms will always have a leg up on their 2000s counterparts — it's just a fact.

Have you ever thought about what makes a sitcom timeless?

Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer in court in the final episode of 'Seinfeld'.
NBC | NBC

It's a simple question with a rather complicated set of parameters. In order to be timeless, a sitcom should be infinitely rewatchable. It must be universally comical across generational divides, and it must not seek to alienate its audience by being overly preachy or political.

What showrunners nowadays tend to forget is that sitcoms are a form of escapism.

Frasier, Niles, and Martin watching TV in 'Frasier'.
NBC | NBC

They aren't intended to be a reflection of the real world and its myriad of problems. But rather an idealized or satirical representation of the society in which we live.

This is why sitcoms of the '90s remain as relevant and popular today as they were back then.

Ross carrying a couch up the stairs yelling "Pivot!" in 'Friends'.
Giphy | Friends

It's no secret why series like Friends and Seinfeld are two of the most rewatched shows on Netflix and across streaming platforms — it's because they leave themselves open for reinterpretation across generational demographics.

You don't need to see every episode of 'Friends' to be able to understand why Ross wearing leather pants is funny.

Nor do you need to be an expert in Seinfeld to be able to appreciate the commentary on society's unwritten rules — like when we see George Costanza double-dipping a chip at a party.

On the other hand, a show like 'Community' or 'Arrested Development' demands more from its respective audience.

George Sr. and Buster in prison in 'Arrested Development'.
Fox | Fox

There's a certain amount of dedication and viewer continuity required in order to get the most out of the humor in these shows.

For instance, someone who jumps into 'Community' midway through the series wouldn't understand the humor in hearing "Britta is the worst."

George Sr., Lucille, and Lindsay doing the chicken dance in 'Arrested Development'.
Giphy |

Audience members would likely be left scratching their heads upon seeing the Bluths perform the chicken dance, had they not been watching from day one. Running jokes are great for series diehards, but they fall flat for the casual viewer.

Another reason why there are very few timeless sitcoms of the 2000s all boils down to originality.

Phil Dunphy filming a talking head on the couch in 'Modern Family'.
ABC | ABC

The 2000s were the era when the mockumentary was born. Therefore, it's impossible not to begin to see elements of The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family begin to blend into one another — especially when they're all discussing the same pop-cultural events.

On the other hand, '90s sitcoms manage to remain relevant because of their complete lack of real-world commentary.

Tim and Jill Taylor in 'Home Improvement'.
ABC | ABC

Sitcoms shouldn't be a means to make commentaries on morality, ethics, or global politics. And it's because 2000s sitcom humor is so reliant on timely pop-cultural references that it becomes lost and muddied as years go by.

What we're left with is a collection of shows with mixed messages, nonsensical plots, and unresolved issues.

David Wallace and Robert California making an announcement to the office in 'The Office'.
NBC | NBC

Say what you will about the lack of voice or commentary from '90s sitcoms, the one thing that these showrunners understood was the audience's need for resolution.

In the span of 30 minutes, sitcoms of the '90s were able to create a 360-degree narrative arc.

Topanga Lawrence covering her face in lipstick in 'Boy Meets World'.
Giphy |

Unlike today, where every episode is a continuation of the one that preceded it, and plotlines tend to last for an entire season as opposed to a single episode.

More than anything else, what makes a sitcom timeless is the absence of woke culture and sociopolitical grandstanding.

Jerry and George getting soup from the Soup Nazi in 'Seinfeld'.
NBC | NBC

In order for a sitcom to become timeless, it has to entrust its audience with the ability to identify a joke when they hear one. It cannot be afraid to risk being perceived as offensive, and it absolutely cannot cater to the morality of the moment.