Who says that science fiction and fantasy stories have to be all serious drama with epic battles and apocalyptic stakes? And while we’re at it, who says that television sitcoms have to all be based around workplace shenanigans, family dysfunction or a group of friends going on misadventures? Why can’t they be both? In fact, some of the smartest and most unique TV shows in history have bent preconceived notions of what such stories should be to flawlessly blend the creative freedom of genre concepts with the easy relatability situational comedy.
Take for instance BoJack Horseman and The Good Place, two of the greatest TV shows of the 21st century – which both aired their final episodes on the very same day. Although both series were set in heightened realities (an animal-human fantasy world, and the afterlife respectively), they both utilized their heady concepts and sharp humour to illuminate aspects of the human condition in ways that traditional sci-fi / fantasy and comedy narratives never could. Genre enhanced the hilarity, and the laughs made exploring complex emotional, philosophical and moral issues more palatable.
Of course, BoJack Horseman and The Good Place weren’t the first shows to frame outlandish sci-fi, fantasy or horror elements within the comedy structure. From classics like Mork & Mindy and Bewitched, to millennial faves like 3rd Rock From The Sun and Futurama, to modern masterpieces like Rick and Morty and One-Punch Man – there have been plenty of great comedies to mine laughs from superpowers, super science, and the supernatural. These are just 30 of the greatest genre comedies in TV history.
Honorable mentions:Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Hyperdrive, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, Sealab 2021, Wellington Paranormal, Final Space, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Wonderfalls
30) Stan Against Evil
This breezy horror-comedy about a disgraced small-town sheriff who teams with his replacement to battle demons in New Hampshire such an underseen delight.
29) Santa Clarita Diet
The mundane lives of a married couple gets turned upside down when one of them becomes undead. A morbidly funny mix of zombie gore and everyday suburban problems.
28) Good Omens
As the apocalypse descends upon humanity, an angel and a demon forge a divine bromance in order to save the world. This twee buddy comedy is a blasphemous romp.
27) Ash vs Evil Dead
Our chainsaw-handed hero reluctantly emerges to battle the Evil Dead yet again in this sequel series to the Sam Raimi’s cult classic trilogy. A grisly and extremely fun horror-comedy.
26) The Orville
A humorous riff on Star Trek, this goofy space comedy happily uses juvenile jokes to couch some astute socio-political commentary and touching character development.
25) Harley Quinn
Hyper violent and ultra vulgar, this series follows Harley Quinn as strives to make it on her own as supervillain after breaking up with the Joker. This is a demented, laugh-out-loud riot!
24) The Middleman
Filled with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jokes and pop culture references, this smart and charming series is what would happen if you put The Tick and the 50s’ Superman series in a blender.
23) Legends of Tomorrow
Although spun-off from the self-serious Arrowverse, Legends of Tomorrow is anything but! This madcap, time-travelling series is the funniest and most bonkers show in this or any timeline.
22) Red Dwarf
Set aboard a mining spaceship, this wry British series follows technician Dave Lister (the last living human) as he travels the universe with a hologram and a race of humanoid felines.
21) The Jetsons
While the Flintsones lived in the comical version of the stone age, this was Hanna-Barbera’s space-age counterpart. This family sitcom set in the far future was way ahead of its time.
20) What We Do In The Shadows
Taika Waititi’s vampire mockumentary makes a seamless transition to TV. Featuring offbeat, deadpan humour.This series expands its quirky mythology into the doldrums of Staten Island.
19) Gravity Falls
Following twins Mabel and Dipper who help their eccentric uncle operate a bizarre museum, this wonderfully funny cartoon blends supernatural mystery with heartwarming family dynamics.
18) SpongeBob Squarepants
The playful and clever cartoon revolves around a chipper sea sponge. This irresistible celebration of positivity pops off the screen with its absurd sensibility and vivid characterizations.
One of the longest running sitcoms in history, this enchanting series follows nose-twitching witch Samantha Stevens, who moves to the suburbs to be with her strait-laced mortal husband.
16) Dexter’s Laboratory
Revolving around the misadventures of a pint-size inventor with a secret lab and his ditsy big sister, this deceptively sophisticated cartoon is a zany treat for both adults and children.
15) Invader Zim
Striking the right balance of dark humor, grimy misantrophy and spastic earnestness, this series follows an inept alien spy scouting Earth for invasion by posing as a grammar-school student.
14) The Addams Family
The very first onscreen version of The Addams Family introduced the ghoulish household to the masses! This macabre inversion of the ideal 20th century American family was timeless satire.
13) The Tick
There have actually been three different series based on The Tick! And with each iteration over the last 30 years, this superhero spoof keeps evolving it’s meta humour for new generations.
12) Los Espookys
This delightfully weird Mexican series revolves around a group of horror aficionados who decide to turn their passion for the macabre into a business. This off-kilter comedy is a must-watch!
11) Mystery Science Theatre 3000
Centering around “average Joes” and their robot friends, who are kidnapped by mad scientists and forced to watch the worst sci-fi movies ever made, this series is a homage to genre cheese.
10) The Venture Bros.
A sharp satire of Hanna Barbera cartoons, superhero tropes, spy adventures and sci-fi concepts – this series is the genesis for this golden age of adult animation. One of our personal favourites!
This sitcom about a furry Alien Life Form stranded on Earth, and finds a home with a suburban family, is an evergreen font for wacky wisdom and acerbic cracks about human foibles.
8) One-Punch Man
Armed with an almighty punch and deadpan punchlines, this subversive Japanese anime loves to poke fun at superheroes and shonen cliches. As visually dazzling as it is gut-bustingly funny.
7) Mork & Mindy
Featuring a breakout role for Robin Williams, this popular Happy Days spin-off is about a wacky alien from the planet Ork and the sweet-natured woman who teaches him how to live on Earth.
6) Adventure Time
The exploits of a boy and his magical dog are chronicled in this terrific cartoon set in the Land of Ooo. Buoyed by amazing music and emotional depth, this imaginative series was profound.
5) 3rd Rock From The Sun
There have been plenty of comedies about aliens trying to learn about human society by living in small-town suburbia, but none proved to be as insightful or consistently funny as this one.
4) Rick and Morty
This audacious romp through time-travelling, space-faring, and multiversal conceits is a breathlessly inventive genre parody, elevated by acidic wit and existential complexity.
3) The Good Place
This smart comedy, about a group of people who are mistakenly sent to heaven after they die, couches it’s afterlife exploration of moral philosophy behind kind friendship and clever humour.
As great as The Simpsons’ glory days, this sharply satirical animation – about a man from 1999 who thaws out in the 31st century – is a kooky and affecting look at the world of tomorrow.
1 BoJack Horseman
This poignant and incisive satire of toxic Hollywood culture and damaged male anti-heroes, set in a fantastical animal-human world, is alternately absurdly funny and emotionally devastating.