Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Workplace TV Comedies

As the song says, “Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend, yeah!” As we drift into a long Labor Day holiday weekend (yes, the blog will be closed on Monday), let’s close out this week with a Roundtable about our favorite TV comedies set in workplaces.

Luke Hickman

I’m not really a fan of 30-minute sitcoms, but I fell head-over-heels in love with ‘Scrubs‘. I had many friends who watched the hospital-set comedy from the get-go, but I didn’t see an episode until the premiere of the fourth season. I ate it up. Both the romantic and the bromatic comedy spoke my language, so I picked up the DVDs of the previous seasons and also watched new episodes weekly. The 2007 Writer’s Strike took a huge toll on the seventh season’s quality, which caused NBC to finally drop the show, but when ABC picked it up afterwards, the series only got better. The finale of the eighth season was perfect, an absolutely fitting closure for Zach Braff’s character. I don’t know a single fan who didn’t adore it.

ABC tried to continue the show with a spin-off season that featured new cast members (including the awesome Dave Franco), but it just wasn’t the same. The original cast made guest appearances, but not enough viewers took to it, so the plug was pulled after a half-season. Truthfully, the first four episodes of the ninth season were bad, but it found its groove after that and I was sad to see the show go.

Daniel Hirshleifer

This one is easy: ‘NewsRadio‘. Dave Foley leads a cast that includes Maura Tierney, Stephen Root, Joe Rogan, Andy Dick and Phil Hartman in a pitch-perfect show about a New York radio station. I loved the show so much that whenever I see any of the actors in another project (with the exception of Foley, who will always be a Kid in the Hall first), I immediately think of them as from ‘NewsRadio’.

The show didn’t break any boundaries of the sitcom format the way that ‘The Office’ did, but that didn’t matter because it was just damn hilarious. This featured Andy Dick before he became a pale shadow of himself, Joe Rogan before he was just the guy daring people to eat bugs, and Phil Hartman’s best work outside of ‘SNL’ (and depending on the sketch, often better than his work on ‘SNL’). Yes it’s multi-cam, and yes it has a laugh track, and most people don’t seem to remember it when talking about the great sitcoms of the past, but in my eyes it’s up there with any TV comedy you care to mention.

Shannon Nutt

There are so many great TV series that take place primarily at workplaces that I initially had a hard time limiting my choice to just one series. But then I remembered a little pub in Boston where everybody knows your name….

For my money, there’s never been a better sitcom on television than ‘Cheers‘. Running for 11 seasons on NBC between 1982 and 1993, it’s one of the few comedy series in history that didn’t suffer a reduction in quality during its entire run. Even when one of the co-stars (Nicholas “Coach” Colasanto) died of a heart attack, or lead actress Shelly Long decided to leave the show, ‘Cheers’ never missed a beat. It continued to be one of the funniest and most entertaining comdies on the air.

I own all 11 seasons on DVD (oh, how I wish these were on Blu-ray!) and watched them all again a few years back. The series doesn’t feel dated or aged, despite a huge chunk of it taking place in a single location, and despite the sweetened laugh track (which, thankfully, includes some genuine laughs, as ‘Cheers’ was filmed in front of an audience). If you’ve never seen the show (hard to believe, but I realize some readers here are still in their 20s or younger) or haven’t seen it in a while, I can’t think of a better series worth re-visiting.

M. Enois Duarte

Since I don’t watch much TV, this took a bit of thinking. The only workplace shows I can think of are ‘The Office‘ and ’30 Rock’. Ultimately, I went with the hilarious, mischievous hijinks of paper salesmen Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute and Jim Halpert. They remind me that I have experience working in a mundane office selling products (high-end vent exhaust hoods to contractors) and building a clientele, while the droning hum of fluorescent lights above created an odd, zombifying effect on everyone. Ugh! If only my time there were as dramatic and silly as the show, I’d probably would have stayed longer. But the job was temporary while I also attended university.

The only parts of that job I care to remember are the people I worked with, some of whom were much like the characters on the show. We had our power-hungry, oddball Dwight, an overzealous cool-guy manager, a keeps-to-himself Stanley and, yes, we also had an attractive Pam with a crappy boyfriend. Weirdly, I was a cross between Oscar and Darryl – the token minority salesperson, keeping things cool between the office drones and the guys in the warehouse, where I originally started before being promoted to sales. Every single episode of the show made me laugh and brought back memories.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Archer‘ is a workplace comedy, all right. It’s just that instead of being set at some low-rent paper company or whatever, the series revolves around the ACTION and INTRIGUE of an elite, globetrotting intelligence and security agency. Okay, maybe “elite” isn’t the world I’m looking for here. The now-kinda-unfortunately-named ISIS is sort of like the K-Mart version of the KGB: underfunded, understaffed, and desperate for whatever the next paycheck might be. For crying out loud, their secret HQ shares a first floor with a laundromat, and the place is staffed just about wall-to-wall with sociopaths and screw-ups. I haven’t even gotten to the part where I talk about Sterling Archer, the world’s most dangerous spy. Think James Bond in a black turtleneck. He’s a sociopath AND a screw-up.

‘Archer’ is one of the most consistently brilliant and endlessly hysterical series on television, and it’s daring enough to upend everything you thought you knew. Maybe the lovelorn secretary has a thing for strangulation and is worth a half-billion dollars. Maybe this season… oh, I don’t know, we’ll throw out the whole spy agency deal and have what’s left of ISIS try to unload a fortune in cocaine. The series is basically being rebooted in January for its sixth season, so if you haven’t tuned into ‘Archer’ before, now you know where to start.

Junie Ray

The only office show we currently have set to DVR at my house is ‘Workaholics‘. This Comedy Central sitcom features the entertaining antics of three sophomoric roommates who work at a telemarketing company. It also has a very entertaining cast of side characters and guest stars. It’s one of those shows where you find yourself embarrassed to be laughing at the over-the-top inappropriate humor and repeatedly asking, “Wait, what? How was that allowed on television?”

For instance, some of the episode plots include: the guys attending a Juggalos festival (a.k.a. an Insane Clown Posse fan gathering), the guys start a burrito shop where they sell “burweedos,” the guys take advantage of a disabled cousin to park in the handicap spot at work, and the guys leave inappropriate drunk messages on their boss’s voicemail and have to beat her to work to delete them. If you like shows like ‘Family Guy’ or ‘Tosh.0’, and stoner humor makes you giggle, you should watch this show.

Josh Zyber

I don’t care for professional sports at all, yet I think that ‘Sports Night‘ was one of the greatest comedies to ever air on TV. The show followed the crew of a cable sports network as they struggled for ratings and dodged management interference from meddling corporate owners. Created and scripted by Aaron Sorkin prior to his big TV success with ‘The West Wing’, the series was fueled by sparkling wit and snappy dialogue. It had an amazing cast, many of whom would go on to greater TV stardom (including leads Peter Krause and Felicity Huffman). In contrast to typical workplace sitcoms like ‘The Office’, it characters were refreshingly passionate about going to work and putting in their best effort every day. (That’s sort of a hallmark of the Sorkin formula.) ‘Sports Night’ may have only lasted two seasons before ABC canceled it, but it burned brightly while it was on.

Tell us about your favorite workplace TV comedies in the Comments. We’ll see you back here on Tuesday!

23 comments

  1. Ryan

    All are great (except for Sports Radio….never saw that one).
    Parks and Rec needs to be added to any workplace list. One of the best comedies ever.

    • HuskerGuy

      Exactly, although you are are missing out if you’ve never seen Sports Night or New Radio (not sure which one you meant there) 🙂

      It’s just not possible to pick between any of those (with the exception of Workaholic’s as I never got into it), especially when you throw Parks & Rec into it.

  2. Yes to NewsRadio… times ten. Love that show. Also, anyone see Dave Foley’s stand up special on Netflix? It actually, sadly, wasn’t that funny but for some reason, when Dave Foley speaks I listen.

  3. When I was a kid, I used to enjoy Alice quite a bit though I don’t remember a lot about it. I do remember Mel always seemed angry. Never saw the movie either. Cheers was also a big one for me. Hey where’s my regular blue snowflake avatar?! I’m a creature of habit!!

  4. Guy

    I would have said NewsRadio, but that’s okay because there are plenty to choose from…
    – It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: The majority of the episode doesn’t necessarily always take place there, but the beginning, end and off the rails points of the gang’s misadventures usually happens at the bar.
    – Becker: Cheers may get most of the Teddy D love, but I enjoyed this show immensely. Whether the action is at Becker’s clinic or the diner, we’re always somebody’s job. Heck, even at Becker’s apartment we’re at a workplace since Bob’s his super.
    – Wings: It’s not the most gut-bustingly, HAHA funny show to me, but the characters are so endearing to me that a lower laugh per minute ratio is fine with me. Not that I never get a belly laugh out of it, just that I spend most of my time chuckling and just being glad to be with the characters.
    – The Andy Griffith Show – Stretching it a bit, but all of Mayberry County was technically the workplace of Andy and Barney. I watched the show with my grandma and my dad growing up and now I get my niece to watch it with me when I can. Four generations deep and the show’s as good as it ever was.

  5. C.C. 95

    Newsradio was one of the best ensembles ever. Not a bad one in the bunch, and they weren’t fighting each other for the spotlight. To this day I think the funniest character EVER on T.V. was Stephen Root’s Jimmy James.
    Sports Night was great too. Another awesome ensemble playing together. Kinda pissed me off that Sorkin let it become his training ground for the moves he and Tommy Schlamme would later take over to West Wing, abandoning Sports Night. Loved how they could move from drama to comedy and back on the head of a pin. Really talented cast.
    And, just to mix it up- On The Air. The David Lynch comedy that only shot 7 episodes and aired 3. I think it was once named one of the best Pilots of all time by some prestigious mag or something. I love most Lynch, and I’ve seen it. And I did NOT like it. Just puttin it out there (I just read a whole bunch of RAVES on IMDB, so…..).

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Sports Night was canceled due to low ratings. The second season storylines reflected the producers’ real struggles with the network to keep the show on the air.

      The pilot episode of On the Air is genuinely funny. Not “best ever” funny, but pretty amusing. The other six episodes are just plain terrible.

  6. I finally thought of a newer show that I absolutely love. Episodes on showtime. That show just cracks me up. I don’t know how the third season was, as I have canceled my Showtime, but I hope it’s as funny as the first two.

  7. Elizabeth

    I have very fond memories of Benson starring Robert Guillaum and Rene Auberjanois (later of Star Trek DS9 fame). I haven’t seen that show in ages by I know some channel near me would show episodes of it at 11:00 or 11:30 week nights and I’d stay up and watch them during the summer when school was out.

    I’m not sure if I was the right age demographic for that show at the time but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  8. Paul J Anderson

    Does a police precinct count as a workplace? Or the police car? I have to go with another classic and oft forgotten 80’s gem…Sledge Hammer! I loved that show. Lasted only two season due to ABC’s wonderful scheduling changes. Just couldn’t find an audience. It holds up well still. David Rasche talking to his .44 Magnum…that’s just beautiful. The opening credits where he lovingly picks up his gun that is resting on a soft down pillow are just hilarious. “Trust me…I know what I’m doing.”

  9. EM

    ♫ There’s a holdup in the Bronx, Brooklyn’s broken out in fights
    There’s a traffic jam in Harlem that’s backed up to Jackson Heights
    There’s a Scout troop short a child
    Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild
    Car 54, Where Are You?

  10. nagara

    I remember the Fred Savage show called Working. I remember liking it a lot when it came out, but I haven’t seen it since. Not sure how it holds up.

    Another great short lived show was Better off Ted. That one cracked me up every single episode. At least that one is still on Netflix

  11. Alex

    Was actually binge-watching the Office again over the Labor Day weekend. In spite of the drop in quality once Steve Carrell left (and maybe even a bit before), it’s still a fantastic show.

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