What makes a great sitcom? There are a few different things. One of the keys, though, is a strong ensemble in the cast. Sure, having a great star at the center can do a ton for you. However, don’t forget about the secondary, and sometimes tertiary, characters. It’s great to have a bunch of beloved folks to trot out. When the actors on your sitcom are all talented, and all work well together, magic can happen.
Given that, I’ve decided I want to go decade by decade, starting with the 1960s, to declare the best comedy ensemble of every decade. Like I said, I am starting with the ‘60s here.
There are a lot of strong options. The Dick Van Dyke Show starts with a winning pair in Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. They also had a couple of solid secondary actors in Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie. Carl Reiner would pop upon occasion. That’s about it, though, and honestly I never felt like Buddy and Sally were all that strong as characters.
The Monkees have, well, the Monkees, but that’s about it. There wasn’t really an ensemble beyond that. I considered Get Smart long and hard. Don Adams is a delight as Maxwell Smart. I’ve always found Edward Platt as Chief to be one of the underrated straight men. Hymie the Robot is pretty fun, and whenever Bernie Kopell showed up as Siegfried it’s fun. That being said, and I know this may be heresy a bit, I feel like Barbara Feldon, aka Agent 99, wasn’t great. She’s totally fun, but not a standout.
In the end, I’m going with Batman. I mean, it’s my favorite ‘60s sitcom, so maybe I’m biased. Or, on the other hand, maybe the reason I love it is that it has such a great ensemble. It starts with Adam West, of course. Then, you get solid performers in roles like Robin, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, and Chief O’Hara. What puts Batman over the top is the murderer’s row that makes up the rogue’s gallery. Cesar Romero. Frank Gorshin. Burgess Meredith. Julie Newmar. The list goes on. Not every villain is great, or gets a great performance. I never loved any of the three guys who played Mr. Freeze. However, as a whole, the ensemble of Batman is just so good. No other show from the ‘60s can quite live up to it.
The ‘60s was when the American sitcom really took off as a genre. There were a lot of really impressive ensembles. I didn’t even mention Bewitched or Green Acres. That’s OK, though, because neither of them win. Somebody send up the Bat Signal. We have to let the Caped Crusader know he has a trophy waiting for him.