Dying of Laughter: The Small Screen’s Top 5

The cast of Monk
How bizarre?
Some of us like our crime TV, and life, with a splash of humor.  This is the count down for the top five funniest crime shows. Some shows—like Get Smartdidn’t make the list because they were funny once upon a time, but when I went back to watch them they weren’t as funny to me as they once were.  As always, this list is purely subjective.

I like to do countdowns in reverse order and I’m cheating a little, so let’s begin with Number 5.5…

• Number 5.5: Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog •

Billed as a “super villain online musical”, Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly, etc.) set out to make a three act mini-series in 2008 starring Neil Patrick Harris in the title role, Nathan Fillion of Castle fame as his nemesis, and Felicia Day as the woman they both love.  Each of the acts runs approximately 15 minutes and all are full of tragicomedy and supervillain mayhem.  Technically this never ran on TV (only on the Internet) so it’s Number 5.5 on our countdown, but you haven’t really lived until you’ve watched a supervillain break into song. Dr. Horrible’s is pure fun.

• Number 5: Monk •

Here we follow Adrian Monk, a former police detective who has obsessive-compulsive disorder. After the murder of his wife, which is not funny, he tries to solve cases while on psychiatric leav,e which turns out to be funny a good deal of the time. Monk has 312 phobias, including: germs, ladybugs, heights, risk, imperfection, and harmonicas just to name a few.  This makes detecting rather challenging.

• Number 4: Psych • 

Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster (Gus) run a psychic detective agency.  Their motto is “To Predict and Serve.” Best buds since childhood, they get into a lot of trouble.  I must admit that when I first starting watching this show, I didn’t find it all that funny and sometimes the gags last a little longer than necessary, but it has grown on me and now I find it funnier than ever.

You can help Shawn and Gus go after the #hashtag killer here.

• Number 3: Chuck •

Take a nerd who needs a computer in his head to become a spy. Add the geeky best friend, the hot spy girl friend, the straight-laced spy colleague, a female general that I cannot fully describe here, plus a Best Buy parody store called the Buy More, and you get comedic genius. Let’s not forget the toxic-fume-loving sidekicks and the in-laws. The last episodes of Chuck aired earlier this year, but you can get them on Netflix or online. Yes, I will miss the Buy More.

• Number 2: Castle •

Castle’s Nathan Fillion
Yes, he’s a writer. With a Kevlar vest.
Detective Kate Beckett allows a mystery writer, Rick Castle, to tag along as she fights crime, but more often than not, he helps find the killer. Yes, this show has many serious story lines, but the jokes seem to fly faster than on Saturday Night Live.  I can’t help but smile every time Richard Castle wears his protective vest that says “WRITER” in big white letters, or when he points out that he is ruggedly handsome.  This show is still fresh and fun. I can’t wait until Monday nights.

As an aside, if you are on Twitter and love Castle, you may want to follow @InsaneCastleBot. Every time you send a tweet with “#Castle, you get a wonderful Castle quote back.

And now we come to the number one, the funniest television crime show ever…

• Number 1: Moonlighting

Maddie and Dave of Moonlighting
The funniest crime-fighters.
Fashion model Maddie Hayes gets bilked by her investment advisor and only has her house and a detective agency to show for her career. David Addison, the lead detective of the agency, convinces her they can run it together, which leads to mayhem.

When I first starting writing this post, this ABC series from the 80s didn’t even make the top five list, but then I started re-watching episodes and I couldn’t stop—watching or laughing. Whether David is leading the office in lunchtime limbo, or Maddie and David are interviewing suspects in Dr. Seuss rhymes, this is still surprisingly funny, which makes it number one in my countdown.

I’m sure I’ve missed something good. What are your top five funniest?

Deborah Lacy is an avid mystery reader who lives in California.


  1. Betty Breier

    Sledge Hammer with David Rasche! If you haven’t seen it, you’ve missed one of the funniest programs ever on TV.

  2. Deborah Lacy

    @BLB – I have never seen Sledge Hammer, but I will look for it now. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Heather Waters (redline_)

    Love love LOVE Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Excellent choice! And of course the charming Nathan Fillion’s great sense of humor and comedic timing shine through in Castle.

    I also really enjoy Mary and Marshall’s snarking in In Plain Sight–they crack me up.

  4. Carmen Pinzon

    Of your list, Castle is the only one I still enjoy. Many of these shows cross a line at some point where the joke wears out its welcome for my taste. I like humorous crime shows but the correct balance is hard to maintain beyond the first few seasons, imo.

  5. Laura K. Curtis

    I so agree with you, @bungluna. That’s how I felt about Monk. But I do think Moonlighting was just excellent. As was Remington Steele, though perhaps not as laugh-out-loud as Moonlighting!

  6. tylepard

    Dr. Horrible is the BEST!!! Brilliant.

  7. Betty Breier

    @DeborahLacy – Sledge Hammer was a 30 min. comedy that ran for two seasons 1986-1988 but is available on DVD.

  8. Deborah Lacy

    @redline – Love Nathan Fillion! Did you ever watch Firefly?

    @bungluna – I did a lot of research for this post – and that’s how I felt when I went back and watched Get Smart. I wasn’t even considering Moonlighting when a friend suggested I go back and watch one of the old shows – I couldn’t stop watching and laughing. When it was on I did think it lost it’s lustre towards the end of it’s run, but the re-watch brought it up on the polls.

    @LauraKCurtis – I love Remington Steele and considered including but I never found it to be laugh out loud funny, just a smile generator… I still think it has one of the greatest premises of all time.

    @tylepard – Dr. Horrible’s is great and I never would have watched had a friend kept pestering me until I did. I’m glad she was so persistent. This same friend introduced me to Castle right when it came on.

    @BLB – thank you! I put it on my Netflix list. It’s great to find new (old) shows!

  9. Terrie Farley Moran

    Nice list. I DVR Psych and old Monk episodes so that when I need a laugh I have one at the ready. So much good stuff here. Haven’t thought about Moonlighting in years but it was funny. I’ll have to check the library for DVDs. And need I say–Castle is my favorite. Still chuckling at last night’s episode–for several reasons.

  10. Kim M. Hammond

    OMG, I love Moonlighting, Monk, Psych and Castle. Psych’s 80’s references have me (almost) peeing my pants. And Castle, well, he’s hot, (and funny) need I say more. I’ve never heard of Chuck so now I have to check it out. I think Moonlighting was some of Bruce Willis’ best work. I’m also going to have to look up Dr. Horrible’s b/c that’s new to me too. Thanks for the post!!

  11. Patricia Merry

    One hilarious but regrettably forgotten show is Police Squad. First broadcast in 1982, it was a half hour series that only had 6 episodes made before being cancelled. It was the progenitor for the Naked Gun movies and also starred Leslie Nielson. The program was about 20 years ahead of its time and is really worth checking out. (Every episode had a “special guest star,” who was always murdered during the opening credits. Some of the guest were William Shatner, Lorne Greene and Robert Goulet.) Here is the opening 10 minutes of one of the episodes: [url=http://youtu.be/FLXyC1cuN3M]http://youtu.be/FLXyC1cuN3M[/url]

  12. Kerry

    I haven’t seen Chuck, but the rest are at the top of my list too!

  13. Deborah Lacy

    @Terrie – The last two episodes of Castle have been really funny – Espo and the wedding ring was excellent. The trailer for next week doesn’t look funny at all…

    @KimM.Hammond- Psych’s 80 references are a hoot. You really really need to catch some episodes of Chuck and the first installment of Dr. Horrible is embedded in this post. That should give you a head start.

    @Kerry – If you like Psych, I think you will like Chuck…

  14. Terrie Farley Moran

    OMG Espo and the wedding ring!! Funniest scene ever.

  15. Deborah Lacy

    @PatriciaMerry – some how I missed your comment, just as I overlooked Police Squad. I did see the Naked Gun movies. Thank you for posting the link. It looks like a hoot.

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