The 10 most rock & roll sitcoms of all time

Sorry in advance, Partridge Family fans.

A television show does not have to be about rock & roll to be rock & roll. Frankly, there have not been many sitcoms about the music biz. (Note to networks: There's an idea.)

There are other ways a series can embody rock & roll. Leather-clad characters with greaser hair. Better yet — a leather-clad character named Leather. A wild spirit that rips up the comedy rulebook. A theme song that rips and a killer soundtrack. Live performances. Honest-to-god rock star cameos. A whole bunch of denim.

These are all factors we weighed while ranking the 10 most rock & roll sitcoms of all time. Let's count it down. A one, a two, a one-two-three-four…



Consider the NYC music scene in 1978, as Taxi premiered. The Ramones had stumbled out of Queens in ripped jeans. Hip-hop was kicking off in the Bronx. Unlike other New York sitcoms, Taxi took place downtown. In the opening credits, Tony Banta drives his cab over the Queensborough Bridge. Nobody was "movin' on up" here. The characters in the Sunshine Cab Company garage reflected this real New York. There was Reverend Jim, an acid burnout fond of Canadian tuxedos, and Bobby Wheeler, portrayed by Jeff Conaway with the same Kenickie swagger seen in Grease. And, of course, there was Andy Kaufman, the most unpredictable comedian in history. He once got into a fight with cast members and a producer on the sketch comedy show Fridays — or did he? (Spoiler: It was staged.) Still, the man kept audiences on edge. Seeing him perform was the closest thing in comedy to a punk show.

Most rock & roll character: Reverend Jim

Get a Life!


Rock & roll should be iconoclastic while remaining reverential to its roots. Indeed, Chris Elliot's early-'90s Fox sitcom thumbed its nose at sitcom cliché while embracing the low-brow pleasures of the genre. The main character, a pathetic 30-something (or 50-something, depending on the episode) paperboy, was often killed off at the end of episodes. And yet, on the other hand, the mom was played brilliantly by Elinor Donahue of Father Knows Best. Brains like Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show, Better Caul Saul) were banging out the scripts. Oh, and R.E.M. provided the theme song. Okay, yeah, it was "Stand," but still, R.E.M.

Most rock & roll character: Gus Borden, Chris' grumpy ex-cop roommate played by Brian Doyle-Murray

Square Pegs


Social misfits were the stars of this cult '80s sitcom. The adorkable Patty (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Lauren (Amy Linker) were constantly striving to fit in with the popular kids, which is not particularly rock & roll, but Marshall and new-wave Johnny Slash were there to keep them in check. Johnny and Marshall worked at the school radio station, where posters for the Clash, Squeeze, Laurie Anderson and Missing Persons cover the walls. Oh, and Johnny plays in a band with John Densmore of the Doors. Literally. Bill Murray is in an episode with Billy Idol on the soundtrack. The Waitresses sang the theme song. But the biggest cred boost here came when Devo played on the show.

Most rock & roll character: Johnny Slash, obviously

Image: The Everett Collection



It was no coincidence that Batman hit the airwaves just as psychedelic music was blossoming. The show was a kaleidoscope of bold colors and canted camera angles. Paul Revere & The Raiders turned up in an episode, rocking Penguin's mayoral campaign party, and hip duo Chad & Jeremy popped in, too. Sure, Liberace may have been a guest star, but he was a villain. Anyone who questions Batman's influence on rock & roll only need search for its theme song. The Who, the Kinks and the Jam all covered the ripping surf number. Deep Purple claimed the riff to "Space Truckin'" was lifted from "Batman Theme," too.

Most rock & roll character: It would have to be Catwoman, in that skintight black getup with claws

Freaks and Geeks


"I don't give a damn about my reputation!" So began each episode, as Joan Jett howled and hammered her way through "Bad Reputation" in the opening credits. The "Freaks" clearly had rock cred, from the very first scene, as Seth Rogan and James Franco argue over a Molly Hatchet T-shirt. Of course, there was Nick (Jason Segel) the Rush-worshipping drummer who auditions for the arrogant professionals in Dimension. He's the one who blurts, "Disco sucks!" (He's wrong, but for the purposes of this list, we'll give him a point.) He has his own band with his buddies, Creation. Or Mission Control. Or Anarchy's Child. Whatever they decided upon… Anyway, other episodes delve into Deadhead and punk. Heck, even the guidance counselor is a hippie. It's hard to argue against the rock & roll spirit of the show. You might argue it's not a sitcom, but few shows of the era were funnier, so… it is.

Most rock & roll character: Daniel Desario, the go-nowhere James Dean of central Michigan

Laverne & Shirley


Milwaukee is a rock & roll town, and not just because of all the breweries. No, it's blue-collar and Alice Cooper had an awesome line about it in Wayne's World. The sitcoms set there help its rep, too. Switching between poodle skirts and jumpsuits, Laverne and Shirley ooze classic rock & roll style. Best buddies Lenny and Squiggy only add to the spirit. Both duos release real albums in the 1970s. Laverne & Shirley Sing covered "Da Do Ron Ron," while Lenny & Squiggy Present Lenny and the Squigtones featured cuts like "Creature Without a Head" and "Vamp On."

Most rock & roll character: Squiggy. Sorry, Lenny, but he has a Misfits haircut.

Happy Days


Yes, of course, there is Fonzie. He rode a motorcycle, started jukeboxes with a snap of his fingers and sported black leather in all weather. Oh, and he told everybody to "Sit on it!" But don't overlook the other, tougher rockers of Happy Days — the Tuscaderos. Pinky Tuscadero was tougher than (painted) nails, but it was younger sister Leather Tuscadero who brought the rock. Played by rocker Suzi Quatro, Leather tears up Arnold's in "Fonzie, Rock Entrepreneur." Happy Days helped ignite the '50s rock revival. "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley & His Comets was the original theme song. Even the show's creator, Garry Marshall, drummed in episodes.

Most rock & roll character: Leather Tuscadero. Nope, not the Fonz.

The Young Ones


MTV, PBS, USA and Comedy Central all aired the cult British sitcom, perhaps the only television show that truly deserved to be called punk. Why? It wasn't just Vyvyan Basterd, with his "Very Metal" denim jacket and egg-white-spiked hair. Motörhead, the Damned and Madness all appeared on the show, as episodes spontaneously broke out into a concert. Rick embodied arty indie snobs, while Neil Pye was the consummate bean-eating hippie. Each character's life was tied up in music, and the show, for all its wildness, demonstrated that sometimes rock & roll is worth a little poverty.

Most rock & roll character: Vyvyan

Image: The Everett Collection

The Monkees


The original rock & roll sitcom. In fact, the Monkees perfected the art form, which is perhaps why nobody has been bold enough to copy the formula. Some may have cried that the foursome was manufactured — but so what? The Monkees proved that origin hardly matters. It's all about tunes and character, you know? Besides, doing surreal physical comedy on television is just as rock & roll as jangling through a pop song.

Most rock & roll character: Mike. He wrote psych songs like "Daily Nightly" and "Circle Sky." The former was perhaps the first rock song to ever feature a Moog!

Image: The Everett Collection

WKRP in Cincinnati


Let's just go ahead and put this on the record: No other network sitcom has or will play a Captain Beefheart song. Yet Dr. Johnny Fever spun "Suction Prints" off Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) in the tenth episode. That's some deep, deep, weird stuff. And yet, WKRP was constantly dropping the needle on cutting-edge rock & roll in episodes. The show featured Van Halen, the Stones, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, the Doors, Chuck Berry, AC/DC, the Who, Queen, Springsteen, Chic, the Police, Little Richard, U2, Pat Benatar… and dozens more. The show is credited with helping to break both Blondie and the Cars, and it showcased the budding bands. It helped that the show was about a radio station, but consider that the producers could have just as easily gone all disco, or smooth jazz, or Rupert Holmes. The show simply had cooler taste.

Most rock & roll character: Dr. Johnny Fever. Duh.

SEE MORE: 18 ripping 1960s rock & roll bands that performed on TV sitcoms and dramas


See garage and psychedelic acts like the Seeds, Buffalo Springfield and, er, Opie Taylor rock on your favorite series. READ MORE

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


StrayCat 21 months ago
WKRP in Cincinnati was amazing. Unfortunately, when released in syndication much of the original terrific music was replaced by some more generic stuff that some have called "elevator" music. The reason being copyright and royalty issues.

I have heard the DVD's (depending on which ones you get) contain the original music, or at least most of it. The Beatles and Pink Floyd songs were unfortunately removed.
wanderer2575 StrayCat 18 months ago
The Complete Series DVD set issued by Shout! Factory includes most of the original music, but there are some cases where they were not able to obtain the rights. I think they made the best effort that anybody could have.
ToddHuber 24 months ago
The Young Ones ... a show that left a mark on my R & R and comedy leanings....
FACT--- Both The Young Ones AND Fawlty Towers have ....12 episodes each
DavidGerard 29 months ago
Correction: An attempt was made to reboot the band as "The New Monkees", which aired on network tv in 1987. They tried to capitalize on MTV's airing of the original syndicated series a year earlier. What is most notable about The New Monkees is that it proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that Don Kirshner was wrong when he suggested any four guys/musicians could do what Tork, Jones, Dolenz and Nesmith had accomplished, through both the series and their subsequent recording output.
Snickers 34 months ago
Liked The Monkees T.V show and their music. People say they didn't play their own music which is wrong. They wrote songs for the show and went on tour. Kind of hard to fake singing and playing in front of a live crowd.
WillumDuhFoe 38 months ago
"Kookie" Edd Byrnes and Maynard Krebs must be before your time. Sigh
StrayCat 39 months ago
Regarding WKRP, I read that many of the songs played in the show’s original run were replaced for syndication due to royalty issues; they would have had to pay each time the episode was aired. That sucks that they had to do that. It's almost a desecration.
Azalea 47 months ago
The partridge family? Like I thought that would have made #1 on the list
BrianMoore 51 months ago
MeTV mentioning The Young Ones!? You rock, MeTV!
Joe 51 months ago
The "Young Ones" was and is still GREAT! In the mid '80's, MTV started airing it on Saturday night's, which is how, at least, I was introduced to the show.
MarkSpeck 54 months ago
Jeff Conaway tried to reactivate his singing career while on Taxi. He got a chance to sing his song "City Boy", in an episode where all the cabbies got to live out their fantasies (Bobby dreams of being a big rock star and socking it to Louie, who in Bobby's fantasy is a down-on-his-luck bum). Not long after this episode, Conaway was gone from the show, and on top of that, his record tanked.

Lesley Gore also appeared on Batman as Catwoman's assistant for a pair of episodes. She got to sing her then-hit "California Nights" in an episode.

Near the end of The Monkees, the boys were allowed to bring guests onto the show near the end. Micky brought in folk-rock hero Tim Buckley, who sang a song. Mike had Frank Zappa, of all people, as his guest, but unfortunately, Frank didn't sing (or maybe was told not to sing, as the Mothers of Invention's music was banned from pretty much every radio station those days). Davy introduced us to his friend, dancer Charlie Smalls, who later choreographed "The Wiz".
Amalthea MarkSpeck 46 months ago
One of my early childhood memories was learning to sing "California Nights" from watching the episode. I was about 2.
EmBee 56 months ago
Fictional band, Scum of the Earth or simply just SCUM!
Martin 59 months ago
Lenny and the Squigtones' album brought together Michael McKean with Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer, with whom he later made the rock and roll classic THIS IS SPINAL TAP.
BuckeyeBeth7 Martin 27 months ago
I completely forgot about Lenny and the Squigtones! I bought that album as a kid! Thank god for YouTube. I totally did not remember they played on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand to screaming girls 😆. That album is still musical comedy gold!
Tresix 61 months ago
Squiggy was the R&R character on "Laverne & Shirley"? NOT LIKELY. Everyone knows that honor belongs to Carmine "The Big Ragu" Ragusa (Eddie Mekka). He could sing, dance, choreograph, box. Plus, he had a "cougar" after him as well!
WILD 64 months ago
In what universe is Chic Rock & Roll. Also you did not mention "Scum of the Earth" the fictional band that appeared on episode called "Hoodlum Rock" which featured Michael Des Barres and his band Detective. Also forgotten was KISS, their album KISS Alive! Was shown as was one of the records. In fact it was (I believe) the record that is "playing" while the needle is on the record's label and they also had the poster of them in their bi-centennial outfits on the wall 8n the booth during season 1.
NathanMilliron WILD 46 months ago
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has had Chic on it's ballot for several years.

Group members Nile Rodgers (guitar) and the late Bernard Edwards (bass) are well-respected in rock circles.
WilliamLAllen 64 months ago
I Wanted to buy a record and didn't know whaqt to buy. I was watching WKRP and Johnny fever played "Rock and Roll Fantasy" by the Kinks on their "Misfits" album- I went a bought it the next day!
Tresix WilliamLAllen 3 months ago
Isn’t “Rock & Roll Fantasy” by Bad Company?
Brian 65 months ago
Well, at least they didn't add "The Archies" animated show, which gave us such hard rock favorites as "Bang Shang-A-Lang." Want some more bubblegum? Anyone? Anyone?
Amalthea Brian 46 months ago
The funny thing is...the Archies were created because Don Kirshner wanted a band he could control, because he lost control of the Monkees...which makes the Monkees even MORE Rock'n'Roll! (I would just like to know why they used a behind-the-scenes photo from the movie "Head" instead of a photo from the actual show.)
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?