While tales of underdog teams and real-world pro athletes have long been a favorite Hollywood genre, that popularity has rarely translated to success on the small screen. In fact, for a long time, Coach was one of the few sitcoms to touch on sports in any way. But all that's changing now, thanks to a slew of series, like Ted Lasso (Apple TV+) and GLOW (Netflix), which are racking up awards and critical acclaim. You might even say we're living in a Golden Age of Sports Sitcoms, including new shows like this month's Big Shot and Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (both on Disney+). Here's the ultimate sitcom watchlist for sports fans who like some laughs with their fast-paced thrills and inspirational storytelling.
The sport: Football
The premise: Craig T. Nelson, 77, won a best actor Emmy for his role as Hayden Fox, the head coach of the Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles football team — and, later, the Orlando Breakers NFL expansion team. Rounding out the cast are Bill Fagerbakke (63) and Jerry Van Dyke as assistant coaches and former child star Shelley Fabares (77) of The Donna Reed Show fame as Hayden's news anchor girlfriend, Christine Armstrong.
What to watch for: Season 9, episode 15, “Viva Las Ratings,” was part of a major ABC sitcom crossover event that saw characters from Grace Under Fire, The Drew Carey Show and Ellen coming together by chance in Sin City.
Where to stream: Nine seasons on Prime Video/IMDBtv
Ted Lasso (2020–)
The sport: Soccer
The premise: Released last summer, this good-natured series became a word-of-mouth sleeper hit before racking up a number of high-profile wins this awards season. SNL alum Jason Sudeikis earned a Golden Globe for his turn as a fish-out-of-water American football coach who is recruited to run a Premier League team in England — despite knowing nothing about soccer. The series won audiences over with its outsized heart and total lack of cynicism, and it's already been renewed for two more seasons.
What to watch for: West End musical theater star Hannah Waddingham steals scenes as Rebecca Welton, the new owner of the AFC Richmond team.
Where to stream: One season (so far) on Apple TV+
The sport: Professional wrestling
The premise: Based on the real-life Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, this 1980s-set series stars Alison Brie — who you might remember as Trudy Campbell on Mad Men — as actress-turned-wrestler Ruth Wilder. The show shares producers with Orange Is the New Black, and both Netflix hits were celebrated for their diverse, female-led ensembles that shine a light on the stories of women of different ages, races and body types. Come for the behind-the-scenes wrestling action, stay for the rad ‘80s soundtrack.
What to watch for: Recognize the voice of the actor playing director Sam Sylvia? That's Air America host and podcast pioneer Marc Maron (57).
Where to stream: Three seasons on Netflix
The sport: Football
The premise: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 71, famously adores this HBO dramedy, which stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Spencer Strasmore, a retired NFL player who pivots to becoming a financial manager for veterans and upstarts alike. In 2016, reports surfaced that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, 62, was less than thrilled about the show's ripped-from-the-headlines plots and rotating cast of former and current players, including Victor Cruz, Julian Edelman, Larry Csonka (74), and the late Dolphins head coach Don Shula — but the league has denied any tension.
What to watch for: You might recognize John David Washington, who plays wide receiver Ricky Jerret, from his roles in BlacKkKlansman and Tenet. Or you might recognize the former football player because he looks just like his dad, Denzel (66)!
Where to stream: Five seasons on HBO Max
DON'T MISS THIS: 15 Great Football Movies