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
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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
The sport: Baseball
The premise: Hank Azaria, 56, stars as MLB announcer Jim Brockmire, who is fired after an on-air meltdown and has to work his way back up to the top — from calling cockfights in Asia to doing play-by-play for minor league teams. The bench, as they say, is deep, with a supporting cast that includes Amanda Peet, Linda Lavin (83) and Oscar winner J.K. Simmons (66). The show ended after four seasons, but Azaria revived Jim Brockmire this spring to host a new interview podcast in character.
What to watch for: Look out for cameos by real sportscasters like Joe Buck, 51, and Bob Costas, 69.
Where to stream: Four seasons on Hulu
Cobra Kai (2018–)
The sport: Martial arts
The premise: Set 34 years after the original Karate Kid film, this bighearted sequel sees former villain Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka, 55) falling on hard times and reopening his old dojo to teach martial arts to bullied neighborhood outcasts. Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio, 59), meanwhile, has made it big as a car dealership owner, but he’s in desperate need of some mentorship from the late Mr. Miyagi. And that old Daniel-Johnny rivalry? It’s still going strong.
What to watch for: To create flashbacks, the show incorporates never-before-seen footage from the original film — including different angles of the famous “crane kick.”
Where to stream: Three seasons on Netflix
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (2021–)
The sport: Ice hockey
The premise: Another nostalgic sequel to a beloved film franchise, this Disney+ series sees the once-scrappy youth hockey team transformed into state champions. When her son doesn’t make the team, single mom Alex Morrow (Gilmore Girls and Parenthood star Lauren Graham, 54) decides to form her own squad and enlists the help of the original Ducks coach and current ice rink owner Gordon Bombay, played once again by Emilio Estevez, 58.
What to watch for: If you (or your kids or grandkids) were fans of the ‘90s films, you’ll be happy to know that the original team members return in Episode 6.
Where to stream: New episodes premiere weekly on Disney+
DON’T MISS THIS: 14 Inspiring Movies About the Olympics
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(Left to right) Joshua Malina, Sabrina Lloyd, Josh Charles, Felicity Huffman, Peter Krause and Robert Guillaume.
Sports Night (1998–2000)
The sport: Sports broadcasting
The premise: Released one year before The West Wing, the first show created by Aaron Sorkin, 59, was critically beloved, but it never quite caught on with fans the way it should have, yielding only 45 episodes. Centered around the backstage antics of a SportsCenter-like news show, the sitcom’s magic lies in its impeccable ensemble casting, which included the legendary Robert Guillaume, plus relative newcomers Felicity Huffman (58), Josh Charles, Peter Krause (55), and Joshua Malina (55), who would all go on to star in other hit shows.
What to watch for: Former SportsCenter host Dan Patrick, 64, confirmed that the show was, in fact, loosely based on his relationship with Keith Olbermann, 62.
Where to stream: Two seasons on Prime Video/IMDBtv
Big Shot (2021–)
The sport: Basketball
The premise: After eight seasons playing Uncle Jesse on Full House, John Stamos (57) is no stranger to mentoring and teaching girls. In this heartfelt new series by David E. Kelley (65), Stamos stars as a temperamental NCAA men’s basketball coach who gets fired and takes on a new gig at an elite all-girls high school.
What to watch for: Yvette Nicole Brown, who plays the school’s no-nonsense dean, has one of those faces you’ll recognize from countless TV roles, including frequent guest-hosting duties on The View, The Talk and The Real.
Where to stream: Episodes will be released weekly on Disney+, starting April 16
(Left to right) Wendy R. Robinson, Hoseas Chancez, Brittany Daniel, Coby Bell, Tia Mowry and Pooch Hall star in the first season of “The Game.”
The Game (2006–2015)
The sport: Football
The premise: A spinoff of the long-running hit Girlfriends, this series about the wives and girlfriends of pro football players has changed format (and filming locations) quite a few times. It started as a light half-hour sitcom on The CW for three seasons, before being picked up by BET and turned into an hourlong dramedy. If you finish your 145-episode binge and are still craving more, you’re in luck. The new streaming service Paramount+ is developing a sequel series that will bring back Coby Bell and R&B singer Brandy.
What to watch for: Over the course of its nine seasons, the show welcomed dozens of A-list guest stars, including Regina Hall (50), Queen Latifah (51), Jennifer Lopez (51) and Magic Johnson (61).
Of course we had to name a few more runners-up
If you’re craving even more sports-themed sitcoms, consider these six, which just missed making the leader board.
My Boys, a sweet sitcom about a female sportswriter and her crew of male friends (Crackle)
The League, a semi-improvised sitcom about a fantasy football league (Hulu)
Eastbound & Down, a raunchy HBO show about a former pro pitcher who becomes a substitute PE teacher in his North Carolina hometown (HBO Max)
Arli$$, a cult HBO show about sports agents co-starring eventual 12-time Emmy nominee Sandra Oh (HBO Max)
Young Rock, a new NBC sitcom about Dwayne Johnson’s college football career and upbringing in the world of pro wrestling (Hulu)
Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, a family sitcom about a Golden State Warrior-turned-Oakland gym teacher (Hulu)
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.