5. 'The Jeffersons'
It may have been one of the legions of shows created from All in the Family's spare parts, but this tale of dry-cleaning magnate George Jefferson and his wife, Louise, quickly proved it wasn't Norman Lear-lite; thanks to Sherman Hemsley's ability to play up the character's small-man arrogance (that funky victory walk!) and his chemistry with costar Isabelle Sanford, this sitcom kept movin' on up for 11 seasons. As for the supporting cast's MVP, it'd be a toss-up between Marla Gibbs' wisecracking maid Florence (we'll pretend we don't remember her own short-lived spin-off, Checking In) and Paul Benedict's bumbling Englishman in New York, Harry Bentley — both had the ability to knock you dead with a zinger or a look. Race was certainly a factor in the series, but given Lear's involvement, the fact that social issues weren't used to score ideological points every other episode was surprising. According to the producer, however, that was never the Jeffersons' goal. This time, he wanted to go for laughs over editorializing. Mission accomplished. DF