Okay, got that Idol and Glee-related grumpiness out of my system, time to do a rundown of all the great comedies I’ve been watching. I’ll admit to losing track of both The Office and 30 Rock a bit this season – I recently caught up on 30 Rock and thought that they got some really funny episodes out of the season, but The Office has kinda gone by the wayside for me. I’m six episodes behind and find myself getting kinda dispirited whenever I think of watching them. Not a good sign. Good thing there were so many great new comedies to watch this year…
To start with, and I’ll just get it out there: Parks and Recreation is my favorite comedy on TV right now. It’s got its own whole vibe, a cast that’s as strong as any other TV show going, and writers who have pretty much mastered the art of the subtle joke. Every character is really well put-together, and most of the laughs come from what we already know about them. Plus, Chris Pratt has started to give the other actors a run for the “funniest performance on the show” title. Andy was a nuisance in the first season, but by last week’s finale he’d become a consistently hilarious character who’s even got his own low-key romantic drama going. And every time I think about him “capturing” that possum on the golf course I crack up.
Anyhow, I’ve talked about the show enough in the past that I don’t have a ton more to add, but I thought that the second season closed out really strong and am looking forward to what they do with Adam Scott in season three. Oh, and do yourself a favor and check out the ridiculously amazing Jabba The Hutt version of the show’s kicky theme song.
Speaking of Adam Scott, I hope you’re watching Party Down. Especially considering that half the cast is leaving after the current season, and Starz has managed the show pretty poorly so far, so any chance of renewal seems kinda remote. But enough gloom and doom, there are still a bunch more episodes to go! Plus, if you have Netflix, you can watch both the first season and the new episodes on demand right after they air. Pay channels! On demand! It’s like living in the future.
But as great as its method of delivery into your living room is, the actual show is even better. Thanks to creator Rob Thomas, it’s pretty much a Veronica Marsplosion with every person from that show either guesting or in a starring role. Add Adam Scott as a guy who is essentially the Verizon guy post-“Can You Hear Me Now”, Martin Starr as the worst science fiction writer ever and the extremely likable (and hot) Lizzy Caplan as a struggling, hot comedian who hasn’t had success despite her incredible hotness, and the cast really takes off. The whole thing sort of reminds me of Adventureland, actually – there’s an undertone of longing, of screwing around while quietly wasting potential, that I really like. Everyone who works for the eponymous catering company is pretty screwed, their dreams at varying points of termination. So they come together to do their stupid job, and sort of lazily wander around the various parties they cater, but between their broken dreams and the recurring theme that success in Hollywood rarely brings happiness (unless, of course, you happen to be Steve Guttenberg), it turns out that Party Down is a laid-back show that actually has some fairly heavy stuff going on under the hood. Anyway, I really dig it. And it’s just perfect to burn through in a weekend on Netflix, if you’re not already watching. I promise you’ll like it.
There’s also Community, another totally awesome show and one that I kinda feel like everyone is watching and has reached a consensus about. The Paintball Episode was some of the most inspired comedy of the year, and the show’s writers have done a good job of tempering the meta, smarty-pants humor with some genuine heart, earning laughs that, as NPR’s Linda Holmes points out, come from genuinely good jokes as often as they do from referential humor. It’s worth recognizing if only because it’s the sort of trick that I wish the writers of Glee were capable of.
And talk about incredible casting, good lord – to think, I’d never heard of any of those people (except for Chevy Chase) before I watched Community, but now they’re some of my favorite characters on TV. Every show would benefit from having Troy show up and do a line-reading through tears, and who knew that Trudy Campbell was so funny? Really looking forward to season 2 on this one, if only for the inevitable speech from Abed (who, I might remind you, really knows what time it is) about how usually in TV shows, the second season is when the writing team hits its stride and starts to really experiment.
Archer sort of lost its way there towards the end of the first season, but all the same, when it was firing on all cylinders it was probably the densest, most gratifyingly obscure comedy writing I’ve found on TV since Arrested Development. Really smart show, really well-written and acted, and totally hilarious. I think that “The Honeypot” was my favorite episode. Yuuuuup.
The last comedy that deserves a mention is Modern Family. It’s actually the show I’ve watched the least of the big new comedies, but also one of the very funniest – every time I come back and catch an episode, I find myself laughing my ass off, thinking “Man, this show is seriously funny.” I really have to finish the first season, but I’m sure I will, and I heard that it’s good times all the way to Hawaii.
Next up, gonna close it out with the hour-long dramas, and some talk about my favorite new show of the year.