We are currently living in a golden age of television. Since 2007, we have been gifted shows such as Mad Men, Community, Parks and Rec, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Modern Family, BoJack Horseman, House of Cards, Inside Amy Schumer, and more. However, despite this wealth of shows, people still prefer to sticking to basic or otherwise lesser shows, like Big Bang Theory or your run-of-the-mill Law and Orders. This is all well and good, but it leaves other shows ignored and in threat of cancellation. It’s how we lost Review, it’s how we lost Community, and it helped to bring down Parks and Rec. So I’m going to use this Wednesday Listicle to let you know about the Ten Comedies Currently On TV That You Should Be Watching.
A few ground rules for this list: first, these must be shows that aren’t getting the attention that they deserve. So shows that I have written ad naseum about, like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and BoJack Horseman are disqualified from this list. Trust me, they have enough pieces on this site on their own, even if you should be watching both. Second, I have to try to pick shows for different ages and across channels. So I can’t just pick all adult shows, and I can’t just pick all FXX shows (even though it would be really easy to do both). So, with those rules in effect, here is the list:
Back in the 70s, Norman Lear became a television superstar for creating several shows that, while family comedies on paper, delved into the important issues of the time, including race, politics and women’s rights. His two most famous shows to do this were All In The Family and Good Times (a spinoff of a spinoff of Family). The latter has ended up having a significant impact on the ABC family sitcom, black-ish. Created by acclaimed writer Kenya Barris, the show was picked up by ABC as part of their Wednesday Night Family Lineup. It quickly has become one of the channel’s biggest draws, featuring killer writing, witty commentary on race, and fantastic performances across the board. Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross are both fantastic as the parents of the family, Laurence Fishburne and Jenifer Lewis are scene stealers as the grandparents, and four of the most talented child actors in the business in Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brown and especially Marsai Martn. And family friend Deon Cole is consistently genius in his borderline psychopathy. The episodes are great at finding the most hilarious plotline in serious issues, including interracial dating, politics and class. It’s consistently one of the highest laugh-per-minute sitcoms out there, but I think it might be even better when it tackles more serious issues. The season two episode “Hope” tackles the issue of police brutality in a nuance, evenhanded and honest way, featuring fantastic performances across the board and perfectly balancing humor and catharsis. It’s one of the best family sitcoms out there right now, and one that people of any race, creed, and ideology can find the humor and relatability in each episode.
Speaking of family sitcoms, the animation game has come a long way since the days of The Simpsons. There are thousands of animated shows on TV these days, ranging from the great Archer, Adventure Time, Gravity Falls and South Park to the “just ok” Family Guy and whatever new show Seth MacFarlane has cooked up for this season. However, I don’t think any of those shows come close to the level of brilliance on display in Bob’s Burgers. Existing in the center of a Venn Diagram that includes the core family value of The Simpsons, the mundane humor of a Wes Anderson comedy and the absolute nuttiness of 30 Rock, the show includes an all-star cast of H. Jon Benjamin (the King of Voice Acting), John Roberts, talented stand-up comedians Kristen Schaal (a national treasure) and Eugene Mirman, series breakout Dan Mintz, Megan Mullaly, character actor Andy Kindler, Sarah Silverman and her sister as twin brothers, and freaking Academy Award-winner Kevin Kline. The show follows the daily trials and tribulations of the Belcher family, the owners of a burger restaurant. The family consists of put-upon dad Bob, fun-loving singing mom Linda, youngest sociopathic daughter Louise, lighthearted middle moron Gene and the lovably awkward scene stealer, Tina. Each voice actor creates an empathetic-yet-goofy family member that everyone can bond with, but what really makes this show is the background humor. There’s a “couch gag” style joke where a stupidly named burger appears each episode that is always good for a laugh, and the number of made-up songs that appear in the closing credits is astounding. Personally, my two favorite episodes are O.T., a near shot-for-shot remake of E.T., but with an Outdoor Toilet voiced by Jon Hamm, and Topsy, in which the kids create a musical about Thomas Edison electrocuting an elephant, but to sum this show up, I’m going with this clip, which demonstrates the show’s mundane humor as well as the talents of Benjamin and Mintz:
The Eric André Show
Confession time: this is the only one on this list I don’t really watch with any level of frequency. Hell, I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of Eric André’s takedown of talk shows. But through his surrealist, Tim & Eric-style humor, and the fact that many of his guests really don’t understand what’s about to happen, André has crafted one of the darkest and most brilliant send ups to modern television out there. For a while, he’s most famous for running Seth Rogen’s actual phone number on the show during an interview, to the point that Rogen had to change numbers. He recently made headlines for going to both conventions to harass (let’s not call it interview, he harassed them) members of both parties, even finding a subsection of radical right-wing conspiracy theorists (the ones who think Bush was a liberal stooge who committed 9/11) and mocked them to their face. However, the moment that really sums up his show, for me, is when he interviewed James Van Der Beek (Dawson from Dawson’s Creek) and demanded he reveal what he did in Aruba (think about this one for a few minutes, and try Googling a bit if you still don’t understand). Complete with a (intentionally terrible) monologue and a (intentionally belligerent) sidekick in Hannibal Burress, André’s show is the peak of nihilistic comedy-not caring for anything or anyone, just hoping to bring the system down in its quest for immortality.
Girl Meets World
This is perhaps the most controversial pick on this list. I mean, it’s a Disney Channel reboot of a beloved 90s kids show. Most people will write it off immediately, either because it’s “too Disney,” or because it’s “ruining their childhood.” Indeed, the first few episodes get off to a rough start. But if you think back to the first few seasons of the original, it also had a rough streak towards the beginning. Given the time to grow, Girl Meets World has ended up proving itself a decent follow-up to the original classic (and trust me, I love the original). It works because it understands the components that make it so great. Rowan Blanchard and Sabrina Carpenter not only have the same talent that made Ben Savage and especially Rider Strong stand out, but also they have a realistic chemistry that gives their relationship real weight. Of course no one is going to complain about Savage and the still-sharp Danielle Fishel being series regulars, but let’s not forget strong cameos from Matthew Lawrence as Jack, the ever-great William Daniels as Mr. Feeny, and the formerly retired tour-de-force of Will Friedle. Heck, the even managed to correct Minkus, a character they struggled with, by creating the much-more three dimensional Farkle (a shockingly good Corey Foglemanis). And while Disney has obviously toned down a show that once covered issues of race, alcoholism and cults in a surprisingly realistic way for a children’s Friday night program, Girl still touches on serious issues, including divorce, death, cyber bullying and religion. The show is in danger of cancellation, which is a real shame, due to the talent involved and how the show has grown, but if people continue watching-or, even better, if it were to be picked up by Freeform, Disney’s more teen-based lineup-then perhaps it can be saved, and the world can be graced with a family friendly show with some intelligence. How great would that be?
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
It’s a little bit funny, putting a show going into its twelfth season is on a list of underrated comedies, but that’s where we stand. Not enough people are watching FX’s personal Seinfeld, focused on the five worst people ever to appear on television. The fact that this show is still as funny as it is this many years later, and still putting out its best work (“Charlie Work” and “Mac and Dennis Move To the Suburbs” fit this bill) is truly an accomplishment. Of course Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton are incredible as the closeted, egotistical Mac and the narcissistic sociopath Dennis, and the show doesn’t work without Kaitlin Olson’s manic Dee, but this show is really a powerhouse for two talented actors, each on different sides of their careers, Charlie Day and Danny DeVito. Day’s Charlie is one of television’s greatest inventions, bringing a deranged and often-physical talent to each episode that deserves a closet full of Emmys, making it a tragedy that he keeps losing out. DeVito, meanwhile, is a well-known actor in his own right, and was a late addition to the cast to save it from early cancellation. It was the greatest decision they ever made, as watching DeVito’s former businessman Frank devolve into carnality is one of the most grotesque transformations in recent memory. I’m not sure the show will ever be able to top “The Nightman Cometh” (Unless they pay the Troll Toll…), but the fact they keep coming close makes it one of the most impressive shows out there, and you should all be watching it now. Also, this:
Man Seeking Woman
Speaking of FX and FXX, the channel is really on a role at present. Not only do they have It’s Always Sunny, as well as a third show on this list, but they have the highly underrated Man Seeking Woman, a modern surrealist romantic comedy. Focused on Jay Baruchel’s Josh, his sister Liz (Britt Lower), and his best friend Mike (Eric André, again), the show opens with Josh breaking up with his long term girlfriend, and follows him in his quest to find true love. What’s interesting about the show is the way it takes common exaggerations about love and romance and takes them to their extreme. For example, when Josh tries to go on a blind date and is worried that she’ll be a “troll,” it turns out that she is, in fact, a troll. Or when he meets his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, who he interprets to be evil while everyone is oblivious to this fact, Josh learns that the boyfriend is literally a wheelchair-bound Adolph Hitler (played by Bill Hader, because of course). These little surrealist touches make it one of the smartest episodes out there, and one that I can’t get enough of. And personally, I don’t think there are many episodes this year funnier than “Cactus,” in which Josh learns that the girl he’s been flirting with is uninterested, so he goes to Congress to get a “Nice Guy” law enlisted, in which if you’re nice to a girl, she has to date you in return. It’s a brilliant satire of meninism and the “m’lady” movement, and proves itself as one of the funniest and smartest shows on TV.
When one talks about ABC’s Wednesday Night Family Lineup, they normally think of Modern Family, or (hopefully) black-ish. The one they don’t think about often enough, however, is The Middle. Meant as a new vehicle for Everybody Loves Raymond star Patricia Heaton, the show has transformed into the greatest show about living in the lower-middle class Midwest since Roseanne (indeed, the creator was a writer on said show). Centered around the dysfunctional-but-loving (aren’t they all?) Heck family, the show features frequently hilariously and yet somehow realistic performances by Heaton and Neil Flynn (Scrubs), as well as their children, Atticus Schaffer as the potentially Asperger’s-laden Brick, the highly underrated Charlie McDermott as the sarcastic eldest Axl, and the pride of the show, Eden Sher as Sue Sue Heck, the middle child of the family that critics agree may be one of the greatest child performances in television history, as her unbridled enthusiasm gives the show its humorous edge. Guest performances from Jerry Van Dyke, Molly Shannon and especially Norm McDonald round out the family, and wonderful performances from family friends Brock Ciarlelli, Chris Kattan and Jack McBrayer bring a goofy fun to the cast, but personally, there are few characters I enjoy the same as Paul Hipp as the roaming preacher himself, Reverend Tim-Tom, one of the funniest and most likeable characters on a show of funny and likeable characters. If you ever get bored of watching your own family’s shenanigans, you should check out The Middle, even if does take you into the uncanny valley.
Rick and Morty
Good lord, this show is wonderfully dark. What started as an R-rated spoof of Back to the Future has turned into one of the saddest, creepiest, funniest shows on television. Created by Adventure Time’s Justin Roiland and Community’s Dan Harmon, the show follows super-genius Rick, who travels the galaxy with his dim-witted grandson Morty, getting into all sorts of complicated adventures as Rick’s nihilistic, alcoholic acts of terror get Morty into all kinds of trouble. Seriously, this is a show that, in its first episode, features Rick telling Morty to shoot the “robot” security aliens, only to discover that they are just regular aliens, with a family. When a horrified Morty calls Rick on this, he explains, “It’s a figure of speech! They’re bureaucrats, Morty! I don’t respect them!” In a later episode, after Rick screws the world up beyond repair, he and Morty just decide to go through the infinite timelines to find a universe where they actually do manage to fix things, then kill their alternate selves and take their place, burying their own bodies. It plays with multiple timelines, theories and philosophical ideas, but in a dark and humorous way. Roiland brings a manic fear to Morty, and an even more manic genius to Rick, and when teamed up with Sarah Chalke’s high-strung Beth and Chris Parnell’s complete loser Jerry, the show is the ultimate comedy for those who wish for a higher caliber of intelligence. Get schwifty, my friends.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
THEY ALIVE, DAMMIT! Yes, in my most mainstream pick, I have to go with Netflix’s Tina Fey show. However, it’s really an underrated gem. Ellie Kemper’s fantastically upbeat Kimmy is so happy and joyful, that it’s easy to overlook how dark it gets. It’s literally about a young kidnapped girl who escapes a cult. That’s a dark premise. And yet, Kemper brings such a joyful tone to the character you can’t help but smile. Add to that solid performances by Jane Krakowski and Carol Kane, and a star-making performance by Tituss Burgess as the egotistical but caring Titus Andromedon (that name alone is perfection), and give them Fey’s killer dialogue, and you have a fantastic show. Fey has a recurring role on the show (a few, actually), as do Tim Blake Nelson, Amy Sedaris, Fred Armisen and especially Jon Hamm, whose performance is amongst the best of his career. When you combine sharp humor, talented actors, and a sense of catharsis, you have one of the best shows out there right now. Simply put, watch Kimmy Schmidt. Do it now.
You’re the Worst
If I’m being honest, this is my favorite show on this list. It’s one of my favorite shows of all time, period. You’re the Worst is the true heir to When Harry Met Sally…, Seinfeld and Dharma and Greg, all rolled into one. The show, created by Stephen Falk, stars Chris Geere and the fantastic Aya Cash as Jimmy and Gretchen, two terrible-yet-lovable people who have lost their faith in love. Jimmy is a failed author with a string of failed relationships in his past, while Gretchen is a sociopathic, sex, drugs and rock n’ roll loving publicist for a Odd Future-style group who has never experienced love. The two begin an affair, and experience the fear and excitement of falling in love. Coming along for their ride is Jimmy’s PTSD-ridden houseguest Edgar (Desmin Borges) and Gretchen’s enabling best friend Lindsay (the brilliant Kether Donahue). The show is already solid on this premise alone, but season two is where the show embraces a second layer, as it explores Gretchen’s battle with clinical depression and the way it affects her relationship. It’s an honest, hilarious take on a serious issue, and it cements You’re the Worst as one of the best shows on TV, period.
So there’s the list. Obviously, there are hundreds of other great shows out there, and that’s not even acknowledging the great dramas out there. But these are the ten that need viewers, and are so funny, they cannot afford to be ignored. So if you need a laugh one night, take a gander at this list and pick yourself out a show. You may open a door into a world you never knew you needed, but always desired. Happy Wednesday, everyone.