Best TV of the '00s: Comedy
Life is depressing. Wake up. Maybe eat some breakfast. Take a shower. Go to work. Eat dinner. Go to bed. Rinse and repeat. Fortunately for us slobs, the glory of television has afforded us numerous opportunities over the years to break up the monotony, kick back, relax, and most importantly, laugh.
Clichéd as it sounds, it really is the best medicine, because even though you overslept your alarm, your boss was a jerk, and you stepped in gum while waiting for the subway, going home and seeing Peter Griffin fart, Michael Scott talk like a fool, and Barney Stinson hit on some broad always makes it all better.
So take a load off, kick off your shoes, and undo your belt to allow for maximum belly jiggling while chortling -- here are TV Squad's picks for the best comedies of the past decade.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Jonathan says: Brash, crude, in your face, and really f*cking funny, FX's sharp comedy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is probably not the best comedy of the last decade but it's definitely up there. It's been called "Seinfeld on crack" and the description fits -- despite the fact that Always Sunny is truly about nothing, they manage to cram more comedy into each episode with the zeal of an addict loading up his pipe for the next hit. Who knew that laughing at dumpster babies, retards, cancer, welfare, child molesters, and seeing Danny DeVito naked could be so enjoyable?
Allison says: There was something about Pushing Daisies that was so good and so clever and entertaining that in many ways it was too good for television. It was a fable and a fairy tale and a musical set in a world unlike anything you've ever seen on TV outside of something sci-fi. Perhaps the best comparison was a modern day Wizard of Oz. I can't say Pushing Daisies was the funniest, but it was completely original and delightful. In the past decade, and even longer, it was the best comedy (only because you can't slot it as a drama).
Bob says: If you think about it, this is the dream sitcom, a sitcom just filled to capacity with jokes, one-liners, and memorable quotes. How many comedies really make you laugh out loud on such a consistent basis? Most comedies are pleasant diversions. 30 Rock is in a class all by itself. It deserves all of the awards it gets, and so do Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey. I'm happy NBC has stuck with this show.
Isabelle says: The Simpsons is in its 21st season and it's still going strong. Other comedies have come and gone in the past decade -- some even, at times, better in quality than The Simpsons. However, the FOX animated series continues to gives us good episodes filled with pop culture references and even references to past episodes of the series. This is one of the few shows that I don't only watch weekly, but that I also watch in reruns because every time I watch an old one, I notice something funny I hadn't noticed before.
John says: I watch this show every week it airs, and I still don't understand the magical stew that makes South Park the funniest and most insightful comedy on TV. How does a show that indulges in fart jokes and the bawdiest of sex gags also present TV's most biting and accurate political and social commentary? How does a show that features a budding racist, sexist (and likable) malignant narcisist like Eric Cartman manage to have one of the more positive and life-affirming messages on television? I don't know. All I know is the show teaches me we wouldn't need authority figures of most varieties if we all possessed the common sense of kids.
Joel says: I know it's an easy choice, and I could get more creative and say something like "Without Scrubs we wouldn't have Arrested Development" ('cause it's true), but of all the single-camera shows that bowed during this decade, no one used the form better than AD. From the inspired casting -- Jason Bateman as an earnest straight man! -- to the off-handed jokes and subtle references to previous episodes, the show brought together clever writing and wonderful comic acting in a way that hadn't been seen since the early seasons of Frasier. The fact that FOX actually stuck with the show for three years is almost a miracle in retrospect, since they've basically given up on all comedy development that doesn't involve Seth MacFarlane.
I wish I could mention every great thing about the show, but I just don't have the room, so I'll just cite three of my favorite things: Will Arnett as GOB, David Cross in Tobias' "nevernude" cutoff shorts, and Henry Winkler as Barry Zuckerhorn, jumping the shark.
Mike says: For me, Mitchell Hurwitz's outstanding comedy was an era-defining show that jump-started the careers of some great comic actors (Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Portia di Rossi) and used the single-camera format to tell a long form story laced with a million hilarious jokes. Arrested Development only lasted three years, but it delivered more laughs and inspired moments than most other long-running comedies.
Michael P. says: It may be get low brow at points, but Family Guy is the little engine that could, rising like a phoenix after cancellation. It may not be the most intelligent show on television but Family Guy provides the best escapism from everyday life. Watching the musical cuts, the most obscure pop culture references, and the dynamic between Brian and Stewie is great. The show always leaves me guessing: who'll they refer to next week?
The Office (BBC)
Annie says: The Office is one of those scary things for me to talk about because I get way too into it. Pathetically enough, I distinctly remember spending twenty-some hours waiting for a torrent of the big Christmas special the night after it aired, cursing my slow Internet connection and position on this side of the Atlantic. It was that 2003 finale that solidified my almost obsessive love. Willingly ending the show after only fourteen episodes was a daring but smart choice, a matter of quality over quantity, and it gave just enough closure to be a proper finale without closing the doors on these characters' lives.
They are simultaneously painful and hilarious, thanks to the incredible cast and writing, and all this was accomplished without ever completely giving into the realm of the sitcom (as the US version has done) but by bringing all the comedy from an almost too human mockumentary standpoint. It truly is my favorite show of all time, not only as a comedy but as a work of art. Yeah. See? I get way too into it.
The Office (US)
Jason says: While it started off as a too-faithful adaptation of the amazing UK original, The Office has now transcended and even surpassed its parent (I know, blasphemy!). It was simple enough to do. Make a character out of every single person in the office and watch it evolve into a true ensemble performance. Now episodes don't have to rely on the awkwardness of Michael, and we've been able to watch relationships come and go and grow and flourish.
The Office is still unlike anything else on American television, with its perfect blend of drama, humor, heart, character, and discomfort. The fact that you can simply say "Kevin" to an Office fan and they'll smile and have a memory of that character, or Stanley, Kelly, Angela, Oscar, Creed and on and on. The show is so rich in characters and almost always spot-on with great writing for all of them.
Danny says: It's true that without the brilliance of The Simpsons, we wouldn't have had Futurama. But Futurama not only managed to stand on its own two bionic leg implants, but broke new ground on the potential for animated television. Combining traditional hand drawn animation with epic computer imagery, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen ventured into primetime territory by taking on the future in ways only Groening's trademark humor could. From the mass production of suicide booths to celebrities who make cameos as disembodied heads preserved in jars. The true stars, however, were the show's cast of very colorful and original characters from a one-eyed space captain with a mysterious past to a binge drinking robot who secretly dreams of killing all humans and being a folk singer. How good was this show?! I'll tell you how good -- it was canceled twice(!) and has gone into production for a third time.
The Big Bang Theory
Brad says: Very few shows can bring nerdery to the mainstream and make it popular. It probably helps that it's a part of CBS' strong Monday night comedy line-up but I like to think it's also the strong performance of Jim Parsons as Sheldon (using Penny played by Kaley Cuoco as his foil) that really gives The Big Bang Theory some teeth. I'm not sure if the show is about educational class structure or intellectualism vs. reality but I do know that the show is hilariously funny, even if you don't know what Sheldon is saying most of the time.
Kona says: Even though The Big Bang Theory may not be number one on my decade list, it's the one I want to talk about, because I was so dead-wrong about it. I reviewed the pilot for another website, and it was not exactly... favorable. I thought it was another stupid laugh-track sitcom filled with one-dimensional characters and jokes that just tried a bit too hard. However, after I started watching it, and especially after I started covering it for TV Squad, I began to love it more and more. The writing got tighter, the characters actually developed, and Jim Parsons became one of the standout comedy actors on television today. While hindsight doesn't make me love the pilot more, I'm so glad I gave it a second shot, as it continues to impress more and more each week.
The Bernie Mac Show
Nick says: This could easily have been a terrible show, another cookie-cutter family sitcom built on network test audience "research" trading on the name of a hot stand-up comedian. But the combination of the brilliant Larry Wilmore, who created and produced the show, and the presence of Bernie Mac, a fierce, no bullshit comic, turned it into something wonderful.
Mac was a rough but loving father, taking in his sister's three kids when her drug abuse rendered her no longer able to take care of them. That part of the plot always anchored the show -- it justified some of Mac's anger, but also emphasized his heart, as the kids were a constant reminder of his sister's situation, but also a blessing in many ways. This was a real, loving family, and a testament to the late Mac's tremendous ability and appeal.
Bob says: It's easy to do irreverent on sitcoms. It's also easy to do sappy and predictable. Scrubs managed to do both so well. It gave you characters you cared about (even the hard-ass ones) while at the same time doing surreal, goofy humor too. Should the show have gone away before this season? Yeah, probably, but that doesn't mean that the first several seasons weren't fantastic.