Brilliant Comedy movies only comes along once every few years but brilliant comedy television is exploding, and this year was a real stand out among stand out years. We could easily have ranked a top 25 comedy television series and still leave great shows off the list .
Our best in television winners over the years are classics, still watchable, still great. In 2014, it was Last Week Tonight. After that, the late night shows got their own category, and in 2015, The Jim Gaffigan Show won the award for best tv series. In 2016, you voted for Zach Galifianakis’ Baskets as your #1 show. In 2017, it was the genius of Better Things, and in 2018 two shows topped the polls with Crashing and Barry tie-ing for first place. In 2019 The Righteous Gemstones landed on top and in 2020 the top honor went to Schitt’s Creek.
Creativity and originality were the hallmarks of the shows that made our top ten list this year. All ten shows, and many honorable mentions went in completely new directions pushing the boundaries of comedy television ever wider- and all of shows except for one are brand new series. If you’ve missed out on any of these shows, you’ve got a great binge ahead of you.
There are plenty of honorable mentions that didn’t make our list this year. CBS’s Ghosts is the rare network sitcom that is entertaining enough to watch, and make you look forward to the next episode. Girls5Eva, streaming on Peacock is a seriously fun binge watch- it’s a funny and entertaining tale about a flash in the pan girls pop group that has a chance to get back in the spotlight when their one 80’s hit gets sampled by a popular rap star. BBC series We Are Lady Parts follows an all-muslim girl punk band, and its positively addicting. You can watch that in the US thanks to the Peacock network which seems to be doing everything that Seeso had hoped to do in the comedy realm. Netflix sketch series Tim Robinson’s I Think You Should Leave delivered a strong second season, maybe even stronger than their first. Also on Netflix, The Chair starring Sandra Oh mixes in a significant amount of drama with comedy but its a thought provoking and excellent watch about a young woman of color trying to run a college English department while navigating the treacherous waters of racial equality, inappropriateness, authenticity, old vs new, and competing loyalties. As a result, she’s not handling her own life, which is falling apart. And highest recommendations to watch the SciFi’s foray into comedy, Resident Alien, which as a series is somewhat uneven, so it didn’t make the top ten, but watch it for Allen Tudyk’s magnetic performance as Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, the alien in residence. There hasn’t been an alien this funny or entertaining since Galaxy Quest.
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Created by Dan Perlman and Kevin Iso
Starring: Dan Perlman, Kevin Iso, Hassan Johnson, Kareem Green, Kristin Dodson, Kerry Coddett, Wil Sylvince, Sam Jay, Roy Wood Jr.
FLATBUSH MISDEMEANORS. SHOWTIME:Out of left field came a show so funny and so smart that it’s hard to even properly describe. At its simplest, Flatbush Misdemeanors is a half hour comedy series that follows friends and roommates Dan and Kevin navigating life in Flatbush, Brooklyn. But leaving it there would be like describing a world class restaurant as “dinner.” Perlman and Iso have created something outlandish and yet utterly authentic at the same time. The show is about teachers, its about Gen X in the City, it’s about a colorful Brooklyn community that has survived gentrification (for now), and it is about the fears, anxieties, hassles, and struggles that so many of us contend with in 2021. Expertly embracing awkward situations for laughs, the show is at its core about not fitting in, perhaps the most universal theme of all. What Judd Apatow did with the high school anxiety of Freaks and Geeks, Perlman and Iso do for the anxieties of living in an urban multicultural environment. The cast is truly special. Dan and Kevin are an odd couple, with Dan’s hyper nervous energy a perfect counter to Kevin’s laid back depressive response to their predicaments. As showrunners, Kevin and Dan hold on loosely giving every member of the cast plenty of room to move and create the reality of their characters. It works superbly. Hassan Johnson’s Drew and Kareem Johnson’s characters are flawed, but they are comfortable in their own skin and can live with and adapt to any mistakes, anxiety free. This of course a stark contrast to Dan and Kevin who become paralyzed by even their smallest missteps. Kristin Dodson is perfection as Zayna, a troubled teen being raised by her uncle Drew while navigating high school in Flatbush. Her coping mechanisms are different from any other character in the series- larger- louder- and yet completely real to her situation. Those who know, know. And if you don’t start binging now.
Status: Renewed for Season Two
Created by Michael Che, Executive Producer Lorne Michaels.
Cast: Michael Che, Cecily Strong, Heidi Gardner, Colin Quinn, Ellen Cleghorn, Colin Jost. With Chris Distefano, Will Sylvince, Greer Barnes, Godfrey Yamaneika, Monroe Martin, Mike Yard, Method Man, Billy Porter
THAT DAMN MICHAEL CHE. HBO. Michael Che is pretty busy as head writer of Saturday Night Live, but clearly he has a lot of material that is either too edgy or too controversial or maybe just too smart and funny to air on SNL. Enter That Damn Michael Che, a sketch series with courage a heart and a brain. Six episodes of sketches, often cast right out of the New York stand up comedy scene featuring some of the best and brightest who don’t always make it to television because they chose to live in New York. Don’t even attempt to think you know where Che is going with each sketch, because oftentimes he’ll surprise you and sometimes shock the shit out of you. In addition to the sketches, each episode features Che using talking head vignettes to giving a brief glimpse on how he feels about different political or cultural phenomenon. Che takes up BLM, police brutality, unemployment, falling in love, the pandemic, the vax, violence, discrimination, being famous, bias & prejudice. Sometimes the sketches illustrate what it feels like to experience these events from a black vantage point, and other times just to show you Michael Che’s personal vantage point. He focuses on being honest rather than right- even taking on his own prejudices, and the result is quite honestly, a much better show than SNL. When we first heard about the series, it didn’t make sense that Lorne would produce an outside sketch series with his acting head writer. After watching season one, we get it. Lorne’s resources with Che in the creators seat make a great match and we can’t wait to see more.
Created By by Steve Martin and John Hoffman
Cast: Steve Martin, Martin Short, Selena Gomez, Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane
ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING, HULU.This year Hulu brought us something amazing that we weren’t expecting. The first time we heard about this series, it was already airing. Within minutes of turning on OMitB you are hooked. A murder mystery where the series stars are investigating the murder while creating a podcast about their investigation was bound to happen. But nobody expected it to come in the form of a comedy starring some of the biggest icons in the business. Bravo to Hulu for introducing us to Charles, Oliver and Mabel, three strangers who live in the Luxury building, the Arconia. They meet during a fire alarm that clears out the building, and all three of them have only one thing in common- they’re all obsessed with the same fictional murderino podcast. When they return to the building, a resident is dead, seemingly by suicide. Our three lead characters are convinced its murder, so they team up to investigate, and quickly start a podcast of their own in the image of their hero. Is it in their podcast-fueled imagination that the victim was murdered? Or are they on to something? This series works on so many levels- the mystery is compelling and expertly crafted. The reveals keep coming and never feel cheap. The comedic elements are fire, the principal cast has outstanding chemistry, and the character development is first rate. On top of all of that, the episodes where the series plays with form are exhilarating. A masterpiece.
Status: Renewed for a second season
Created by Valerie Armstrong
Cast: Annie Murphy, Eric Petersen
KEVIN CAN FUCK HIMSELF, APPLE +.One of the riskiest and most unique shows of the year, Kevin Can Fuck Himself, satirizes and full on roasts the tropes of the network sitcom. It’s a dark comedy that includes a broad comedy within its structure and it is fascinating. Allison is a typical sitcom wife. She is married to Kevin, a typical sitcom husband. Kevin is an idiot. He’s some kind of mashup of the worst parts of Al Bundy, Homer Simpson, Doug Heffernan, Tim Taylor and Ray Barrone. He’s a drinking poker playing football watching jerk who pays little to no attention to his wife unless he’s demanding that she do things for him. Allison has had enough and is determined to head out of her tv-land nightmare of a life and find something more. The show switches between Allison’s outside life, where she is a fully realized woman with dreams and problems and dimension, and her life with Kevin where she is a one dimensional background character. To help keep things straight for the viewer (and for artistic reasons) Allison’s outside life is filmed using a single camera, and no laugh track, using a dark gritty color palate. When she returns to her home and shares scenes with Kevin, we see her life through the lens of a multi-camera format, an over the top laugh track, and bright sitcom technicolor. Conceptually its brilliant and very effective in practice. In a television universe where networks often play things safe, we’re thankful that streamer networks can go out on limbs with creative risks.
Status: Renewed for a Second Season
Created by Bill Lawrence, Jason Sudeikis, Joe Kelly, Brendan Hunt
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Jeremy Swift, Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein, Nick Mohammed,
TED LASSO. APPLE TV +. What started as a character to promote NBC’s coverage of the Premier League became a sleeper hit for Apple TV in season one. An avalanche of awards followed, giving Ted Lasso classic comedy status. In Season Two all the familiar players and coaches are back, with Ted Lasso still trying to turn around AFC Richmond and steer it back to the Premiere League. But this season puts the spotlight on the show’s wonderfully rich secondary characters, like the team’s owner Rebecca vulnerably exploring romance after a high profile divorce. Roy Kent is figuring out how to be useful now that he’s no longer playing, while also spending more time with his girlfriend Keely who has a lot on her hands this year steering the team’s brand. Coach Beard and Assistant Coach Shelly get wonderful storylines of their own to pursue, and if you haven’t watched yet, you won’t see any of it coming. Jamie Tartt is back and causing trouble, Director of Operations Leslie gets to shine more this year, and newcomer Dr. Sharon Fieldstone is a terrific device to not only explore Lasso’s inner demons, but to shed light on the unique issues that players like Sam Obisanya are dealing with.Season One was nominated for 20 Primetime Emmy awards- making Ted Lasso the most nominated new series in Emmy history. We’re starting Season Two off with a Year in Comedy nomination for Best Comedy Series.
Status: Renewed for a Third Season
Created by: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, Music by Cinco Paul, Executive Produced by Lorne Michaels
Cast: Keegan Michael Key, Cecily Strong, Fred Armisen, Kristen Chenowith, Alan Cumming, Ariana Debose, Martin Short, Jane Krakowslki
SCHMIGADOON. APPLE TV +.Schmigadoon lives in the place where fun meets funny, and its a blast to watch. The premise is fairly simple, and fantastical. Two New York doctors who have fallen into a relationship rut join a couples retreat and get lost while on a therapeutic hike in the woods. They accidentally wander into an alternate reality where life is literally a musical. They find themselves trapped– some type of magic prevents them from leaving– and a sign informs them that only when they find true love, can they cross the bridge that will return them to the real world. Stuck for now, they search for their soul mates in the magical world in which they find themselves. Neither is willing to remain in the land of Schmigadoon forever, where they would have to put up with the land’s strange inhabitants, pollyanna ways, and propensity to burst into song. The episodes parody classic musical theater–Brigadoon, the Music Man, the Sound of Music, and more. The cast is exquisitely talented, at song, dance and most importantly, comedy. While our two lead characters have much to learn from the citizens of Schmigadoon, it seems that the town residents have a lot to learn from their strange visitors as well. Creator Cinco Paul has said in interviews that he has plans for future seasons, but Apple TV hasn’t bellied up to the bar just yet. If we can’t get Schmigadoon 2 on television, at least send this hilarious story to the stage. It’s a perfect fit for Broadway even it it is a little PG 13.
Status: Not cancelled or renewed
Created by: Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky
Cast: Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder, Carl Lemons-Hopkins, Kaitlin Olson, Christopher McDonald, Paul Downs
HACKS. HBO. The comedy darling of this year, Hacks feels like it is following in the footsteps of Mrs. Maisel with a strong female-centric character who performs stand up comedy for a living. But Hacks comes at the Joan Rivers-esque character from the other end of her career. While Maisel shows its comedy heroine beginning her journey into fame and success, Hacks shows us the later years of a long successful career. Jean Smart plays Deborah Vance, a Vegas headliner who is increasingly out of touch with the world and needs someone to help her revitalize her career. Enter Ava, a cynical smart ass who also happens to be a struggling comedian and writer. Ava gets fired from her tv writing job because of a twitter faux pas and is, essentially, fucked. The two meet, and the chemistry between them is fire- but the kind that burns a house down, with everyone in it. But both women are desperate in their own ways, and each of them has something the other needs. Their incompatability and headstrong tendencies provide many comedic scenarios. The performances of the female dominated principal cast, particularly newcomer Hannah Einbinder and veteran Jean Smart are what makes Hacks so funny and compelling. Kaitlin Olsen provides hilarious diversions from the contentiousness between the two series stars. Hacks is a huge hit, and America has fallen in comedy love.
Status: Renewed for Season Two.
Created by: Patricia Williams aka Ms. Pat.
Cast: Ms. Pat, J. Bernard Calloway, Tami Roman, Vince Swann, Briayana Guadalupe and Theodore John Barnes
THE MS. PAT SHOW. BET+. Based on Ms Pat’s real life, The Ms. Pat Show centers on Pat and her well meaning husband soon after a move from Atlanta to a midwest white suburb. In search of a better and safer life for their kids, Ms. Pat soon finds she has exposed her family to new problems they didn’t anticipate, including being marginalized and stereotyped by their new neighbors. What differentiates the series from countless other fish out of water family sitcoms, is of course, Ms. Pat herself. You’ve never seen a sitcom character like Pat, and odds are you’ve never met anyone like her either. Because Pat is authentically herself, as a person, as a comedian, as am actor. She’s lived a very different life from most viewers, and she knows how to take her experiences and translate them for television. The show is screamingly funny, but it’s also insightful and relatable and heartfelt. Most importantly, it’s completely uncensored, which is the only way you want Ms. Pat to be. Opting to be on BET’s streaming counterpart BET+, the choice pays off handsomely. Think Redd Foxx, or Richard Pryor unbound by network restrictions, and you’ll start to understand what makes this show so special. A strong supporting cast allows Pat to create her magic, and result is well worth the cost of entry.
Status: Renewed for Season Two.
Created by: Georgia Pritchett
Cast: Will Farrell, Paul Rudd, Katheryn Hahn, Casey Wilson
THE SHRINK NEXT DOOR, APPLE TV +. Based on a True Story and a wildly popular true crime podcast, The Shrink Next Door tells the story of how a psychiatrist, Ike, (Paul Rudd) manipulated a patient , Marty (Farrell) into turning over all of his assets to his doctor. It’s straight out of the “you can’t make this shit up” genre. The comedy is dark, stemming from the ridiculousness of what’s happening to Marty. The two principals, Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd and the series two directors, Michael Showalter and Jesse Peretz (Girls, GLOW) are able to keep the series funny without undermining the darkness of the story. If Ike was simply stealing from Marty, there wouldn’t be much to laugh about, but Ike doesn’t just embezzle from his client- he moves into Marty’s home, turning his patient into an unpaid servant while he throws lavish parties. It’s an irresistible true crime story, told by some of the funniest people in the business, and incredibly addictive. All episodes are now available for your binging pleasure on Apple TV +.
Status: One and Done
Created by Mike White
Cast: Murray Bartlett, Connie Britton, Steve Zahn, Fred Hechinger, Sydney Sweeny, Jennifer Coolidge, Alexandra Daddario, Jake Lacy, Natasha Rothwell, Molly Shannon
THE WHITE LOTUS. HBO. In the series opening, we meet the members of three groups traveling to the White Lotus resort in Hawaii, and before we even get our first glimpse of the hotel, we find out that one person will be leaving the island in a casket. That is the backdrop for this darkly comedic cautionary tale about wealth, cultural appropriation, and responsibility to our fellow human beings, even those outside of our wealth class. This near paradise becomes populated with awful people played by actors who we all know and love. Jake Lacey and Alexandra Daddario are Shane and Rachel, young (and wealthy) newlyweds, who are denied the suite they requested when it is double booked. Jennifer Coolidge as Tanya, an unstable and emotional woman who has journeyed to the Lotus with her mothers ashes for final disposition, but she is also searching for purpose and some shred of happiness. Steve Zahn and Connie Britton are Mark and Nicole, who bring their two kids and a friend with them to unwind. Each of these groups will interact with the resort’s staff in ways that will not only send one person hurtling towards a mysterious death, but also reveal much about American culture, wealth and status inequity. Murray Bartlett plays Armond the hotel manager who has problems of his own in addition to interacting with the privileged guests, and Natasha Rothwell is Belinda, the hotel’s spa manager who dreams of having something of her own. It’s dark, it’s funny, and it’s one of the most interesting shows on television this year. It’s been green-lit for a second season at a new location with a new cast. We can’t wait to see what Michael White comes up with this time.
Status: Renewed for Season Two.