10. Happy Endings
Last spring, ABC helped "Happy Endings' to an early grave thanks to its erratic scheduling and promotion. Sometimes, quality shows simply fail to click with a large audience, but “Happy Endings” had a devoted following and it deserved a longer life.
The small group of friends on “Happy Endings” were some of the funniest and most endearing group of characters since the actual “Friends” came to an end. Some highlights of the back half of "Happy Endings" Season 3 included Penny’s aborted wedding storyline, Andy Richter’s guest appearance as Penny’s dad and Max pretending to be straight just to date a girl with Chicago Bulls tickets. The characters occasionally did some horrible things in the name of good comedy. But as long as it was funny, all was forgiven.
USA had a shot at saving “Happy Endings” and they blew it. So, all we have is three seasons of a very good series that could have been great.
9. Arrested Development
In all honesty, the new season of “Arrested Development” on Netflix was not the equal of the three seasons that came before it on Fox. But it’s amazing that the revival happened at all, considering how much time had passed since the cancellation of “Arrested Development” and the fact that the cast were all tied to other projects.
Splitting up the Bluth family for individual episodes may have been a necessity to get the new season made, but it hurt the dynamic that had been created in the original incarnation of "Arrested Development." I wasn’t thrilled about Michael’s story arc and some episodes were weaker than others, but I can’t deny that it was fun to see all of the characters back in action after six years.
I’d watch a fifth season of “Arrested Development” in a heartbeat, just not all once.
Your milage may vary.
8. Orange Is The New Black
“Arrested Development” got the bulk of the press for Netflix this year, but “Orange Is The New Black” was a more significant accomplishment. This was not a continuation of a previous series or a show with proven stars like Jason Bateman and Kevin Spacey. All “Orange Is The New Black” really had going for it is that it was created and written by Jenji Kohan, in her first series since “Weeds” wrapped up.
In theory, this show is about a woman named Piper (Taylor Schilling) attempting to make it through 15 months in prison for something stupid she did ten years ago. But it’s not just Piper’s story that makes things so interesting, it’s everyone else around her. This show is dark, depressing and funny.
Some critics may argue that “Orange Is The New Black” belongs in the drama category instead of comedy. I say the labels don’t matter. Two of the best shows on TV aren’t on TV at all. Only Netflix has them, and that changes everything.
7. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
I’m not really an Andy Samberg fan, so I’m not only shocked that “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” made this list, I’m astonished that it’s as good as it is. Samberg deserves a lot of the credit for his performance as Detective Jake Peralta. Jake’s a goofball, but he’s actually competent as a police detective. More importantly, he’s funny.
Samberg is also surrounded by a strong supporting cast, including Andre Braugher in his best “straight man” role as the openly gay Police Captain Ray Holt, a man who fruitlessly tries to get his best detective to behave like an adult. Terry Crews and Melissa Fumero have also been standout performers from the cast.
Fox seems to be having a hard time creating good live action comedies. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is one of the few times in recent memory that the network has gotten it right.
There is no “Seinfeld” curse for Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She had a modest hit on CBS with “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” But “Veep” has given Louis-Dreyfus a perfect starring vehicle as Vice President Selina Meyer. Selina’s not incompetent, but she does seem to have a talent for creating bad press for herself.
The second season of “Veep” improved on the first by putting Selina through a government shutdown, a disastrous trip to Finland and Congressional testimony among other misadventures. Beyond Selina, the real joy of the show is watching Selina’s staff attempt to clean up her messes while bickering with each other.
“Futurma’s” last season on Comedy Central had a few shaky episodes that made it seem like Matt Groening and David X. Cohen’s futuristic sci-fi comedy had finally run out of ideas. However the final run of new episodes restored my faith in “Futurama” including gems like “Saturday Morning Fun Pit” and “Murder on the Planet Express.”
But it was the series finale, “Meanwhile” that delivered a home run while offering a very satisfying goodbye to Fry, Leela and the entire Planet Express gang.
If this is truly the end of “Futurama,” I’m happy with what we got
4. The Venture Bros.
After a three year hiatus (seriously?!), Adult Swim’s subversively hilarious animated series finally made a comeback and reclaimed its title as one of the most insane shows on television. Sometimes insanity is the only word that can describe a series where literally anything can happen, from an evil robot L. Ron Hubbard, Sgt. Hatred’s ridiculously huge man boobs, Hank’s descent into Batman-mania (Batmania?!) and bizarre G.I. Joe inspired villains.
However, it’s the strongly defined characters that make “The Venture Bros.” work. For example, the audience cares about Dean as he struggles to deal with the knowledge that he’s a clone. And we care about Gary (former and future Henchman 21) as he tries to create his own identity before slinking back into the Monarch’s shadow.
It’s so much fun to watch ‘The Venture Bros.” that these skip years have been agony. Here’s hoping that we get a new season before 2015.
3. 30 Rock
“30 Rock” was the kind of smart comedy that NBC used to be known for, back when its Thursday night lineup legitimately meant “Must See TV.”
Liz (Tina Fey), Jack (Alec Baldwin), Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) and the rest of TGS misfits received a brief 13 episode final season that managed to close out the series on a high note. I particularly loved the idea that Liz’s new adopted children are essentially younger versions of Tracey (Tracey Morgan) and Jenna (Jane Krakowski).
At least that means Liz has had a lot of practice being a mother.
For its first three seasons, “Archer” was one of the most relentlessly funny shows on TV. And it only got better in season 4.
The fact that H. Jon Benjamin portrays the title character in “Bob’s Burgers” and Sterling Archer in this series led to a brilliant crossover of sorts between the two shows in the “Archer” Season 4 premiere. From there it was more craziness and action.
In a brilliant stroke of stunt casting, Jessica Walter’s real life husband Ron Leibman was brought in to play Archer’s new step-dad, Ron Cadillac, the new husband of Mallory Archer (Walter). Archer and Ron’s team-up in “Midnight Ron” was one of the comedic highlights of the season.
“Mad Men” star Jon Hamm also had a memorable guest appearance in the season finale as the commander of a suspiciously familiar Sea Lab. Since Hamm followed Bryan Cranston’s guest spot last season, then Andrew Lincoln should be the villain in season 5 just to keep the AMC streak alive.
As a character, Sterling Archer could have been one note and forgettable. But Benjamin makes Archer such a likeable asshole that it’s easy to forgive his flaws. And at least once a season, Archer demonstrates his humanity and compassion... right before unleashing his inner jerk yet again.
And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
1. Parks and Recreation
After years in the shadow of “The Office,” “Community” and “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation” has finally become the best comedy on TV. And it comes in the shadow of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) suffering the greatest setback of her political career.
But that’s exactly why “Parks and Recreation” is on top this year. It would have been predictable if Leslie had survived the recall attempt. Throwing Leslie out of office is a much bolder move that’s ripe for comedic potential. The writers of “Parks and Recreation” have demonstrated a talent for dealing with anything that comes their way. Chris Pratt is busy shooting Guardians of the Galaxy? Then Andy has a temporary gig overseas! Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones are leaving the series? Then Chris and Ann are getting a major sendoff!
Truthfully, the departures of Lowe and Jones will hurt “Parks and Recreation” as they were two of the show’s best characters. But the rest of the cast is amazingly strong. I have no doubt that “Parks and Recreation” can continue to perform on a high level even without Ann and Chris in the mix.
Plus if anyone is wondering about Leslie’s political ambitions, keep this in mind: politics loves a good comeback story. Just because Leslie is down for now, it doesn’t mean that she won’t eventually run for a higher office. And it will be fun to watch that happen.