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The Ten Best TV Comedies of 2012

Our picks for the best comedy shows from the past year.

Comedy is subjective.

With the genre currently enjoying a revival on TV, sitcoms and comedy series were all over the place in 2012.

And while we’re not rushing out to review “Two and a Half Men” or “The New Normal,” we acknowledge that there’s an audience for these shows. It just isn’t us.

Truthfully, the only thing we need are shows that make us laugh. But the TV comedies that really grab us are the ones that manage to make us care about them as more than just a delivery system for jokes.

Looking back at our top ten TV comedies of 2012, most of the shows on this list were able to do that even if they couldn’t breakout and find the wider audience that they deserve. Regardless of their ratings, this is a celebration of the shows that matter to us.

Of course, you may have different opinions about which shows should be on this list or in which order they should be in. If so, feel free to let us know in the comment section below!

 


 New Girl

Fox may push “New Girl” as the Zooey Deschanel show, but it actually has one of the best ensemble comedy casts since “Friends.” Deschanel’s Jess is funny and charming and the focus is clearly on her. However, the other performers on “New Girl” almost always get their chance to shine as well.  

Aside from Jess, the best character is Schmidt (Max Greenfield), whose “douchiness” is comedy gold. Getting Schmidt into a Fifty Shades of Grey parody story with his boss, Emma (Carla Gugino) was one of the more brilliant touches in the second season. “New Girl” is still early in its lifecycle, but it shows a lot of promise for what it might become.

However, I still hate the word “adorkable.”


 Life's Too Short

If you remember who Warwick Davis is, it’s more likely that you recognize him from the Harry Potter films or the Leprechaun movies. And if you’re over 30, you may remember his leading role in Willow and his turn as Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi.

“Life’s Too Short” casts Davis as a fictional version of himself who is incredibly vain and somewhat delusional about his place in the world. Filmed in the “mockumentary” style of the British version of “The Office” alongside Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, “Life’s Too Short” occasionally captures the spirit of its predecessor with the same style of humor.

But it’s the celebrity cameos that make “Life’s Too Short” special. Liam Neeson’s attempt to branch out into comedy was hysterical because he intentionally made himself look clueless about what it takes to be funny. Even Johnny Depp showed up to mock his own reputation. “Life’s Too Short” may not be an instant classic, but it was still one of the best comedies this year.


 Futurama

Here at CraveOnline, we feel that “Futurama” is one of the best animated comedies of all time. But the seventh season definitely made it seem like “Futurama” has lost a few steps. “Futurama” has always been able to unexpectedly switch gears from comedy and occasionally deal with real heartbreaking emotions. However, there was nothing that ambitious in the current batch of episodes from the first half of the seventh season. "The Butterjunk Effect" and “Naturama” were particularly uninspired episodes.

Despite that, there were some bright spots like "The Six Million Dollar Mon," "Decision 3012," “"Fun on a Bun" and “Near Death Wish” that reminded us why we love “Futurama.” As we’ve said before, even a bad episode of “Futurama” is still better than most comedies. But hopefully the second half of season 7 can earn "Futurama" a higher place on this list next year.


 Happy Endings

“Happy Endings” is the rare “Friends” clone that not only acknowledges (and references) the earlier series, it manages to outdo ”Friends”with sheer comedic insanity. Only “Community” is able to work in more meta references than “Happy Endings” does on a regular basis. And the dialogue on “Happy Endings” is surprisingly sharp and quotable.

This wouldn’t work if the cast members weren’t on top of their game and very likable. There’s no one I hate on this show. Personally, I’m partial to Casey Wilson’s Penny, the girl who just can’t stay in a steady relationship. The Misery parody between Penny and Max (Adam Pally) from earlier this season was particularly inspired.

“Happy Endings” hasn’t become a great show yet. But it seems to be well on its way.


 Wilfred

“Wilfred” may be the darkest and strangest comedy series on TV.

Ryan (Elijah Wood) is the only person who can perceive his neighbor’s dog, Wilfred (Jason Gann) as an anthropomorphic Australian man in a cheap dog suit. Or maybe Ryan is simply bats**** crazy. The jury is still out on that one.

For season two, Ryan met a woman named Amanda (Allison Mack) who wasn’t put off by the strangeness in his life… because she was even crazier than he was! Prior to the second season finale, “Wilfred” actually made us feel for Ryan and Amanda when he instigated a breakup to protect her from his own deteriorating sanity.

This show is also unusually bold when it comes to humor. How many other TV series would dare to do the episode in which Ryan accidentally jerked off Wilfred? And then close out the same episode with a show stopping musical number?

That kind of humor doesn’t always work and “Wilfred” occasionally can’t pull it off. But when it hits, “Wilfred” is really hilarious.


 30 Rock

Life is happening for Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) on the final season of “30 Rock.” This show has always been one of the most reliably funny comedies on TV. And now that the series is approaching its endgame, Fey is actually giving Liz a meaningful story arc to go out on.

This season also got a lot of mileage out of the Presidential election as Liz and Jack (Alec Baldwin) tried to sway Jenna (Jane Krakowski) and her swing voter fans while Tracy (Tracy Morgan) and Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) had a memorable episode in which Tracy tried to make Kenneth’s real life more like television just to comfort his friend.

“30 Rock” is firing on so many cylinders that even Alec Baldwin floated the idea of an eighth season of the series. But everything has to end sometimes. And I just want “30 Rock” to go out on a high note.


 Louie

Louis C.K. writes, stars in and pretty much does everything on “Louie,” giving his show an unusually intimate tone as we watch him go through a doomed courtship with Parker Posey’s Liz or see him going out for David Letterman’s job on “The Late Show” only to have his ambitions cruelly crushed.

Consequently, the fictionalized version of Louis C. K. seems more approachable than his counterpart in reality. Louie takes his shots from life and he constantly gets knocked over, only to keep on getting back up. Plus, “Louie” is pretty damn funny and that makes all of the difference.

There’s nothing quite like “Louie” on TV. Other comedies have heart, but “Louie” has soul.


 Archer

There’s nothing heartfelt or soulful about “Archer,” the animated spy comedy on FX. This show doesn’t aspire to be anything more than one of the most relentlessly funny series on TV.

And it really is that good. Thanks to creator Adam Reed and an outstanding voice cast, “Archer” is one of the most quotable TV series on the air. H. Jon Benjamin gets the bulk of the focus on his hyper confident superspy and boorish womanizer, Sterling Archer. But the third season managed to give Lana (Aisha Tyler), Cyril (Chris Parnell), Ray (Adam Reed) and Pam (Amber Nash) some character development and excellent comedy showcases.

Plus, it’s hard to go wrong when Burt Reynolds and Bryan Cranston bookend the season in guest roles.


 Parks and Recreation

 

I believe in Leslie Knope.

If we’re being honest, I started watching “Parks and Recreation” because of the great Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman); who is perhaps one of the most perfectly created sitcom characters of all time.

But “Parks and Recreation” in 2012 was the year of Leslie Knope as she ran a hard fought election for Pawnee City Council against Paul Rudd’s hilariously clueless Bobby Newport and Newport’s conniving campaign manager, Jennifer Barkley (Kathryn Hahn).

Amy Poehler performance as Leslie was solid throughout the year and her romance with Ben (Adam Scott) was endearing  But Poehler’s most memorable moments came in “The Debate” (an episode which Poehler wrote and directed) in which Leslie turned around her flailing campaign with an impressive performance that even left the genial Bobby applauding for her.

The supporting cast of “Parks and Recreation” also had a great year and there are no weak links here. This is very nearly the best comedy series of the year… except for one show.  


 Community

NBC may have yanked “Community” from its original fourth season premiere in the fall, but the 12 episodes that made up the back half of the third season were among the best of the series… and far ahead of everything else on television.

Under Dan Harmon’s reign, “Community” had a unique comedic sensibility that allowed the series to lampoon different genres on a week-to-week basis by grounding the stories with cast of characters whom we came to care about.

For example, take “Digital Estate Planning," the episode in which the Greendale 7 had to play an 8-bit video game devised by the cruel (and deceased) father of Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase) in order to help Pierce claim his inheritance. The script and performances were hilarious, but the ending packed an emotional punch as Pierce willingly gave up his inheritance as an overture to his illegitimate half brother, Gilbert Lawson (Giancarlo Esposito).

Of course, that story was accompanied by a subplot of Abed (Danny Pudi) falling in love with an 8-bit girl named Hilda. It’s insane, but we love it.

There are so many great episodes from the back half of  “Community” season three that it’s impossible to do them justice in the space that we have here. But the “Law & Order” parody was amazing and "Introduction to Finality" felt like it could have been a great way to close out the series if it hadn’t been renewed. Without Dan Harmon, there’s no guarantee that “Community” will be this good next year… or if there will ever be #sixseasonsandamovie.

The new “Community” showrunners are “Happy Endings” veterans David Guarascio and Moses Port, to whom we leave this message:

“Don’t screw this up.”