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The 10 Best Sitcoms of 2012

December 8, 2012  |  9:30am
The 10 Best Sitcoms of 2012

Paste’s Best of 2012 series continues through Dec. 31 and is made possible by our friends at Tretorn.

Even with the rise of reality TV, none of the four major networks have totally given up on the sitcom. And with cable channels like Adult Swim and HBO getting into the game, there’s no night during the week you can’t find something that’s at least trying to be funny. The only problem is that trying and succeeding are two different things. Some of the worst new sitcoms were quickly put out of their misery (CBS’ Partners, NBC’s Animal Practice); others sadly remain on the on the air. But we’re here to celebrate good sitcoms, not lament terrible ones. So here are the 10 Best Sitcoms of 2012:

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10. Go On
Creator:
Stars: Matthew Perry
Network: NBC
Go On is the freshman comedy we’re rooting for most this season. Does it have the staying power Matthew Perry’s breakout show had? Is it as edgy and current as Community, the show it’s most often compared to? No, but it doesn’t need to be. For half a season now, the comedy has brought a sense of humor to people in dark times, and as it slowly builds and builds, it moves away from being driven by the grieving process and has shifted its focus to what any good comedy is about: the people. After 11 episodes, we’ve already become invested in most of these characters’ lives.—Adam Vitcavage

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9. Veep
Creator: Armando Iannucci
Stars: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale
Network: HBO
Armando Iannucci first took on British politics in The Thick of It, then UK/USA relations with In the Loop. Now Iannucci has tackled the second most important seat in D.C., the Vice President in Veep. His hilarious and witty scripts, along with an entire cabinet of not entirely reliable aides has, along with Girls, made HBO a strong comedy network once again. But it’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ return to TV as the VP herself, Selina Meyer, that elevates Veep, as she deals with varying problems, such as yogurt flavors, obesity and pregnancy scares, with grace and humor every week.— Ross Bonaime

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8. Modern Family
Creator: Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd
Stars: Ed O’Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet
Network: ABC
We don’t share the same unbridled devotion to Modern Family that the Emmys apparently do (get a room already, judges) since the show entered into a bit of slump during the third season earlier this year. But it finished strong with Cam and Mitchell looking to adopt a baby boy and settling for a demonic cat. And the fourth season got off to a strong start this fall, bringing Haley back from college and preparing for the newest member of the Dunphy clan. Modern Family manages to simultaneously be broad and smart with easily identifiable characters, tight storytelling and well-executed jokes. When Matthew Broderick guest-starred as a gay friend of Cam’s who thinks Phil is hitting on him at the gym, we know exactly where it’s going, but we’re still happy to follow along and laugh.—Josh Jackson

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7. Delocated
Creator: Jon Glaser
Stars: Jon Glaser, Jacob Kogan, Nadia Dajani, Eugene Mirman, Kevin Dorff, Zoe Lister-Jones
Network: Adult Swim
Absurdity is Adult Swim’s brand, and yes, Delocated is extremely absurd. It’s also one of the most powerful dramas on TV, when it wants to be. The third season of Jon Glaser’s cult hit once again combined cringe-inducing anti-comedy built around Glaser’s delusions of stereotypical masculinity (similar to the also excellent Eastbound & Down) with a shockingly violent mob revenge drama. It couldn’t work without pitch-perfect acting from Glaser and the bone-dry Steve Cirbus and Yung-I Chang, who play Russian and Chinese criminals as seriously as if they were on an HBO drama. The contrast of serious characters and life-threatening situations with the patently ridiculous results in savagely effective comedy.—Garrett Martin

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6. 30 Rock
Creator: Tina Fey
Stars: Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer, Scott Adsit, Judah Friedlander, Alec Baldwin
Network: NBC
Of all the strong Thursday night sitcoms that NBC may or may not be laying to rest at the end of this season, 30 Rock is the only one whose exit seems just right. The Office hung on too long, while if the suits decide to axe Community after its fourth season, it’ll be an unjust cancellation of Arrested Development proportions. 30 Rock, however, is leaving us at the perfect moment: Liz Lemon and friends have been around the block long enough to show us all they’re capable of, but they’re bowing out while still on top of their game. The show has always been at its finest when it’s self-aware and biting the hand that feeds it, and there’s been plenty of that this year with the usual in-jokes and NBC spoofs (like Jack producing and starring in God Cop). However, 2012 has seen the show head into unfamiliar territory as Liz Lemon finally gets her happy ending, marrying Chriss so they can adopt a child. Last week’s episode expertly handled the wedding—with Liz doing it her way, at a courthouse in a Princess Leia outfit, and emphasizing that while it’s a special day for her, it’s not the be-all end-all. It’ll be sad to see this show go, but it’s refreshing to see a sitcom end on a high note for a change.—Bonnie Stiernberg

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5. Children’s Hospital
Creator: Rob Corddry
Stars: Rob Corddry, Malin Åkerman, Lake Bell, Erinn Hayes, Rob Huebel, Ken Marino, Megan Mullally, Henry Winkler
Network: Adult Swim
Funnier than NTSF: SD SUV, less grotesque than Eagleheart and more consistent than The Eric Andre Show, Children’s Hospital remains the most absurd and (probably) the best of Adult Swim’s 12-minute live-action genre parodies. Of course it broadened its scope past the medical soap long ago, and this season the show riffed on Goodfellas, British dramas and a coked-up Law & Order. Children’s Hospital continues to weave surreal magic with one of the best casts on TV and talent that’s just as impressive behind the camera.—Garrett Martin

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4. Louie
Creator: Louis C.K.
Stars: Louis C.K., Hadley Delany, Pamela Adlon
Network: FX
Louie’s third season places the now-beloved standup in situations that are just as unbearably human as ever, whether it’s discovering a quickly fading love in new character Liz or trying his hand (and disappointingly striking out) as a late-night host. Louie’s laughs are always cringe-worthy, but more often than not, it’s because C.K. makes it easy for the audience to step into his shoes. Mix the tough moments in with incredible guest stars—Jerry Seinfeld, David Lynch, Sarah Silverman, to name a few—and you’ve got a season that mixes laughs with true life lessons. The comedian also gets bonus points for putting the show on hold until 2014 to make sure he’s fresh for a stellar fourth run.—Tyler Kane

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3. New Girl
Creator: Elizabeth Meriwether
Stars: Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone
Network: FOX
In 2012, New Girl went from adorkable show led by quirky Zooey Deschanel to one of the current great ensemble comedies on television. This year, it found its voice, making the guys of New Girl—Max Greenfield, Jake Johnson and Lamorne Morris—as much a focal point as Deschanel’s Jess, with great success. Finding humor in late-20s uncertainty, New Girl breathes new life into the sitcom in a way that hasn’t been seen since How I Met Your Mother, but without the romantic entanglement between friends that so many sitcoms before it have forced onto its stars. It’s also helped usher in a new brand of modern sitcoms, like The Mindy Project and Ben and Kate that have followed, taking the typical ensemble sitcom back by telling relatable stories, all with its own uniquely bizarre, yet hilarious voice.—Ross Bonaime

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2. Community
Creator: Dan Harmon
Stars: Joel McHale, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Ken Jeong, Chevy Chase
Network: NBC
When Community began, it revolved around the story of a shallow, cynical lawyer who made it through life on looks and the ability to talk his way out of anything. But the show quickly grew a big ol’ heart as Jeff Winger opened his life to the random cross-section of humanity in his study group. A big part of that shift was an increased focus on Abed, one of the most original characters on television. His particular slice of the autism spectrum and sincere love of great pop culture isn’t just a cure for Winger’s cynicism, it’s a cure for us all. Sadly, this past season was the last with creator Dan Harmon at the helm. Here’s hoping the wonderful characters he left us with can continue to flourish when Season Four finally arrives in the spring.—Josh Jackson

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1. Parks and Recreation
Creator: Greg Daniels, Michael Schur
Stars: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones
Network: NBC
Every season of Parks and Recreation seems to be more ambitious than the last, which makes it a rarity amongst sitcoms. Like its protagonist Leslie Knope, the show constantly yearns for progress and thrives on momentum and change rather than familiarity. But the strongest aspect of the show remains its deep characterization of Pawnee, Indiana, which goes beyond its core cast and into a Simpsons-esque repertory company of recurring characters. While their small town ideas are frequently the butt of Parks’ jokes, they’re also the heart of the show, and everyone who makes an appearance is there for more than just a cheap laugh. The show’s mixture of intelligence and affection remains unique in the normally cynical television landscape, a voice of cautious optimism that makes Parks not just the funniest show on television, it’s also the most heartfelt.—Sean Gandert

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