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The 10 Best Sitcoms of 2013

December 24, 2013  |  9:04am
The 10 Best Sitcoms of 2013

The State of the Sitcom in 2013 is a story of flux. Only four series return from our list of The 10 Best Sitcoms of 2012 as some of our favorites celebrated their finales — either by choice or by premature death — and others experienced a down year or a complete hiatus. This year also saw the return of our all-time favorite sitcom, but that wasn’t enough to knock last year’s Number One out of its spot. And four freshman shows got us excited about the future of sitcoms. Here are our 10 favorite sitcoms of 2013:

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10. Trophy Wife
Creators: Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins
Stars: Malin Åkerman, Bradley Whitford, Michaela Watkins, Natalie Morales, Ryan Lee, Bailee Madison, Albert Tsai, Marcia Gay Harden
Network: ABC
At first glance, Trophy Wife looked like it was trying to be an Even More Modern Family, but thanks to a darker tone and wonderful performances by the trio of women—Malin Åkerman, Marcia Gay Harden, Natalie Morales—surrounding charming everyman Bradley Whitford, it’s turned into a surprisingly fresh take on the family sitcom. Åkerman really shines in the title role, giving it enough depth and life to undermine the entire idea of a “trophy wife.”—Josh Jackson

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9. The Goldbergs
Creator: Adam F. Goldberg
Stars: Wendi McLendon-Covey, Sean Giambrone, Troy Gentile, Hayley Orrantia, George Segal, Jeff Garlin
Network: ABC
With narration by Patton Oswalt and one of the funniest dysfunctional TV couples since Bryan Cranston had hair, The Goldbergs is an often hilarious look back at the 1980s. Maybe it’s because, like creator Adam Goldberg, I was the third child of a fiercely protective mother, and I was equally in love with the new pop culture. My wife even grew up in Goldberg’s Philadelphia and can identify the shops in the neighborhood. While keeping the timeline somewhat nebulous, he gets so much right because so many of the ideas come directly from the handheld videocamera he was obsessed with as a kid.—Josh Jackson

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8. Family Tree
Creator: Christopher Guest, Jim Piddock
Stars: Chris O’Dowd, Nina Conti, Michael McKean, Lisa Pelfrey
Network: HBO
If you’re a Christopher Guest fan, you probably think you know what you’re in for with Family Tree, his new eight-episode series for HBO. He’s a comic auteur if ever there was one, and his films always take place in clearly defined worlds. But Family Tree is different. Yes, many of Guest’s usual actors turn up—though most don’t until the second half of the season—but the formula’s shaken up a bit this time around. His characters have always existed in very distinct communities, but Family Tree’s main character is trying to find his. The show follows Tom Chadwick (Chris O’Dowd, who Americans will probably recognize best from Bridesmaids, This is 40, Girls or The IT Crowd) as he attempts to trace his genealogy after inheriting a box of his recently deceased great-aunt Victoria’s old family mementos. Tom’s got the “lovable loser” thing on lock—he’s reeling from a recent breakup with his girlfriend, and he’s jobless after being fired from his risk-assessment gig. O’Dowd brings just the right amount of sadness to the role, but he’s also extremely quick, reacting to the zany characters who surround him much in the same way Jason Bateman did in Arrested Development. Like anything Guest does, the show expertly blends pathos into its comedy.—Bonnie Stiernberg

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7. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Creator: Rob McElhenney
Stars: Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney, Kaitlin Olson, Danny DeVito
Network: FX/FXX
Looking back on It’s Always Sunny’s ninth season, the episode that will stand out in my mind was the third, “The Gang Desperately Tries to Win an Award.” It’s a brilliant 23 minutes of self-reflection, as the cast looks at why the show has never won (or been nominated for) an Emmy through the lens of Paddy’s Pub, which has been snubbed once again for a Philadelphia restaurant award. At one point, the gang visits a flashy new bar with trite dialogue between the good-looking, multi-racial bartenders (ie, every boring network sitcom). Later, they wonder if their neighborhood (ie, FX) is responsible, dismissing that because other local bars (ie, Louie) have earned recognition. They hold a party at the bar to try to woo the voters, but it ends in disaster, with Charlie, high on glue, singing a tortured, hysterical song about spiders in his soul. As the guests look on in horror, the gang begins spitting at them to drive them away, finally concluding that they can only be themselves. That’s been the MO of It’s Always Sunny for years; bizarre, disturbing, and hilarious in a way that’s bound to appeal to a similarly off-kilter audience. Season 9 may have been the show’s weakest year yet, with lots of re-hashes and an unfortunate reliance on old gags, but it still retains the dark, corrupt heart that makes it so unique and appealing in a TV landscape of risk-free comedy.—Shane Ryan

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6. 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 with grace and humor every week.— Ross Bonaime

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5. Eastbound & Down
Creators: Jody Hill, Ben Best, Danny McBride
Stars: Danny McBride, Steve Little, Katy Mixon
Network: HBO
Always hilarious, but as painful and emotional as any drama,Eastbound & Down deserves a depressing ending. This isn’t a feel-good show. It’s a dark look at fame and fortune and suburban America, with a particular focus on the nouveau riche soullessness that has overtaken the sprawling cities of the South. There’s no major catastrophe at the end of the show’s final season, but it’s hard to see how Kenny will be happy with his newly resettled domestic life. It makes sense to end the show with Kenny and his family leaving North Carolina—Eastbound is unmistakably Southern, and couldn’t exist outside of it. Part of its greatness is that, outside of Kenny and certain secondary characters, it has generally presented the South in an understated and naturalistic way, cutting through much of the annoying exoticness with which Hollywood presents the South.—Garrett Martin

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4. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Creators: Daniel J. Goor, Michael Schur
Stars: Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Terry Crews, Chelsea Peretti
Network: NBC
Created by Parks & Rec showrunner Michael Schur and his fellow Parks writer Dan Goor, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is populated with the same kind of hilarious and lovable characters as the Pawnee Parks Department. It all starts with the unexpected chemistry between Andy Samberg as the wise-cracking detective and his all-business chief played by Homicide’s Andre Braugher. There’s misantrhopic Gina (Chelsea Peretti), food-blogging Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio), street-tough Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz), brown-nosing Santiago and gun-shy hulk Terry (Terry Crews), but after just a handful of episodes, they’re already characters you want to pull for. Schur never wants to sacrifice heart for humor, and his shows have plenty of both.—Josh Jackson

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3. New Girl
Creator: Elizabeth Meriwether
Stars: Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone
Network: Fox
New Girl has quickly grown into one of TV’s sharpest ensemble comedies. Creator/showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether and her writing staff keep stepping up their game. While even the best network programs are susceptible to lulls in quality due to the demanding 20-plus-episode order, almost every one of 2013’s episodes plays like a spirited, comedic gem, with Meriwether and Co. expertly navigating the line between absurd silliness and heartfelt sentimentality. Never was this more apparent than in the second season’s latter half, which saw the long-awaited coupling of Deschanel’s Jess and Nick, her lovable, hard-drinking grump of a roommate (played with great gusto by the fantastic Jake Johnson). Not since Jim and Pam in the early seasons of The Office has there been a sitcom relationship as endearing and emotionally engaging as this odd-couple pairing. Add in memorable turns from supporting players Lamorne Morris and Hannah Simone as well as the hilarious antics of Max Greenfield as breakout character Schmidt and the return of Damon Wayans as Coach, and New Girl has officially become a new standard for excellence in the sitcom community.—Mark Rozeman

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2. Arrested Development
Creators: Mitchell Hurwitz
Stars: Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter
Network: Netflix
The rumored return of the Bluths always felt too good to be true, and when it became apparent that the best sitcom of all time was actually back in production, we all feared it wouldn’t be the same. And it wasn’t. What the mind of Mitch Hurwitz wrought this time around wasn’t the tight, breezy, whip-lash-inducing humor of Seasons 1 through 3. It was both darker and slower, but it was just as densely packed with even more complex in-jokes, an intricate web of quadruply connected storylines that felt like a gift to the die-hardest of fans. All I really want to say is thank you.—Josh Jackson

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1. Parks & Recreation
Creators: Greg Daniels, Michael Schur
Stars: Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Paul Schneider, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Jim O’Heir, Retta
Network: NBC
While its big sibling The Office always suffered from repetition, Parks and Recreation always strives ahead to try out new ideas even when they’re difficult for the show’s format to sustain. 2013 featured Parks’ biggest moment ever, Leslie and Ben’s wedding, not to mention numerous new stories focused around Leslie’s job on the Pawnee city council that would’ve been impossible if the show weren’t willing to let her out of the parks department. While the slowdown following their wedding was a bit divisive, the season finale “Are You Better Off?” showed that there was a careful construction to these seemingly smaller episodes, and made the second half of the season just as significant as the first. Throughout this, Parks has maintained its standard repertoire of heart and humor, taking us in new places but with the same joy and humanity that’s made it the best comedy on television.—Sean Gandert

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