The Best Sitcoms on TV Today

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10. Master of None

Like its creator and star, Master of None is stylish, smart and clever—a half-hour comedy that ranks as one of Netflix’s best efforts in original programming. Following the trend set by Louie, Transparent, You’re the Worst and many other modern sitcoms, Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang built a show that doesn’t mind the occasional laugh hiatus. Instead of pushing the joke quota to astronomical levels, Master of None is content to find poignancy amid the humor, and if the former outshines the latter, so be it. The result is a show that is fun to watch, emotionally satisfying and thought provoking. It’s also been paramount in furthering the discussion about race and representation on television, both with its own casting and the topics it addresses. There is so much to say about this show, and these few hundred words are a pathetic attempt to do it justice. Master of None was not only one of the best shows of 2015, but one of the most important series to premiere in a long, long time.—Eric Walters


9. Lady Dynamite

Beneath every splash of color [in Lady Dynamite] is the accretion of darker layers, hardened and hidden; what the sun brightens in one moment, it burns in the next. The series, which follows a fictionalized version of Maria Bamford as she attempts to rebuild her life after a psychiatric breakdown, is largely a recovery story. She tries to get back into show business, tries to find love, tries to right wrongs and rebuild friendships. Like all good protagonists, she flails miserably and often makes things worse. Sometimes she learns a lesson. Other misadventures end in characteristic anticlimax. Lady Dynamite is structurally loose—animals talk, people break the fourth wall, cars fly—which seems an authentic enactment of Maria’s (and the real-life Bamford’s) continuing struggle with bipolar II disorder. It is also an effective translation of her peculiar brand of stand-up, which defies easy categorization. She is intensely personal, goofily unpredictable, and totally unhinged; so is Lady Dynamite.—Seth Simons


8. Rick and Morty

While the first season of Rick and Morty—Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s cartoon misadventures of a sociopathic mad scientist and his grandson—played manically with its wonderful premise, sending the titular characters throughout multiple galaxies and dimensions, throwing astronomical shit at the wall to find that it all stuck, their second season ventured further into the twilight of the soul, resulting in some seriously dark matter. By regularly wrangling the rest of the members of the Smith family into the duo’s cosmic capers (with a special mention for Chris Parnell’s voice work, which is unparalleled when it comes to contemporary adult animation), Roiland and Harmon paid extra attention this year to the consequences of Grandpa Rick’s actions. Like BoJack Horseman, season two of Rick and Morty emerged as more a study in the absurdities of depression rather than just a study in the absurd. It bore witness to how one man who could pretty much do anything (like be at the center of an orgy with an entire planet of hivemind’d humanoids; reassemble a time-space torn irrevocably at the seams; cultivate a microscopic civilization to power his car battery; win an intergalactic reality competition with a song about shitting on the floor, both saving Earth and helping Ice-T find his true self in the process) still couldn’t be a good grandfather. It’s hilarious and it’s heartbreaking—and it’s a cartoon, a cartoon which confronts the immensely un-confrontable nature of our wholly insignificant existence within this vast, fantastic universe we struggle to call home. —Dom Sinacola


7. BoJack Horseman

BoJack Horseman is one of the most underrated comedies ever made, and it almost pains me that it doesn’t earn more praise. Right from the title sequence, which documents BoJack’s sad decline from network sitcom star to drunken has-been—set to the beautiful theme song written by the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney—this is one of the most thoughtful comedies ever made. Which doesn’t mean it’s not hilarious, of course. Will Arnett is the perfect voice for BoJack, and Paul F. Tompkins, who is in my mind the funniest man on planet Earth, could not be better suited to the child-like Mr. Peanut Butter. This is a show that isn’t above a visual gag or vicious banter or a wonderfully cheap laugh, but it also looks some very hard realities of life straight in the eye. There are times when you will hate BoJack—this is not a straight redemption story, and the minute you think he’s on the upswing, he will do something absolutely horrible to let you down. (There’s a special irony in the fact that a horse is one of the most human characters on TV, and the unblinking examination of his character makes “Escape from L.A.” one of the best episodes of TV this year.) So why isn’t it loved beyond a strong cult following? Maybe it’s the anthropomorphism that keeps people away, or maybe it’s the animation, but I implore you: Look beyond those elements, settle into the story, and let yourself be amazed by a comedy that straddles the line between hilarious and sad like no other on television.—Shane Ryan


6. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

NBC has made any number of mistakes over the years, but few bigger than shelving Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s 30 Rock follow-up, before punting it over to Netflix. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt wound up becoming one of the highlights of a great year for TV comedy. The fast-paced and flip sitcom featured breakout performances by Office vet Ellie Kemper as the titular former “mole woman” trying to make it on her own in New York, and Tituss Burgess as her flamboyant and put-upon roommate, Titus Andromedon. (NBC has recently tried to make it up to Kemper for dropping the ball on this by planting her in the guest host chair at Today—too little, too late, peacock peddlers.) Throughout the first season’s run, some writers and critics seemed dead set on finding some kind of flaw to pounce on with the show, zeroing in on how the minority characters are represented. This may be a wild generalization, but I think this was a natural reaction to one of the most overtly feminist sitcoms ever produced. Kimmy Schmidt is most certainly upsetting the natural order of your typical network sitcom. The show’s titular character is defining her life on her own terms and by her own standards. For some reason that still freaks some people out so they dismiss it or find some way to poke holes in the vehicle for that idea. That is what makes the prospect of a second season so exciting. Just as the show can go in a myriad of different directions, so too can Kimmy Schmidt. Now that she has put the awful time in the bunker to bed, she can face a new day with that infectious smile, bubbly attitude, and enthusiastic embrace of life experience. Sorry nitpickers and network executives; Kimmy Schmidt is going to make it after all.—Robert Ham


5. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

“Consistency” might not be the most flattering virtue you can ascribe to a sitcom, but consistency is a big part of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s greatness. Week in and week out, Dan Goor and Michael Shur’s half-hour cop comedy manages to hit just the right notes without losing its groove. Some episodes hit higher notes than others, and yes, in the series’ lifespan, there have in fact been a few off-key episodes intermingled with the others. But when Brooklyn Nine-Nine is good, it’s good, and it’s good with an impressive regularity. When it’s great, it’s arguably the best sitcom you’ll find on network television, thanks in part to sharp writing, but mostly to an even sharper cast. Consistency is what fuels Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s motor, but the characters are the ones steering the ship. The show is enormously diverse in terms of not only gender and ethnicity, but also in terms of comic styles: There’s career sad sack Joe Lo Truglio, the stoically hilarious Andre Braugher, king of the clowns Andy Samberg, master of badassery Stephanie Beatriz, and that only covers a little less than half the team. Since Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s debut back in 2013, each character on the show has developed and grown, and in the process we’ve come to care about all of them in equal measure. At the top of its game, Brooklyn Nine-Nine harmonizes our attachment to these people with great gags, and occasionally even sharp (if brief) action. There’s a lot the series has to offer, in other words, and that just drives home how vital its constancy really is to its success. Never underestimate well-regulated humor.—Andy Crump


4. Veep

Veep satirizes the political world by distilling it down to what the public likes to watch most: the screw-ups. From foot-in-mouth moments to mis-sent documents to squeaky shoes, everything Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) does is scrutinized, turned into an offense, and spit back at her through the distorted prism of Twitter and never-ending public opinion polling. They never specify Meyer’s political party, and it’s no surprise that its fans span the political spectrum. Because the main thing Veep stays true to is shining a light on the people more desperate to be near power than to make any real social impact. Dreyfus may be the funniest person on TV right now. She’ll truly commit to a bit, and she has a habit of taking them beyond surface level cute into the truly disastrous and unflattering. Selina Meyer doesn’t walk into glass doors, she shatters them and stands in a pile of glass with bleeding cuts all over her face. She takes bad advice, wears terrible hats, gets a Dustin Hoffman haircut, and can’t go abroad without committing terrible international faux pas. And Selina is at her best as a character when she’s at her most terrible—full of ego, more concerned with being liked than passing legislation, and blaming her staff for her mistakes. Selina’s “bag man” Gary (Tony Hale) is a glorious sad sack, and Dan Egan (Reid Scott) is so coldly ambitious his every misstep feels like a victory. But for every unknowingly selfish thing each person says, Veep’s ace-in-the-hole is Anna Chlumsky’s Amy, whose Olympic-level reaction faces land everyone else’s jokes. And the smaller recurring roles offer cameos from some of America’s best improvisers. Through and through, it’s a comedy nerd’s dream team.—Erica Lies


3. Silicon Valley

Though this HBO sitcom does a great job skewering the doublespeak and hyper-positivity of the tech world, Silicon Valley shines the brightest when the antisocial misfits of startup Pied Piper find themselves in more and more ridiculous situations. But, like most of Mike Judge’s projects, Silicon Valley has found that perfect sweet spot where smart comedy and dumb comedy collide. And it located it very early on, as evidenced by that still-genius scene at the end of season one where all the Pied Piper engineers, realizing their imminent defeat at TechCrunch Disrupt, decided to devote their time to calculating the fastest way to jerk off a room full of men. There’s no doubt that the comedic talent working in the writers room could churn out some loud, brash show, a la the dreck that’s cluttering up the multiplexes right now. But they want better for us, which is how we get a series that wants to dip its toes, occasionally, into the waters of pure indecency, all while holding a mirror up to the insanity of the trillions of dollars being tossed around in the tech industry.—Robert Ham


2. The Last Man on Earth

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So, the title The Last Man on Earth turned out to be a bit of a mislead. That’s for the best, because, as ambitious and fascinating as it was to watch the show in its early moments when it was just Will Forte ambling around an empty landscape, more people in the cast, including the excellent Kristen Schaal, has benefited the series by giving it actual human dynamics. The shift also gives Forte other people to bounce off of, with his particularly brand of unhinged comedy. Over the course of two seasons, some of the earlier rough edges have been sanded down, the dynamics of the group have grown in interesting ways, and most importantly, the show keeps getting funnier. Who knew so much humor could be mined from a series about the vast majority of people on the planet dying off?—Chris Morgan


1. The Carmichael Show

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The Carmichael Show is as brave as it is hilarious. It regularly tackles serious social and political issues, including gun control, trans rights and Black Lives Matter, during one of the most contentious times in recent history. It’s an unapologetically black show about real life on a major broadcast network, and despite being shot as traditionally as a sitcom can (a studio audience, multiple cameras, a studio soundstage) it feels more daring and realistic than the flashier Black-ish. If you miss the era of Norman Lear sitcoms that were about something more than just making you laugh, you should be watching The Carmichael Show. It also has one of the best casts of any sitcom on TV today, with hilarious work from Loretta Devine, Lil Rel Howery, Tiffany Haddish and Jerrod Carmichael. If the Emmys had any sense, David Alan Grier would be a shoe-in for this year’s award.—Garrett Martin

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