The 10 Best Sitcoms of 2018

TV Lists Best of 2018
The 10 Best Sitcoms of 2018

The definition of “sitcom” is one we struggle with, here at Paste: No form on TV has undergone such a rapid, wild evolution in the last decade or so, as the traditional multi-cam declined (and revived!), the single-cam expanded its reach, the dramedy thrived, and any number of series became, themselves, indefinable. As a consequence, we’ve cast our net broadly, with pitch-dark “comedies,” brightly colored confections, animated series, and much more. The only rule was that they had to be, or be a comment on, the more traditional sitcom, at least in our estimation—thus the absence of Atlanta, the best TV show of 2018, which was often unconscionably funny but had more to say about horror than it did about any other genre, and High Maintenance, with its anthological structure and shifting cast of characters. You may take issue with those choices, and that’s A-OK. What I think we can all agree on is this: It’s a tremendous time to be making (and watching) sitcoms, because no one knows for sure what a sitcom is any more. —Matt Brennan

Here are the 10 best sitcoms of 2018:

10. Trial & Error: Lady, Killer
Network: NBC

Oh, viewers, this is a calamity! NBC passed on its option to renew this brilliant series for a third season. Whatever are we to do? Throw ourselves down a rum hole? Sing a never-ending song? See what Mickey Moose has to say about it? The jokes came fast and the laughs were well earned as the second season introduced us to Kristin Chenoweth as defendant Lavinia Peck-Foster. Her performance was an inspired delight and a master class in what can happen when an artist holds nothing back. Sherri Shepherd nearly stole the show as Anne, the hapless secretary plagued with a litany of little-known illnesses. (My personal favorite: she joined the Marines for three years because of a disease that caused her to spontaneously raise her hand.) The show just made me giggle and savor its clever sight gags, quick turns of phrase and terrific performances. All this, plus Chenoweth sang! The second season was a self-contained joy. —Amy Amatangelo

9. The Middle
Network: ABC

a heck of a ride the middle.jpg
There’s not a show I miss more right now than The Middle, which ended its successful nine-season run in May. The comedy, which followed the Heck family in Orson, Indiana, did what few shows could. It celebrated the family unit and was honest about the challenges of raising children while finding the humor in smaller, everyday moments—whether it was the piles of laundry that never got folded or watching your son come home from college without a plan. The final season saw the three Heck children grow up and eventually send eldest son, Axl (Charlie McDermott), to Denver for his new job. The cast was stellar. Someday Eden Sher, who shined as middle daughter Sue, will be a huge star, and some of us will be able to say we knew her talent all along. The Middle didn’t win any Emmys (the only nomination it ever received was for make-up, in 2012). Its stars weren’t buzzed about. This is probably the only place you’ll find it on a year-end list. But The Middle will be the show airing in syndication 30 years from now. When we talk about comedy classics, it will be included. The series was a brilliant, heartfelt, and hilarious look at family life. It will be missed. —Amy Amatangelo (Photo: ABC)

8. Silicon Valley
Network: HBO

Silicon Valley Sitcoms List.jpg
No show troubleshoots the tech world quite like Silicon Valley, which has proven remarkably consistent over its five-season run on HBO. The Mike Judge-created, tech-centric ensemble sitcom didn’t miss a beat in the absence of T.J. Miller’s oafish Erlich Bachman, juggling the absurdities of electric cars, AI, robots and cryptocurrency, all while giving Jimmy O. Yang’s scene-stealing Jian-Yang a well-deserved role expansion and zeroing in on Pied Piper CEO Richard Hendricks’ (Thomas Middleditch) burgeoning megalomania. There’s a reason Silicon Valley has been a perennial fixture on this list since its 2014 premiere—like the smartphones that make its world go round, the show continues to incrementally upgrade its operating system, offering us new and improved variations on the cutting-edge entertainment we’ve come to take for granted. —Scott Russell (Photo: Ali Paige Goldstein/HBO)

7. Big Mouth
Network: Netflix

A cartoon comedy about puberty in which puberty is a literal monster—like, a big, hairy, yellow, horned and horny thing that keeps egging you and your hormones on to do super impulsive things. Surprisingly enough, it works, thanks in no small part to the ever-hilarious union of Nick Kroll (one of a group of creators, including Kroll’s childhood best friend and former Family Guy writer Andrew Goldberg) and John Mulaney, who lead a tremendous cast that includes Jessi Klein, Jason Mantzoukas, Jenny Slate, Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph, and Jordan Peele as, for some reason, the ghost of Duke Ellington. But Big Mouth’s biggest coup is its refusal to shy away from issues surrounding the way we discuss gender and sexuality in our culture. Its finest moment in that endeavor? This season featured an entire variety show-style episode about Planned Parenthood and all the services it provides outside of abortion. It was informative. It was lewd. It was hilarious. Now that’s entertainment. —John Maher (Photo: Netflix)

6. One Day at a Time
Network: Netflix

We’ll admit, we were nervous about the second season of One Day at a Time. The show was such a surprise sleeper hit in its first season. How would it do now that it had buzz? The answer is: Even better. The warm-hearted, full-throated update of Norman Lear’s classic sitcom, which follows a Cuban American family in Los Angeles, grew more confident, more nuanced, more thought-provoking, more sexy. Its combination of the topical and the timeless, the silly and the sincere, has become the leading engine of the form’s revival. The comedy has the unique ability to make filming with four cameras in front of a live audience seem simultaneously a throwback to the TV of yesteryear and a fresh new way of bringing stories to life. Covering everything from LGBTQ rights and immigration to dating and depression, the series is anchored by the two extraordinary women at its center: Rita Moreno and Justina Machado, whose chemistry as mother and daughter find fullest in expression in two wrenching late-season entries. These women are so vibrant and authentic that while watching them you have to remind yourself that they are just characters on TV. —Amy Amatangelo and Matt Brennan (Photo: Courtesy of Netflix)

5. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Network: FOX

When the creatively iterative, fundamentally kind Brooklyn Nine-Nine finally sent detectives Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) down the aisle in last spring’s Season Five finale, fans got to watch the long-awaited (and bomb-threatened) nuptials safe in the knowledge that the detective couple’s I dos weren’t doors closing on a strong series canceled in its prime, but rather ones opening for a series with comedic heights still to reach. After five long years of the spectre hovering over the series’ shoulder, FOX dropped the axe several weeks before the season’s end, after which fans across the world made such a digital racket that NBC stepped up to save the precinct, and with it the vein of fierce and tender goodness the 9-9 puts into a world that pretty desperately needs all the tenderness it can get. It’s hard to believe that there might be a single person we would have to convince of this outcome’s universal good, but to those theoretical people, I say, watch Season Five episodes “The Box,” “Show Me Going,” and “Jake & Amy” (guest-starring Gina Rodriguez as Rosa’s potential love interest!) and just tell me you don’t believe in the 9-9’s ability to build on their own excellence for another five seasons on NBC. It’s impossible. They’re all just too good. —Alexis Gunderson (Photo: Photo: John P Fleenor/FOX)

4. BoJack Horseman
Network: Netflix

Every few years, a new adult cartoon is declared proof of a “golden age of animation” and is crowned king by TV critics: Rick and Morty succeeded Archer, which succeeded Bob’s Burgers, and so on. The narrative is nonsense—animation has been great since the early 1990s, and has stayed great—but BoJack Horseman merits the hype. Somehow, an animated tragicomedy about a selfish, egotistical actor battling addiction and mental illness who also happens to be an anthropomorphic horse has become a uniquely compelling meditation on fame, pain, relationships, and our cultural moment. It’s also proven itself one of television’s most ambitious shows in terms of narrative complexity, with this most recent season experimenting with, among other things, an entire episode told via a single monologue. Oh, and the animal gags are to die for. —John Maher (Photo: Netflix)

3. Barry
Network: HBO

The year in TV was filled with depressing, yearning, half-comedy comedies. But not Barry. Thanks to its nuanced lead performance by Bill Hader, impeccable direction by Hader and Atlanta mainstay Hiro Murai, and constant entertainment provided by Henry Winkler, the hitman-turned-actor comedy actually worked, and then some. It showed a man that was perfectly competent and perfectly depressed, whose escape from that depression was a rocky one filled with loss, violence, and pain—all in the pursuit of one goddamn good thing in this world. And it was hilarious from top to bottom. —Jacob Oller (Photo: Michele K. Short/HBO)

2. The Good Place
Network: NBC

I recently saw a criticism of The Good Place that claimed it’s the type of pleasant comedy that doesn’t have any jokes. That criticism, of course, is absolutely inaccurate. (Maybe multi-camera sitcom was right all along to let the audience know when exactly to laugh.) Because not only does The Good Place continue to impress with its endless supply of jokes, ranging from next-level puns to its general understanding of Florida (which, as someone from Florida, is pretty on point), it does so while completely changing the game—including, at times, the very premise of the series—basically every other episode. And it does so with a cast that doesn’t have a weak link: Audiences may have come to The Good Place because of Ted Danson and/or Kristen Bell, but you’ve got to stay because of D’Arcy Carden, Manny Jacinto, Jameela Jamil, and William Jackson Harper (and those are just the series regulars). And, again, the puns! —LaToya Ferguson (Photo: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

Network: Netflix

The second season of any TV show is when a series really proves itself. The characters and relationships have been established. Now, where you do take them? GLOW co-creators Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive and their talented writers ventured into deeper waters this year, taking aim at the contradictions at play in the show’s backdrop: a women’s pro wrestling league. It’s a concept both empowering and misogynistic, as well as trucking in some outlandish stereotypes. The still-fragile friendship of Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin), as well as consistently harried producer Sam (Marc Maron) provided the entertainment, but the heart of the show came out in moments like Tamme (Kia Stevens) struggling with her “Welfare Queen” character and what that represents, and the very Harvey Weinstein-like scene when a powerful producer of the show within a show tries to force himself on one of the wrestlers. Amid the teased up hair and Frank Stallone music cues, GLOW became one of this year’s most subversive shows. —Robert Ham (Photo: Erica Parise/Netflix)

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin