With shows like True Detective, Transparent, and Orange is the New Black claiming top spots on many of our year-end lists, it’s easy to make the argument that the traditional network sitcom has lost its appeal. And it’s true on some level, as a few of our HBO and FX favorites appear on this list. But we’re all also still watching—and thoroughly enjoying—many of the good ol’ fashioned, family-friendly shows on television. Here are our picks for the ten best sitcoms of 2014. And—surprise!—after two years, we finally have a new number one.
Creator: Kenya Barris
Stars: Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Laurence Fishburne
This new ABC sitcom is hardly the first time that the experiences of an upper class black family has been brought to the small screen. Yet, Black-ish feels so much fresher than its peers, thanks to some smart writing that pokes at the still fresh wounds of race relations in our country (though, without pouring in a helping of salt). There’s also a sense of the absurd that feels akin to other great family sitcoms like Malcolm in the Middle and The Simpsons. The comedy is brought further down-to-earth by great performances, with particularly fine work coming from the four kids in the cast, and a nimble and irascible Laurence Fishburne.—Robert Ham
Creator: Dan Harmon
Stars: Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover, Alison Brie, Ken Jeong, Yvette Nicole Brown
It’s tempting to grade Community’s fifth season on a curve, given the show’s strange on-again, off-again relationship with its creator and showrunner Dan Harmon. Community doesn’t need this assistance, though, as it managed to dig its way out of the fourth season’s deep pit and put something truly original onto television, all while still maintaining its original identity. While Community couldn’t quite recreate the explosion of creativity that characterized its first seasons, the show still made an effort to do more than just emulate its early success. Season Five found the show trying out new ideas and attempting to forge an identity for itself that made sense, given four seasons of occasionally muddled continuity. And all of this—even when it wasn’t really working—was for the better. Community may be the most inconsistent show on this list, but when it’s good, there’s very little else like it on television.—Sean Gandert
Creator: Loren Bouchard
Stars: H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman
This past year is when Bob’s Burgers truly hit its stride. With the characters and the universe that they reside in firmly set, the writers knew that they could really start stretching the storylines into strange places: a wine tasting train ride that wound up being hijacked by the Belcher kids, a convention for Brony-like lovers of a kid’s TV show, or the epic Season Four two-parter that saw Bob’s dreams of a better life scuttled amidst a plot to destroy the town’s amusement park. And through it all, the show never once lost its heart, with the relationships among the Belchers getting stronger and more loving. Even as Bob struggled to understand and tolerate his quirk-filled kids and his flighty, endlessly positive wife, you never forgot how much he would sacrifice for them. You come for the snappy writing, brilliant voice acting work, and silly pop culture references, but you end up staying for the warmth that exudes from each episode.—Robert Ham
Creator: Louis C.K.
Stars: Louis C.K., Hadley Delany, Ursula Parker
Louie took an unexpected step, even for a show that defies all expectation, in its fourth year. This season brought a slight rearrangement of format, with the inclusion of numerous multiple-episode arcs that pushed the, delightful, unusual dark comedy toward something one could daringly call continuity. What it failed (thankfully) to do, was push the show anywhere closer to television’s status quo. The idea that one of the biggest comedians in the world is producing something so artistically gratifying, so genre-bending, so simultaneously bizarre and truthful—as opposed to a run-of-the-mill sitcom—is something to behold, even in the Golden Era of television. Those of us who marvel at what Louis C.K. has created with this gem of a TV show have one man to thank, aside from the one behind the mic: John Landgraf, President of FX. If it has not been said enough, allow me: Thank you, sir.—Eric Walters
Creator: Mindy Kaling
Stars: Mindy Kaling, Chris Messina, Ed Weeks, Zoe Jarman, Anna Camp
The Mindy Project has had almost as many cast permutations as episodes, but the series seemed to have found its footing over the last year, with the end of Season Two, and the beginning of Season Three. In addition to a barrage of humor that matches the pace, and quality of any other sitcom on the air, the decision to pair up the dynamic duo of Mindy and Danny has allowed the show to set aside some of the “Mindy goes on a wacky date” stuff that makes up traditional sitcom tropes for shows about single people. Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina have excellent chemistry, and they provide a solid center for the rest of the characters to revolve around. They’ve also finally found the sweet spot for how exactly (and how often) to use Morgan, a character that sometimes overpowered the rest of The Mindy Project in the past. Season Three in particular has proven that there are so many people on this show who offer so much—shout out to Rhea Perlman, who came on as Danny’s mother this season, and who has taken to the role without a hitch.—Chris Morgan
Creator: Elizabeth Meriwether
Stars: Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone, and Damon Wayans, Jr.
New Girl had some growing pains in its third season. Damon Wayans Jr. had to be reintegrated into the cast as Coach, and the show also had to deal with a brave new world wherein Jess and Nick are a romantic couple. While the show remained an excellent source of jokes, the tone felt a bit off. But by the time 2014 rolled around, the pieces were falling into place, and the decision to break up Nick and Jess also lead to a strong finish to the third season.
These good vibes carried over into the start of the fourth season, which embraced all that New Girl does best—it’s a Seinfeld that wants (a bit too often) to be a Friends, but when the episodes just consist of these ridiculous people getting themselves into absurd situations through harebrained schemes that backfire on them, no show is funnier or sharper. At this point, the characters are so well-defined that the show can mine humor out of their quirks with the greatest of ease. Watching Nick teach Schmidt how to do laundry, and Winston how to use a ruler—all before they drink Sangria in a makeshift tent, whilst belting out “I Want to Know What Love Is,”—all makes perfect sense, in the most hilarious way possible.—Chris Morgan
Creator: Armando Iannucci
Stars: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Matt Walsh
What’s funnier than watching Selina Meyer and her staff trying to stumble through the obstacle course of doublespeak and backhanded bullshit that is Washington D.C.? Putting them on the campaign trail. This season of Veep, their best yet, was a marvel, perfectly capturing the inherent insanity in trying to govern in the modern age, and the equally crazy disconnect that people in power have with the citizens they are supposed to represent. And at the center of this whole circus is career-best performances by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Matt Walsh, Timothy Simons, and Anna Chlumsky.—Robert Ham
Creator: Mike Judge
Stars: Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Josh Brener, Kumail Nanjiani
While the rest of Mike Judge’s television shows have had a certain fondness for the subjects they lampoon, it’s the sheer anger of Silicon Valley towards the tech industry and its investors that infuses the show with life. This places Silicon Valley more in the style of Judge’s movies, which tend towards a caustic loathing of the entirety of broken systems. That isn’t to say that the show isn’t funny, but that its humor, even the wacky slapstick bits, is more cutting than any traditional sitcom. Silicon Valley isn’t cringe comedy, but it has the same level of antipathy towards much of its cast, which makes the show feel real in a way that sets it apart from other sitcoms. Above all, though, Silicon Valley simply finds its world absurd and hilarious, a counterfeit utopia so out of control that there’s always something entertaining going on. This isn’t just good satire, it’s good comedy, and the show’s success at both of these levels is what makes it one of the best of the year.—Sean Gandert
Creator: 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
The loss of Rob Lowe (Chris) and Rashida Jones (Ann) proved to be a big test for Parks and Recreation this season—one the show passed with flying colors. They were, of course, given an appropriately mushy send-off, and once that was out of the way, their absence actually allowed other characters to step up to the plate and shine (this was a great year for Jerry/Gary/Larry and Donna, in particular). The season-ending Pawnee/Eagleton unity concert was a series highlight, and by episode’s end, we found out that next season we’ll be jumping ahead three years, where new adventures certainly await our favorite parks department.—Bonnie Stiernberg
Creator: Daniel J. Goor, Michael Schur
Stars: Andy Samberg, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Chelsea Peretti
Brooklyn Nine-Nine was probably the funniest show on network television this past year. It may not posses the cleverness or bite of other comedies, and its attempts at dramatics or romantics often fall a bit flat. But when it comes to straight humor, nothing on TV is better. It is a joke machine of the highest order. Beyond the sharp, hilarious scripts provided by the top-notch writing staff, this is also the best cast in a sitcom today. Andy Samberg, who is completely enjoyable as ostensible lead Jake Peralta, may be the least impressive of an impressive bunch. You could take the three female leads—Melissa Fumero, Stephanie Beatriz, and Chelsea Peretti—and easily make them the new Ghostbusters (seriously, this is a great idea). Then, of course, there is the majesty of Andre Braugher, no-nonsense Captain Holt. Haven’t you always wanted to hear Braugher say the words “Kwazy Kupkakes?” Of course you have. You’re only human. The first season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine was a strong opening salvo from a new comedy. Season Two has only built on it. Here’s hoping it lasts a thousand years.—Chris Morgan