Sometimes, when it’s 2pm and you’re still in your jammies watching yet another repeat episode of The Big Bang Theory on E4, it gets hard to believe there are actually some pretty funny TV shows out there. But there are. Really! There are comedies out there that don’t revolve around laugh tracks and making lame jokes out of the protagonists. How exciting!
I understand that these shows aren’t being showed in syndication on E4, making watching them just a little harder than sitting back and channel hopping. But only a little harder. So choose a method – be it boxset, 4OD, or less legal means – and get laughing.
Community is, as this post suggests, a TV show for nerds, as opposed to a “Har har, look at dem silly smart peoples” TV show in the guise of a TV show for nerds. It’s endlessly funny, with episodes spoofing popular TV and movie cliches and pop culture references up to the gills – and the fun part is, you actually have to SPOT them. FOR YOURSELF. Which makes the experience even more rewarding, cos you can pat yourself on the back for being cool enough to get them. Or else you can just enjoy the bromance of Troy Barnes and Abed Nadir, which is probably the most special fictional friendship ever to be documented on screen.
2) Arrested Development
“Now for the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.” If I was so inclined, I would say Arrested Development is “so meta”, because it is. It could self-reference itself for days. Plot points are foreshadowed/referred back to in any number of ways, making it a very rewarding show to re-watch. Centered on a colourful (to say the least) family of oddballs, as well as a few bizzarre/awesome celebrity cameos, Arrested Development is one of the most critically acclaimed comedy shows of all time, to borrow a phrase from my good friend Kanye. Though each of the characters are special in their own way, standouts include the fearsome Bluth matriarch Lucille and camp “analrapist” Tobias Funke (pronounced Fyoon-kay). Arrested Development was cancelled after three seasons, meaning you have no excuse not to catch up before the fourth series is released on Netflix this year.
Before Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright made Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and the upcoming The World’s End, they were making Spaced. Pegg stars as Tim, a beanie-hatted comic book store clerk who moves in with eternally procrastinating writer (sounds familiar) Daisy Steiner. The series, which only ran for two seasons (again, NO EXCUSE) has all sorts of fun referencing every single nerdy thing that ever existed, and is really interesting for being a good picture of what the end of the 90s/start of the 00s looked like – terrible clothes, rubbish music, etc. I recentylu spotted Jessica Stevenson (Daisy) on Chris O’Dowd’s Moone Boy, appearing very briefly as as the weird host of the rip-off Weight Watcher’s video Martin’s mother buys. Incidentally, both Community and Spaced feature episodes that revolve around games of paintball, which the characters take veeeerrry seriously.
4) 30 Rock
I tried to minimise the amount of US comedy shows on this list, but damn do they make good comedy. 30 Rock, which just wrapped up its last season (boo), is just another example of the Yanks getting it right. It has so many amazing characters – Liz Lemon, of course, but also the NBC head honcho Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin, forever suave), the attention-seeking Jenna Maroney, the perenially cheerful page Kenneth Parcell and occasionally Tracy Jordan, who veers too much into manchild territory for my liking. Like Arrested Development, there is a ridiculous amount of celebrity cameos – everyone from Al Gore to Cyndi Lauper to Jerry Seinfeld has popped up over 30 Rock’s seven seasons.
Girls. How do I begin to explain Girls? Winner of two Golden Globes, equally loved and hated by the critics – it’s probably one of the most talked-about shows airing at the moment. Girls is funny, but not in the same way as any of the shows above. It’s not about out and out gags – you’re laughing because, oh my god, that happened to you just the other day. Or you know exactly how that feels. Or that didn’t happen to you and you don’t know how it feels but you can totally imagine it happening to you. Lena Dunham is, though people don’t want to admit it, a very important voice in the entertainment industry. You’re probably not at all convinced by this slobbery account, but I will say this: if for nothing else, watch for the character of Shoshanna Shapiro. That is all.