Senses of humor tend to vary quite a bit, however we here at Blend Television found that the past decade had plenty to offer for those looking to have their funny bone tickled. Here’s our list of our favorite TV comedies from the last ten years.
How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
The Aughts was the decade of the single camera comedy. The format rose as the ultimate in comedy delivery, as viewers laughed at the trite laugh tracks of past shows. But not for CBS, the network that kept on pushing mediocre sitcoms upon the public until one Monday night we tuned in and watched as Ted began his tale of how he met the mother of his children. How I Met Your Mother revitalized the sitcom by taking the old formula and spinning it into a serialized storyline. Traditionally sitcom episodes are based on the standup comedy routines of its stars, or funny observances by t he writers. HIMYM decided that the comedy would come from the stories of a group of friends who lived and loved in NYC during the years that would lead to the finding of Mrs. Mosbey. In the world of television this type of series long plot progression is nothing new, but for a sitcom it’s a revolution. And like all great shows it’s the characters that allow for this story to be so engaging. When we look back at HIMYM we’ll know there was something legen…wait for it…dary going on.
The Office (NBC)
It is hard to believe that an American remake of a brilliantly awkward British mockumentary that reinvented the sitcom in just fourteen episodes could be any good. (By the way, does anyone remember the American remake of Coupling?) But after a shaky start where they practically re-staged many of the plots of the British series, Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly have become characters of their own. The exploits of a drab paper sales office can be painful, even over the top, but always hilarious. And the characters within have now certainly become staples of American comedy.
Freaks and Geeks (NBC)
Freaks and Geeks aired on the cusp of this decade, with half it’s season back in ’99 and the remaining episodes in 2000. Technicalities, aside, we would be remiss not to include it on this list as it was truly a fantastic show, despite being shortlived. While other TV comedies might feature one or two token “outsiders,” F&G was made up entirely of outsiders, embracing the greatness of being a Star Wars loving, swirly-getting, D&D playing dork or a pot-smoking, Zepplin-listening, misunderstood, messy-haired freak. While the show took place in the early eighties, anyone who fell into the freak or geek category back in their high school years could have related to Lindsay Weir, her brother Sam and their friends. The show wasn’t about watching kids learn to fit in and conform to the norm of the American high school. It was about embracing the humor and heart in seeing a bunch of kids enjoying the things they were passionate about while also trying to survive high school despite their differences.
Arrested Development (Fox)
Enough fuss has been made about Arrested Development not getting its fair shake. Hey, life isn’t fair. The Bluthe family, of all people, would most definitely back me up on that claim. After all, they were a once proud (read: naïve) family fallen from grace because of their own naiveté and lack of grace. We got a cast of characters (literal and figurative) that included a hack illusionist (don’t call him a magician), an analrapist turned wannabe Blue Man, a cousin-loving, banana stand-running dweeb, twin brothers in love with the same Machiavellian matriarch, Buster just being Buster, and that’s only the half of it. Ron Howard gave us the perfect picture of a family we loved to watch but wouldn’t go near with a ten foot pole (all with a voiceover from the master himself). Arrested Development exuded laughs by pandering to the lowest and highest common denominators at the same time. Everyone got the jokes because they were just plain funny, but sometimes stopping to explain them made the whole thing that much more hilarious. It was a comedic opera, or maybe it’s what a soap opera would be if those daytime writers only stopped for a second to take themselves a little less seriously. And all of this combined gave Arrested Development a certain charm, an Orange County je ne se qua, that makes it funny the first, second and third time through. Or to quote Gob, it was, “Solid as a Rock!”
In 1947, a young man named Philip J. Fry traveled to Roswell, New Mexico, not from a nearby town, but from the future. There, Fry's course of action forced his hand in fornicating with a very distant relative, thus ensuring his and his ancestors' existences. Such is an origin story proposed for the ignoramus central character from Matt Groening's 1999-2003 sci-com Futurama, a cartoon every bit as clever and rich as forefather The Simpsons. Set in the year 3000, Futurama set no boundaries for itself, allowing an entire universe of oddities to get boot-stomped by the buxom one-eyed Turanga Leela, or told to bite robot Bender's shiny metal ass. The show's concept revolves around Planet Express, an intergalactic delivery service run by Fry's great-great-great (etc.) grandson Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, a codgerly old coot less capable of running a brief race than an entire company. The series pokes fun at science and math and showcases environmental issues in ways that cartoons hadn't before and haven't since. That isn't to say the series doesn't have a large share of dumb moments, but they're intentional. The exquisite voicework by Billy West, John DiMaggion, and Katey Sagal have cemented a place for the show in fans' hearts and minds, a place large enough to warrant post-cancellation feature-length DVD adventures, as well as new episodes to come on Comedy Central in 2010 (Good news, everyone!). Those DVDs never quite captured the full appeal of the original episodes, but the reservoir for interesting stories is too vast to be tapped anytime soon.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Since The Office, it seemed like the traditional multi-camera sitcom filmed in front of a live studio audience might be a dying breed. They still lingered around, and CBS’s Two and a Half Men was doing great in the ratings, but few think of it as great comedy. So what a surprise when Chuck Lorre, the mastermind behind Men offered up The Big Bang Theory. I figured it doomed to an early demise because it was, after all, a show about four comic book, science geeks. How could that possibly fly? But fly it has, supplanting Two and a Half Men as the top comedy on television (in the demo that matters, and nearly outright). It proves that regardless of the premise, great acting, great writing and great characters will resonate with viewers. Who cares that most of the audience probably doesn’t understand half of what Sheldon Cooper (the great Jim Parsons) says, they love him anyway. And, the show brilliantly realizes that the boys talk above our heads and offers us Penny, who’s as ordinary as we are so we don’t feel like we’re missing out on the joke. Not understanding them often is the joke. Who knew a sweet, traditional sitcom could still be great? Now we all do.
South Park (Comedy Central)
Debuting in 1997, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Park has been a mainstay of television throughout the past decade. But unlike other shows, that tend to fade with time, the boys from Colorado manage to stay fresh, controversial and topical year after year. This decade saw the boys go into the fourth grade, as well as the final farewell to Chef, who had to leave the show when Isaac Hayes got offended at Parker’s abuse of Scientology in their “Trapped in the Closet” episode and quit. We got the amazing “Imaginationland” trilogy in 2007, and the more recent “Dead Celebrities,” spoofing the many celebrity deaths that happened this past summer. As long as things keep happening in the world, it seems like Parker, who writes and directs virtually every episode, will be there to pick it apart and show us how foolish it is, and often we are. And as long as Comedy Central keeps commissioning new episodes, there’s a decent chance this series will appear on our “Best of 2010s” list as well.
Sex and the City (HBO)
Plenty of shows center on single people trying to find love but Sex and the City got down to the nitty-gritty as it found the humor in being a single woman in the city. Through Carrie Bradshaw and her three friends, viewers got a comical but not entirely unrealistic look at the challenges of dating, finding love and more importantly, the importance of friendship and support for women who were past the traditional dating years. It wasn’t so much the ridiculous dating scenarios that made the series stand out, as it was the dialogue among the four female characters, each of which represented a fairly extreme version of a different kind of woman. Carrie was more of the every-girl, Charlotte was the girly-girl, Miranda was the career-driven one and Samantha was the sexual extrovert. They spoke their minds with each other, leaving no subject untouched or unexplored. Through the successes and the disappointments, they had each other and that, added to the regular laugh-out-loud occurrences made for a great series.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Larry David should just be happy. He helped create one of the most influential sitcoms of the last 30 years (That's Seinfeld to those living under a rock). He is very wealthy because of said sitcom. But does that stop him from questioning and then breaking almost every social norm within his reach? Of course not. Here's a guy who hired an escort so he could use the car pool lane. He also resurrected Seinfeld in an wild plot to get back with his wife. This improved comedy inspired by reality has always been fun to watch, if only to wonder if Larry David actually is the person he plays on TV.
30 Rock (NBC)
Do you have twenty-two minutes? Because NBC's 30 Rock has a couple hundred puns, sarcastic insults, sight gags, pop culture twists, shirtless Tracy Morgan moments, and surreal acts of nonsense to show and tell. Behind Animal House, 30 Rock is far and away the most hilarious thing ever to exit the eternal SNL media machine. It's existence means the Aughts end the same way the nineties did, with NBC at the helm of the funniest hour of TV Thursdays. In Tina Fey and Jane Krakowski, as nerdsexy Liz Lemon and dumbsexy Jenna Maroney, 30 Rock gives us the strongest consistently comedic roles for females since Mary Richards, Rhoda Morgenstern, and Elaine Benes on a mild mushroom trip. Baldwin is a household name again, with Alec's Jack Donaghy (Don-a-hee!) outshining anything else Alec has ever done, robbing scenes he isn't even in. Tracey Morgan steps outside the straightjacket and pulls his Tracey Jordan character to the depths of human stupidity and depravity, completely straightfaced as audiences with any sense of oddball tastes laugh hysterically. A show about a live sketch comedy run and written by indulgent lunatics could come across so many negative ways, if it wasn't for the irreverent, but largely intelligent, writing, a sure sign that "write what you know" is good advice, indeed. The awards pile up, but the audience is another story. 30 Rock should continue to be a mainstay, even if it gets sloppy, because what replaces it will never explain a Werewolf Bar Mitzvah, or have Krakowski breaking into any number of on-key tunes, or tell dummies when respective mates might be Dealbreakers.
The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
The left very rarely has a big voice. In fact it may have never had a voice before Jon Stewart. Since he took the reins from Craig Kilborn in 1999, Stewart and company brought us the news showing that not only is politics funny, but we are governed and preached to by the stupidest idiots in the whole the bunch. They ask the questions we always want to pose but are almost too scared to hear the answers to. And everyone is fair game. Each night Jon Stewart sits down with the actors, authors, celebrities and politicians who help shape our society proving one thing: guests better know their shit because he has no fear and is smarter than them anyway. Stewart making a political powerhouse on Comedy Central, of all places, (with a spin-off to boot) is an even bigger testament to his genius. That The Daily Show juggernaut has pumped out a Saturday Night Live-like group of superstars (Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert, Ed Helms, Lewis Black, etc.) is just a bonus. And here is your Moment of Zen: In a decade where unbiased news is harder and harder to come by The Daily Show has been a go-to source for information, This Week in God, commentary, Trendspotting, opinions, and Indecisions alike. Going into the next decade it remains a political force to be reckoned with.
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