Of all the shows that made us laugh this year, some stood out from the crowd. What makes a great comedy may be a matter of personal taste, but in our opinion these series all came out on top this year. We sat down to select what we think were the best and funniest shows of the year, and narrowed it down to a list ranging from freshman comedies to long-running favorites. all of which kept us in stitches and gave us an escape to look forward to with every new episode. From edgy, cutting edge shows like Louie and Girls to classic sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory and even an animated choice, this list presents the best of the best in our opinion.
These shows are all very different and yet they all have one thing in common - they're well-written, populated with brilliant and talented actors, and of course, they are really, really funny. Presented in no particular order, here are TV Blend’s top 10 comedies of 2012.
After the amazing “Heart of Archness” mini-series, 3 episodes bridging the gap between Seasons 2 and 3 of the FX animated comedy, we didn’t think there was anywhere for Archer to go but down - and then almost each and every one of the ten episodes that followed were impeccable (with “The Limited” perhaps the best of the slouch-less bunch). Seriously, look back at the recaps from early this year and 'impeccable' is definitely the word used most often while chronicling Sterling Archer's third season of adventures as a super-spy. The titular ISIS Agent is a walking and talking parody but Adam Reed and his amazing voice-cast take the show to such high art absurdity that the result is an unparalleled and uproarious animated comedy.
And that’s really the most important requirement when it comes to naming the top television comedies of the year: they’d better be funny, and we don’t know another program that crams as many laughs into an installment as Archer. The rapid fire raunchy dialogue is only matched by the hilarious characters who populate the unorthodox workplace comedy and carry-out the spy influenced situations they spoof. Led by H. Jon Benjamin, the best voice in the game, you know, the voice-over game, the rest of the cast are equally up to the challenge with co-stars Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell, Jessica Walter, Judy Greer, and Amber Nash. And, we know it seems like forever since we saw the spy in action but Archer is almost ready to return with Season 4 premiering on Thursday, January 17 at 10:00 p.m on FX.
First, it’s worth noting that this New Girl is still very new indeed. The FOX comedy may be in the middle of its sophomore season but to make the 2012 list, it meant also including the back half of its freshman year. Do you remember your freshman year? Sloppy. Not to worry, the Elizabeth Meriwether created series didn’t need much time to find its groove (Stella!) and even in its infancy delivered more than enough quality episodes to warrant inclusion in any ‘best of.’ And it’s even harder for a network show (of any genre) to make these kinds of critic’s list when they have to go up against the unrestrained landscape of cable television. There is always an interesting opportunity to create art out of the prime-time limitations and, like most of the rewarding sitcoms, the writers and rad cast - Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris and Hannah Simone - are able to play a little with the form or content boundaries.
The back half of Season 1 started with Lizzy Caplan’s amazing arc as Nick’s new girlfriend and ended with Jess alone after ditching Dermot Mulroney (with a Justin Long re-appearance in there too), Schmidt and Cece sitting on their feelings and Nick ending things with Caroline, again, which kept the roommates together heading into Season 2. Oh, and Winston had that bad job. So the replacement character still wasn’t all that well developed just yet but by the winter break in the second season, “Santa” (yes, last week), everything was firing with Winston himself driving the episode with his childlike wonder. “Black Santa!” Jess’ joblessness and sexual exploits with David Walton have also been great as well as Cece dangling the oh-so normal Robby (Nelson Franklin) in front of Schmidt and Nick refusing to be the emotional fluffer before finding a recent spark with Olivia Munn. The season is off to an excellent start, obviously, and New Girl resumes Tuesday, January 8 at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.
FX consistently produces some of the funniest, most current and relatable comedies on television (give or take Wilfred which still hits two out of those three adjectives). Key to the lineup is The League, a mostly bro-oriented comedy about a fantasy football league in Chicago. Since the group is made up of several thirty-something men and one female who have already made their professional marks on the world, the series is free to gleefully poke fun at family units, all while getting into wild shenanigans and fast talking football players. In Season 4, the series has embarked on a journey with new baby Chalupa Batman, using a breast pump as a different sort of device, and lending kids to a deranged friend.
The League has continually refined its characters and plotlines, and in Season 4, the show has finally found a comfortable rhythm to fall into each week, while still offering the ability to present unexpected moments. Like any good ensemble, it has a great sense of the strengths and weaknesses of all of the characters involved, and then the show structures its plotlines around those assets and shortcomings in order to maximize poignancy and comedic effect. Consequently, Season 4 has given Kevin a steady diet of storylines playing to his goofy physical comedy, Ruxin a plot line undermining his own intelligence and self-esteem and Taco a newfound source of wealth. None of it would work if altered in a different direction, but as it stands, it’s close to perfect.
Emily Kapnek’s sophomore ABC comedy, Suburgatory, mixes high school tropes with family dramas, as well as weird comedic timing with sentimental moments. This has been made more apparent in 2012, as our heroine, Tessa, has dealt more with the pains of growing up, while her father, George, has moved forward with his first serious relationship in a long time, and as Tessa’s mother, Alex, has entered the plot for the first time.
It’s that latter plot point that has stepped up Suburgatory’s game in 2012. As Tessa’s growing older, she’s yearning for an adult relationship with her mother but she’s also figuring out who and what is important in her life’s trajectory. It can be painful and awkward, and Suburgatory isn’t afraid to explore those moments. Yet, with a thrilling cast that includes Chris Parnell, Allie Grant, Ana Gasteyer, Alan Tudyk, and the amazing Cheryl Hines, Suburgatory has hit more high notes than lows in the last year, exhausting every comedic possibility out of its scenes while still making us care about its characters and their problems. On the surface, Suburgatory is a basic view into upperclass life in the suburbs, but luckily it manages to take its premise and become so much more than just a shot at privileged lives and ideals. Instead, it has proved to be one of the most clever and careful shows on television.
If Girls demonstrated one thing in its first season, it's that life for a young female living in New York City can be frustrating, awkward and very, very funny. But there's more than just one thing that works well about Lena Dunham's HBO comedy. What's even more compelling about the show is the fact that some of the characters come close to being unlikable due to their flaws, without actually crossing that line, making them seem like real people we might know or identify with. In a nutshell, these girls are human, they're young twenty-somethings who don't have it all (or much) figured out yet, nor do any of them have any certain life plans.
Between Hannah's attempts to support herself and have a balanced relationship with her boyfriend Adam, and the adventures of her friends Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna, the first season brought us into the lives of four girls trying to navigate through the start of adulthood. By comparison to other shows, which have a tendency to gloss over the full reality of being a young adult in New York, centering on twenty-somethings who are far more established and well-off than what's realistic, Girls zooms in on some of the truth of the situation, and then finds the humor in it with each episode, offering a refreshing take on an otherwise overdone sitcom premise. In that way, not only does Girls stand out as an intriguing and strangely addicting new TV comedy, but it's also one of the best shows on television this year.
Community fans have gone without the anticipated fourth season this fall, but 2012 did offer the second half of Season 3 in the form of twelve excellent episodes, some of which stand out among the most entertaining half-hours of television 2012 has offered us this year. Among the gems for Season 3.5 of Community are "Pillows and Blankets Part 2," a follow up to the blanket fort episode, which is shot in the style of a Ken Burns documentary, to emphasize just how legit-serious this war between pillow and blanket fort builders was on the Greendale campus. And then there's "Digital Estate Planning," which put the study group into an 8-bit video game.
But what made the second half of Season 3 so great, beyond the homages, was the emphasis on the dynamic of the group and the friendships within as they exercise their own personal issues and behavioral quirks while get overly involved in each others' drama. Whether it's meddling in Britta's love life in "Origins of Vampire Mythology," or trying to help Abed come to grips with his addiction to celebrity impersonators and film reenactments in "Contemporary Impressions," these friends have no shortage of time or initiative to get involved in each others' lives. Of course, meddling tends to backfire and expose their own issues, which is part of the humor of the show. Behind all of that is the characters' genuine affection for one another despite their differences. And that's really where Community shines. We may have gone without Community this fall, but the series was delivering top notch episodes earlier this year, bringing some of the best laughs on television in 2012.
Louis C.K. had a banner year in 2012, and his Emmy win for Louie was well-deserved. Louie has been one of the best comedies on television since it premiered, but in 2012 this show stepped it up again. It was a year marked by fabulous guest stars and Louie’s further commitment to blowing traditional sitcom formats out of the water and proving Louis C.K. can do it his way and come out on top.
Louie has a way of juxtaposing the absurd over the truth; the show takes on real issues but never loses sight of its status as a comedy. Brilliant writing and Louis C.K.’s trademark dry wit and self-deprecation have created a series unlike any other on television and marked Louie as one of 2012’s best. Gifted guest stars like Parker Posey and Amy Poehler served to elevate C.K.’s gift for great comedy to a whole new level this year.
Louie’s third season finale topped off a stellar season with an episode the summed up everything that is incredible about this series. There are things that Louie can pull off that no other sitcom can manage, taking on dramatic elements without ever becoming “a very special episode of…” and even managing a dream sequence without missing a beat, something other shows haven’t always pulled off well. Louie is a show that somehow never feels like a show, but rather a real glimpse into a very odd and very funny man.
The Big Bang Theory
Six seasons in, The Big Bang Theory is still at the top if its game. While most sitcoms are flailing at this point in their lifespan, somehow this show remains dead on. In a television world where new formats and different takes on comedy are the rising stars, The Big Bang Theory proves that traditional sitcoms can still shine.
2012 marked The Big Bang Theory’s return to where it started in some ways. Over the past few seasons there has been a trend towards many of the characters moving in different directions in their lives, but in 2012, especially in the fall when Season 6 premiered, we saw more of made us fall in love with the show in the first place. This series seems to always come down to the brilliant Jim Parsons as Sheldon, who has made the show so good this year. We’ve seen him drunk and yet still as eloquent as ever, taking RPG revenge on Santa Claus, but most importantly showing more of his human side.
The Big Bang Theory is a classic comedy that has all of the elements needed to gather a wide audience; there’s a good reason that it remains top in the ratings. In 2012, it remains a show that has heart as well as wit, and follows a simple formula to get laughs. That’s becoming increasingly rare, but it’s what keeps this sitcom on top and made it one of the best comedies on television for 2012.
Let’s be honest. The New Adventures Of Old Christine was not very good. Whether Julia Louis-Dreyfus won an Emmy for it or not, nothing about that formulaic snoozer broke the so-called Seinfeld curse. Veep, however, obliterates it. A perfect blend of really clever, sophisticated political commentary and far more relatable jokes about the pratfalls of working with a team inside a confined space, the show’s first season manages to bring together a wide variety of comedic styles, and the result is nothing short of brilliant. The chemistry between all of the primary staffers is spot-on, and Jonah’s metal-obssessed, constantly bragging, object of ridicule antagonist might well be the single funniest new character brought to television in 2012.
To date, Veep has only aired eight, half hour episodes. Consequently, there’s no real way to tell whether this could progress into one of the better comedies of the ‘10s (2010s?) or whether everything simply came together during its initial order. Either way, Veep’s first season will remain a wonderful example of how to comment on Washington DC politics without wasting time overtly advocating a political agenda. From choosing the best flavor of ice cream for a photo opportunity to living in fear of offending anyone who might create problems for her, she’s the consummate politician, a woman obsessed with her own career arc above all else. In that way, she’s like damn near every Republican and Democrat on the Hill.
Raising Hope isn’t the most highbrow comedy on television, but it’s actually wickedly clever in its own way. From Virginia’s goofy pattern of using the wrong words to the show’s atrocious parenting flashbacks, a great amount of thought goes into crafting the way the show is put together and how the various members of the Chance Family communicate with each other. After a first season that occasionally felt imbalanced and scatter-brained, Raising Hope finally starting getting the proportions right in 2012, lessening the usage of Maw Maw and incorporating Sabrina into the family as more of an actual member.
In a way, Sabrina is the perfect embodiment of all the show did right this year. Most comedies are willing to drag out awkward friend zone relationships for an elongated period of time, but Raising Hope had the balls to throw Jimmy and Sabrina together with almost no lead-up during a random episode in February. The moment was shocking and beautiful, much in the same way that resurrecting Hope’s mother Lucy and letting her win custody (briefly) was a hilarious jolt to the status quo that made everyone fight for what they truly believe in. The ratings for Raising Hope have fallen quite a bit over the last year, but that dip in viewership definitely hasn’t corresponded with quality. In fact, the show has never been better.