During the holidays, everyone wants to stay cheery and free from stress and bad moods, but there’s almost always a point when it just gets to be too much. If that happens to you, don’t resort to mountains of happy pills and red wine. (Pass those on to me.) A much better way to add happiness and laughter to your day is catching up on some of the best 2014 comedies that you may not have seen the first time around.
Comedies on TV (and now on streaming services) almost always get lower ratings than dramas, because they rarely have the same must-watch-live motivations that shows like Breaking Bad and The Good Wife have. Plus, comedies are much easier to repeat ad nauseum, which makes them easier to catch up on at a later date. Like now, with these 10 comedies you should already be watching. (Note: most of the ratings data found online is assumedly lower than more concise data, but even with that in mind, these series are still underwatched.)
Ever since HBO’s The Comeback left the network in 2005, it has accumulated a sizeable cult fandom who seemingly wanted nothing more than to see Lisa Kudrow’s self-obsessed Valerie Cherish get into more awkward Hollywood-lite shenanigans. But here we are, in the back half of the “how did this even happen?” second season, and far less than half a million people are tuning in when it airs live. C’mon, people! We’ve got non-aggravating Seth Rogen and an endlessly dark and cleverly post-modern look at fame and the TV industry. You DO need to see that.
You can find both Season 1 and the as-yet-unfinished Season 2 on HBO Go.
Louis C.K. is one of the most successful stand-up comics in the business right now, both in terms of creative freedom and critical acclaim from comedians and fans alike. Yet for some reason, nobody’s watching his goddamned TV show. After taking a year off between seasons, Louie returned this year, embracing continuous storylines and a sharper eye for drama, but it was still one of the funniest and most introspective comedies on TV this year. Louis C.K. broaches topics that other people won’t touch, and he’s got the always amazing Pamela Adlon and Ellen Burstyn to help him out this go around. So catch up immediately and let’s make next year’s Season 5 a ratings topper, shall we?
Seasons 1-3 of Louie are available on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, but Season 4 has yet to see a widespread streaming release.
Jane the Virgin
I’ll be the first to admit my taste for comedy runs blacker than most, but even I need a break from expletives and death jokes every once in a while. The CW’s Jane the Virgin is the perfect reprieve, taking what could be a melodramatic plotline – a young virgin is accidentally artificially inseminated by her doctor – but keeping it light and heightened by adhering to its telenovela origins and using a deep-voiced narrator to break things up. The ratings are technically fine for a CW show, but that doesn’t mean the emphatically cheeky series doesn’t deserve to have Jane’s pregnancy experienced by more people.
Nathan for You
Nathan Fielder is kind of a genius. Not in a way that makes him capable of figuring out how to make nuclear fission the world’s energy savior, but in a way that makes him capable of selling a fake nuclear fission machine to anyone on Earth. (Remember Dumb Starbucks? That was Fielder.) His Comedy Central series Nathan for You uses him as a quasi-entrepreneur guidance counselor, assisting business owners in a myriad of strange ways. He’s not exactly making fun of anyone, although his subjects are almost always rube-ish in nature, and it’s the kind of series that just doesn’t exist anywhere else. And it probably won’t exist for that long if less than a million people are watching it on a weekly basis.
Both seasons of Nathan for You can be found on Amazon Prime.
Because Archer has lasted long enough to be heading into its sixth season, I have it in my head that the show is watched by many more people than it actually is. But as far as I can tell, the hilariously lewd spy series has never topped 2 million viewers for any episode’s live airing in all of its five years. Is everyone scared of Dr. Krieger’s experiments and fetishes? Does no one like Cheryl’s country music career? Is the mother-son bickering between Malory and Sterling just not oedipal enough? If Archer’s fate rested in the hands of audiences and not FX’s crack team of understanding execs, we would have never known Slater (Christian Slater). And that’s the kind of crime that the government just can’t stop.
While the first four seasons of Archer can be found on Netflix and Amazon Prime, Season 5’s Vice storyline has yet to make its streaming debut.
The Hotwives of Orlando
So, honestly, I’m really not sure how many people have seen Hulu’s endlessly fantastic original series The Hotwives of Orlando, because ratings are different for streaming services. But it seems like it’s still below everyone’s radar, and I just can’t calm down about it. Created by Dannah Phirman and Danielle Schneider (who also star), Hotwives is a pitch-perfect spoof of The Real Housewives empire, in a way that’s enjoyable for both people who love trashy reality TV and people who hate it. With killer performances from Casey Wilson, Tymberlee Hill and Andrea Savage, to name a few, this exercise in dim-witted indulgence should be in everyone’s top comedies of the year list. (Extra points for supporting roles from New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre and the always great Stephen Tobolowsky.)
You can watch all of The Hotwives of Orlando’s first season on Hulu Plus.
Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street
While animated series like Adventure Time and Sanjay and Craig have done a good job at appeasing both children and adults, it’s a lot harder for a live-action series to do the same. Thankfully, the imaginatively wonderful Amazon Original series Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street is here to take us all back to summers when the biggest problems we had to worry about were cooling off, building soapbox cars, and having fun. Only with some actual magic thrown in there for good measure. The spiritual successor to shows like The Adventures of Pete & Pete, this series has cult classic written all over it, but I’d prefer it if it were actually popular to mainstream crowds instead of just the cool kids.
The six-episode first season of Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street is available on Amazon Prime.
I think we can all agree that there aren’t enough female-fronted comedies outside of network dreck like Bad Judge and its ilk. Thankfully, Comedy Central has been breaking that mold over the past few years, and Broad City is the apex of the network’s efforts. Created by Upright Citizens Brigade alums Illana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson (and executive produced by Amy Poehler), this fancy-free series puts the two actresses’ heightened mid-20s characters into low-stakes situations like figuring out whether or not to hide weed in one’s vagina and how to handle a meal in a fancy restaurant, with a ton of great guest stars to help out. And I’m pretty sure there are more laughs per episode than there are people watching them. Let’s make next year’s Season 2 an unmitigated success, or Hannibal Burress will try to date you.
The first season of Broad City is available on Amazon Prime.
Okay, so Bob’s Burgers probably gets watched by more people than anything else on this list, being a network comedy set on Fox’s well-established Sunday nights. But the show’s ratings have taken a major dip this year after starting off fairly strong (in the middle of Season 3), and it’s never quite reached the audience it deserves anyway. Blame it on Fox for thinking the animated series’ pre-primetime slot was a good idea – especially in football season – but it’s really all your fault for not watching. (That’s how Louise would break it to you, while Gene would tell you that your arm hair smells nice.) Created by Loren Bouchard, Bob’s Burgers remains as consistently funny as any show currently airing, and utilizes its characters and cast in every way imaginable. There’s no reason two H. Jon Benjamin-fronted series should be on this list.
The first three seasons of Bob’s Burgers can be found on Netflix, while the first half of Season 5 is currently available on Hulu Plus.
Epic Meal Empire
Based on the ridiculously popular extreme cooking series on YouTube, Epic Meal Empire brings Canadian pork lovers Harley Morenstein and his crew to TV proper. (And it’s the only reason I even figured out that the A&E-owned FYI was a network.) Each episode kicks off with a massive meal and then shifts to some kind of a large-scale project for a big group of people, like a fish-stuffed shark for a bunch of surfers or a high-calorie soup to a group of sumo wrestlers. The humor on display is delightfully cheesy, even when it’s explicit, and relies on puns around 25% of the time. There are far more bacon and bourbon lovers out there than there are tuning into this show. Let’s change that, and have a bite while we’re at it.
Now in its second season, Epic Meal Empire can be watched it in its entirety on FYI’s website.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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