Tuesday, December 20, 2016

15 Best TV Comedies of 2016

Atlanta TV poster
By Kenny Howell

We are approaching almost 500 scripted comedies on TV, so needless to say, I have missed some things over the last year. But I still saw plenty of great shows to compile a list of Best Comedies, Best Dramas, then a complete list of Best TV shows.

Comedy might have actually had a better year this year than drama because there were several elite comedies at the top of their game. Those are below as well as a few others in 15 Best TV Comedies of 2016.

15. Love (Netflix) - Created by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin, Paul Rust; Starring Rust, Gillian Jacobs, Claudia O'Doherty. 

I haven't seen this pop up on many end of year lists, but I quite enjoyed this tale of a relationship told in full from that first spark to eventual breakdown. But there is a second season, so all is not lost it seems. 

14. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix) - Created by Robert Carlock, Tina Fey; Starring Ellie Kemper, Titus Burgess, Carol Kane, Jane Krakowski. 

This was nearly the same tone wise as season 1, but there still plenty of big laughs to be had from the former bunker girl in the big city. I need more Jon Hamm though. 

13. The Good Place (NBC) - Created by Michael Schur; Starring Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, William Jacskson Harper. 

This is the only network show on my list, but I am surprised it is even on a network. It is a super bizarre comedy about a woman mistakenly sent to a heaven like after life, and her trying to keep that a secret so she isn't sent to the bad place. Pretty far out there, but also pretty funny. 

12. Difficult People (Hulu) - Created by Julie Klausner; Starring Klausner, Billy Eichner, James Urbaniak, Andrea Martin. 

This show owes a lot to Larry David in structure, but the humor is very much Klausner and Eichner who play terrible people who are obsessed with pop culture trying to live their everyday lives. 

11. Search Party (TBS) - Created by Sarah Violet-Bliss, Charles Rogers, Michael Showalter; Starring Alia Shawkat, John Reynolds, John Ealy, Meredith Hagner.

This was a late find for me, as I have buzzed through it the past few days. About some hipsters in Brooklyn trying to find their missing friend, though none of them really remember her or were close friends with her. Shawkat is good as always, but the star of the show for me is Hagner as the ditzy actress. 

10. BoJack Horseman (Netflix) - Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg; Starring Will Arnett, Paul F. Tompkins, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Aaron Paul. 

No show took bigger chances than this animated, meta-comedy about a washed about horse actor that had a hit sitcom in the 1980s. Season 3 was just as adventurous, maybe even more so, and included an entire episode that took place underwater and had no dialogue. 

9. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) - Starring John Oliver

Samantha Bee has done excellent work, but it is still John Oliver that has taken the mantle from Jon Stewart. His in depth work calls back to The Daily Show in its hay day when they were bringing things to light that very much needed to be known and mining the crap out of that for laughs. 

8. Transparent (Amazon) - Created by Jill Soloway; Starring Jeffrey Tambor, Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, Judith Light, Kathryn Hahn, Rob Huebel. 

I am not enamored quite as much as some people with this series, but I obviously think it is very good since I am putting it at No. 8. I honestly could watch this show just for the brother and sister characters played by Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass, but obviously Jeffrey Tambor is excellent and Judith Light's character got further rounded this season, which was a very pleasant surprise. 

7. Lady Dynamite (Netflix) - Created by Pam Brady, Mitchell Hurwitz; Starring Maria Bamford, Fred Melamed, Mary Kay Place, Ed Begley Jr., Ana Gasteyer. 

Probably the most bizarre of any comedy this year, this is very much Maria Bamford. The first couple episodes of the season are extremely clever and have some of the funniest moments of any show on TV. Late season tails off, but can't dampen just how good it started. 

6. Fleabag (Amazon) - Created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge; Starring Waller-Bridge, Sian Clifford, Jenny Rainsford, Bill Paterson, Olivia Colman. 

Just about perfect six episode arc about a quite crazy young woman trying to get through life. The season starts as a pretty raunchy comedy, but turns into something a lot deeper and profound. 

5. Horace & Pete (LouisCK.net) - Created by Louis C.K.; Starring Louis C.K., Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda, Edie Falco, Jessica Lange, Steven Wright, Aidy Bryant. 

Louis C.K. changed how we view television this year with this brilliant series about a bar that might not actually be a comedy. It has very funny moments, but it is about seriously depressed people that own a 100-year-old bar and goes to extremely dark places. Louis C.K. funded the project himself, didn't tell anyone about it, and released it on his own website. It is now streaming on Hulu. 

4. Catastrophe (Amazon) - Created by Rob Delaney, Sharon Horgan; Starring Delaney, Horgan, Mark Bonnar, Ashley Jensen. 

Catastrophe has been through two seasons and 12 episodes so far, which of course is not nearly enough, but it has been just about perfect all the way through. This season Delaney and Horgan handle parenthood and trying to navigate marriage with two small children in the house. This could have been easy comedy, but Delaney and Horgan bring a fresh, funny approach that lifts above the normal fare.

3. Silicon Valley (HBO) - Created by John Altschuler, Mike Judge, Dave Krinsky; Starring Thomas Middleditch, Kumail Nanjiani, T.J. Miller, Martin Starr, Amanda Crew, Zach Woods, Matt Ross. 

Speaking of about perfect, Silicon Valley keeps getting better and better, and maybe has the best cast of any comedy on TV. This year the boys tried to salvage what was left of Pied Piper as it goes through changes, not only in leadership, but to what it actually is.

2. Veep (HBO) - Created by Armando Ianucci; Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Matt Walsh, Gary Cole, Sam Richardson. 

Also in the running for the best cast on TV, and also on HBO, the excellent Veep. Armando Ianucci left as showrunner this year, which some people thought might be a downfall of the series, but I think that season 5 was the best so far. It dealt with the fallout of the tie in the electoral college and everything after.

1. Atlanta (FX) - Created by Donald Glover; Starring Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Keith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz. 

TV executives, especially the ones at FX, have done this crazy thing over the last few years. They have handed the keys to really talented comedians and just let them do what they want. It worked for Louis C.K., but I think that even he didn't make something as good as the first season of Glover's Atlanta.

Glover played a bit of a wayward young man who tries to get his life in order by becoming the manager of his cousin, a rapper on the underground scene that could possibly hit it big. That is a pretty basic setup but where Glover runs with it is a vision all his own. Every week was such a strange, often confounding journey, but always very grounded in reality. Even when the show ends with an invisible car escaping a scene. It was such an unique experience, cleverly odd without you recognizing it sometimes. It's hard to really put into words just what it is. It is just something that needs to be lived in and experienced.

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