The Definitive TV Comedy Power Rankings (Getting You Through The Rest of Summer)

dvr

There are certain unmistakeable truths of every summer:

  • You start all conversations by commenting on how amazing the weather is.
  • While you love that it’s light out until 8pm, you hate that the sun rises at 5:30am.
  • That “beach body” you’ve been working on for the past few months disappears rapidly due to the constant binges of barbecued meats and beer.
  • You complain constantly about the lack of quality TV (even though you try to pretend like you don’t spend much time on the couch due to those previously mentioned amazing weather days and BBQs).

It’s that last point that I’d like to spend some time on today. Don’t even attempt to talk yourself into summer no longer being such a bad time for TV. It’s still awful. Instead of trying out new and obviously terrible shows, do yourself a favor and catch up on some already existing shows you’ve been ignoring.

Since summer is all about turning off your brain and being in a good mood, I want to specifically suggest you catch up on comedies. Dramas can wait for the depression months (November – April in places like New England, February 1st – February 4th in a place like Los Angeles).

While everyone has their own preferences, here’s a handy power rankings guide authored by a person who has an incredibly good pulse on what’s funny and what’s not. Use this to navigate through the backlog of shows you’ve been meaning to watch. Go for the shows ranked highest; avoid the shows ranked lowest. Easy enough?

[Quick side note: As a rule, I’m only including shows that I’ve seen at least one full episode of within the past calendar year. Therefore shows like The Simpsons and The League are both out, even though I’ve seen many episodes of each in years past. I’m also only including current TV shows. This is not an article on TV comedies throughout history. That means Seinfeld and The Office didn’t crack this list either.]

Legend

⇑ means the show is on the rise

⇓ means the show is on the decline

⇔ means the show is neither rising nor falling

TV Comedy Power Rankings

1. Modern Family⇔

Continues to be the gold standard of comedy after five seasons. You can argue that because it’s a network show, it’s never going to be as edgy or out-of-control wild as some shows on HBO or other premium channels. But from a pure comedic storytelling standpoint, you can’t beat it. As an aspiring writer, I can tell you I watch this show weekly and hang my head in jealousy. Even if given the opportunity to practice for 500 years, I could never write such perfect characters, plots and jokes that all intertwine as well as Modern Family does.

You can watch past episodes on ABC.com or Netflix Instant.

2. Veep ⇔

If this HBO satire that revolves around Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the always-stepping-into-the-proverbial-pile-of-dog-shit Vice President isn’t at “gold standard” level, it’s damn close. This show was hilarious and fresh in its first season, and it’s only gotten stronger since. There isn’t a show out there that produces more jaw-dropping moments on a weekly basis. It’s awkward, raunchy and intelligent humor all rolled up into one amazing creation.

You can watch past episodes on HBO GO or Netflix (not instant).

3. Brooklyn Nine-Nine ⇑

Some people will probably argue that the #4 show on my list should be in this spot instead, especially because Brooklyn just finished its rookie season. I get that it might be too soon to put it in the upper echelon. But watch the full season and tell me it wasn’t a masterpiece. Each character is perfect. Every joke and gag works. Despite obvious reasons to be worried, Andy Samberg’s character is not over the top obnoxious or goofy. The blending of the major and minor characters helps the show create jokes out of episode-long plots and fire off the quick-hit jokes. I fell in love with it the moment Jake Peralta wore his necktie around his belly (and continued loving it through the Kwazy Cupcakes Cwaze).

You can watch past episodes on Hulu Plus (and the most recent ones are still on Fox.com).

4. Parks and Recreation ⇔

No doubt you’ve been told to watch this show dozens of times by the same people. We’re a small but rabid fan base. You might recognize us from other low-rated TV show audiences such as Arrested Development. Now is a great time to finally listen to that annoying Parks fan. Dive into the first couple seasons this summer, and if you like it, you can catch up through the first six seasons in time to enjoy the seventh and final season this Fall with the rest of us. Leslie Knope and her motley gang of small-town government workers are finally going away for good. What started out as “the next Office” starring “Amy Poehler playing a female version of Michael Scott” has blossomed into so much more than that. We’ve gotten to know every member of the Parks cast better than we ever did with The Office crew. And somehow we care so much more about the fate of Leslie’s political career than the fates of those Dunder Mifflin employees. While it didn’t crack my Top Three, Parks has delivered consistent A material for more than 100 episodes. It’ll be sad to see Leslie and company go away next May.

You can watch past episodes on Netflix Instant.

5. Mindy Project ⇑

A show centered around an early 30s woman who’s a gynecologist and wants her life to mimic Meg Ryan’s in all those old chick flicks. And yet, not a TV show just for women by any means. I’ve watched this from day one mostly because I was such a big Office fan that I just had to check out what the woman behind Kelly Kapoor was cooking up with her first show as creator and star. What’s great about Mindy is that it takes those cliched romcom story lines and instead of delivering a happy ending, it pulls the rug out from under the main character (and us) repeatedly. It’s an incredible parody of those female-driven fairytale relationships. The supporting characters, especially male nurse Morgan Tookers, come through in a big way to make the show wacky and complete.

You can watch past episodes on Hulu Plus and Netflix (not Instant).

6. Silicon Valley ⇑⇑

The extra arrow pointing up is because Silicon Valley ended its first season on possibly the highest of high notes. Even people who haven’t watched this show yet have heard about “the greatest dick joke in TV history” that this show delivered in its season finale a few weeks back. And while that five-minute gut-busting scene should get a lot of publicity, it was really just a microcosm of how funny this show can be with nothing more than four or five nerds standing around trying to figure out life in the cutthroat high tech world. If you’re looking for something with a little more edge, more of that R-rated comedy, this is absolutely the one for you.

You can watch past episodes on HBOGO and soon enough on Netflix (not Instant).

7. Nathan For You  ⇑⇑⇑

This faux-reality show/documentary (think Ali G skits but with a much more American and awkward guy) actually jumped up a good four or five spots in these power rankings over the past few weeks. The episode titled “Souvenir Shop / ELAIFF” broke the unofficial record for laughs experienced per second. No lie. I dare you to watch it and not have stomach pains. In fact, I dare you to watch any of this current season’s episodes and not fall in love with Nathan Fielder.

You can watch past episodes on ComedyCentral.com or by DVRing it on Comedy Central.

**Note: I consider this the line of demarcation between the cream of the crop and the shows that are merely “solid watches.”

8. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia ⇔

A little bit of a sad moment here as It’s Always Sunny once ranked at the very top for me. But that was a good five years ago when every episode was better than the previous. Now IASIP has more misses than hits. Their good episodes still trump almost everything else on this list, but the consistent excellence is gone. This is a show where you definitely want to watch from Season 1 because those first few seasons are the strongest.

You can watch past episodes on Netflix Instant.

9. Big Bang Theory ⇔

Out of all the shows I watch, this one seems to confuse people most often. I guess that’s because it just doesn’t fit the mold of all these other comedies on the list. It’s certainly the only show I watch that has the live audience and laugh track. But if you spend a few hours observing Sheldon Cooper and his Aspergery ways, I promise you’ll fall in love with him. It’s a really weird feeling to like a main character who is rude, selfish, socially inept and downright robotic, but somehow Big Bang has pulled it off. It can never get up into the cream of the crop section due to it’s strong association with other crappy network sitcoms, but I’m still glad it’s part of my life.

You can watch past episodes on Netflix (not Instant).

10. Broad City ⇔

A show that’s incredibly rough around the edges…due to the fact that it was a web series online that recently got promoted to the TV big leagues, and because it focuses on the more depressing side of being a single 20-something woman in New York. It’s what Girls would be if Girls was legitimately funny and less serious. Amy Poehler as an executive producer immediately gave this show street cred, and I’m guessing that’s why many of us got on board with season one. The good news is that they’re moving forward with a season two. The bad news?

You cannot watch past episodes anywhere at this time (except for the pilot episode on ComedyCentral.com).

11. Workaholics ⇓

Much like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, when this show creates a hit episode, it’s a HUGE HIT. But sometimes the plots and jokes are just a tad too crazy and raunchy even for me. Workaholics is an incredibly simple and funny take on cubicle life for a few mid-twenties stoners who have no interest in doing any real work.

You can watch past episodes on Netflix (not Instant).

12. Drunk History ⇓

Perhaps it was a one-year wonder. Perhaps I’m just getting old. Either way, I just can’t get on board with this show in season two like I was for its first season in 2013. Don’t get me wrong, it still has funny moments (otherwise it would be much lower on this list). But the format feels a little played out already. I’m much more interested in getting some friends together and creating our own drunk version of a historical event than continuing to watch this show every week.

You can watch current season two episodes (and probably some season one episodes) on Comedy Central.

**Note: This is the line of demarcation between shows I that I like a lot and shows that are pretty bad but I watch sometimes anyway because sitting on the couch and staring at a TV is so easy. The following shows also fall into the category of “my fiancee has a broader sense of humor than me and therefore I’m sometimes forced to watch this junk.”

13. The Goldbergs ⇔

14. About A Boy ⇓

15. New Girl ⇓⇓

16. 2 Broke Girls ⇔

17. The Millers ⇔

18. Growing Up Fisher ⇓

19. Crazy Ones ⇓

20. Dads ⇓⇓⇓

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Fall TV Preview: Tuesday Nights Just Got Busy

goldbergs

One week ago we previewed four Tuesday night shows , two returning and two brand new. They were all comedies, and none of them are really the type where you’d need to start from the very first episode if you want to get into them. So in case you didn’t check out the premieres of those shows last week, here’s how I’d prioritize them if I were you:

  1. The Mindy Project
  2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  3. New Girl
  4. Dads – But only if there’s a major glitch with your cable or satellite provider that forces you to keep the TV on FOX.

And tonight, four more shows start up that you may want to check out. They’re all brand new, and they’re all on ABC. So now you’re potentially juggling eight shows on Tuesday. Except some of these will obviously fall out of favor quickly. I can tell you that in my home Dads is probably getting bumped from the DVR-recording schedule after tonight, and there’s at least one show in these four we’re about to preview that won’t make the cut.

Six is much more manageable than eight!

Here are the four new ABC shows that are worth a look tonight:

The Goldbergs

When & Where: 9:00pm on ABC

What: Remember when someone tried to capitalize on the That ‘70s Show popularity and created That ‘80s Show? I barely remember either, but it actually did happen. Well The Goldbergs is basically a family-centric version of that short-lived spinoff. It’s semi-autobiographical as the creator actually grew up in the 80s and videotaped his family doing weird stuff. And he’s bringing all the dynamics of his real family to this show. So think of it as a family sitcom set in the 80s with the exact type of characters you’d expect roaming around the 1980s.

Who: Jeff Garlin plays the father, Murray Goldberg. And Wendy McLendon-Covey plays the mother, Beverly Goldberg.

Ross’s Take: It’s got a lot of potential. I’m basing that mostly on the trailer, which is always risky to do because they might have used up all their good jokes in that four-minute preview. Just the fact that it’s a non-CBS sitcom makes it worth a try in my opinion. If you grew up in the 80s, you gotta check this out. There’s a good chance we’ll be able to do a lot of laughing at the parents in this show who remind us way too much of our own parents from that time period. And if you raised kids in the 80s, you probably wanted to laugh a lot at the insanity of childhood and adolescence, but you couldn’t laugh in your own kids’ faces back then. So now’s your chance to tune in and remember what was so funny about being a parent in that decade. What do you have to lose? 30 minutes of your precious lives? I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5 and hopefully I’m being a little conservative.

Julie’s Take: Ooh, I like it! It’s like a revamped Wonder Years. I’m giving it a 5 out of 5.

Trophy Wife

When & Where: 9:30pm on ABC

What: A family comedy about a woman who marries a twice-divorced man and has to co-exist with his two ex-wives and the handful of kids he produced in those previous relationships.

Who: Bradley Whitford plays the husband, Malin Akerman plays the new wife.

Ross’s Take: It feels a bit too ridiculous and forced. And unrealistic. This woman marries a guy and immediately has to be in charge of all his kids and their relationships with their moms, who undoubtedly hate her for being the young, hot wife. I don’t think we’re even bothering to watch the first episode. I give it a 0.5 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: I want to give it a 0 out of 5, but I’ll start it off with a 1 out of 5.

(I can tell you that only other contribution she made when we finished watching the preview was shaking her head and making that face people make when they dislike the food they just tried. Probably not good for this show’s chances.)

Lucky 7

When & Where: 10:00pm on ABC

What: A drama about seven gas station employees in Queens, New York, who split a lottery ticket every week. And when they finally win the jackpot, some of their wildest dreams come true…but the money also creates plenty of problems.

Who: Nobody any of us have ever heard of. It’s an ensemble cast, and I can’t make out anyone in the cast who I know from previous work. Lots of unknowns.

Ross’s Take: As a successful TV and movie writer, there’s been several times in the past few years when a new show or film comes out that looks similar to an idea I have written down on a scrap of paper in a folder somewhere on my desk. This is one of those times. So of course I’m intrigued. My movie idea was about a group of friends who win the lottery together and then problems arise as the group dynamic changes and some personalities change. I bet this show is better than anything I could have created so I’m hoping for big things. I’ll go with a 3.5 out of 5, which seems to be my max rating on a show I haven’t seen yet.

Julie’s Take: I’m giving it a 3 out of 5 because I’m intrigued. But I am worried it’s gonna go dark and sad eventually.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

When & Where: 8:00pm on ABC

What: The name of the show pretty much tells you what you need to know. It’s a comic book/superhero show that looks like a grander scale version of the TV show Heroes. People with super powers find each other and team up to defeat the bad guys.

Who: Legendary sci-fi/superhero creator/writer/director Joss Whedon created this show and wrote the pilot. It’ll be interesting to see what the show looks like past the pilot when he’s not the one writing it anymore.

Ross’s Take: A superhero show that seems to have a big enough budget to have great special effects & action scenes and created by a guy who’s already had a ton of success with The Avengers movie. Sign me up. This could be the perfect post-Breaking Bad hour-long TV show. It probably won’t require a significant emotional investment, but will be a very pleasing visual experience. Mindless viewing makes it sound bad, but it could be good watching when you’re checked out mentally after a long day of work.

I’ll pre-rank it a 3.5 out of 5, obviously.

Julie’s Take: I didn’t even give Julie an opportunity to review this show because I’m certain she’s not into comic book content. I don’t think this would keep her attention for longer than 10 seconds.

If I’m guessing ahead of time how I’ll ultimately rank these eight Tuesday night shows once I’ve seen them all, it goes like this:

  1. The Mindy Project
  2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  3. The Goldbergs 
  4. Lucky 7
  5. New Girl
  6. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  7. Dads
  8. Trophy Wife

Do what you want with that info. We’ll be back tomorrow with just one brand new show and one returning show.

Fall TV Preview: New & Returning Shows Starting Tonight

Unless you’re one of the five people who enjoys watching Ryan Seacrest host the most arbitrary quiz show of all time, you’re probably ready for some decent TV back in your life.

As an industry insider living in Los Angeles, I hear all the talk about how the networks are now motivated to provide better programming during the summer months. But, no, summer TV still blows.

If you’re smart, you use the summer to get away from the television entirely. But not me. Being lazy is my life. So I’m stuck watching shows during the June-August months that would never stand a chance of making my exclusive DVR queue during prime TV-viewing season…The Newsroom, American Ninja Warrior, Under the Dome and MasterChef to name a few.

But here we are, September, when hope springs eternal for TV. Our favorite shows are returning along with plenty of new ones to try out.

The one problem with the start of TV season? How do you dig through the endless junk that the networks and cable channels throw at us to find those handful of shows that might turn into this decade’s The Office, 30 Rock or Breaking Bad? There’s almost too much to choose from.

That’s where I come in. I know what works in TV, and I know what you should be watching (picture me saying that in the most humble way possible).

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be posting blogs almost every day to give my recommendations on which shows to add to your DVR and which shows to add to your “Never Record List” (if that sort of thing existed, How I Met Your Mother would be at the top of it).

But since my point of view is limited to “30-year-old, college-educated, genius male,” I’ve recruited an assistant to review these shows with me. Her point of view is “30-year-old, Masters degree, female, who is way too easily entertained.” Throughout these blogs, she’ll simply be known as Julie.

I’ll also be embedding trailers to each TV show we’re reviewing whenever possible so you can easily decide for yourself if you don’t want to blindly follow our opinions.

When I asked a friend the other day what new shows he was planning on watching, he said he hates wasting his time getting into shows that ultimately get cancelled. So his plan is to not watch any new shows, see which ones get picked up for a second season later this year or early next year, and then catch up on season one.

This is a guy who wants life to be so efficient he wouldn’t dare waste a minute of his time on something that might not pan out down the road. He’s essentially a robot due to his “all logic, no emotion” philosophy.

But to some extent, I agree with him. It sucks getting into a new show and then finding out four weeks later it’s going to be cancelled by the end of the season. But I’m more of a cyborg than a robot. Sign me up to avoid almost all one-hour dramas until I find out it’s worth investing my time, but I can’t do that with the 30-minute sitcoms. I love laughing too much.

So for this series of blogs, you can expect lots of comedy reviews and almost no drama reviews. Got it?

Without further ado, here’s what’s on the schedule for Tuesday, September 17th:

Returning Shows

 

The Mindy Project

When & Where: 9:30pm on FOX

What: Workplace comedy that revolves around an OB/GYN who desperately wants her life to be right out of a classic romantic comedy/chick flick movie.

Who: Mindy Kaling of The Office fame is the creator and star. But the supporting cast and guest stars have as much to do with the hilarity of the show as Kaling does.

Ross’s Take: Don’t be scared off by the mention of a romcom/chick flick above. Much of the humor comes from the fact that Mindy takes great pains to make her life equivalent to the perfect Meg Ryan type of life from those 90s movies, but reality never works out quite as perfectly. The show splits time between Mindy’s professional life (her power struggle with the other doctors, her ongoing battle with a group of midwives that occupy the floor above her office) and her personal life (trying to have a one-night stand, embarrassing herself at weddings, trying to be a competent babysitter). In my opinion the supporting characters at her office are the best part of this show. Especially male nurse Morgan, played to perfection by Ike Barinholtz. If you watch Parks & Recreation, picture Andy Dwyer with a slightly more sinister past and a little more in the brain department.

I give The Mindy Project a 3.5 out of 5 on my arbitrary ratings scale, with a chance to move up to 4 during Season 2.

Julie’s Take: Mindy is the funniest person ever, and she has short hair this season! I give it a 6 out of 5 on Ross’s arbitrary ratings scale.

New Girl

When & Where: 9:00pm on FOX

What: A sitcom about four friends—three men, one woman—living together in LA, whose lives and romances sometimes overlap.

Who: Zooey Deschanel is the “girl” in the title. In the pilot episode two seasons ago, she broke up with her boyfriend and moved into an apartment with three guys.

Ross’s Take: It’s occasionally funny and has a pretty low priority on my TV-viewing schedule. Out of the four main characters, there’s one who’s constantly funny (Schmidt, the overconfident metrosexual who offends everyone with his cockiness), two who are sometimes funny (Jess, the dorky school teacher, and Nick the serial slacker), and one who is completely invisible on the show (Winston, a former basketball player and current radio show host who NEVER gets to say or do anything funny or relevant…seriously, no one knows why he’s even on the show at this point).

Through the first two seasons there was a “Jim & Pam from The Office” type of will they or won’t they relationship between Jess and Nick. But at the end of last season they started hooking up and that’s the big dramatic issue they’ll try to work out this season.

I give New Girl a 2 out of 5, and if enough new shows entertain me this Fall, this one will be the first to drop out of my DVR recording list.

Julie’s Take: I’m so sick of all the characters except for Schmidt. I’m excited about watching it, but it’s starting to go down the How I Met Your Mother path for me (meaning no longer funny but I have to watch it). I give it a 2.5 out of 5…3 if you push me.

New Shows

 

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

When & Where: 8:30pm on FOX

What: A workplace sitcom about an NYPD detective who plays the roll of class clown until he gets a new boss who wants everyone to operate “by the book.”

Who: Andy Samberg of Saturday Night Live/Dick In A Box fame plays the main character Jake Peralta.

Ross’s Take: It has potential as long as it doesn’t go too far down the slapsticky/watch Andy Samberg do little kid things road. If they have him doing things that I’d associate with a bad Adam Sandler movie, I’m out. The trailer makes me think we’re getting a lot of small roles and cameos from some pretty entertaining actors (Joe Lo Truglio and Fred Armisen are in the trailer) so I’m pinning my hopes to that.

I’ll give this a 3 out of 5 based on almost no information but the trailer.

Julie’s Take: It could be too slapsticky with Andy Samberg doing ridiculous stuff that annoys me, but I’m giving it a 5 out of 5 for now.

Dads

When & Where: 8:00pm on FOX

What: A buddy sitcom about two video game developers whose lives are turned upside down when their offensive/humiliating dads unexpectedly move in with them.

Who: Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi are the sons, Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) and Seth Green helped create it.

Ross’s Take: As an ordinary person, I’m passing on this show. But as a decorated TV critic and future TV writer, I’m going to watch a couple episodes just to see how bad it is. It looks bad. And I couldn’t help but seem some reviews from people who have gotten to watch a couple episodes ahead of time. They didn’t have anything good to say. It’s one of those shows with a laugh track where they go for the big laugh by having one of the dads walk around in a towel with his man boobs exposed. Or by the guys making the office assistant dress up like a Chinese school girl in a short skirt to impress some clients even though she’s adamantly against it. If that sounds funny to you, go for it.

I’m giving it a 0.5 out 5 with the strong possibility that I’m overrating it.

Julie’s Take: It looks hilarious. I’m giving it a high 4 out of 5.

Go ahead and get your DVRs ready because the shows (and my reviews) are going to be blasting you in the face nonstop for the next few weeks.