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

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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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Wandering my way through TV and Film while waiting for Pinterest to accept me

My hiatus from blogging is over, but I’ve basically been in a three-day coma since coming back from Vegas.  This post might be rambling, incoherent and a waste of your time.  I’ll be back with something on Vegas before the week’s over though.

-As usual, I’m late to the party, but I’ve been hearing about this Pinterest contraption for the last couple weeks.  Curiosity and wikipedia tell me that it’s most popular with women.  I knew it was a perfect fit for me so I tried to sign up.  Pinterest was kind enough to send me an email saying, “Thanks for joining the Pinterest waiting list. We’ll be sure to send you an invite soon.  In the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter. You can also explore a few pins.  We’re excited to get you pinning soon!  – Ben and the Pinterest Team”

We’re excited to get you pinning soon?  Thanks for joining the waiting list?  Does Pinterest realize I’m not putting my name in for Patriots season tickets here?  I’m trying to log on to a G.D. website.  I work in the web-based applications industry.  The whole point is for the customer to be able to use the software immediately, and have as many people as they want on it.  This whole “exclusive” thing just isn’t gonna fly for me.  Oh, and I can follow you on Twitter so you can continue to taunt me about not being a member?  Pinterest, you just lost your worst customer.

I shouldn’t complain though because March is the perfect time for this thing to catch on.  I know a certain girlfriend who went to a bar with her boyfriend two Saturdays ago and proceeded to sit through six hours of basketball.  Pinterest literally babysat her the whole time.  Same goes for that half hour every night where you just wanna watch ESPNNEWS to catch up on the day’s events.  It’s like that very repetitive joke from a million TV shows where the parents plop their kid in front of the TV, turn it on and leave the house for hours.  Just pull up Pinterest on your iPad or computer, hand it to the girl and let her pin away.

The best part is that after you watch her spend an entire day on Pinterest, you can actually get mad at her for ignoring you the whole time.  And she won’t even realize you just watched eight straight basketball games.

From what I can tell, Pinterest is a place where women tell each other all the things they’re not going to accomplish in their lives (“I’m definitely gonna start knitting and make everyone a scarf.”  or “I’m gonna collect a bunch of jars and then fill them with old bottle caps, wine corks and fortunes from fortune cookies.”)

-Even though I hated to put the blog on hiatus for a week, I thought it would be a good litmus test to see if people were excited enough about it to think something was broken since they weren’t receiving the emails or twitter updates.  I expected people would be checking the website to see if they missed something.  Not only do the page view stats not support this idea, but WordPress is threatening to evict me if I don’t start pulling in more than two viewers a day.  Let’s move on to my very random thought on TV:

-I’m loyal to a fault when it comes to my favorite TV shows, especially with ranking who’s at the top of my Favorite Comedies list.  Up until a few years ago, it was The Office, even if that show had already peaked years earlier.  More recently it’s been It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which has had an amazing five or six year run.  The true measuring stick of which show I love the best is whether I watch each episode multiple times.  There’s always a show that I need to re-watch, sometimes three or four times in a week.  Based on this information, I’m happy to announce a new top dog in my thirty-minute comedy power rankings.  And that dog is Parks & Recreation.  If you’re not watching it, you’re making a huge mistake.

And if you do watch Parks & Rec religiously, and Andy Dwyer isn’t your favorite character, then you’re a goddamned moron.  How can you not love this guy:

Moving on to movies…

-If you’re considering seeing Wanderlust in theaters, consider this first: A movie for two will cost you about $22 (not counting that extra large popcorn, soda and jujubes, you fat ass), but for free I can send you Role Models and you can imagine Jennifer Aniston playing Paul Rudd’s girlfriend/wife instead of Elizabeth Banks.  If you just picture that movie plus a little more nudity and drugs, you’ve got Wanderlust.  And that’s actually giving it too much credit.  Role Models was solid; this abortion of a movie managed to ruin my entire night and ruin my faith in comedy.  Friedchips better temper his expectations for the not-yet-made Wet Hot American Summer 2 based on what I just witnessed from David Wain.

-The only movies in my lifetime that I’ve needed to see on their opening day were the three newest Star Wars, and I’m not ashamed at all to admit that.  I am, however, slightly ashamed to admit that I’m taking work off this Friday to see the Hunger Games on its opening day.  I bought tickets ahead of time, planning to show up nice & early, and sacrificing a vacation day that could be used for something like vacation eventually to see this movie.  You can laugh…it’s a movie for teenagers/young adults.  I like to think 29 is still considered “young adult” but I don’t think so.  If this movie is as “good” as Wanderlust, I’m going to slit my wrists.