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The Great Comedy Debate: The Five Best Comedies on Television (Right Now)

Over on Twitter, there's been a great debate waged over the last few days about what the best comedies currently on television are, a subjective discussion if there ever was one. Titles have been thrown about, opinions bandied, and worthiness dissected and then dissected again.

The Great Comedy Debate led Time critic James Poniewozik to yesterday publish his list of the top television comedies at the moment (he included just those that are currently on the air right now) and I thought I do this same, limiting my list to just five US series that are airing new episodes as we speak.

So, in no particular order, here are my picks for The Five Best Comedies on Television:

Modern Family (ABC)

No other series has come close to balancing the sweet with the tart than Christopher Lloyd and Steve Levitan's brilliant mockumentary Modern Family, which each week dazzles its enraptured audience with a winning combination of heart and humor. It's the rare comedy that can make you roar with laughter and tear up with melancholy and it's anchored by one of the most talented ensemble casts on television today, who bring their characters to life honestly and without vanity or pretension.

Parks and Recreation (NBC)

I've remarked on it before but even the opening chords of the series' theme song makes me giddy with excitement. After a shaky start last season, the mockumentary comedy created by Greg Daniels and Mike Schur has developed into one of the season's best series, one rife with one-off jokes, deadpan expressions, and an assortment of some of the kookiest small town individuals you'll ever meet. The Pit was a fantastic MacGuffin to kick off an investigation of small town politics, optimistic do-gooders, jaded politicos, and jilted lovers. It's a joy to visit Pawnee each week and Parks and Recreation has quickly become one of the highlights of my television viewing week.

Community (NBC)

A few years ago, Community could have been a multi-camera sitcom with a laugh track that would have faded into obscurity after a brief run between Friends and ER. But creator Dan Harmon has subverted the sitcom format, infusing it with a nostalgic John Hughes-esque tone as well as a razor-sharp wit that stings even as it wraps you up in a warm embrace. By placing the series' focus not on the situation but the characters themselves, Harmon and his talented ensemble have crafted a deftly layered comedy that's about relationships without being a relationship comedy.

30 Rock (NBC)

While the quality has slipped a little this season (though last night's hysterical installment renewed my faith), 30 Rock remains the linchpin in the Thursday night comedy lineup for me, offering a smart, sly, and savage satire of workplace mores, celebrity vanity, and the general insanity of life in the writers room/isle of Manhattan/Sheinhardt Wig Company. It's not afraid to bite the hand that feeds it and we love it all the more when it does just that.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)

FX's subversive comedy series continues to mine the seedy underbelly of Philadelphia for comedy with gleefully depraved results. Whether it's kitten mittens, cannibalism, or Green Men, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia brings the shockingly absurd and twisted to life via its motley crew of selfish and shallow bar owners. I should be horrified but I can't help myself from laughing until it hurts so good.

Honorable mention goes to HBO's current Sunday night crop of comedies: Curb Your Enthusiasm and Bored to Death, the latter of which has proven a scintillating and wacky end of weekend treat.

What comedies would make your top five list? Do you agree with the above? Any series wrongfully left out in the cold? Discuss.


RikerDonegal said…
Good list. I'd have Office and Big Bang Theory on my Top 5. And Modern Family wouldn't make the cut. Otherwise: good choices.
FereJohn said…
I can not imagine a list of great comedies without The Big Bang Theory at the top! It is always funny and perhaps expectedly educational. The Sheldon-Penny staredowns are becoming key. Also, I am happy to see the secondary characters, Raj and Howard, becoming more developed as the series has go on.

Modern Family is pitch perfect.

I love Philadelphia, but sometimes it goes too far just for a laugh at the expense of the character and makes me feel, to use the technical term, icky for watching.
TVTam said…
I second Big Bang Theory and the Office. My Boys is quite funny as well, but definitely on the cutesy side :)
Matt Grady said…
That's actually my exact top five right now. Pretty much in the same order as well, though I may switch Sunny and 30 Rock.
Unknown said…
Replace Community (which just isn't that funny...or good) with Curb.
Unknown said…
1. The Big Bang Theory
2. 30 Rock
3. Modern Family
4. Community
5. The Middle
Unknown said…
Big Bang Theory would be #1
Annie said…
How can anyone not like MODERN FAMILY? I don't get that at all. I'd add OLD CHRISTINE on there. It makes me laugh out loud every week.
Mazza said…
You hit all mine. I would have said The Office maybe last season but not this one. Glad to see Sunny represented. Not enough people give that show credit.
Tillie said…
I'm with everyone else! where is big bang theory!??! easily #1 in my book too!
Mike said…
1 - The Big Bang Theory
2 - Modern Family
3 - Community
4 - The Office
5 - How I Met Your Mother

Apparently I need to start watching Parks and Recreation. I've heard nothing but good things about it lately.
Magnolia said…
I would have to include How I Met Your Mother in this list! I loved it when it first aired, and it's only gotten stronger since. It's a can't-miss comedy for me.

I also love Modern Family, and would round out my top five with Parks & Recreation, The Office and 30 Rock.
susie que said…
I can't believe how many people would still include The Office on their list. It used to be one of my favorite shows but last season and this season have just been PAINFUL. I can't even watch the show anymore. Parks and Recreation is far superior and has definitely replaced The Office as a comedy favorite.
Edward said…
Take out Community, put in Curb.
Anonymous said…
PEEP SHOW (just finished season 6)



THE OLD GUYS (1 season aired earlier this year)

Jace Lacob said…

All fantastic comedies but the discussion is limited, as it says above, to US series that are currently on the air, thus invalidating many of the ones you mention.
Anonymous said…
I'm hoping that's why Better Off Ted didn't make the cut. Can't wait for it to come back!

I had pretty much cut comedies out of my line-up, except for 30 Rock. Happy to add Modern Family to the list this year.
par3182 said…
1. parks and recreation
2. modern family
3. 30 rock

(but community just doesn't work for me)

4. glee
5. south park

falling fast - the office
Savvy Veteran said…
Agreed for me, but I'd replace Sunny with Curb Your Enthusiasm. I definitely adore It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but I really don't think it's even on the same level as Curb.
CrazyCris said…
Definitely Big Bang Theory at the top!!!
Unknown said…
Bored to Death is by far my favourite comedy currently on the air in the US.

Community is quickly growing on me.

How I Met Your Mother is still quite good.

Better off Ted (okay, not airing right now, but in a few weeks) also was a great fresh new comedy last year.
Anonymous said…
1. The Office
2. Curb Your Enthusiasm
3. Modern Family
4. 30 Rock
5. Community

It seems to be conventional wisdom among critics that The Office isn't what it used to be -- but I don't see it. It still makes me laugh more than anything else. Michael Scott is still the best character on television.
Anonymous said…
I have to say I'm really confused with everyone's love of Big Bang Theory. Maybe it's gotten better since the several episodes I saw towards the beginning?

Anyway, I used to love Old Christine and HIMYM, but these new seasons are very disappointing.

I'm glad most seem to be taking to Modern Family, because I would be excessively bummed if this didn't go at least several seasons. The best part of that show is that each couple is individually hilarious, it's not just one storyline that's great.
Jenny T. said…
I think Modern Family is one of the best new comedies to come along in a long time. How cute is Manny? And how hilarious is Cam? I still have the pilot on my Tivo so I can watch bits of it when I need a laugh. In addition to Modern Family:

How I Met Your Mother
Two and a Half Men
The Big Bang Theory
The Office

I've tried to like Accidentally on Purpose because I've enjoyed Jenna Elfman in the past, but I'm finding it painful and predictable.
Anonymous said…
1. Curb Your Enthusiasm
2. Curb Your Enthusiasm
3. Curb Your Enthusiasm
4. Curb Your Enthusiasm
5. Californication
Anonymous said…
1. Louie
2. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
3. Parks and Recreation
4. Curb Your Enthusiams
5. Wilfred

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