We’re a little afraid of this list. We’ve been talking a lot about TGIF recently and whether that could happen again, sort of like how historians wonder if a comet will hit Earth sometime in our lifetime and how we might survive it. We’re worried there’s going to be a “Just The Ten of Us” in here that we don’t yet know about.
But we doubt it. We really like this list and the shows on it. It took some arguing. Only some of us are friends now. But here’s 10-6 of our Top 10 Comedies of 2011. We hope this list proves more valuable than our editorial staff’s friendships—specifically where “The League” is positioned—because those friendships may no longer exist.—Ed.
(The five best comedies of 2011 will be revealed on Hulu’s homepage each weekday of next week.)
10 – South Park
2011 was a great year for animation fans. Futurama delivered a strong season of math jokes that made me wish I had paid closer attention in high school, Ugly Americans found hilarious new ways to torture eternal do-gooder Mark Lilly, and newcomer Bob’s Burgers introduced me to Louise, who has easily become one of my favorite animated characters of all time. But for me, the mark of great a comedy, whether it’s animated or live action, is how the show deals with its more serious moments. It’s easy to be funny; it’s much harder to find the humor in more desperate times. In its 15th season, South Park was able to do just that. From Stan’s crippling case of cynicism after his 10th birthday, to Cartman’s sacrifice of his beloved Clyde Frog and Polly Prissypants, South Park was able to transcend its typical hyperbolic humor and examine what it means to finally leave your childhood behind.—Andrea Marker
Cards on the table, I didn’t really care for Beavis & Butt-head in the 90s back when I was the key demographic: a teenage boy. I was too cool for watching two idiots making fun of videos and blowing up frogs – that’s what friends were for – so I wasn’t all that interested when I had to watch B&B 2.0 for work, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. What I watched was a thing of beauty. The cartoons were no longer Spike & Mike Animation Fest shorts played purely for shock, but hysterical vignettes featuring witty commentary on our society’s obsession with pop culture and demand for immediate gratification. With thirteen seasons of King of the Hill under his belt, Mike Judge, the cartoon’s creator, was able to wryly poke fun at phenomena like Twilight and Super Size Me out of the mouths of two idiots. The new incarnation of the show didn’t only have the duo of dummies poke fun at music videos, but also MTV’s lynchpin reality shows like Jersey Shore and Teen Mom (which many of us watch to ascertain why, exactly, they’re on TV), hoisting MTV by its own petard and making Beavis and Butt-head the two smartest, funniest and most aware characters on the entire network. Oh, and they get hurt… a lot. Heh heh heh. –Martin Moakler
8 – New Girl
It’s futile to defend this show anymore. It turns out even small hunks of wood from faraway lands are attracted to Zooey Deschanel and this fact sought to destroy any hipness this show needed to survive. The consensus was that she was too cute for this thing to work. The nation’s moms started to think she was positively darling. Then Fox started to see it, too. Fox. This thing was doomed.
Then something happened: New Girl wound up being certifiably, objectively good.
Sure, people with terrible facial hair who exclusively listen chillwave still turned on this thing hard. They need to seep that hatred so they can gel their faux-hawks.
But those people didn’t actually watch the show.
Any fears about New Girl were immediately assuaged. Zooey’s Jess character wound up being hapless, sure, but not in a ’60s sitcom sort of way. She was self-aware and not insufferably happy-go-lucky. I wouldn’t even say she was sufferably happy-go-lucky. She’s just around, and things happen to/in the general area of her that are generally funny.
Let’s break this down simply, easily: In the second episode, Jess appears in a doorway particularly haphazardly, wearing generally weird clothing from (presumably) an abandoned power plant. Nick, her roommate, just says this, “Ugh, she looks like Helena Bonham-Carter.”
That’s not a sitcom joke. That’s just a funny thing to say. Hate as you will, but you’ll come around in time. “New Girl” is one of the best things we have.—Ben Collins
7 – Happy Endings
A show about six friends in the city is hardly groundbreaking, but Happy Endings has ascended itself to be the Gen Y successor to the Friends throne, and its characters hilariously reflect the shift in generations.
Just because you leave someone at the altar doesn’t mean you have to break up your circle of friends. Just because you’re 30 doesn’t mean you have to have a career path—or a job. And just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you can’t overindulge on junk food, watch football and talk about your conquests with your best buds who happen to be straight. With banter evocative of early Scrubs and wacky exploits set in their own urban playground, the H.E. gang drinks their way into our hearts each week with their adventures in dating, friendship and prolonging their adolescence as long as they can. –Martin Moakler
6 – The League
It’s no secret that “The League” has emerged as a leading contender in the field of cable comedies this season—and the third season was the best yet. After a questionable first season and—let’s say it—an inspired second season, the makes of the Shiva Bowl seem to have found their stride with the loose plot improv that has become second nature in this raunchy-yet-endearing FX comedy.
Once known for being another soon-to-be-cancelled comedy with an “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” lead-in, “The League” has come to be arguably the best comedy on FX. They are no longer just an ensemble comedy about a group of people in a fantasy football league. It’s become a comedy about an outrageous group of eccentric friends, who happen to be in a fantasy football league.
Not only has “The League” come out from under the shadow of “Always Sunny,” but they’ve made a name for themselves all the same. With this year’s NFL lockout plaguing the production of early episodes of the third season, “The League” handled the situation deftly, and even addressed said lockout in the first episode of the season. It wound up being the lead-off to the show’s strongest season to date.
Where else do bouts with raising children, humility, high school, wives’ insecurities, and accidental racism teach valuable lessons for 30-somethings everywhere?
Guest stars Seth Rogen, Jeff Goldblum and Sarah Silverman not only brought star power, but upped the ante on the overriding ridiculousness on the show. Whoever thought of a closing scene involving some inappropriate bathroom shenanigans between Jeff Goldblum and Sarah Silverman deserves a huge pat on the back in my book. (Once that person washes his or her hands.) There’s never a dull moment on ‘The League.’—Gabe Pasillas