Best TV Comedies of 2015.
Yeah, I watch a lot of TV. It’s got to be good to warrant my time, especially the writing. With so much good writing these days, I can barely keep up. But it sure is fun to try.
1. Transparent — This show sits head and shoulders above the rest. FAR above. I’ve followed Jill Soloway’s work since she wrote for Six Feet Under, and with Transparent, she’s created something transcendent. This isn’t a niche show only relevant to the LGBT community. It’s for anyone with a family, any kind of family. The storylines hit universal themes like acceptance, aging, birth, dying, love, and what it means to be a father, mother, brother, sister, friend. The dynamics of family and when you tell the truth and when you hide your secrets. Plus it’s just funny as hell. God I love this show and wish there were more than 20 episodes to watch. This season Soloway takes some of the same bit-part actors from last season and puts them in a storyline taking place several decades ago. In doing so you see a larger sense of time, how it passes, and how we share a commonality, a struggle against the same issues no matter what decade it is. Every show provokes discussion and there are scenes here I’ll never be able to remove from my brain. Which is a very good thing.
2. Getting On — A lovely little show that makes me do the ugly laugh every single week. Because it rings so true. I worked for many years in a hospital and only this show gets it right. The Sisyphean tasks, the sense of absurdity at bureaucratic regulations, and not to beat a dead cliché, the humor and pathos that lives in every single ward of a modern hospital, but particularly one involving hospice. Kafkaesque doesn’t even begin to describe it sometimes. Terrific acting all around, especially Niecy Nash, Laurie Metcalf, and Mel Rodriguez, who also played a part in this season of Better Call Saul! I didn’t even recognize him! Hallmark of a great actor. It seems like our time on the geriatric ward is done, but I hope not.
3. Master of None — I went into this show knowing I would love it, and I did. Ansari spoke on Maron’s WTF podcast about how he wanted to create a show reflecting his own life, his own friends, and the problems and life issues they talk about. It’s refreshing to see a realistic diverse group of folks instead of the usual four or five pretty white people with one token black guy or girl. The episodes with his parents (his REAL parents!) were terrific and triggering. Because who can’t relate trying to engage with an aging parent over a computer? Or hoping they’ll be excited about a new job you just landed? Ansari tackles big, tough issues like racism, finding your life’s purpose, and the heartbreak of love, and does it with thoughtfulness and touching, gentle humor and laugh out loud moments. I felt like this first season was only a hint of greater things to come. Sure hope so.
4. Louie — Louis CK took some flack for going what I call “off-grid” this season but I just loved it. Rather than continue as in past seasons reflecting on his life as a single dad, a standup comic, and comedy road warrior in a sitcom vein where the jokes are sprinkled appropriately throughout, Louis steps out of that formula. You can see his cogs working, see him experimenting with space, time, kind of doing what Jill Soloway is doing in Transparent. Creating real-life scenes where the comedy appears organically as a result of circumstances rather than creating a scene and throwing in some jokes. It’s masterful stuff. Really hoping the powers that be recognize Michael Rappaport for his guest appearance this season as an old friend who makes Louis uncomfortable. We all have that friend, don’t we? The scene where Rappaport breaks down was so awkward I literally almost left the room. Not turn the TV off, just get up and leave. He goes to the edge of awkward and jumps off. Amazing performance. And I cannot wait for next season.
5. Maron — I’ll admit it, I’m picking this show because I’m a rabid superfan. Why? Because Maron is me, a neurotic, psychosymatic mess who hates himself. A guy who’s constant inner monologue is so loud it informs every action he takes, every decision he makes. So loud just getting out the door in the morning is a Herculean task. For me every episode is a visit to the therapist, a confirmation there are others out there just as fucked up, or more fucked up, than you are. And they have a successful podcast and TV show. So what’s your excuse? J Beyond therapy, the episodes are just ugly laugh funny, and completely realistic. No matter how wacky the situations, they always come across like a story you tell at a party that begins, “Well, there was this one time…” Quick, solid comedy here, the work of a long-time comedy road warrior. Maron has promised Season 4 won’t be as true to his own life experience as the other seasons. Interested to see where he takes us.
Honorable Mentions — Orange is the New Black, Casual, Drunk History, Silicon Valley
So, as TV critic Alan Sepinwall says, what did everyone else think?