This weekend we drove to D.C. with our spoiled stupid dog and happened on a lovely used media place.
Let me set the scene: we were going to check out the Nat Geo Museum, and it was raining. I spotted the shop and the boy and I ducked in. It was perfect. It was like in romantic comedies when inclement weather cause the uptight female lead’s hair to come undone while trapping her somewhere with a carefree man and his quirky sense of humor. You just knew it was fate. Except in this case the store was my caught-me-off-guard meant-to-be. Carpe Librum is even a nonprofit whose proceeds support educational programs in D.C.’s public schools. Ugh, dream boat.
Their inventory seemed to veer contemporary pop lit. I picked up Empire Falls by Richard Russo, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Push by Sapphire, and Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor. Boy found a Smashing Pumpkins CD for the drive home. I read Gone Girl on Monday, because I needed to finish the book to queue the movie on Netflix so I can critique the casting choices (really hoping NPH sells me on his Desi Collings). I also found Empire Falls and Precious (based on Push) to add to my queue, which means I’ll need to hurry up and binge read those too.
Then I realized my agenda was basically hours of reading grim dramas and psychological thrillers, which led me to force myself to inject some comedy into the scheduled programming. Luckily Netflix streaming is a treasure cove of some laugh-out-loud favorites that I can binge watch on repeat anytime. (Yes, I’m a bit of a binge-everything-er. I think that comes with being a recluse). Below are 12 TV comedy series that are well worth watching over and over and will more than pay back your $7.99/month subscription fee in hours of entertainment provided.
Tina Fey (buy her book Bossypants) once said that she wanted to name the series Two and a Half Men for her, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan’s characters but it was already taken. That joke exemplifies how layered, meta and nuanced the show is. Besides, Liz Lemon (Fey’s character) is a spiritual guide for me in life.
Arrested Development (a Netflix Original Series, beginning in Season 4)
I bought season 1 of Arrested Development at Best Buy, before glorious Netflix came into existence (kids these days are so dang lucky!). The first thing I did after binging the entire season, was to start over. Even for someone who liked to tear through content, I could recognize that the show was so smart and its narrative so tightly woven that it will merit many revisits. The second thing I did was to buy seasons 2 & 3.
Bernard Black is a belligerent vice-ridden bookstore owner. In other words, he’s who I want to be when I grow up.
I must admit that I have only seen Cheers from beginning to end once. But, to its credit, the cheesy, sometimes groan-worthy humor and thoroughly neighbor-like characters kept me in the gym for hours at a time. Now that I think about it, I may have been subconsciously avoiding re-watching the series because it reminds me of working out.
Technically more a dramedy, I’ll grant you that, even though I dislike made-up words. The clever, fast-paced and girly (be warned, if you think ‘girly’ is a criticism, this show is not for you) show stars single mother Lorelai who had her daughter, Rory, when she was 16, and an intelligent, sensitive and studious teenage Rory (I know, I know, do these even exist in the wild?)
Unlike it’s predecessor Cheers, I have seen Frasier from beginning to end at least 5 times. The main reason is that Cheers didn’t have Niles, and I spiritually identify with Niles.
There was an episode where Moss and Roy (two IT ‘geeks’) tricked Jen (classic clueless middle management) into thinking the internet was a box with a blinking light atop. I feel like this alone should convince you to watch the show.
I started following Louis CK’s stand-up many years ago as a youngen working in retail, which included a stint as a ticket sales puppet at an Improv Comedy Club. Dig around on YouTube and you’ll find that CK also directs weird little shorts. This series showcases his many talents (acting, directing, screenwriting, standup) all while keeping his unique voice that’s so unflinchingly realistic it borders on the absurd.
The Office (UK & US!)
Ricky Gervais in The Office (UK) was so iconic that the series, on his acting alone, would merit the cult following it has today. One of the hardest things The Office (US) did was to break from the feel of the UK show completely, and develop its own flavor, uniquely suited for American audiences, which it did in spades. So watch!
Orange Is the New Black (a Netflix Original Series)
A really great thing with Netflix is that they are now producing original content that’s far more enjoyable than anything on network and cable TV. For starters, OITNB is set in a women’s prison, and not an apartment in a major U.S. city with either obscenely wealthy tenants or ones so broke they’d be homeless in real life. The show is irreverently and relentlessly funny. The criminal justice system, discrimination, politics, race, religion, sex, and sexuality, nothing is too sacred or taboo to laugh at or to question.
Parks and Recreation
Amy Poehler is a kind of “I know I’ll never be that” role model for me (read her book, Yes, Please! and you’ll know what I mean). Her character on Parks and Rec is even more impossibly diligent, unflappable and upbeat. A show about a hardworking, intelligent and kind woman trying to make a difference in her community through local government? Schools should play this series in detention all across America to try to use its humor as a vehicle to drive sound moral lessons into the minds of young delinquents.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (a Netflix Original Series)
Tina Fey and composer husband Jeff Richmond are an unstoppable team. Because Netflix seems to grant the creators they partner with more creative freedom, UKS has more original music scores than Fey/Richmond’s previous collaborations (including 30 Rock), allowing them to layer in yet another dimension of self-referential jokes. (Read this fascinating interview where Richmond explains the intricacies of scoring a sitcom.) The cheerful, energetic and heh, unbreakable titular character provides a refreshing contrast for book-reading, den-dwelling, interaction-avoiding me.
Anyway, there you have it, 12 shows with characters you’ll root for, engrossing storylines, and unexpected insightfulness that will continue to delight and surprise with each revisit. Compared to $100-150/month for cable just to flip around and find nothing to watch, or worse, settle for hours of HGTV (what? I don’t do that either), this is indeed a steal!
so shop now, my dears; I’ll see y’all next week. And remember!