This year was an extremely varied year in comedy television. Our favorite series ranged from dramatic series with comedic overtones to downright silliness. In choosing our favorite series, we picked shows that made us laugh and surprised us with innovation, great casting, great writing and great performances, and interesting storylines. Only one of our picks this year was on last year’s list- the rest are all first timers. HBO is all over this list, so a big thanks to HBO for your dedication to creating great comedy.Also want to send honorable mentions out to a show that took 2018 off, and despite having a nefarious connection to a major scandal, will be back in 2019- Better Things.
SALLY4EVER. HBO’s brilliant new series comes from Julia Davis, a recognized veteran in the UK but a newcomer to creating for an American audience. The series centers on Sally, a plainish and seemingly spineless woman living a greyish life with her irritating fiance, overbearing mother, and boorish coworkers. Until she meets Emma, a bisexual overbearing and disruptive woman who upends Sally’s flat life. It’s a hilarious dirty, sexy, cringy, laugh out loud funny, smart, dark, dark, dark comedy that’s full of surprises- and its just for grown ups. If you loved Vice Principals, you’ll dig Sally4Ever and it’s one of our picks for best comedy television in 2018.
Starring Julia Davis, Catherine Shepherd, Alex McQueen, and Julian Barratt.
Everyone’s talking about HBO’s BARRY this year. Award shows, critics, comedy fans alike are raving about Bill Hader’s multi-faceted performances and Henry Winkler’s phenomenal supporting role. Barry, as everyone now knows, is a Midwestern hitman who travels to Los Angeles to kill someone and then finds himself joining the local arts scene. It’s compelling, funny, and utterly original. The outstanding series has already generated two Primetime Emmy Awards for its leads, and has scored a few Golden Globe nominations as well. One of the most talked about series of the year.
Starring Bill Hader, and Henry Winkler.
Bobcat Goldthwait is one of the best filmmakers working today, and truTV series MISFITS & MONSTERS allowed him to translate those skills for a shorter attention span audience. The series also has given a gift to his film fans who anxiously await his next creation- nine short films released over the course of a season. The scripted anthology is in the realm of Black Mirror or Twilight Zone in that each episode has some sort of morality tale to share, and Bobcat uses twists and turns to take you through his lessons. Unlike Black Mirror or Twilight Zone, every episode is also full of dark humor parodying the 21st century word around us, exposing hypocrisies and casting a bright light the real monsters we are living amongst. The episodes are visually gorgeous, with careful attention to every detail, and the episodes are cast to perfection.
Starring David Koechner, Seth Green, Dave Foley, Michael Ian Black, Bridget Everett and Tom Kenny.
Last year ATLANTA was the most talked about new series. In season two on FX, Donald Glover continues to demonstrate his creative chops with another run of phenomenal television. The series follows Earn, whose dropped out of college, and aimlessly floats from leaning on family, friends and his girlfriend until he finds purpose in following his cousin, Paper Boi, a rapper whose star is on the rise. In season two, Paper Boi is thriving but not happy with his cousin’s management. Katt Williams won an Emmy for his guest role in this season.
Starring Donald Glover, Lakeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz, Brian Tyree Henry.
Art imitates life in newcomer THE LAST O.G. where lead character Trey is returning to life after a time away from friends and family while in prison to find out the world has changed more than he ever could have imagined. This is Tracy Morgan’s first return to serial television after his horrific car crash that had left him in a coma. Although he wasn’t “away” for decades like his lead character, Tracy was ripped from his “normal” life after the crash and had to readjust to the real world. The show was rumored to have problems, and there were delays in its release, which usually indicate a bad show. But The Last O.G. has turned out to be one of our favorite new shows of the year, and was well worth the wait. It’s funny, poignant, and sweet, with a strong cast and its good to have Tracy back on television. Thanks TBS!
Starring Tracy Morgan, Tiffany Haddish, Cedric The Entertainer, Allen Maldonado, Ryan Gaul, Taylor Christian Mosby, Dante Hoagland,and Derek Gaines.
THE GOOD PLACE should have made our list long before now, but we’re finally on board and hooked. It’s the most fun vision of the afterlife since Defending Your Life. The series began when Elenor found herself in the good place and quickly discovered someone has made a huge mistake, because she doesn’t belong there. Ted Danson is tremendous as Michael, the architect who designed the afterworld she finds herself with. The series took a number of turns, twists, and tweaks since then. In this year’s third season, the humans were placed back on Earth to live out the rest of their lives and see if they can somehow change the lives of other people they care about and get them into the Good Place and maybe even save themselves. The show is silly and bizarre and highly creative. The series premise allows for the writers to go just about anywhere, and they take full advantage of all of the devices available to them. The entire cast which centers on core characters Michael, Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Manny has amazing chemistry, and we’ll follow them anywhere. Add in the opportunities for the most fun cameos and guest appearances on television (Stephen Merchant as an afterlife accountant!), and the result is the best network comedy on television. The series was recently renewed for a fourth season and we can’t wait to see where it goes.
Starring: Kirsten Bell, Ted Danson, Manny Jacinto, Jameela Jamil, Marc Evan Jackson,
Pete Holmes and Judd Apatow created their authentic love letter to stand up comedy in New York City for HBO and season two was even more fun to watch than season one with even more stand up comedy guest appearances. In season two, Pete continues to make his career of standup comedy work, starts dating another comedian named Jamie and gets himself in and out of good and bad gigs while trying to figure out his place in the comedy world. Pete also tries the college touring scene, participates in a Roast Battle and tries out alt comedy. Its full of cringeworthy awkwardness and big laughs. The Cellar continues to play a starring role, and even though Pete’s ex wife is not in a prominent role this season, the man who she moved on with, Leaf is back. This season stars Pete along with Jamie Lee and Artie Lange with guest appearances from Bill Burr, Zach Cherry, Aparna Nancharla, Greer Barnes, Wayne Federman, John Mulaney, Melissa Villasenor, Gary Gulman and so many more. It’s been so much fun watching the comedy scene we live in on the screen, and see all our favorite New York comics show up every week.
Starring: Pete Holmes, Jamie Lee, Artie Lange.
While Crashing gives us an authentic look at stand up in New York City in the modern era, THE INCREDIBLE MRS. MAISEL provides an incredibly stylized look at a different era of New York comedy. The series stars Rachel Brosnahan as the titular Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a housewife in 1958 New York City who discovers she has a knack for stand-up comedy. Season two pulls back a bit. Although the series continues to follow on Midge’s ascent, the focus feels like it shifted to the world around Midge, particularly Midge’s father (Tony Shalhoub) who has become a second center for the show. Alex Borstein also enjoys an upgraded role in season two, and she’s tremendous. But the real stars of Mrs. Maisel are the gorgeous visuals, costumes and environments. The new season starts in Paris, before sneaking off to a summer in the Catskills, and a new love interest for our heroine. The show won a ton of awards for its first season; expect season two to continue that trend.
Starring: Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Tony Shalhoub, Marin Hinkle, Kevin Pollak, Michael Zegan.
THIS WEEK AT THE COMEDY CELLAR is our third stand up comedy focused show, and that’s all it is- stand up comedy. The series showcased some of New York’s best stand up comedians telling jokes about the biggest stories in the news each week. The episodes air Fridays- the product of a packed week of shooting- and showcase an average of twenty comedians telling jokes about hot topics ranging from universal to controversial. Blackface on Halloween, kneeling in the NFL, midterm elections, Banksy, the world series and of course Trump are a few examples of source material covered in the first few episodes. The idea for the series came from the Cellar’s owner, Noam Dworman, who wanted to find a way to show the world what happens at the Cellar without asking comics to burn their material each week. Every episode spotlights a comic towards the end.
Starring: New York’s stand up comedians.
LODGE 49 is a modern fable set in Long Beach, California, about an optimistic ex-surfer, Dud who’s drifting after the death of his father and collapse of the family business. The AMC series finds Dud appearing at a fraternal lodge where a plumbing salesman and “Luminous Knight” welcomes him into a world of beer, friendship and the promise of Alchemical mysteries. Lodge 49 is the most inventive and creative series on the list. It’s nearly impossible to describe, but the words surreal, non-conforming, unconventional, quirky, and vaguely but not explicitly supernatural seem to fit. However you describe it, it’s utterly watchable and a perfect fit on AMC right after our favorite drama this year, Better Call Saul.
Starring: Wyatt Russel, Brent Jennings, Sonya Cassidy, Lidma Edmond, David Pasquesie