There are few things better in life than a good, short TV comedy.
When the 30-minute comedy is done well, it’s something you can revisit over and over and over again, finding new joy in familiar characters and jokes each time.
So you’ve already watched [deep breath] The Simpsons (Disney Plus), 30 Rock (Hulu), Seinfeld (Netflix), The Office (Peacock), Futurama (Hulu), New Girl (Netflix), Martin (HBO Max), Arrested Development (Netflix), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Hulu), Rick and Morty (Hulu), and Adventure Time (Hulu and HBO Max). Now what?
We’re here to help expand beyond those classics, with a selection of classic sitcoms, modern workplace comedies, mockumentary series, and much more for you to enjoy at home.
Players and American Vandal
Mockuseries maestros Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault helmed this pair of hilarious and surprisingly poignant series about lovable “confident idiots” and the trouble they get into. The first, American Vandal, parodies true-crime documentaries and contains two seasons following a pair of student journalists investigating adolescent pranks. The second, Players, is one of the best shows of 2022 and parodies sports documentaries in an esports setting.
Yacenda and Perrault’s appreciation for and mastery of the genres and subgenres they mimic elevate what would otherwise be silly TV comedies into truly excellent television. The pair have an impeccable eye for detail, and the shows’ production design and inspired casting of skilled under-the-radar actors (and non-actors) immerse viewers in ridiculous worlds filled with memorable over-the-top gags. —PV
American Vandal is streaming on Netflix. Players is streaming on Paramount Plus.
The Larry Sanders Show
A direct predecessor of 30 Rock, The Larry Sanders Show is a sitcom that follows the staff of a late-night talk show. Garry Shandling plays Larry Sanders, the host of the show, while Jeffrey Tambor is his dense sidekick Hank Kingsley. Jeremy Piven, Janeane Garofalo, and Bob Odenkirk make early-career appearances as featured characters, and a host of celebrities guest star as exaggerated versions of themselves.
For me, though, the real star of The Larry Sanders Show is Rip Torn’s Artie, the show’s producer. Nobody on Earth can deliver a line with acerbic wit the way Torn did, and the hijinks of The Larry Sanders Show gave him plenty of excellent material to work with. I miss Rip Torn! —PV
The Larry Sanders Show is streaming on HBO Max.
A much more modern workplace comedy from most of the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia crew, Mythic Quest is a sitcom set in a video game studio. The studio makes a World of Warcraft-style MMORPG, and is in a difficult transition place from startup to established company. Rob McElhenney is Ian Grimm, the “genius” creative who built the game but has steadily drifted apart from his creation and the people who play it. Charlotte Nicdao is lead engineer Poppy Li, who has a closer relationship with the game as it exists now, but struggles to convince Grimm to change some of his old ways.
Mythic Quest is very funny, but it also has a better understanding of the video game industry than most other major productions that touch on this world. There’s a recurring subplot where the entire office tunes into a preteen’s streams because of how important and influential his approval is to their overall success. But I also want to shout out the Oscar-winning F. Murray Abraham, who plays a former celebrated sci-fi novelist who is now the game’s lead writer — a perfect setup for misunderstandings and clashing perspectives. That’s the stuff sitcoms are made of. —PV
Mythic Quest is streaming on Apple TV Plus.
Detectorists is a warmhearted British comedy about two eccentric oddballs devoted to their hobby of metal detecting in a small English town. The two leads, men going through midlife crises, are played to perfection by showrunner Mackenzie Crook (the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) and character actor extraordinaire Toby Jones. Their chemistry is electric and keeps the show lively even during quiet moments.
While the show is ostensibly about their passion for metal detecting, it paints a rich picture of a small community and the things we do to keep our lives enjoyable, as well as the challenges of (and humor in) male bonding. With great performances by the ensemble cast (including one of the last performances by the legendary Diana Rigg), it’s a hilarious, sweet show that’s well worth your time. —PV
Detectorists is streaming on Acorn TV, for free with a library card on Hoopla, or for free with ads on Tubi, Pluto TV, and The Roku Channel.
Aaron Sorkin’s first TV show is perhaps his best, a breezy workplace sitcom about a sports news show. His fast-paced, witty writing is a great fit for a nightly news show, where tensions run high, deadlines are immovable, and, of course, people walk while they talk.
Josh Charles and Peter Krause star as the fictional show’s co-anchors and longtime buddies, loosely based on SportsCenter’s former duo of Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick. They go a long way toward carrying the show, as believable pals/occasional rivals who are as confident in their opinions as they are talkative.
Sorkin tried to make this more grounded than other sitcoms of the era, and lobbied unsuccessfully to get the show to air without a laugh track (eagle-eared viewers will notice the laugh track gets quieter and quieter as the show progresses). And because this is early on in his career, some of Sorkin’s more aggravating writing tics don’t quite show up yet. —PV
Sports Night is available for digital purchase on Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu.
Like some of the other entries here, Party Down is a “if you know you know” situation. A cult comedy hit that is constantly flying just below mass appeal, Party Down is a show that inherently understands that workplace comedies function best when we’re constantly reminded that work is not necessarily a fun place to be, but good co-workers can make all the difference. To be clear, this group of cater waiters each trying to make it in Hollywood are not necessarily good co-workers. But they are a gold mine for dry, acidic comedy with a dream team of talent in the cast and crew. And sometimes that’s the shit that’ll get you through the work day. —Zosha Millman
Party Down is available to watch on Hulu and Starz.
In the aftermath of The Office there is, quite simply, a deluge of workplace comedies trying to do the same thing. The best part about Superstore is that it does the Office thing — found family with a compelling will-they-won’t-they in the middle of it all — better than almost anyone else, simply by doing something completely different. Superstore heaves the cringe humor in favor of hijinks that fill up an otherwise mundane day of menial work (at the titular big-box store), and explore what the locale can actually do for comedy. It’s also actually funny, with a strong ensemble and great interstitials with the guests. And if you like your sitcoms with a side of progressive politics, Superstore has that covered too. In short, it’s a one-stop shop for all your half-hour comedy needs. —ZM
Superstore is available to watch on Hulu and Peacock.
All three versions of the satirical superhero comedy The Tick are worth watching — the original animated 1994 version and the 2001 live-action rendition are both an absolute hoot — but I want to talk about the great 2016 remake. Peter Serafinowicz is pitch perfect as the naive Tick, with a deep booming voice and a childlike sincerity and curiosity about the world, and Griffin Newman’s Arthur brings a real heart and personal struggle to what is otherwise an extraordinarily silly comedy (The Tick pointing at a bad guy and shouting “STOP YOUR EVIL WAYS!” will never not make me laugh).
It’s one of the funniest shows on TV, but it’s also carried deep meaning for me in the years since I watched it. Surprisingly often, when dealing with a tough situation, I hear The Tick’s booming inspirational cry to Arthur: “What are you going to do about it?” –PV
The Tick (2016) is available to stream on Prime Video. The Tick (1994) is available to stream on Hulu. The Tick (2001) is available to stream on Tubi.
Search Party (the first four seasons)
Search Party is a lot of things: a satire about whatever it decides to cover that week; a whodunit; a coming-of-age story; a dystopic look at the introspection of a collection of young white Brooklyn millennials. One thing it rarely is is boring, moving from one genre to the next and blending them all together until it’s come up with a totally new world order. I’m personally of the mind that the first four seasons are where it’s at, but if you’re in for a penny you may as well make up your own mind. —ZM
Search Party is available to stream on HBO Max.
If you, like so many of us, are looking for the next hit of comedic dopamine after finishing a 30 Rock rewatch, there is no better follow up than Girls5Eva, the best of the new comedies from the Tina Fey/Robert Carlock production team. Following a former teen girl group as they try to get back in the game in their 40s, Girls5Eva has both songs and jokes that will lodge themselves in your brain in ways you’ll never be able to translate to your friends without getting them to finally watch the show. It cinched its place in our best TV of 2022 list for a very specific reason, but the truth of the matter is Girls5Eva is just good TV that everyone deserves to sit down and laugh with. —ZM
Girls5eva is available to stream on Peacock.
While there are limits to my love for Happy Endings, they are for the most part confined to certain types of 2010s humor which has aged badly. But since that comes with the territory of any 2010s Friends-esque romp, we can mostly forgive them and focus on the parts that work about Happy Endings: the rest of it.
Once the show settles into itself and jettisons the notion of two leads playing out some lesser Ross/Rachel dynamic, Happy Endings is able to fully embrace how absolutely wacky it can be, delivering some of the fastest slinging, zany gags this side of network TV. With a 20-minute sitcom like this the cast dynamics have to really sing to take it all the way, and the Happy Endings group — with their meta winks and eccentricities — are the real deal. It’s the chaotic good of what weird isolationist friend groups should be. —ZM
Happy Endings is available to stream on Hulu and HBO Max.
It’s astonishing how modern Taxi still feels over 40 years later. The Emmy-winning 1978 sitcom about Taxi drivers in New York City has a grimy stylistic flair that, despite its multi-camera setup, still makes it feel of a piece with current-day single camera sitcoms. Today, the show is notable for its wildly stacked cast, which includes Danny DeVito, Andy Kaufman, Carol Kane, and Tony Danza, but the comedy holds up in subject matter as well, with a Norman Lear-esque focus on getting big laughs while also taking swings at big issues. Like a lot of the best TV, watching Taxi feels like you’re seeing someone get away with something that otherwise wouldn’t be there if more people in charge were paying attention. Fortunately, you can pay attention, and have a damn good time doing so. —Joshua Rivera
Taxi is available to stream on Paramount Plus and for free with ads on Pluto TV.
Though more of a dramedy than most of the other entries on this list, Netflix’s Glow has consistently good comedy and even more consistent character work. The ensemble cast behind the making of a women’s wrestling show is an absolute delight in every way, and the funny but fraught social dynamics of the group are constant fodder for both good stakes and quick wit. It will forever be a tragedy that we didn’t get more of this show (and that the third season left us on an uneven, incomplete note) but Glow’s light burns on. —ZM
Glow is available to watch on Netflix.
Michaela Coel is an absolute powerhouse, with a thorny opus (I May Destroy You) already on her resume and an appearance in this fall’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on deck. But if you haven’t checked out her first TV show — which she created, wrote, composed for, and starred in — then you’re missing one of the true jewels of her crown. Funny and empathetic in equal measure, Chewing Gum makes a full meal out of Tracey Gordon’s (Coel) journey of sexual discovery after being raised in a strictly religious household.
It is explicit without being provocative, allowing Tracey’s natural curiosity (and Coel’s expert comedic timing) to pave the way for a series of misadventures we can all learn from. —ZM
Chewing Gum is available to watch on HBO Max.
Forgive us if you’re reading this list and find yourself thinking, “Of course Fawlty Towers, I thought this list was supposed to be for things I wouldn’t expect.” But Fawlty Towers earns its place on this list as one of the best of the best, the classics who’ve done it better than almost anyone else and stand the test of time. And (in true British fashion) at just 12 episodes, it’s often a touchstone people haven’t seen.
The premise is simple: Tense, overworked hotel owner Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and his wife, Sybil (Prunella Scales), attempt to keep the titular hotel running through a series of eccentric guests and farcical escapades. While the show wasn’t met with much acclaim when it first premiered, we can now recognize the absolute delight in every episode’s mounting slapstick, with each plot winding itself around and around until finally the fuse hits the gunpowder. It’s straight comedy gold, and so it makes the list in every sense of the word. —ZM
Fawlty Towers is available to stream on Britbox or for digital purchase on Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu.
Fleabag unflinchingly dives into the messy life of a woman who cannot stop self-sabotaging. Led by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag isn’t the first show to use the whole “character breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience” schtick, but it used it to incredible — and devastating — effect. The first season is brilliantly sharp and funny, but the second season takes all those quippy rambles and hilarious scenarios and turns them into an achingly beautiful and bittersweet love story — and it’s amazing how that’s all done in 12 half-hour episodes. —Petrana Radulovic
Fleabag is available to stream on Prime Video.
Community follows an unlikely group of students at a community college who band together in a study group. It’s the sort of show that is made by its colorful, eclectic characters — played by some stellar actors — who would otherwise never interact, and some of the best episodes are just them bickering around a study table. Of course, some of the other best episodes involve school-wide paintball fights, spoofs on beloved movie and television genres, and the increasingly elaborate and chaotic schemes of the school’s dean. —PR
Community is available to stream on Netflix, Prime Video, and Hulu.
Phineas and Ferb
Each episode of Phineas and Ferb is just over 10 minutes long, and yet each episode is so tightly plotted, packed with intricate storylines that weave into each other. The episodes all contain some certainties: Phineas and Ferb will always build a zany contraption; their sister Candace will always try to bust them; their pet platypus, who is secretly a spy, will always try to foil the schemes of evil scientist Doctor Doofenshmirtz. But those guarantees merely make up the springboard that the show can use to launch itself in completely wild and wacky directions. It’s the perfect quick burst of laughter on a cloudy day. —PR
Phineas and Ferb is available to stream on Disney Plus.