If you’ve been paying attention in life for the past ten years and getting important goals accomplished, chances are you haven’t been that close to a television. As it turns out, we’re in the midst of the New Golden Age of Television, and what that means is we’re seeing an embarrassment of riches when it comes to quality TV. The television is so good in fact, that the past decade’s series have paralyzed our sense of accomplishments and forced us to sit in front of our TVs like mindless zombies enjoying one engrossing show after the next. But hey, we’re not complaining.
With such amazing TV shows coming at us so consistently over the past decade, it’s understandably difficult to know what series is worth your time and what needs to be left behind. For this list, we’re taking a look at the type of comedy that exploded onto the scene since 2006 and hasn’t slowed down since. This is serialized, laugh-out-loud, risk-taking, not-at-all-family-friendly comedy. This isn’t your parent’s Thursday night sitcom, this is basic cable comedy, and we’re here to tell you all about the 15 Best TV Cable Comedies Of The Last Decade, and we’re going to rank them from good to outstanding while we’re at it.
15. Comedy Bang! Bang!
If you’ve seen even one GIF from Comedy Bang! Bang! then you know that it’s without a doubt the strangest show to ever grace the airwaves. Brought to us courtesy of IFC and host Scott Aukerman’s drug trip-fuelled delusions as written down by a schizophrenic aardvark, Comedy Bang! Bang! isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but is the cup of tea that’s most likely to be laced with drugs and end up leaving you doubled over from laughter in an alleyway somewhere.
Sure, it’s technically accurate to call this spinoff of the popular podcast of the same name a talk show, but Comedy Bang! Bang! is more a scripted hangout with high school friends than it is a talk show. The way the series unfolds is unlikely to be funny to anyone who isn’t in on the joke, as each episode is so packed with inside jokes and anti-comedy that you’d feel silly watching this with anyone else in the room. Boasting better comedy guests and A-list stars than even Fallon or Kimmel could muster, Comedy Bang! Bang! has given us five seasons of variety, as not one episode is even remotely similar to the last. It’s insanity on a level that would never have exited ten years ago, and it’s made our lives – and our televisions – immensely stranger and more enjoyable because of it.
14. The League
Perhaps paving the way for FX’s immense success in television over the past decade, The League took a simple single-camera premise and threw on layers of depravity, drama, and delusional characters to make the series something remarkable. With an immensely likeable cast of actors playing a (for the most part) unlikable group of characters, The League followed the friends and members of a fantasy-football league. And where a network comedy show would have piled one the one-liners and laugh-track, The League succeeded in making these fantasy-football loving weirdos into real people; real people with severe problems that only intensified over the course of the series’ seven seasons.
The series was something that only could’ve lasted as long as it did – and remain as funny as it was – on basic cable. While the world of The League became more cartoonish, the characters still stayed uniquely themselves and anchored down the show in that New Golden Age of TV way of being all at once ridiculous and sympathetic. The yelling, the betrayal, and the insults on the show led right into the storytelling and the character arcs, and it turned the series into something special and 100% deserving of a spot on this list.
Another show on IFC further solidifying the network as a cable oasis home to the weirdest stuff on the air, Portlandia is a sketch show like no other. And sure, maybe that’s easy to say considering that no other sketch show is uniquely structured around the entire essence of the city of Portland, and in that sense yet, Portlandia is unique. But more than that, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s ode to Portland is packed with one hilarious sketch after the next all focusing on that wholly “this decade” concept of embracing your inner and outer weirdness. It’s the show that all at once celebrated the hipster life while simultaneously mocking it. It can skewer the lifestyle of the cage-free gluten-free free-range vegan while making you feel like crap for being anything less than exactly that. It’s a show that’s so modern that it couldn’t possibly not be on this list.
But more than anything, Portlandia is just plain funny. It’s an art show that makes you feel like an elite hipster for watching it, but it’s also totally populist and nothing but a good time. The sketches are funny, the characters are memorable, and Armisen and Brownstein deliver week after week with a show that doesn’t need to be anything more than it is. We could interpret Portlandia all day, but that seems to be what someone on Portlandia would do. So we’ll just say this; if you haven’t seen the show you should check it out – it’s one of the finest comedy institutions to come around in the last decade.
The great thing about comedy in the last decade is just how many risks each of the shows that premiere on cable comedy are willing to take. You can watch an entire week of programming on Comedy Central or FX or IFC and not find even two similar shows; such wasn’t the case in the days of sitcom clones that showed one funny family after the next. Which brings us to Review – perhaps the most uniquely structured and written show of the past ten years.
Following the exploits of “life reviewer” Forrest MacNeil, Review is formatted like an informational show, having Forrest review a new life experience or two every episode as suggested by (fictional) viewers. As Forrest reviews experiences such as revenge, divorce, or eating way too many pancakes at once, the series doubles down on its uniqueness and throws increasingly surprising twists at its viewers. Serialized in a way that no cable comedy would ever dare, Review pays its viewers off by going down deep dark holes and never letting up except in order to deliver the most intense laughs ever at the expense of one character. It’s all at once depressing and hilarious, and Review shows that by going off the beaten path there is comedy to mine in even the most horrific of circumstances.
11. Inside Amy Schumer
Another sketch show in a decade that has seen a re-emergence of them, Inside Amy Schumer saw the titular comedian go from Comedy Central roaster to A-list superstar, and it’s safe to say that none of it would’ve happened had we not seen her as the hilarious centerpiece of one of the best sketch shows to ever air on television. Filled to the brim with pop-culture parodies and overflowing with celebrity cameos, Inside Amy Schumer is filthy and quick in the way that you’d expect from Amy Schumer, but it’s also got the ability to fill each episode with at least one or two viral sketches that capture the attention of the internet from week to week.
Whether it’s a One Direction song spoof, a pitch-perfect impression of Friday Night Lights’ Mrs. Taylor, or the Emmy-wimming parody of Twelve Angry Men, Amy Schumer and her writing team have already provided the world with classic sketches that will be shared for decades to come. In a crowded landscape full of sketch shows, Inside Amy Schumer has proven to be a leader in quality and inventiveness, and week in and week out you can guarantee laughter on a scale that would’ve felt impossible over a decade ago.
With the decriminalization of weed sweeping the world and stoner culture coming out of the shadows in the last decade, it’s funny to think that just ten years ago a show like Workaholics may never have made it to air. Sure, as long as there’s been comedy there’s been stoners, but perhaps none of those stoners have been as stupid, pathetic, and laughably hopeless as Adam, Anders, and Blake from Workaholics. But that’s exactly why Workaholics succeeds as one of the most laugh-out-loud funny shows of our generation.
Never before have a trio of characters failed so hard on such a consistent basis, which makes Workaholics such a joy to watch on a weekly basis. From one scheme to the next, the perfectly constructed characters of the series are bound to screw up, and when they do chances are they won’t even care. Workaholics is a hyperactive show that has the ability to create new and unique episodes from week to week, but they’re often at their best when they’re following their formula of laziness and idiocy. The series is a darkly demented version of The Office that gets off on existing in an even less aesthetically pleasing world. The world of Workaholics is one we’d never want to live in, but nonetheless it’s somewhere that we want to hang out in way more than we get to every year.
9. Broad City
We could spend a lot of time talking about how the past decade’s TV landscape has allowed for a show like Broad City to exist, what with its two female protagonists and its basic cable sensibilities. But that would be taking the spotlight away from what truly matters about Broad City – and it isn’t the “groundbreaking” femininity or the series’ ability to appeal to millennials – it’s that the show is just so damn funny. Simple and sparse, Broad City manages to provide big laughs with little storylines and a small budget, and there’s few shows as fresh and exciting as a result.
The brainchild of Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, Broad City started out as a web series and quickly found a home on Comedy Central with the backing of producer Amy Poehler. The series is nothing more than a look at the lives of two women living in New York city, and perhaps its these similarities that help it compare with cultural touchstones such as Seinfeld or Friends. Broad City isn’t flashy or quirky, it doesn’t rely on some of the gimmicks that many shows of the past decade have used to stand out from the crowd. Rather, it’s a show so self-assured in its identity that it simply exists, and if you’re going to like it then you’re going to like it immediately, and there’s nothing else that Broad City has to do to try to win you over.
8. Key & Peele
Another painfully funny show, another groundbreaking method of packaging it for the public. This time, with Key & Peele, our dose of humor is given to us within the confines of yet another sketch show, but as with any worthwhile show of the last ten years, it’s the voice behind the sketches that make the series worthwhile.
With Key & Peel what audiences got week after week was a package of sketches that all at once dealt with issues of race and racism while still being inherently silly and ridiculous. The material was risky and important, but it was given to fans in an endlessly bold and rewatchable way that made everything else on TV seem tame and boring as a result. Coupled with the performances of Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key who clearly gave each episode their 100% all, Key & Peele was perhaps the most well-written sketch show of our time. With the series having just wrapped up after five seasons, not only will Key & Peele remain essential viewing for years to come, but it has the distinction of finally breaking Key and Peele out into the mainstream and into what will hopefully be long and lasting careers in the world of comedy.
7. You’re the Worst
If you’ve noticed a trend with any of the entries on this list it’s that every series wouldn’t have made it to TV just a decade earlier. Where’s all the good old fashioned single camera comedies staring a likable straight white couple, you may ask – although hopefully not out loud and presumably not seriously? Well, You’re the Worst still isn’t that, as while this may seem like your typical comedy, it’s anything but.
Dark, depressing, and dramatic in ways that most comedies wouldn’t even dream of, You’re the Worst represents the best of the New Golden Age of Television, and it signifies a recent trend in half hour shows to straddle the genre line with every passing minute. Although the one-liners and characters on You’re the Worst are among some of the funniest you’ve heard in years, ongoing storylines and serious character backstories lend the series a sense of propulsion that makes it impossibly enjoyable; and not just enjoyable in that way that we say Transparent is enjoyable because we’re afraid of looking stupid to all our Amazon-subscribing friends. Unlike Transparent, it’s not wrong to call You’re the Worst a comedy, it’s just more accurate to call it spectacular and leave it at that.
A tour through the best of the last decade in cable comedy wouldn’t be complete without an animated sitcom on the list, so it’s fitting that we’ve reached Archer in our number six spot. Slickly produced, expertly voiced, perfectly written, and serialized in a way that makes you forget you’re watching a cartoon, Archer can make even the most skeptical of TV watchers fall for its charming ways and find themselves waking up from a binge six seasons deep with a martini in their hand.
To the uninitiated, Archer can be best described as a retro-stylized spy show that has more filthy insults and sarcastic comments than any show currently on TV. Basically, if Arrested Development had a cartoon sibling it would be Archer, and not just because of all of the Arrested Development voices coming out of Archer character’s mouths. The show is complex and witty and full of little jokes that you’d miss if you looked away for even a second, which makes it the perfect show for an era of DVRs, Netflix, and other TV-watching tech that mostly came from the lab at Archer’s unfortunately named place of employment.
5. Man Seeking Woman
Man Seeking Woman shows off exactly what has made the last decade of cable comedy so exciting, and so far it’s done it without anyone noticing. Bringing an indie-filmmaking sensibility to weekly comedy has gotten networks such as FX a ton of money and a whole host of awards, and from there it brought Simon Rich’s vision to the world in the form of Man Seeking Woman. It’s just a shame that no one seems to be watching this Jay Baruchel starring sci-fi/romantic comedy/magical realism/techno thriller/absurdist fantasy, because there’s no show currently on TV more deserving of everyone’s time and immense critical study.
Man Seeking Woman is the type of show that has made the past decade of TV so exciting; it’s something so fuelled by a particular vision that everything about it is unlike anything that ever came before it. With monsters and robots and cars that just want sex, the world of Man Seeking Woman is one that no one would recognize, and yet it’s instantly relatable to anyone who’s ever been out on a date. Mixing insane metaphors with hilarious romantic escapades has led to a show that has only continued to get stronger in its first two seasons, and it looks like Man Seeking Woman is poised to take the gauntlet from many recently-wrapped shows on this list and pass the weird, wonderful, and wacky onto the next decade’s batch of cable comedies.
4. South Park
It’s easy to take a show like South Park for granted these days, especially considering that the series has actually been on the air for an entire decade before this one. Back then South Park was edgy and outrageous – more than Family Guy could ever dream of – and now it’s just kind of… there. Sure, we still know some people who watch it religiously, but to say that South Park is still required viewing in the age of Peak TV is lying to yourself. That is, until you really take notice of what the show has been doing in recent years.
Still as fresh as ever with the series’ infamously quick production times, the past decade of South Park has seen the show remain a cultural force that lays waste to just about anything that someone can find holy. Spawning a video game empire and churning out new episodes with freakish regularity, South Park remains one of the best cable comedies of the last decade simply because its quality has never diminished, and it’s still as funny and clever as it’s ever been.
The most critically acclaimed show on this list of basic cable comedies also happens to be the least funny, but that doesn’t make Louis C.K.’s Louie any less spectacular or important in the grand scheme of TV. Although the show started out as a hilariously weird outlet for C.K.’s stand-up routine, as the seasons went on C.K. began to find himself challenging the notions of his own series. And since he famously had complete creative control over everything involved in the low budget series, C.K. experimented with a more arthouse aesthetic and eventually turned the series into a showcase for his own loosely related short films, some funny, some amusing, some depressing and serious in that exclusively Louis C.K. way.
But still, as C.K.’s attention wandered to and from Louie and his other projects, the show remained one of the most interesting series on television. Perhaps more importantly, it began to sprout similar shows all around various networks and streaming sites, and before we knew it there was an entire genre of “Louie-like TV.” Maron, Master of None, Dice, Rob; some of these shows stuck around, others didn’t, and more will surely follow. But the one thing that’s guaranteed is that – like Larry David before him – Louis C.K. will continually toy with audiences regarding the possible return of Louie for a sixth season, and in the meantime we’ll all be left wondering whether Louie ended up helping or hurting TV in the long run.
2. Nathan for You
If you’ve ever watched Nathan for You, then you are one of a select group of people in the world with good taste, healthy tear ducts due to excessive cry-laughter, and the unique ability to say “yes, I have experienced true bliss.” All of those things are the by-product of having seen Nathan for You, the most mind-bendingly innovative and mind-meltingly funny show of the past ten years. In fact, the only reason Nathan for You isn’t number one on this list is because most people have never seen it, and even some of the people that have seen it don’t understand that the show is in fact a perfectly-constructed comedy and not an awkward reality show.
You’ve seen the results of Nathan for You before, whether it’s the concept of “Dumb Starbucks” or a viral video of a pig rescuing a goat from a pond, the series takes unique business ideas and implements them in overly convoluted ways. In the end, the business ideas all end up connecting back to host Nathan Fielder, who has constructed for himself a character that is without a doubt one of the greatest ever seen in the history of television. More mean-spirited than anything you’ve ever seen in your life, Nathan for You would be impossible to watch if it weren’t for the series revolving around a kind, soft-spoken Canadian who suffers from a serious lack of eye-contact – and occasionally too much eye contact. In Nathan for You there are quite literally too many perfect moments to choose from in any given episode, and every single segment, every scene, every line, right down to every camera angle is so downright hilarious that the entire series comes together in the most complete package ever seen on television; from this past decade or any other.
1. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
To list all the one-off or recurring jokes in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia would be enough to complete this list and prove Always Sunny’s place in the number one spot on this list. There’s Mac calling people bozo, Charlie’s love of cheese, Franks’ rum ham, Dennis’ lack of human feelings, and so much more. But then another thousand points can be made simply by listing catchphrases, visual gags, storylines, the songs from The Nightman Cometh, or guest characters. Essentially, one can spend years dissecting everything that Sunny has given us in the past 11 seasons, and there would still be massive amounts of gold left undiscussed and entire episodes left unmined for comedic gems. To reminisce on the adventures of Frank, Dennis, Dee, Mac, and Charlie is to remember that somehow, remarkably, inexplicably, and perhaps irresponsibly, Always Sunny has never stopped being the funniest show on television.
No critical analysis of the series or blurb about the writing will help justify Sunny’s spot here. The only thing needed to justify its spot is the series itself, and while we could end off by quoting little things like Charlie’s likes, hobbies, and fondness of magnets, we’d rather point out one of the big things that has made Always Sunny so spectacular from the start. And that would be the series’ willingness to fully inhabit a world so engrossed with lunacy and devote year after year to developing that lunacy. To demonstrate that, look no further than what is perhaps the best laid out joke in the history of television, which is the 10 year reveal of Mac’s sexuality.
And while this is something that’s been planted and hinted at for years, only to reveal itself in the penultimate episode of Season 11, the perfect thing about Always Sunny is that nothing ended up revealed in the end. No resolution was made and – despite monumental changes that will be long-lasting – nothing will truly change in our protagonist’s lives. They’ll all remain blissfully – and angrily – oblivious, they’ll endure their scheming ways and their recklessly inappropriate behavior, they’ll continue to be cartoon caricatures in a fully realized world, and they’ll stay the funniest group of characters on television; hopefully for at least another decade.
Which of these shows do you think most deserves a spot on this list? Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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