The sitcom is a very specific breed of TV show; there’s a balance between the witty and mawkish, as groups of friends and/or family go through continually contrived ups and downs. But it’s the televisual equivalent of someone handing you a steaming mug of tea and telling you not worry because they’ve already got dinner in the oven. They’re easy, they’re familiar, and occasionally they offer a gateway to a very specific kind of TV-watching comfort. So today I’m taking a break from Fifty Shades of Grey, and taking a look at the most underrated sitcoms of the last ten years. Prepare to have your summer wasted.
1. Happy Endings
This was a show I caught ten minutes of once, then avoided like the plague until a distant crush on Zachary Knighton pulled me back in. And I realized why I didn’t like it the first time round; Happy Endings has a spiky, difficult, sour edge. It doesn’t welcome you in; it subverts all the sitcom tropes you expected it to abide by, and has it’s own rhythm and chemistry the likes of which I haven’t seen before or since. Centred around six friends living in Chicago, it sounds like you’ve seen it all before, but relentlessly sharp humour, manic, try-anything energy, and a fantastic leading cast (Adam Pally as Max is the queen of my heart) make this a cancellation to weep over.
I rolled my eyes so hard when I heard the premise for this my eyes almost vanished into my skull. Teenage girl gets moved to the suburbs by uptight single dad? Kill me. But this is probably my favourites on this list. The chemistry between leads Jeremy Sisto and Jane Levy is comfortable and warm, thrown completely at odds against the sharp-edged, synthetic world of Chatswin. It’s packed with fabulous supporting characters- where to start? Perhaps with Ana Gatseyer and Chris Parnell as the day-glo sinister Shays? Maybe Alan Tudyk’s repressed, unstable dentist? Cheryl Hines warm-hearted walking hair extension? Or, as we should all agree, Charly Chaikin’s terrifying Dalia, a automaton Barbie doll who’s some mix of human and horrifying? Amongst all the batshit crazy stuff, there’s a powerful emotional core at play here, with a perfectly plotted arc revolving around parenthood that packs some genuinely surprising emotional punch. Fuck it, here’s Ana Gatseyer singing Barracuda:
Did you really, truly think you were getting through this without a British sitcom? You poor fool. Anyway, Viscious is my guilty pleasure- Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen as an elderly bickering gay couple, with the voice of my dreams Frances de la Tour as their long-time friend and neighbour, Violet. Throw in my new TV chrush Iwan Rheon- have you seen his weird handsome face? Have you?- and you’ve got the recipe for an unchallenging but occasionally hilarious show. Yeah, it’s old-fashioned, but in that nice warm, fuzzy way British sitcoms from the seventies are- with canned laughter, racy jokes, and real effort put in to developing the leading pair. Best served with wine.