The Best TV Comedies 2015

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·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
In this article:
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  • Stephen Colbert
    Stephen Colbert
    American comedian
  • Jordan Peele
    Jordan Peele
    American actor and director
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It wasn’t a great year for new network sitcoms — there were fewer of them, and they weren’t that good. But for comedy on cable and streaming, it was a mini-bonanza. Here’s my list; as you’ll see, I could not contain it to a mere Top 10.

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Master of None (Netflix): Aziz Ansari’s pleasant surprise — he really stretched himself beyond his Parks and Recreation character, and his stand-up act — found him playing Dev: a lonely-guy lothario, a semi-dutiful son, and a struggling actor; all of these aspects of his character molded into a complex man. Lots of laughs in the scenes between Dev and his pals, Dev and his dates, Dev and his parents, Dev and his interactions with New Yorkers. It’s at once a traditional sitcom and a groundbreaking one.

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The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS): Colbert has brought the talk back to late-night talk shows, booking more political figures and authors than anyone else, and having real conversations, not mere promotion. (Also, nice little stunts: Asking John Irving to read Colbert a bedtime story? Nutty and lovely.) He radiates energy and intelligence, which gives his wackiness some weight. After Letterman went off the air, I didn’t think I’d be watching a late-night show every night, but Colbert is worth losing a little sleep — or watching the next morning.

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Broad City (Comedy Central): Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson have one of the tightest friendships on television, their on-screen personas presenting them as hedonistic slackers with unpredictable energy when given a goal (sex, money, dope) they desire. It makes for comedy that’s organic, arising from the duo’s conversations and odd ideas, as well as marvelously physical, with lots of slapstick and visual imagination.

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Key and Peele (Comedy Central): The duo closed out their series by choice, and went out on their own terms, and very strong. The range of characters played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, when combined with the beautiful direction — every sketch got just right visual treatment it merited — made this one of the most well-crafted sketch shows in recent memory.

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Veep (HBO): Sure, it keeps winning awards, and it deserves every one of them. Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the President can now be seen as a Bumbler-in-Chief who’s scarily running parallel to some of the folks currently running for that office.

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Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central): It was a break-out year for Schumer; the third season of this show was highly acclaimed, and her feature film Trainwreck was a big hit. And Inside Amy sketches such as “Last F***able Day” and the remarkably sustained “12 Angry Men” demonstrated ways to make gender-political points exceedingly funny.

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Silicon Valley (HBO): The brainy boys almost hit the tech big time this season, and watching them self-sabotage was a happy wonder to behold. Thomas Middleditch has slowly but surely become one of the most surprisingly intriguing leading-man characters in a comedy.

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Catastrophe (Amazon): Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan created and star in the season’s most surprising romantic comedy, the tale of two casual lovers who decide to commit to each other. In a TV world filled with arrested adolescents in varying degrees of maturation, it was great to see two adults hash out this falling-in-love-maybe stuff.

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You’re the Worst (FXX): In its second season, this tart sitcom took a serious side trip into depression, a condition endured by Aya Cash’s Gretchen. Not to be cold, but it could have dragged down the show; instead, it gave YTW greater heart. Valuable new cast edition: Collette Wolfe, wonderful as Dorothy, Edgar’s new improv partner; her intelligent sensibleness is a useful corrective to the other characters’ crazier instincts.

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Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO): You could argue that it was Oliver’s thorough critique of FIFA that helped bring down the corrupt soccer organization — that’s the serious side of Oliver’s investigative-journalism-as-comedy method. But Oliver is careful to avoid becoming too serious or self-righteous. Whether discussing the movement to feature a woman on the $10 bill or the removal of the Confederate flag in various Southern states, Last Week maintains a comic rigor equal to its reportorial rigor.

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Togetherness (HBO): I gather this is a divisive show — lots of people are irritated by it; others are really into it, as I obviously am. I get why it can put people off: The saga of some Los Angelenos complaining about their lives when they don’t seem, to most Americans, to have much to complain about — sure, that could be a drag. But the show, created by the Duplass brothers, Jay and Mark, and Steve Zissis, delved beneath the whining as the first season progressed, and unearthed a lot of emotion in the marriage of Mark’s Bret and Melanie Lynskey’s Michelle. And Amanda Peet, as Michelle’s sister, Tina, finally found the comic TV role she’s deserved.

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Billy on the Street (TruTV): The manic energy Billy Eichner brings to his outdoor game show should never fool you into thinking it’s all yelling and chaos. Eichner’s instant interviews with pedestrian-contestants are little marvels of pop-culture conversation, and his guest stars, who this season included Julianne Moore, Chris Pratt, Tina Fey, and Katie Couric, seem delighted to get sucked into his brainy energy field.

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Difficult People (Hulu): Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner play versions of themselves (whether hyped-up or toned-down versions is a real question) as best friends for obvious reasons — they share similar tastes in trash culture, similar sensibilities that make them good writing partners. A portrait of strivers in New York as solid as any recent novel about ambitious New Yorkers.

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The Mindy Project (Hulu): The move to Hulu served Mindy Kaling very well. Her Project was at once looser and tighter, a more expansive sitcom with a sharper focus on Mindy and Danny as parents. Seeing the deepening of that relationship — and the increased time and care given by Kaling and Chris Messina in making their comic rhythms ever-more intricate — has been one of the benefits of the new season.

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Playing House (USA): What is it with comedy duos this year? Good ones are all over the place: Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair brightened up the USA network, from their show’s color scheme to their glowing comic intelligence. Playing small-town pals prone to romantic trouble, their rapid conversations were well-timed pleasures.

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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix): Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s surreal satire constantly came close to becoming absurdly exaggerated, but the performances of Ellie Kemper, Titus Burgess, Carol Kane, and Jane Krakowski grounded the wittily written silliness in a kind of cracked Manhattan reality that made Kimmy both a funny and lovable show.

Related:

The Worst Shows of 2015

The 26 Best Episodes of 2015

The 23 Best TV Moments on 2015

The Best TV Dramas of 2015