Friday, 3 April 2015

The Top 5 American Comedies

We all love a good laugh, don’t we? And sometimes we NEED it. If there’s one thing America knows how to do, it’s make us chuckle. Here is a selection of some of the finest American comedy TV known to humanity. In choosing only 5, sacrifices had to be made. I tried to make a wide range instead of choosing 5 laugh-track filled sitcoms. There is a selection at the bottom that didn’t make the cut. In no particular order…


Seinfeld


Well, of course this had to be here. Seinfeld is widely regarded as the funniest sitcom ever made – hell, in 2002, TV Guide named Seinfeld the greatest television program of all time. If you can stand the laugh track and general 90s sitcom feel, then you’ll be rewarded. Seinfeld is gold, readers. Gold. Following a stand-up comedian (Jerry Seinfeld, playing a fictional version of himself), we spend most of our time in his apartment with him and his unusual group of friends. Seinfeld is renowned for being about ‘nothing’, with unusually mundane and trivial plotlines in which not a lot happens. But it is deserving of its countless awards and titles, and certainly worth owning. And it is only right to give an honourable mention here to Curb Your Enthusiasm, a spiritual sequel to Seinfeld in which the co-creator Larry David plays a fictional version of himself in similarly mundane comedy perfection. The cast of Seinfeld cameo as themselves in Curb regularly, with amusing results.

The complete Seinfeld is available on DVD now, as are the first 8 seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Entourage


Entourage tells the story of fictional actor Vincent Chase and his entourage of friends as they try and navigate the tricky world of Hollywood. Produced by HBO, you know you’ve got a show of quality. With no laugh track and an overarching plot throughout the series, this isn’t a sitcom. But it IS funny. Ari Gold, Vincent’s manager played by Jeremy Piven, is pure comedic genius and steals every scene he is in – quite simply, Piven owns the show. The rest of the cast all have their chances to shine too though, particularly Kevin Dillon in the role of Johnny ‘Drama’ Chase, Vincent’s brother. Absolutely rammed with often hilarious celebrity cameos, Entourage is a damn fine show that doesn’t get nearly enough praise here in the UK. Check it out, but give it a couple of seasons to grow into itself. It begins a bit unevenly but finds its feet quickly. Get it watched quickly, because the eagerly anticipated Entourage movie is released in cinemas this summer.

The complete Entourage is available on DVD & Blu-Ray now.

Arrested Development


An obvious choice in any list of the best American comedy shows. Arrested Development is unlike any other programme on television now, or in the history of TV. In simple terms, it tells the story of a wealthy and hilariously dysfunctional family. Shows like Modern Family owe a lot to it, but nothing else has come close to its quirky style and endless in-jokes, foreshadowing and self-aware humour. With a perfect cast including Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, David Cross and more, the show is like a hall of fame of modern American comedy stars and you’ll spend a lot of the time going “Oh wow, that guy!”. The first 2 seasons are perfection, the 3rd begins a bit of a decline and the 4th was rather disappointing. But when taken as a whole, Arrested Development is a hilarious series. For the few left who haven’t seen it, get on it. An endlessly rewatchable modern classic.

The complete Arrested Development is available on DVD & Blu-Ray now.


The Office: An American Workplace


The show that launched Steve Carrell’s career. The Office is a mockumentary about the everyday lives of a group of paper salespeople, and their hapless boss Michael Scott (Carrell). Adapted from the highly acclaimed (but arguably weaker) British series starring Ricky Gervais, An American Workplace stands firmly on its own two feet as a comedy classic. While the first season was, quite frankly, poor – it was essentially a remake of the British show using extremely similar scripts – the show found its own identity in the second season and grew from there. Sadly Steve Carrell left the show in the final seasons, and his presence is greatly missed when he’s gone. But the show knew when to bow out gracefully and, like Arrested Development, when taken as a whole you can’t fault it.

The complete The Office: An American Workplace is available on DVD & Blu-Ray now.


Eastbound & Down


Finally, a choice that may divide you fine readers. Eastbound & Down has a strong following of fans, just not a very large one! In the 2nd HBO production in this list, Danny McBride (‘that guy’ from Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder, This is the End, Your Highness, and more) plays a vulgar character who you hate yourself for loving so much. A washed up ex-baseball player, Kenny begins the first season becoming a school P.E. teacher before relocating to Mexico in the second and the plot just gets more bizarre from there. But if you like the current crude style of comedy practiced by the likes of Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill in cinema, then you’ll love this. With cameos from familiar faces such as Will Ferrell and Don Johnson, you can feel the money being spent on this show more than you can with generic sitcoms. Some say the comedy is a little too crude and offensive. Me, I wouldn’t have Kenny any other way.

The complete Eastbound & Down is available on DVD & Blu-Ray now.

Again, similar to the list of TV drama, there are simply too many shows to choose from and inevitably in the process of choosing 5, many will be left out. So here’s a few that didn’t make the cut. I admit, some of these I don’t like, some of them I do – but comedy is completely subjective so I won’t be biased. If it’s something easy with a laugh-track you’re after, go for something like Friends, The Big Bang Theory, or How I Met Your Mother. You like mockumentaries, but The Office isn’t you bag? Try Parks & Recreation or Modern Family. If you’re keen for some animation, you can’t go wrong with Family Guy, American Dad, Archer or The Simpsons. “But what about classic sitcoms?!”, I hear you cry! Well how about Cheers, Frasier, Taxi and M*A*S*H. Again, there are many more but too many to mention, too little time!

Thanks for reading. Keep laughing!


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