In terms of things I value, right up there with stories that express the human condition is comedy, and I think often the two go hand in hand. When I need a pick-me-up or a break, I often turn to witty comedies (tv series for this list) to make me laugh and return to a sense of normalcy. While I’ve enjoyed many shows over the years, here’s a list of my favorites, particularly more recently. All can be found on Netflix (except #6 & #9). And I’ll write ‘LGBTQ+’ next to the titles that include an LGBTQ+ storyline.
These are all, in my opinion, witty, well-written shows with great (read: unique, well-developed, and/or endearing) characters, oftentimes exceptional editing, and impeccable attention to detail from script to execution and everything in between.
While I don’t typically remember lines or even much detail about shows in general, I may point out particular lines or scenes for this list because they stuck with me. And a truly well-written line tends to stick with me.
Don’t worry, no spoilers…I don’t think.
1. Arrested Development
This used to be my favorite tv series of all time. It took tv writing to a new level with humor even above Gilmore Girls’ witty banter. The exceptional editing with hilarious lines always meant there was more than one interpretation to a scene. It was so smart that you could watch it several times and still hear/see something new. If anyone grew up with a father who told them not to leave the door open because the A/C was running, this show will make you laugh. So many favorite characters and lines, but Tony Hale’s portrayal of Buster is up there with his ‘that was 90% gravity’ line when on an archaeological dig and as the team takes in a crucial new archaeological specimen they just found, his hammer comes down and smashes it to pieces. The lines stayed with me for a long time from this show. Back when I was doing field research, I happened to have a field assistant one year who also loved the show. As the lemurs we were observing would sit huddled to keep warm as they slept high up in the tree, my field assistant and I would trade Arrested Development quotes back and forth and will circulation to enter our digits until our focals decided to wake up and actually do something, anything.
2. Schitt’s Creek (LGBTQ+)
I learned about this series a few years ago and quickly made up time watching what I had missed from previous seasons. First, my favorite movie of all time is Best in Show, which stars Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, so this was easy to love. But even if I didn’t have a predisposition to some of the actors, there is so much attention to detail in the writing, movements/gestures, and costumes that words can’t even come close to expressing the magnificence of this show. But more than anything, the creation of a show with nothing but love and acceptance for the characters of David and Patrick and their love story, despite being set in a small backward town, truly was remarkable and heartwarming. It set the bar so high for all shows to follow in representation of LGBTQ+ love stories. And to do it to the music of Tina Turner, well my heart leaps for Tina Turner joy at that 🙂 I adore all of the characters, but Alexis’ backstory lines, gestures, and pronunciation of ‘David’ are close to the top. Some favorite scenes: halfway through the 1st episode, David and Alexis are fighting over who gets the motel room bed by the door. They argue, ‘you get murdered first. No, you get murdered first’ as they move a suitcase on and off the bed, cut to Eugene Levy’s face in the adjoining room, and I was hooked. No spoilers, but in the 5th and final season (silent tears), something happens to Moira’s car and the line she says made me nearly spit the drink out of my mouth. So enjoy that:)
3. Schitt’s Creek: Best Wishes, Warmest Regards (LGBTQ+)
This 44 min documentary covers the final season of the incredible show that Dan and Eugene Levy created. It explains how the characters ended up being so well developed from the very first episode on, which any fans of a solid story will appreciate. There’s one poignant letter from a group of over 1,800 moms of LGBTQ+ kids that will leave you in tears for the importance of this show and what it did for people in the LGBTQ+ community. The letter is so incredible, here’s the video of it being read to Dan Levy.
4. Derry Girls (LGBTQ+)
This show is set in 1990s Northern Ireland amidst major political happenings but focuses on a group of teens who are so stuck in their own teen drama that only hilariousness ensues. One of the teens has a lesbian storyline, plus the soundtrack is filled with music by The Cranberries, aka my favorite band when I was a teenager myself. If the first scene doesn’t crack you up, nothing will.
5. The Unicorn
It took me a while to watch this show because the title put me off and I didn’t think I’d find it relevant to my life at all. But when it came to Netflix, I gave it a chance and the scene with the dogs in the first 5 minutes of the pilot episode hooked me. The group of friends of a widower with two teen daughters are flawed characters but driven in their mission to help their friend get back into the dating scene. His honest and ethical attitude is a breath of fresh air, and as Season 2 is now on television, there’s also a bit of a love story that keeps me hooked.
6. The Goldbergs
This show is hilarious. It’s set in the 1980s and based on the creator’s actual family as archival recorded footage reveals at the end of each episode. So, it’s hilarious for those of us who lived through the 80s to experience those truly unique fashion choices once more. The thing I love the most though is Beverly, the mom. Her fierce mama bear attitude to the point of suffocation of her kids’ growth is endearing to watch, especially when she drops some F-bombs, like when her daughter Erica finally agrees to make a scrapbook with her.
7. Atypical (LGBTQ+)
I actually found this show really interesting, although it’s probably technically as much drama as comedy. It follows a teen boy who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and his character (penguin fanatic!), the relationship with his sister Casey, and that with his precocious friend Zahid is truly endearing. It gets into bullying a bit. And Casey explores her own gender identity throughout the story as well.
8. Kim’s Convenience
Another endearing yet hilarious show following a Korean-Canadian family running a convenience store. Like Derry Girls, the characters are all so self-involved, it’s funny, but their love for each other runs throughout. The sibling relationship between Janet and her older brother Jung rings pretty true for anyone with that sibling dynamic.
9. Bob’s Burgers
This is an animated series set in a family’s burger shack. The writing is brilliant, right down to the names of the burger specials, many of which you’ll miss if you blink. The three kids are hilarious as well. My favorite scene: Bob is standing on a ladder in the house and the kids keep running by so that the ladder keeps shaking. Bob: ‘Hey. Okay everybody, I have an announcement to make. I am on a ladder. Stop shaking it. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say that.’ (It might be a you-need-to-watch-it-to-get-it thing, so here’s the clip.)
10. Thanksgiving Episode on Master of None (S2:E8) (LGBTQ+)
The show itself took a pause when allegations were made about Aziz Ansari’s personal conduct outside of the show. However, the Thanksgiving episode (Season 2 Episode 8), shows Denise, played by Lena Waithe, realizing she’s gay, telling her best friend Dev about it, and coming out to her family over a series of seven Thanksgivings, spanning the 1990s to present day. (Waithe and Ansari wrote the episode together, which won them the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.) The friendship between Denise and Dev, and the evolution of that story arc is, in my mind, one of the best coming out pieces in the history of television. The episode is made that much stronger by Angela Bassett giving an incredible performance as Denise’s mom.