Week 2, Part 1: Outstanding Comedy Series
Though I haven’t been as hip to them as last year, there have been a lot of great comedies this past season. And though there are a few that have just arrived, quite a number on my list have come to the end of their run. (There’s one that might have a chance of coming back but it’s uncertain.) There are quite a few possibilities that I haven’t seen yet, and that I may reconsider after the nominations. However at this moment, these are my top choices.
This is one of the great comedy series of the past decade, creating a mini-empire that has never quite gotten the respect it deserved. As the Johnson’s faced the world of the pandemic, racial divide and their own family struggles — which is big for everybody else but for them, a typical Tuesday — they continued to demonstrate this entire casts great gift for bringing laughs out of the darkness of the world. Next year will be the last season for black-ish, so at least it’s leaving on its own terms. Now its time for the Emmys to do their job and give this series as many nominations as possible. It’s a little late and not nearly enough, but isn’t that typical for the Johnson family?
This is my longshot series. I think its more likely that Girls5Eva or Master of None will get this spot (and they may deserve it) but I have to say this is one of the harshest and darkest (and it must be said, the funniest) series about raising children. Martin Freeman gives one of his greatest performances as Paul, a father so invested in his anger and living his way that he doesn’t see any problems when people tell him as much. He thinks being a good dad means doing things his way, and this year we saw the consequences on his marriage and more than that with his troubled son. Even for an FX series, which can go into some dark territory, this can be hard to watch. It’s a good thing there are so many entertaining jokes as we go on our way, mainly from the clueless grandparents. This series appeals to me in a way that a lot of high concept series don’t, and I think it deserves recognition.
The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)
I’m still not a hundred percent sure this comedy-drama-mystery- surreal exercise is really worthy of being considered part of the comedy listings at all. I know that it’s likely to be among the nominees based on the previous awards shows and the high concept in general. There is, of course, one real reason to nominate and that is Kaley Cuoco. After everything she did in 12 seasons on The Big Bang Theory (and there was a lot, believe me) she never seemed to quite rise to the potential in her work as a flight attendant awakening from a drunken encounter with a passenger and finding his body in her bed. (Not that they stop talking, that’s part of the charm.) This series has grown on me very quickly and there are a lot of actors who deserve nominations. But more than any other show, The Flight Attendant justifies subscribing to HBO Max.
The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
This remarkable series started its third and final season with a funeral and ends with a wedding. In between is some hysterical work for some of the greatest actors in history. Michael Douglas continues to remind us why he is one of the greatest comic actors ever, and even without the beloved Alan Arkin, he has stellar support all the way down from Lisa Edelstein and Paul Reiser to the remarkable return of Kathleen Turner (we’ve missed you) to Morgan Freeman in a role I don’t even think they could’ve ever seen himself playing. Hollywood is a messed up business (we learned that every time Haley Joel Osment opened his mouth) and as Sandy discovered, death doesn’t even start the end the problems you have. This is not the most radical series that Chuck Lorre has ever done, but it is one of the funniest and the series deserves recognition as it leaves us.
Here’s another sitcom that never got nearly its due when it was on the air. Allison Janney led a cast of incredible performers so gifted at playing various levels of drunken messed up women that the series didn’t even seem to miss Anna Faris, the original lead, when she left at the beginning of this year. Its featured some of the most gifted comic performances this decade and remarkably managed to mine them through subjects like addiction, paralysis, crime and illness. How is it that somehow Janney was the only to win for it? Bad enough this series got cancelled without getting a proper goodbye; maybe it could leave us by getting a lot of nominations before it left? Call it the eight year chip.
In retrospect, I spent way too much raging about the grime and muck of this series rather than appreciating it for just that. As I said earlier this year, the Gallagher clan is the best example of TV’s family. They’re always fighting to survive — often against each other. They’re broke, they have mental issues, they have dependency issues, they have problems with authority. And this is before you consider how much damage Frank Gallagher did to them throughout their lives. (It didn’t come as much of a surprise that they dealt with his death with barely a shrug.) This was an incredible cast all the way down, and we needed the Gallagher far more than we realize. They left us on their own terms… especially Frank, who got was coming to him and will never be missed. (If they even know he’s dead.) This series has basically been ignored the entire time it was on the air, mainly because for half its run, the Emmys couldn’t decide if it was a drama or a comedy. It was a comedy, a very dark one but still a comedy, and we should really let the Gallaghers have one big party before they leave us
Ted Lasso (Apple TV)
Is there anything left to be said about this series that right now is so incredible that it seems to be the only thing politicians on both sides of the aisle agree about? This may not only be the funniest comedy series in years, its also centers on the nicest human being we’ve had on television in a very long time. Jason Sudeikis gives a performance that starts out as pure hayseed clown and with every encounter reveals deeper and deeper layers. But then that’s true with every character in this remarkable cast, even the ones who says very little. The jokes are incredible. The character development is unheard of. And its already won every major award since the Golden Globes. Bill Lawrence, this is the moment you’ve deserved since Scrubs debuted. The big question isn’t will Ted Lasso win the Emmy, it’s how many other awards it’ll take when it triumphs.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC)
What’s the only thing stopping this series from collecting a lot of nominations? The fact that NBC didn’t have enough faith in this remarkable series to renew for a third season. (Get off your ass, Hulu!) But honestly, this is one of the most remarkable series developed even in the era of Peak TV. From Zoey hearing everybody express themselves through song to everything that goes on in her life which is relatable. Her problems with relationships. Her struggle with her beloved father’s death. Her moving up the ladder as SPRQ point, a company which represents every bad thing the tech world has. And all the remarkable voices of the men and women around her, from Skylar Astin to Mary Steenburgen. I really hope that some service gets around to pick up this show. But even they don’t, that should not stop the Emmys from nominated this, well, extraordinary series.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
I only periodically watched this incredible satire of life in a retail store. But having seen enough of it, and particularly the finale, this is a series that — like its remarkable cast — deserves a happy ending. Superstore demonstrated from beginning to end just how horrible your job can be. And at the same time, it also show us just how vital the people we work with are to us. Especially after this past year, I think that’s a revelation that the world — as well as the cast — have come to. Add to this has some of the funniest actors working at all, and they deserve to be recognized. Could someone please give Mark McKinney an Emmy for something?