As much as I adore the serious, prestige dramas of the world, occasionally I enjoy a laugh. Well… not so much laugh as contort my insanely made-up face into a plastic, Cate Blanchett in Cinderella-style smirk, but still.
And how could I not laugh at the hilarious, side-splitting comedies that are on TV right now? We have You’re the Worst, where a war veteran gets intense flashes of PTSD while his “friends” around him treat him like human garbage. Or Transparent where all the characters have some sort of cataclysmic psychotic break every single episode. Or the new HBO drama Divorce, where the scorned husband of a cheating wife says and I quote, “I am going to make your children hate you.” All a barrel of laughs.
We are in a new era of dark, unfunny comedy. Sure, we do have some really amazing ABC half-hours that are all essentially the same show with different minority groups facing life. However, I think there are too many realistic, yet creative people out there to continue to make such saccharin and unrelentingly cheery shows. Nobody is as blissfully unaware about our lives quickly hurtling onwards into the darkness of time, despite our impending mortality, as the families from Modern Family or The Real O’Neals.
Now, the beautiful thing about the unfunny comedy, we shall call them “UCs” because it is fun and maybe it will catch on amongst the television community at large, and I can become famous and quit college… anyhow, the beautiful thing about the UC is that it recognizes everyone’s collective lack of satisfaction with the mere “lifeness” of life and its brutal and mundane realities. They are still comedies though because they are a half-hour! And there are some super great ones, which I shall break down here:
Transparent (Seasons 1-3 streaming on Amazon Prime)
I really do not love this show. I force myself to watch it, despite how terrible it makes me feel. It is a deeply abusive relationship we share. This show is heart wrenching unlike anything I have ever watched before. The acting makes this show so worth the pain. Jeffrey Tambor delivers an Emmy and Golden Globe-worthy performance every single time he is on screen. Kathryn Hahn is brilliant. Judith Light is a dream. *Insert something lovely about every actor on the show here.*
Assuming you have been under a rock of some kind and know nothing about this show, Jeffrey Tambor plays Moira Pfefferman, a transgender woman who just recently began her transition. The show deals with her mess of a family: her two daughters and her son, his ex-wife, and the crazy tertiary characters that fly in and out of their lives.
This show perfectly encapsulates the definition of a UC: dealing with uncomfortable and upsetting situations with slightly charming dialogue and amazing acting. If you are someone who continually subjects yourself to those nonsense romantic sob movies that come out every summer, grow up and watch the more important and mature version of that in this show. That seemed aggressive. Sorry, I will work on that.
Fleabag (Season 1 streaming on Amazon Prime)
I love British TV. It is just solid and consistent and everyone wears grey all of the time. This show is no different. It is funnier than Transparent and the main character, Fleabag, talks to the camera with an ease and likeability that I have not seen done so well since Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
The show follows a London woman who attempts to deal with her anorexic, neurotic sister, her witch of a step-mother, her clueless, widowed father, and the random guys she is sleeping with while simultaneously coming to terms with the tragic loss of her friend and mother.
It has bite, energy and hauntingly real moments that are so perfectly captured through the eyes of our narrator, Fleabag. It also has one of my favourite lines I have heard in a while: “Chic just means boring. Don’t tell the French.” Love it. Watch it. It is only 6 episodes, and I know you have 3-hours to spare; you aren’t all as social and busy as you pretend to be.
You’re the Worst (Seasons 1 & 2 streaming on Hulu, Season 3 is currently airing on FXX)
PTSD, chronic depression, death, drug addiction; this show has all the qualities of classic comedy. I make it sound a lot darker than it is, but it really is pretty sad a lot of the time. It is a drama in the costume of a comedy. It does have some LOL lines, with lots of topical references. It makes it seem like the show was expressly written for me, someone who scatters popular culture into almost every sentence that tumbles from my MAC lipstick-covered mouth.
The show follows Gretchen, a PR-rep for a rap artist and all-around walking disaster who is attempting to get herself together, and Jimmy, Gretchen’s sort-of boyfriend, who is an author that is constantly troubled by everything around him. It also follows their best friends, Edgar, a war veteran with deeply upsetting PTSD and the unhappily married Lindsay, who sort of encourages Gretchen to be a continual mess. The show has been heralded for its deeply realistic portrayal of chronic depression and other mental illnesses, which are often not depicted in TV or film for their lack of flash or pizazz.
Divorce (HBO): I only watched the pilot so I am not going to ramble, but this is really not funny. I don’t think I like the character much either, and the early reviews are not giving it all that much praise. However, SJP and Catastrophe co-creator Sharon Horgan are involved so I am willing to give it second and third chances.
High Maintenance (HBO): This is an interesting show. Each episode follows a new character who is being delivered pot by “The Guy” and we see a snippet of their lives. I watched the first two episodes and I think I like it.
Moral of the story: a comedy doesn’t have to have sassy little kids delivering silly dialogue to be great. Happy watching.