It’s a tale as old as time. You’re scrolling through Netflix’s unending repertoire of shows, just looking for something to make you laugh. Nothing’s speaking to you. So, you hop on over to Hulu, hoping to find some hidden gem. No luck. In one final attempt to cure your boredom, you inspect the selection on Amazon Prime. There’s gotta be something there, right? Third streaming service’s the charm? Nope. For some reason, not a single comedy looks like it’ll tickle your funny bone. Everything looks tired, done before, or just plain boring. Out of frustration, you exit out of all your tabs, and just end up watching nothing at all.
If this situation hits too close to home, fear no more–– I have the perfect solution. After spending hours upon hours binging shows on Netflix, Hulu, and Prime, I uncovered a pattern; each of these platforms boast one title that is so funny and original, it manages to put the rest of the competition to shame. So, if you’re in need of a good laugh and want to escape the endless scrolling-and-switching-tabs cycle, here are the most clever comedies that each major streaming service brings to the table.
Netflix: Arrested Development
I’ve been an active Netflix user since 2013. With that being said, nothing on this platform has made me laugh even half as hard as Arrested Development. I’ll admit, the plot sounds a little dry on paper: a dysfunctional and eccentric household struggles to stay afloat while their family business goes under for fraudulent activity. However, it’s not the plot that’s the selling point of this show. It’s the characters, the cast dynamic, the running gags, the extreme irony, and the way in which it lets us uncontrollably laugh at a falling (and not at all glamorous) aristocracy. In adjusting from rags to riches, the Bluth family is just so far removed from normalcy that it’s a miracle they’ve survived this long on their own. If you like fast-paced and witty mockumentary sitcoms, you’ve got to give Arrested Development a try.
Though shows of a similar style had extreme on-air success –The Office, Parks and Rec, and Modern Family to name a few – Arrested Development was only able to run for three seasons until its untimely 2006 cancellation. I feel morally obligated to tell you that Netflix picked the show back up and produced the last two seasons, but they are almost universally recognized as flops. Don’t let this scare you off, though! The original series is the crown jewel of Netflix’s comedic selection, and 100% belong on your binge list.
I have never–– and I really do mean never–– seen anything like Pen15. If you are unfamiliar, here’s a rundown of what makes it so special: the show follows two best friends, Maya and Anna, as they navigate through middle school in the early 2000s. Every character is portrayed by an actor that reflects their age, meaning the seventh graders are actually played by twelve year olds. This in itself is fairly new, since American television shows often cast older teens or twenty-somethings for children’s roles. Of course, there’s a caveat: Maya and Anna, our two lovely protagonists, are played by 30-year-old women. It sounds bizarre, I know, but it’s so hilarious that it works perfectly. Pen15 is one of the most relatable and cringe-worthy portrayals of the young adult experience I have ever seen, and it’s unique casting situation truly helps reinvent the coming of age story. If you loved shows like Ned’s Declassified growing up or cried when watching Eighth Grade, do yourself a favor and watch both seasons of Pen15 on Hulu. ASAP.
Amazon Prime: Fleabag
Fleabag leans more emotionally raw and dramatic than my previous two recommendations, but I wholeheartedly believe it should be #1 on your comedy-binge list. This Amazon Prime original follows a 30-something year old woman on her humorous misadventures while she copes with the loss of her best friend. Interestingly enough, throughout both seasons she is never once given an official name – to the audience, she is just informally known as Fleabag. My favorite part of the show (and inarguably one of the most distinctive aspects) is the way in which she constantly breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the camera. This makes the audience feel like we’re friends with Fleabag, like we’re trusted and loved by her, as the rest of her world is turned upside down. The show tackles mature themes such as death-related trauma, feeling like a “bad” feminist, and religious guilt, yet does so with an incredible dry wit. The amount of times I had to pause because something in the script was so intelligently funny that I needed a minute to digest it… uncountable.
I could literally write a dissertation on why this series is nothing short of genius, but I’ll let the writing, acting, and directing speak for itself. Watch Fleabag on Amazon Prime and I guarantee that, by the end of season two, nothing on this streaming service will ever live up to its brilliant legacy.