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The Best TV Comedies of 2010

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Both returning shows and a handful of newcomers were among the top TV comedies of 2010, with a couple of underrated shows coming out on top just as they were cut down before their time. Here’s a look at my choices for the best TV comedies of 2010.

1. 'Party Down' (Starz)

Party Down
Photo courtesy of Starz

In its masterful second season, this little-watched comedy went beyond funny and entertaining to become genuinely insightful and even profound. Its exploration of the nature of failure and regret via a crew of cater waiters with Hollywood dreams was hilarious and often very dark, but grounded in real emotion and genuine love for its characters. Even with Megan Mullally stepping in for Jane Lynch, the show didn’t missed a beat. Of course Starz decided not to bring it back for a third season.

2. 'Better Off Ted' (ABC)

Better Off Ted
Photo courtesy of ABC

A curse upon ABC for canceling this delightful show, although at least the network did make the effort of giving it a second season. That second season was just as weird and funny and lightning-quick as the first, with some of the sharpest humor around and a gleefully absurd take on the frustrations of corporate culture. In a just world, Portia de Rossi would win an Emmy for her portrayal of Veronica, the world’s most unfeeling boss.

3. 'Community' (NBC)

Community
Photo courtesy of NBC

This freshman sitcom about misfit students at a community college got stronger and stronger as its first season went along, veering from its original more straightforward style to become a bit of a deconstruction of the sitcom genre. And now in its second season, it’s taken even more stylistic leaps while still remaining grounded in its relatable main characters. With pop-culture references that enhance rather than distract from the story and a growing supporting cast of oddball characters, Community is a show full of grand possibilities.

4. 'Louie' (FX)

Louie
Photo courtesy of FX

Comedian Louis C.K. writes, produces, directs, edits and stars in this show that’s more a collection of short films than a sitcom, with various vignettes featuring C.K. playing a slightly exaggerated version of himself. With a low-fi aesthetic borrowed from indie movies, C.K. goes from hilariously transgressive in one segment to touchingly profound in the next, making comedy out of life’s darkest moments and revealing a universal humanity under our most shameful (but often funniest) impulses.

5. '30 Rock' (NBC)

30 Rock
Photo courtesy of NBC

30 Rock has been around long enough that it now qualifies as a veteran show, and that means that it’s also not quite as unexpectedly funny as it once was. Even if the pace of the jokes has slowed, and some of the recent storylines have leaned too hard on sitcom tropes, 30 Rock still has better writing than almost any other show on TV, and knowing the characters so well means that we can find humor in a greater range of their quirks and flaws.

6. 'Cougar Town' (ABC)

Cougar Town
Photo courtesy of ABC

This show has grown so far beyond its cringe-worthy title and initial premise that it’s almost an entirely different entity, but the development has been organic and gradual, like the evolution of a group dynamic among friends. And that’s what we have here now: A laid-back show about a group of friends hanging out and facing the middle of their lives, figuring things out together and mostly having a good time doing it. Cougar Town isn’t the funniest show on TV, but it’s one of the warmest and most comfortable to spend time with.

7. 'Childrens Hospital' (Adult Swim)

Childrens Hospital
Photo courtesy of Adult Swim

From its humble beginnings as a web series, Rob Corddry’s parody of medical dramas grew into a consistently funny and entertaining TV show, accomplishing in under 15 minutes each week what many comedies fail to do in twice that much time. Childrens Hospital mixes spot-on parody with clever wordplay and intricate joke set-ups, and it holds to a level of narrative continuity that most shows on Adult Swim are missing. It’s mostly just an excuse for goofing around, but the talent involved makes that goofing around into some pretty sophisticated and very amusing stuff.

8. '10 Things I Hate About You' (ABC Family)

10 Things I Hate About You
Photo courtesy of ABC Family

It’s nearly impossible to find a quality family sitcom, one that’s genuinely appealing to all ages yet not completely hokey and shrill. This warm comedy based on the 1999 teen movie was just that kind of show, treating its teenage characters with respect and wit, never stooping to vulgarity but also featuring plenty of real humor. A pity ABC Family gave up on it after two short seasons.

9. 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' (FX)

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Photo courtesy of FX

Even though it’s far more hit-and-miss than it was in its early days, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia still manages to bust out multiple “oh my God” moments per season, and the funny episodes are usually very funny. Just when you think the show about the world’s most irresponsible bar owners has nowhere left to take its reprehensible protagonists, it finds a new avenue for their twisted self-interest, and reminds everyone of why it was so shockingly funny in the first place.

10. 'Raising Hope' (Fox)

Raising Hope
Photo courtesy of Fox

My Name Is Earl creator Greg Garcia has come up with a slightly kinder and gentler version of his take on quirky working-class folks with this show, about a slacker who suddenly has to care for his infant daughter. It’s a little sentimental at times, but it can also be darkly funny, and Garcia is working to build the same strange and fun world he had on Earl, just a little more slowly.

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