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New fall comedies: Which ones we’re still watching (and why)



We’re almost two months into the fall TV season, at which point the poorly rated shows have been canceled and the ones that are left, well, we have a pretty good feel for them. This year’s new lineup has been surprisingly competent, with plenty more winners than duds, especially when it comes to comedies. For every Dads, there are gems like Trophy Wife and The Goldbergs. Here’s a list of the handful of new comedies I’ve liked enough to stick with**, all of which have been picked up for full season orders. So if you haven’t yet started watching these, it’s worth catching up.

**A quick note about how I’m grading these: I don’t have traditional cable. Instead, to watch live TV I use an HD antenna to get about 10 broadcast channels, including NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS and the CW. Otherwise, I watch shows that aired the night before on Hulu Plus via a smart TV, which has a Hulu app, or on the computer. Much like a DVR, I choose when I watch most of my shows, and I always watch my favorites first. I’m going to rank the following comedies from the show I have to watch as soon as possible to the one I could wait a few days to see.

Trophy Wife, 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays, ABC
Hulu ranking: 1st
Believe it or not, I think the best marker of a great comedy is how much it makes me laugh out loud. And Trophy Wife always does. A lot. It has an instantly gelled cast, and an amazing ability to keep its wacky concept (young woman marries an older guy whose two ex-wives are always hanging around) from becoming anything but. It mines great humor and heart from its seemingly stereotypical ex-wives, Marcia Gary Harden’s stern doctor and Michaela Watkins’ kooky hippie. Plus, 9-year-old Albert Tsai as Bert is perhaps the single-handedly greatest comedic creation on television right now.
How to make it better: More Bert! Always more Bert!

The Goldbergs, 9 p.m. Tuesdays, ABC
Hulu ranking: 2nd
This show isn’t perfect, but it’s just so darn likable it’s easy to forgive its narrative cliches or that the show doesn’t seem to be set in a particular year and thus its ’80s references are all over the place. Despite that inconsistency, so far the ’80s aspect of the show is calibrated just right: not too heavy, but still enough references for nostalgia’s sake.
How to make it better: Wendi McLendon-Covey (Bridesmaids, Reno 911) is so good as matriarch Beverly Goldberg. She manages to simultaneously deliver a great comedic performance and keep the show grounded. Keep her front and center and Goldbergs will do just fine.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Fox
Hulu ranking:
This show about a group of cut-ups working in a police precinct had a strong debut and has mostly lived up to its hype. It’s got a strong ensemble and the procedural undertones ensure something interesting will happen each week. The antics of Andy Samberg, who plays a smart-aleck cop who’s also good at his job, vary in funniness, and he really toes that line between annoying and amusing. But it’s still a joy to see Andre Braugher anywhere on TV, and he’s a great foil for all the silliness here. It’s a solid comedy, though one I don’t often feel as compelled to watch as the others.
How to make it better: Make sure Samberg stays on that funny side of the line, and just straight-up get rid of Chelsea Peretti (Gina), who in addition to being grating also manages to bring down every scene she’s in.

Mom, 9:30 p.m. Mondays, CBS
Hulu ranking: 4th
I was quite charmed by the debut of this new Chuck Lorre multicam, a great vehicle for the constantly under-appreciated Anna Faris and Allison Janney as her mom. It’s still loads better than most CBS sitcoms, but it can’t escape its essential Lorre-ness. After years of single camera comedies like The Office and 30 Rock, it’s hard to get used to a live audience laughing at jokes about Big Macs. That said, Faris remains an impeccable comedian, and the recovering alcoholics angle has proven to be rich.
How to make it better: Um, move it to a different channel? The show is not going to change its essential rhythms at this point, so it mostly comes down to personal taste.

[Last modified: Monday, November 11, 2013 9:56am]


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