You might have missed it, because so many of them were deeply under the radar, but 2014 was one of the best years for new TV comedies in decades. Schedules were positively littered with great, interesting new shows that pushed the boundaries of what TV comedy was capable of.
Lowering budgets and the influence of programs like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (a show that increasingly seems like the grandfather of a whole damn movement), Louie, and Girls — which proved that an indie film aesthetic could work perfectly on a week to week basis — opened the gates. This year saw the outpouring.
A handful of these shows were on the broadcast networks. The dearly departed Enlisted and ABC's surprise hit Black-ish brought wit and heart to their stories, while ABC's Cristela is rapidly developing into a hugely charming multi-camera comedy filmed before a live, studio audience. And I probably don't have to tell you how rare those are.
But the vast majority of these shows were on cable or on streaming services, sometimes on networks that had never really made a comedy series before. And there were literally dozens of them, so many that to make a list would be a little overwhelming.
Indeed, it's not inaccurate to say that this was the year the cable revolution — which has been so good to TV drama for so long, allowing creators to take on riskier storytelling and moral ambiguity — finally came to comedy. The fruits were glorious.
So here are not one, not two, but 10 great new cable and streaming comedies from the year just passed. And I didn't even include adult swim's Rick and Morty, even though I love that show, because it technically aired a couple of episodes in 2013. That's how stacked this year was.
Yeah, this is basically just a workplace comedy (about a high-powered attorney who finds her star falling all the way to public defender), but, man, Eliza Coupe, formerly of Scrubs and Happy Endings, has deserved a star vehicle for a while, and this warmly funny little comedy is it. Add on the fact that Better Off Ted's Jay Harrington is the male lead, and you have a show worth watching. And best of all? It's on right now, airing weekly on USA's Tuesday night lineup.
Bojack Horseman (Netflix)
I didn't think much of this show when I reviewed the first half of its season earlier this year. But the deeper you get into the run of the series, the more it reveals its true, twisted heart. At its deepest levels, Bojack Horseman is a darkly funny show about dealing with depression and anxiety — that just so happens to star a man with the head of a horse and the voice of Will Arnett. Hey, there are worse things you could stream tonight.
How can I watch: The full season is streaming on Netflix. Just know that it might take you a bit to get into it.
Broad City (Comedy Central)
Comedy Central has been hitting it out of the park for a while now, and Broad City was the foremost example of the network doing just that in 2014. The adventures of two weirdo New York City slackers named Ilana and Abbi, this show should, if nothing else, be the nail in the coffin of the old idea that women can't be funny — because this might just be the funniest show of the year.
As I said above, the fact that Girls was able to be a success (at least in terms of getting certain people to notice it) made lots of networks take chances on smaller, more insular stories. Nowhere was that more apparent than in this HBO series, which started out literally seeming to be "Girls with gay men in San Francisco" and ended up surpassing the series that seemed to have inspired it (and that led into it on the schedule). The show's fifth episode — encompassing one date between two of the characters — is one of the very best episodes of TV to air this year.
How can I watch: As with all HBO programming, it's available on HBO Go. The new season starts January 11.
Not everybody liked this occasionally nasty little show about a long-time married couple struggling into their 40s. But I loved its funky, low-fi vibe, and the way that it seemed to almost lean into the fact that you had heard so many of these stories before. By the end of its first season, I deeply cared about all of the characters onscreen, and that's an accomplishment, considering how horrible the series allows them to be to each other.
How can I watch: Right now, your only option is to buy episodes from iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play. Season two will air next year.
Playing House (USA)
Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham have a fascinating approach to TV making. It's one part improvisational comedy and one part hard-core editing of that improv down into something that feels more story-driven. At times, Playing House feels like a remake of the pair's Best Friends Forever (a short-lived NBC show from a few years ago), in that it focuses on two adult female friends who vow to make it through life together, at any cost. But Parham and St. Clair learned lots of lessons on Best Friends Forever, and it shines through on Playing House, which is sharper in every way. USA has yet to renew this one, so discover it now, when your streaming views could still make a difference.
Review with Forrest MacNeil (Comedy Central)
The idea of a series about a man who reviews everything in life sounds like it could be a strange tragedy about someone who becomes detached from everything, to the point that he lacks the capacity for joy or astonishment. And Review with Forrest MacNeil sort of is that. It's just also incredibly hilarious, filled with amazing gags, unlike any others you'll see on TV. The show's structure — three "reviews" per episode — means that it's able to combine the best of sitcoms with the best of sketch comedy, and that pays dividends throughout the season.
How can I watch: The series is available on Amazon Prime. Season two will air next year sometime.
Silicon Valley (HBO)
This show took me a while to warm up to as well, but by the end of its first season, it was knocking me out with its willingness to lampoon not just tech types but also the way that essentially every relationship involving men eventually turns into a pissing contest somewhere along the way. There are few better dissectors of male friendships out there than Mike Judge (who also created King of the Hill and directed Office Space), and the friendships on Silicon Valley are perfectly in keeping with that tradition.
How can I watch: It's on HBO Go, and season two will debut in the spring.
If this list has a "best" show (and I don't know why it should have to), then this is my pick. I've written about it so much that I won't belabor the point, but creator Jill Soloway's story of what happens to a family when its patriarch begins her gender transition was one of the most astonishing, beautiful pieces of television this year. And with just 10 episodes, it's easy to watch in an afternoon.
How can I watch: It's on Amazon Prime. Season two will debut next year.
You're the Worst (FX)
An ingenious slice of romantic comedy snark, You're the Worst distinguishes itself by simultaneously hating the clichés of the genre it's in and embracing them. This is another FX comedy where I found myself amazed by just how much I cared about everybody on screen by the time the season was over, and in the pairing of Jimmy and Gretchen — two misanthropes who discover they're better together — it had the love story of the year. This is probably your new favorite show. You just aren't watching it yet.
How can I watch: It's available for digital download from iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. Season two will arrive next year.
And, see, that was 10 shows without me once mentioning HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, undoubtedly a great feat of TV comedy, just not one that fits into the "sitcom" box I've restricted myself to. There's so much great stuff out there — and so much more I haven't mentioned. Get watching.
Come back every day of December for Vox's picks of some of our favorite pop culture of 2014.