TV has been hitting live action comedy out of the park lately. This year, old favorites remained strong while some great and innovative new shows debuted. Here are my choices for the best live action comedy episodes of 2015.
15. “Smokers Allowed” (Nathan for You)
This season of Nathan for You was full of brilliant stunts but this was my personal favorite. Nathan discovers a loophole in which bars can allow smoking if it’s part of a play, so he invites a small audience (just two people) to sit in a bar all night and calls what naturally transpires a play. In an amazing twist, the audience actually thinks this is good theater and compares it to Sam Shepard. “Smokers Allowed” is full of hilarious moments, like the one where Nathan gets a female actress to repeat “I love you” to him over and over.
14. “Ted Talks” (Other Space)
The strongest part of Other Space is protagonist Karen Lipinski and this episode gives us Karen at her cold and awkward best. Tina is the only person in the crew who can extract a vitally important element from a nearby planet, but after she gets dumped by her boyfriend Ted, she’s too heartbroken to do the important extraction. This means that Karen has to resort to the horrifying measure of putting on a “girl’s night” to cheer Tina up.
13. “Binding Arbitration” (Silicon Valley)
Silicon Valley is often a scathing satire and that quality is on display in this episode, but what really makes “Binding Arbitration” special is the sense of optimism that’s also infused in the episode. I genuinely thought this season would be all about Richard Hendriks diving further and further into corruption and was completely blindsided when he chose to tell the truth at a pivotal time. He is often too caught up to remember his principles, but in this one key moment he did put the idea of being a good person above everything else and it was really amazing to watch. Of course, this doesn’t mean the show lost its edge and immediately after Richard’s beautiful monologue, this episode gave us the incredible “Jared, you just killed that guy” ending.
12. “The Wild One, Forever” (Cougar Town)
One of the things that made Cougar Town so special was the way it dealt with the characters’ darkness and sadness without ever losing a sense of whimsical fun. In this episode, Jules and Laurie go out to party, but Laurie becomes overwhelmed with the fear of turning into her negligent mother. The material is handled beautifully and demonstrates how special the friendships on this show were.
11. “Coat Check” (Broad City)
This episode plays up to both the girls’ strengths. Abbi gets to be flustered and anal when she’s stuck working coat check alone. Meanwhile, Ilana gets to be ridiculous and self-absorbed when she falls in love with the most beautiful woman she’s ever met– a woman who looks exactly like herself.
10. “Daddy Issues” (Girls)
In “Daddy Issues,” Hannah refusing to deal with her father coming out. Meanwhile, Ray throws a campaign party where he finds out that Marnie is getting engaged to Desi. The episode perfectly builds to the cathartic moment in which Hannah and Ray confide to each other that they’re both only pretending to be okay.
9. “Adult Content” (Silicon Valley)
“Adult Content” opens strong with a scene of the Pied Piper team storming into the Endframe offices, only to realize they have no idea what to say. The episode keeps that energy up to the final moments, when the usually taciturn Gilfoyle saves the day with an extremely unseemly plan. The episode climax is a great scene for Martin Starr, as Gilfoyle comes alive more than we’ve ever seen him before. It’s also a fantastic turning point for Richard as a protagonist.
8. “Indians on TV” (Master of None)
This episode manages to explore racial representation on television with a rare clarity. The scene where Dev simply lays out the question of why there can’t be two Indians on one show is fantastic and resonant. The opening montage that shows a slew of offensive portrayals of Indian people in media is powerful and immediately sucks you in.
7. “Homicide” (Silicon Valley)
The “Let Blaine Die” board in this episode is one of the strongest comedy set pieces I’ve ever seen and a big reason this episode makes my list. But, “Homicide” also had a fantastic and character-building main plot, mining the relationship between Richard and Erlich to great effect.
6. “Johnny and Dora” (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine spent two seasons building up the will-they-won’t-they of Jake and Amy. It all paid off in “Johnny and Dora,” which centers on the romantic tension between the two. This episode handled the show’s central couple finally getting together perfectly.
5. “Leslie and Ron” (Parks and Recreation)
Parks and Recreation‘s final season introduced a new status quo: Leslie and Ron now hate each other. “Leslie and Ron” served as a turning point for the season, as the two hash out their issues. This was a hilarious and evenhanded episode that solidified Leslie and Ron’s place as one of the great friendships in sitcom history.
4. “Kimmy Goes Outside!” (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
It’s very rare for a sitcom to be as strong as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was right out of the gate. Not only is this episode hilarious, it almost immediately defines Kimmy as an incredible protagonist. The moment in which we see her tell the Reverend that he’ll never break her is powerful and character-defining.
3. “Two Days of the Condor” (Silicon Valley)
It’s rare for a comedy to have a truly edge-of-your-seat plot and even more rare for it to be dense with jokes on top of the carefully crafted plot. “Two Days of the Condor” is a true gem that gives every character their moment to shine.
2. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” (Cougar Town)
This was a perfect ending to a very special show. Cougar Town has always been a small show. It’s always been about the little, relationship moments that make up a life. The finale stayed true to that. The scene where everyone stands around the kitchen as Jules comes to the happy realization that this is just about what the rest of their life will be around was truly special in a world where TV too often relies on over-the-top wish fulfillment.
1. “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” (Community)
Before I watched this episode, the idea of Community having a satisfying finale seemed almost impossible. There are too many disparate things that people want this show to be. But, Community addressed this issue head on and delivered fans an episode that was a perfect ending– or not, maybe you’re not ready for the show to end and want it to go on forever and that’s okay. The end tag is one of the most Community things that Community has ever done. This episode felt like a true love letter to the fans and was more than I’d ever hoped for from an ending.