10. “W/ Bob & David”
This is the reunion series that fans of Bob Odenkirk and David Cross’ cult-favorite HBO series “Mr. Show With Bob and David” were waiting for. Everyone’s a little bit older and possibly funnier, as the duo and a revolving group of friends deliver four episodes of well-crafted sketch comedy combined with live audience bits that veer into performance. Clever, absurdist, and well-planned, the material is just straight-up hilarious, and the riff on the good cop/bad cop trope in an Episode 2 sketch is the show at its best.
Familiar faces like Paul F. Tompkins and Mary Lynn Rajskub pop up, and even callbacks to sketches (like “Coupon: The Movie) from the original series will reward the diehards, while new blood like Keegan-Michael Key and Jon Barinholtz keep the show fresh.
9. “Wet Hot American Summer”
Wrangling a massive cast is hard enough when you don’t have to worry about shooting in between the 50 conflicting schedules of this many movie stars. But that’s the price of glory, as Michael Showalter and David Wain’s cult classic film transitioned into TV with the same beloved cast it helped make famous in 2001. Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper, and more original camp counselors were joined by new additions like Lake Bell, Adam Scott, and Chris Pine.
And by golly, they made it work. Both “First Day of Camp” (the film’s prequel) and “10 Years Later” (the sequel) make the most of every moment in part because rarely do the actors feel more important than the jokes. These actors know how to elevate the material, but they also know not to look a gift horse in the mouth: “Wet Hot American Summer” is incredibly fun, lively, and hilarious. It’s everything the movie had to begin with, amped up for an extended stay on TV. May Camp Firewood live on for many more reunions.
If one of these shows is unlike all the others, it very well might be “Easy.” With an expansive cast (including Orlando Bloom, Malin Ackerman, Aya Cash, and Dave Franco) who barely, if ever, see one another, a very thin thread connects eight independent stories told in eight half-hour episodes. Each takes place in Chicago. Each focuses on a couple with approximate ages between those of Emily Ratajkowski and Marc Maron (who co-star in Episode 5). And that’s about it.
But creator, writer, and director Joe Swanberg blends the blue-collar aesthetic of his favorite city with intimate stories of repressed love, twisted desires, and complicated romantic relationships. The chilly weather, gray skies, and quiet backyard breweries have never looked more appealing. Watching “Easy” isn’t exactly that — it can be challenging — but the binge flies by because of how well shaped each character, each story, and each romantic quandary becomes. You’ll be dwelling on these stories for a while.
7. “Lady Dynamite”
A bold vision needs complete confidence to work, and “Lady Dynamite” is guided with the assured spirit of someone who’s been waiting, just waiting, to tell her story exactly how she sees fit. That it’s Maria Bamford only makes her Netflix comedy stronger. Bamford is a fascinating performer, and she’s crafted an endearing, intriguing character in a half-hour comedy inspired by her own experience with bipolar disorder and inpatient psychiatric units.
Bamford is playing Bamford, a fictionalized version of herself, but the honesty within the show is evident from the jump. While she tries to repair her career, the series shoots back and forth in time to slowly unveil an insightful backstory in unique fashion. No other comedy has the same kind of all-knowing, sly sense of humor combined with the intent to eradicate pre-conceived notions of what a sitcom can be. “Lady Dynamite” is blowing up the mold, and it’s lighting every fuse with gusto.
6. “Grace and Frankie”
Given the strength of this ensemble — Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston — one might expect “Grace and Frankie” to play out like an easy-going multi-cam sitcom, content to coast on the charm of its stars.
Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris’ four-years-and-running Netflix original comedy digs into the issues most important to these characters: love, death, divorce, assisted suicide, human rights — it’s all on the table. Rather than play it safe, the writers take full advantage of their onscreen talents, all of whom can land a joke as well as they can deliver a fiery monologue, and push each veteran actor toward new challenges.
They’ve responded by delivering season after season of commanding comedy and moving drama. “Grace and Frankie” isn’t what you may think, and no matter your expectations, it’s better.
Continue reading for more of the best comedy series on Netflix.