Back to IndieWire

The 20 Best TV Comedies of the 21st Century, Ranked

We rank the best TV comedies of the binge era — a list of great shows you'll be savoring for decades to come.

Party Down 30 Rock Tina Fey Louie Louis CK


<<Page 3: Shows 10-6

5. “The Office” (U.S.)

"The Office"

2005 – 2013

“The Office” did what many could not: It actually adapted a successful British sitcom for Americans and didn’t die swiftly. In fact, this iteration surpassed its predecessor in longevity and may be considered the better of the two, making a voice for itself and really establishing the mockumentary sitcom. While the dreariness of its environs may have seemed like a prison or trap, for some of these oddball characters, it was also a sanctuary, with co-workers who were just as out-of-place and maybe borderline incompetent as they. We all know a Dwight or a Jim or even a Meredith for that matter, and these relatable characters made for an immediate connection, thanks to a stellar cast and writing. The Office” allowed us to escape into a place where the biggest stakes were bittersweet laughter, but mostly it combined hilarity and heart in a way that felt honest. – HN

READ MORE: Steve Carell: An Unjust History of Emmys Losses For the Man Behind Michael Scott

4. “Arrested Development”

Arrested Development

2003 – present

Listen, we don’t know what “Arrested Development” will become, but we know this: Mitch Hurwitz upended network comedy in a such a profound way that millions of fans were clamoring for more episodes, more seasons, more of the Bluths, however they could get them, for seven years. Season 4 was a grand experiment with many highs and lows, but the untouchable original episodes exemplify so many bests it’s absurd — and they were great at that, too! From deft meta comedy at its finest and to family dynamics at their most intricate, “Arrested Development” found humor in every corner of an ever-expanding model home. We’ll always look forward to what comes next. – BT

READ MORE: Jason Bateman Characters, Ranked from Least to Most Put Upon

3. “Veep

2012 – present

Even before the American political system exploded into a fiery ball of wafting orange flames, “Veep” was a cathartic outlet for our frustrations with Washington D.C. Scottish creator Armando Iannucci conveyed such a penetrating outsider’s perspective one would think he’d worked in the White House himself, and the cast remains addictively game to lambaste the greedy array of power hungry politicians. When Iannucci left after Season 4, many expected “Veep” to take a step back. But the cast and crew (under new showrunner David Mandel) redoubled their efforts just in time for when they were most needed. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the only actor powerful enough to keep us laughing as the world burns. – BT

READ MORE: The Top 10 TV Shows of 2016

2. “Parks and Recreation

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Win, Lose, or Draw" Episode 422 -- Pictured: (l-r) Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt, Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Rashida Jones as Ann Perkins, Aziz Ansari as Tom Haverford

2009 – 2015

What started as a sisterly successor to “The Office” not only adapted into a different beast entirely, but it also surpassed its inspiration. Michael Schur and Greg Daniels’ inspiring political comedy followed a diverse group of small town government workers with little else in common besides one defining bond: the desire to help people. Few characters have reached the beloved cultural stature of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman); so much so that it speaks to the cast’s outstanding overall quality that picking a favorite is still an impossible choice. This wasn’t a workplace comedy. “Parks and Recreation” was a human story that just happened to be really damn funny. – BT

READ MORE: The Best Sitcoms That Need a Revival Now — IndieWire Critics Survey

1. “30 Rock

Tina Fey in "30 Rock."


A treasure trove of talent, “30 Rock” could be goofily delightful one minute and incisively topical the next. Actually, that’s not true. Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s clever mix of pop culture, political, and absurdist humor moved so quickly, its shifts have to be defined in seconds. “Laugh-a-minute” was too slow for this crew, as Liz Lemon’s ongoing crusade to “have it all” — and her regular conflicts with Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) — provided incredible momentum to her behind-the-scenes life on “TGS with Tracy Jordan.” The onslaught of humor set a high bar for the series’ many imitators, but it also embodied what the Netflix generation has come to demand of its favorite comedies: They’ve gotta be fast, they’ve gotta be funny, and and they have to be endlessly re-watchable. – BT

Stay on top of the latest TV news! Sign up for our TV email newsletter here.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox