A quarter into the 21st century, audiences have already been treated to some of the best comedic television ever made. With more channels and streaming options than before, there is no shortage of laugh-inducing series to choose from. Competition is fierce in such a rich landscape, but a select few comedy series have left a permanent mark on the television landscape.
These comedy series evolved their genre, influenced countless other shows, and most importantly made audiences laugh. From long-running network series, Emmy-award-winning cable minis, and streaming fan-favorites, only a handful of comedies can truly claim their place in aughts history as best-of-the-best.
10 Brooklyn Nine-Nine Makes The Police Procedural Fun
Created by The Office veteran Michael Schur and Parks and Rec co-producer Dan Goor, Brooklyn Nine-Nine follows the police detectives of the 99th precinct as they solve crimes, arrest criminals, and play office pranks. The series turns the police procedural drama formula on its head, with riotous cold opens and an ensemble cast that delivers laughs in addition to mysteries.
The show originally aired on Fox, but was canceled by the network after five seasons. However, after fan outcry, the series was quickly saved by NBC, where it continued to air for an additional three seasons. Few comedies can boast such a devoted fanbase, and the beloved series is one of the best of the century.
9 PEN15 Is A Cringe-Worthy Blast From The Past
Hulu’s PEN15 is a hilarious and stomach-churning series about two thirteen-year-old BFFs navigating their 2000s world. Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle both created and starred in this series as their thirteen-year-old selves, while the rest of the cast was rounded out by real teenagers.
There is no shortage of coming-of-age tales on television, but PEN15‘s stories were unique. The show centered on young women and covered burgeoning sexuality, racism, bullying, and first thongs. Maya and Anna’s awkward entry into young adulthood is embarrassing, funny, and deeply heartfelt. PEN15 is unafraid to depict the mortifying reality of growing up, and this makes it one of the funniest comedies of the century.
8 The Office Makes The Workplace The Funniest Place On Earth
The US adaptation of The Office from creator Greg Daniels is one of the most beloved comedy series of all time. The long-running series followed employees of the Dunder Mifflin paper company at their tedious job. Jim, Pam, Michael, and Dwight became household names, and fans continue to stream this iconic series years after its run.
The Office popularized mockumentary workplace comedies, and many shows following a similar model sprung up in its wake. The Office ran for nine seasons and garnered over 40 Emmy nominations, firmly securing its place in comedy history.
7 Veep Is A Blistering Political Satire
Comedy legend Julia Louis-Dreyfus starred as fictional vice president Selena Meyer on Veep. The show followed Vice President Meyer and her staff as they navigated the ins and outs of DC politics. But the politics of Veep are far from polite, and Selena and her acolytes hurl profane jokes and put-downs at a rapid pace.
Veep is a no-holds-barred political satire that takes aim at the most important positions in government. No one gets away clean in showrunner Armando Iannucci’s scathing look at Washington, and the television landscape is all the better for it.
6 It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia Is The Hang-Out That Never Ends
FX’s It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has been a comedy mainstay for the past fifteen years. Every episode follows the misadventures of the Always Sunny gang as they struggle to run Paddy’s Pub. The Gang is never above cheating, lying, and committing the occasional felony to get their way and keep their business afloat.
The bad behavior of the core characters is what makes It’s Always Sunny endlessly enjoyable. It is even more striking when the series finds moments of catharsis. The blend of grunge and heart will keep audiences hanging with Paddy’s Gang for years to come.
5 Key & Peele Reinvented Sketch Comedy For A New Generation
Key & Peele was created by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, and aired for five seasons on Comedy Central. The show featured stand-up by Key and Peele and a variety of sketches starring the duo.
Key & Peele’s sketches covered everything from popular culture to politics in an insightful and hilarious way. Jokes from the show continue to dominate the internet and set a new standard for sketch comedy. The show also launched the careers of its stars, with Jordan Peele going on to leave his mark on the cinematic horror genre.
4 Arrested Development Pushed The Limits of Network Comedy
Arrested Development originally ran for only three seasons on Fox, but the series made a huge impact on comedy. The series followed the Bluths, a well-to-do family in the midst of a white-collar scandal.
Arrested Development pushed the limits of style and utilized long-running recurring jokes, fourth-wall-breaking narration, and flashbacks to land its absurdist humor. Its ensemble cast featured comedy legends and launched the careers of many comedy stars. The joke formats popularized on Arrested Development continue to be utilized by comedy television and features, making it one of the most influential comedies of this century.
3 Atlanta Transformed The Comedy Genre
FX’s Atlanta is a single-camera comedy created by Donald Glover. Glover also stars as Earn, a young man trying to figure out his life in Atlanta. The story is straightforward and largely follows Earn and his group of friends. However, what sets Atlanta apart is its narrative structure, tone, and fluidity of genre.
Atlanta is at times a slapstick comedy, a stirring drama, a fantasy, and a horror movie. The writing seamlessly blends these elements to create a completely unique vision. This single-camera is a true original, and one of the best comedy series of all time.
2 Fleabag Brought Laughs And Broke Hearts
Fleabag is just twelve episodes long, but this Amazon original series packs a huge punch. The series, based on creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one-woman theater piece of the same name, follows the unnamed protagonist as she grapples with personal loss, one-night stands, and falling in love with a Catholic priest.
Fleabag’s searing honesty in its depiction of these topics is both hilarious and heartbreaking. A show that was romantic as it was farcical, Fleabag is truly in a comedic league of its own.
NBC’s 30 Rock is another all-time comedy classic. The series was created by Saturday Night Live veteran Tina Fey and is about an SNL-style late-night sketch show. 30 Rock’s mad cap self-referential comedy raised the bar on the workplace genre. The long-running series boasted an all-star comedy cast and regular celebrity guest stars.
30 Rock’s comedy chops are undeniable, and the series boasts over one hundred Emmy nominations, making it one of the most nominated comedy series of all time. This nested television show about a television show takes the crown for best comedy of the 21st century.
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