“Community” is my favorite show on television right now. Hands down. It brings me joy every week and I can’t wait to see tonight’s Halloween episode – it looks like a classic.
“Community” is on NBC on Thursday night, a night which also features “Parks and Recreation,” a show I must get into but haven’t yet, “The Office,” which still has some tricks up its sleeves, and “Prime Suspect,” which I think is neat little show more people should watch. (I am ignoring “Whitney” because if I say her name two more times, she will come through my bathroom mirror and tell a joke about her female parts, and nobody wants that, right?)
Thursday night on NBC is the stuff of legends. Many of television’s greatest comedies – “Seinfeld,” “Cheers,” “The Cosby Show,” “30 Rock” – have aired on that hallowed night, and I still watch it (or at least part of it) with bated breath. (Or at least it’s bated until it is released in a torrent of laughter. Abed and Troy slay me!)
But! NBC’s Must-See-Television block is not the best night on television anymore. No.
There is a night on television that you truly must see before you see Must-See Thursday Night. I am just starting to discover it and it is bringing me such joy. What night is that?
ABC on Wednesday night is like this beautiful, hallowed Elysian Field of laughter and escape. Look, I work now, and so something that previously was not really a part of my life – coming home and feeling like I can find some sort of escape by laughing at or marveling at the spectacle on my television – now feels like this really fulfilling mission. It’s not one that’s easy to write about, but, as the fall season has kicked into gear, it’s become one of my more consistent and enjoyable rituals. Wednesday night is my night to blow off some stress, to laugh, to relax and enjoy. I really need it. I think it’s kind of wonderful in it’s own Gosh-I-feel-like-I’m-fifty-saying-this kind of way.
Not that the shows on ABC are dumb. Not at all.
Suburgatory is sharply satirical, and it just started so it still has a lot of time to sharpen its blade. I loved the Halloween episode last night, especially because it’s B-plot mirrored my own quest to let down my guard and get scared. Jeremy Sisto asking Cheryl Hines which movie to pop in, “The Exorcist,” Rosemary’s Baby,” or “The Omen” had me gasping with recognition and laughing.
And it takes a lot of time and intelligence to craft something as viscerally gratifying as “Revenge,” which is admittedly not a comedy… it is even better. It is the best example of smart, escapist television that both captures the imagination and provides easy, big aimed-at-the-gut thrills to come along in many years. Probably since early “Grey’s.” (I’m still pulling for you “Pan-Am.” Please, don’t get cancelled!) REVENNNNGE!!!
As for the other comedies: “The Middle” is decidedly, and intentionally, middle-brow, getting just enough in there to please just about everyone. Who couldn’t love silly Sue Heck? Who, I ask! While I still prefer to start out my Wednesday night with “Up All Night” over on NBC, I love the characters on “The Middle” and I think it is the perfect easy-access show to lead you into the mile-a-minute heavyweights that come later in the evening. (You know what a horrible easy-access lead-in is? My beloved “Community.” Watching “Community” first is like eating monkey brains as an appetizer. Can we get something to ramp up to this please?)
Those heavyweights are, in my opinion, simply brilliant. “Modern Family” is a show which I am just catching on to now, and I know I need to go back and catch it from the beginning. Because I haven’t been watching for three years, I guess I have the fortune of not yet finding Cam and Mitchell shrill and unbearable yet, so what I see is this perfectly orchestrated comedy symphony. Seriously how do they fit all those plot-lines into 22 minutes? How do they make them all lock together? Are they gods?
Even more impressive is “Happy Endings,” or the that show no one watched that stole Damon Wayans Jr. back from “The New Girl” after the pilot. Or at least that’s how me and my unenlightened friends referred to it. I’m going to let you in on a secret: as it turns out, “Happy Endings” is the best show on television you are not watching. (If you are watching it, like me, then you get a gold star!) It may very well be the best network show on television right now. Seriously where did this show come from? It made a late season premiere last year. No one cared. It ended pretty well, apparently. Some people cared. And then, over the summer, it’s like the writers said, “Hey, you want to do the best comedy on television?” And everyone involved was just like, “Ohhhhh, oh yeah, let’s do that! That’s brilliant!”
And they are. So watch it. Watch this entire night. I think it’s incredible how quickly ABC has assembled this night into the funniest, and most fun, night on television. Three years ago, none of this existed. Even last year, it was just “Modern Family,” the soon-to-return “Cougar Town” and the ho-hum “The Middle.” That was a lot, but it lacked depth. And now… now, Wednesday night is an impenetrable fortress of comedy and escapism, a blissful single-camera wonderland, without a Whitney Cummings in sight. (Dammit, I said her name again, now I only have one left. Yikes.)