When I think about how much TV I watch in a given week, I mean really think about it, it’s a little surprising I ever get off the couch.  While I prefer to think of myself as a “TV Enthusiast,” in all honestly “Addict” or “Junkie” is a lot more appropriate.  Beyond just the entertainment value, I love getting invested in the stories and watching character development throughout a given season or over the course of a series.  Since I hate reading (much to Anne’s chagrin), I really appreciate television for the creative outlet that it is and as a unique medium for storytelling.

Now that we have the DVR, which I count among the top 5 most awesome things ever (you can have sliced bread and the wheel back before my DVR), it’s never been easier to stay on top of TV shows even if you’re busy or out of town when they air.

I’ve often been asked for TV recommendations, so check out some of my favs below!

Note: these are all shows either currently airing, on mid-season hiatus, or between seasons.  I’ll need another post to cover my shows that have since gone off-air, so keep an eye out for that!

 11. Up All Night

 

Up All Night is one of NBC’s newest sitcoms, currently in its first season.  The show chronicles the exploits of new parents Chris (Will Arnett) and Reagan (Christina Applegate) as they try and balance raising a child and holding onto their own inner child.  Toss in eccentric best-friend Ava (Maya Rudolph) and you’ve got a trio of seasoned actors who are certainly no strangers to comedy.

The show also takes a cool little twist on the traditional working-parent paradigm which I really enjoy.  Chris assumes the role of the stay-at-home Dad, allowing Reagan to go back to work as the producer of Ava’s daytime TV show.  This leads to some hilarious situations where Chris fails miserably at some of the most mundane and menial household tasks (like trying to decipher the grocery store labyrinth).  Ava, whose TV show seems to parody Oprah back in the day (for all the Oprah lunatics out there, we told you the world would go on once the show went off the air), is a well-meaning yet full-of-herself character whose been the center of attention for as long as she can remember.  Her and Reagan’s relationship, which mainly involves keeping Ava from driving everyone insane, does a great job of blending work and personal life and reminding us to not take either one too seriously.

Up All Night airs 9:30pm local time on NBC.

 

10. 30 Rock

 

By now, if you haven’t heard of 30 Rock you either don’t have a TV or you haven’t spoken to another human since 2006 (or both).  The show has won more Emmy’s than the Lord of the Rings has Oscars* and is a perennial favorite for Outstanding Comedy series.  With a stellar cast headlined by Tina Fey and that-guy-who-wouldn’t-stop-playing-Angry-Birds-on-the-airplane, 30 Rock is a comedy series about a comedy series.  Loosely based on Tina Fey’s actual career as head writer for Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock covers everything from the lowly Page program (which should resonate with anyone who ever held a low-level internship) to the top of the corporate ladder.

Satire at it’s finest, the show pokes fun at everything from capitalism to celebrity over-indulgence and Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) has perfected the art of self-deprecating humor.  The show strikes a great balance with its characters too, with just the right number of core characters that they have the freedom to go in any direction they want while still building an individual personality for each.  Throw in some top-notch cameos (like Matt Damon as Liz Lemon’s airline pilot boyfriend) and you can tell why the show is so successful year-in and year-out.

30 Rock airs pm 8:30pm local time, Thursday nights on NBC.

* I have no idea if this is true or not.  Yes, I know I can easily fact-check with Wikipedia.  No, I’m still not going to.

 

9. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

 

Head south on I-95 from 30 Rockefeller Plaza in NYC and you’ll run right into the namesake city of It’s Always in Philadelphia.  Always Sunny shows “politically incorrect” what it means to be politically incorrect.  Always Sunny not only welcomes but embraces charged and divisive topics, such as gay marriage, abortion, and welfare, and pushes the envelope to such extremes that more often than not it borders on the absurd.  At the same time, the show does a great job at poking fun at both sides, the ultra-liberal and the ultra-conservative, so no one feels left out.

Don’t get me wrong, the show is offensive, obscene, and vulgar.  But that’s what I love about it.  The characters harass each other in a way reminiscent of my high school and college buddies and watching their elaborate schemes unravel toward inevitable failure never gets old.  If you’re looking for a surprisingly witty and well-written show and have the stomach for rude and uncomfortable humor, Always Sunny is a must-see.  Plus it’s based in Philadelphia and makes regular references to known landmarks and events so fans of the City of Brotherly Love such as myself get an added layer of enjoyment out of it.

Always Sunny wrapped up its 7th season but new episodes will air on Thursday nights on FX.

 

8. New Girl

 

New Girl is one of those shows that I immediately liked but took about half the season before it became one I legitimately looked forward to.  Zooey Deschanel, fresh off being named AskMen’s 12th Most Desirable Woman, headlines this cast of relative unknowns (after Damon Wayans bailed after the pilot episode, that is) that bring a quirky but refreshing new perspective to sitcom TV.  The title character, Jess, moves into a loft with 3 bachelors after an uncomfortable break-up.  The guys have no idea how to handle their own lives let alone a girl in the house with mannerisms that remind us why Zooey Deschanel is a hipster’s dream girl.

This show is successful for the same reason that many shows are: the cast of characters finds some way to appeal to everyone.  Beyond Jess you have Nick (Jake Johnson), the law school dropout stuck tending bar who carries a Ziploc bag in place of a wallet, Winston (Lamorne Morris), the washed out basketball player back from a stint as a pro in Latvia, to my personal favorite Schmidt (Max Greenfield), the former-fat kid turned lothario (thank you Wikipedia!) who is forced to put money in the communal “douchebag jar” on a more-than-regular basis.  You’ve also got Cece (Hannah Simone), Jess’s best friend, gorgeous runway model, and consummate target of Schmidt’s affections.  With a cast of characters like this, it’s hard not to find something to like.

New Girl airs 9pm local time, Tuesdays on Fox.

 

7.  Community

 

Community gave me a scare earlier this year when NBC stopped airing new episodes.  The episodes had been shot and were ready for air when the network inexplicably pulled them from the lineup.  However, after several weeks of wondering why the hell they yanked the show, we got our Community back!

The show, currently in its third season, takes the concept immortalized in The Breakfast Club and adds a modern twist.  Community chronicles 7 characters from all different backgrounds that come together at Greendale Community College (where the mascot is the “Human Being”) and form a study group.  The group is led by Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), who was a practicing attorney with a degree from Colombia before he got busted and was forced to get a degree from America too.  Props to you if you recognized the spelling “error” before getting to the end of that sentence.

The rest of the rag-tag group brings their own quirks and idiosyncrasies to the table, none more bizarre and outrageous than Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi).  Abed, who seems only able to process emotion through television and movie references and Troy, who embraces immaturity after spending high school living the jock stereotype, team up for some of the wittiest banter and most ridiculous antics I’ve seen on TV in a long time.  Whether it’s creating a blanket fort that eventually consumes the entire Greendale campus or providing commentary on the events of the day during their invented Morning Show, Troy and Abed are the wildcards that set Community apart from other network television of today.

Community airs 8:00pm local time, Thursday nights on NBC.

 Stay tuned for Part II when we count down some more of my favorite TV shows on our way to #1!

 

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