These were my picks for best comedies for 2011. My formula for determining the order was pretty simple -- how much did I tend to laugh during each one? I know, it's rocket science.
A whole lot of really good shows -- "Archer," "Cougar Town," "The In-betweeners" -- easily could have made this list, so I feel the choices below are pretty strong.
Anyway, here goes:
10. "Bored To Death," HBO: I was pretty upset to read last week that this series had been canceled by HBO. An offbeat tale of a writer/private detective (Jason Schwartzman), his man-child best friend (Zach Galifianakis), and his frequently drunk/stoned mentor (Ted Danson), this series always provided a lot of fun while not taking itself too seriously.
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9. "New Girl," Fox: I've already written about it as one of the best new shows and one of the best performances with the offbeat Zooey Deschanel, so there's not much left to say except that this is the best new sitcom for 2011.
8. "Louis," FX: That "Louis" is so low on my list tells you how high I hold the other series ahead of it in acclaim. Louis CK's hapless TV self is a joy to watch even as he slogs through his depressing life, encountering the oddest people imaginable. The episode in which he visits his racist aunt was one of the highlights of the TV season.
7. "Happy Endings," ABC: The little series that could, what started out as a "Friends" clone has nicely developed into one of TV's most reliable comedies with one of TV's best-balanced casts. Who knew Jack Bauer's daughter (Elisha Cuthbert) could be so damn funny, and not have it involve being chased by mountain lions?
6. "The League," FX: I'm proud to say I was ahead of the curve on this one, as this offbeat series about a group of friends whose lives revolve around a fantasy football league is one of TV's fastest-growing comedies in terms of viewers.
5. "Episodes," Showtime: Matt LeBlanc turned in the performance of his career playing Matt LeBlanc from a Bizarro universe. This story, about an English writing couple who sells their hit, classy UK series to America, only to see it all go awry, was pure genius.
4. "Curb Your Enthusiasm," HBO: If the rest of the world could get away with what Larry David says and does, it'd either be a much better place or a much more scary place. Only Larry David could turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into an extended sketch about Jews eating delicious chicken at an Arab restaurant and get away with it. "Curb" tried a different approach this year, making Larry a single guy back in his native New York, and it worked well.
3. "Parks & Recreation," NBC: Is there any character funnier than Ron Swanson? Any romance sweeter than the one between Ben and Leslie? An office staff more disorganized than the parks and recreation department of Pawnee, Ind.? If there is, I want to see it, because all of the above and much more make this series one of the few crown jewels left on NBC.
2. "Modern Family," ABC: This would be a safe choice as No. 1 on most lists, because of its absolute dominance at the Emmys the past two years. Featuring one of TV's most outstanding casts and great stable of writers, these folks have never done a bad episode. Even if there is a storyline among one of the three main families that might seem a little weak, the other two usually compensate for it, and then some. And as much attention and love the adult actors are getting, it's the four main kid characters that often steal scenes.
1. "Community," NBC: Never a ratings magnet, "Community" is about to as close a cult hit as there is on TV, perhaps despite or because of its creativity. There wasn't a better half-hour of TV this year than the episode in which a different character goes to get pizza, creating seven different reality dimensions. There are so many running jokes you often have to watch twice to get them all. This season is likely to be it for "Community," so I'll have to enjoy it while I can. But it's been a brilliant run.
THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: SyFy airs the pilot for its new superhero action-comedy "Three Inches" tonight at 9 p.m. It follows a bunch of people with lame superpowers, including an underachiever who has the ability to move an object up to three inches with his mind.