Netflix Presents the Characters
One Season, Eight Episodes
I’ve been surprised that Netflix never followed up on this one. It was an eight-episode anthology series, with each entry spotlighting the particular comedic sensibilities of a performer. Tim Robinson’s episode led to the greenlighting of I Think You Should Leave. It also focused on other great comedy writers/performers like Paul Downs, Kate Berlant, and John Early. Robinson & Early’s episodes are my two favorites out of the batch. Of course, with most shows of this kind, your mileage will vary from episode to episode based on your taste.
Jon Benjamin Has a Van (Comedy Central)
One Season, Ten Episodes
Jon Benjamin’s voice is the first thing you recognize as he’s the actor behind Bob on Fox’s Bob’s Burgers. He’s also a hilarious comedic talent in general. In Jon Benjamin Has a Van, he played a version of himself who decides to drive around the country in his van and report on uninteresting news stories. There’s also a slight candid camera element with Benjamin approaching people on the street who don’t know this isn’t an actual news broadcast. The show was my first introduction to Nathan Fielder, who plays one of Benjamin’s crew. The series has many guest stars, from Tim Heidecker to Bob Odenkirk, Chris Parnell, and even Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett. As with all these shows, it does an excellent job of capturing the star’s voice so that you know immediately if you will enjoy it.
The Dress-Up Gang (TBS/YouTube)
One Season, Ten Episodes
For a few years, Cory Loykasek and Donny Divanian had been making a comedy web series about being roommates and having a strange paternalistic relationship. Despite Cory crashing on Donny’s couch, he behaves like a Ward Cleaver figure. The show was co-created with director Robb Boardman in 2014 and, in 2017, was given a season order by TBS. Then TimeWarner, the parent company of TBS, was bought by AT&T, and the dream of a series went down the tubes. However, ten episodes were made, and lucky you, they are available to watch on YouTube in their entirety. The show is about the surreal misadventures of the people living in an apartment complex and is a fun piece of light entertainment.
Tim & Eric Bedtime Stories (Adult Swim)
Two Seasons, Sixteen Episodes
I shouldn’t have to introduce Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim to you. They are very divisive comedic figures because of their style, which combines the grotesque with dumb comedy. Bedtime Stories perfectly synthesizes the ideas they began working on in Tom Goes to the Mayor and Awesome Show Great Job! This horror-comedy anthology sometimes features the creators or other actors (John C. Reilly, Bob Odenkirk), but they are always funny and incredibly squirm-inducing. Heidecker has been a big cheerleader of Tim Robinson, and his company with Wareheim, Abso Lutely, has produced many of the shows on this list.
Vice Principals (HBO)
Two Seasons, Eighteen Episodes
Jody Hill has made some great shows for HBO (Eastbound and Down, The Righteous Gemstones), but Vice Principals is criminally overlooked. Like I Think You Should Leave, it focuses on petty man-children; however, these men are North Carolina high school administrators. This is some dark comedy as the two men become aggressive and vindictive after they are stepped over for a premonition and someone from outside the school is made the new principal. The comedic standout for me here is Walton Goggins, as Leo Russell is a revelation. While the second season isn’t as good, the first is incredible. That season’s penultimate episode has one of the most shocking moments I’ve ever seen in a comedy that made me audibly gasp.
Detroiters (Comedy Central)
Two Seasons, Twenty Episodes
This is an obvious one on the list, as it was Robinson’s series before I Think You Should Leave launched on Netflix. Sam Duvet (Sam Richardson) works with his best friend/neighbor/brother-in-law Tim Cramblin (Robinson) at the latter’s Detroit-based advertising agency. They produce comically low-budget commercials for businesses in the city while experiencing all sorts of wild scenarios. The first episode guest stars Jason Sudeikis as a rival who the boys hit with a car and scramble to hide (He doesn’t die and becomes a recurring character). If you liked the energy of I Think You Should Leave, this is the next show you must watch.
Review (Comedy Central)
Three Seasons, Twenty-Two Episodes
Andy Daly is one of the best comedians out there, and you likely have never heard of him. Review was an excellent showcase for his dark comedic style. He plays Forrest MacNeil, a professional critic who hosts a show within the show where he does reviews of all kinds of experiences. The first episode, for example, is MacNeil reviewing stealing, drug addiction, and going to the prom. It’s a scripted show, so with each episode, MacNeil’s world is built out with supporting characters introduced and developed; eventually, season-long subplots work their way into the segments. Review is one of the best shows Comedy Central ever made, and it has been so under-watched. So do yourself a favor and check out this fantastic comedy.
Delocated (Adult Swim)
Three Seasons, Thirty Episodes
I first knew Jon Glaser as one of the writers/performers on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Then he got this hilarious Adult Swim to show (the first live-action series?) about “Jon,” a man who goes into witness protection with his family after testifying against the mob. However, Jon wants to be famous, so he makes a deal for his family to appear in a reality tv series with the caveat they all wear ski masks and have their voices altered so the mob won’t find them. It’s an entirely ridiculous premise that becomes increasingly crazier as the reality show begins covering the mob’s efforts to assassinate Jon as part of the series.