Bitchin' Channels

A blog about television and radio with Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly: The best TV comedies of 2012

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Girls stars Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham, and Zosia Mamet.
Girls stars Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham, and Zosia Mamet.

Once the Christmas carols start burbling it's only a matter of time before the self appointed start spewing forth their 'best of' lists. This used to start once the year was over but now people need everything "like yesterday". Over the following weeks I'll squeeze out my thoughts on drama, news and what you have you, but to start the bauble rolling, here's my list about the shows that dish out the medicine that's deemed to be the best.

1. Girls

Lena Dunham's show was as impressive a debut as we've ever seen. It had the things that make great comedy and it had them in spades. It was brutally honest, its star was happy to debase herself for our gratification, it was bloody funny and most importantly it had great characters. All the girls are brilliantly flawed, naturally their men are even worse. It clearly owes something to Sex In The City but the true influences seem to be Seinfeld and 70s Woody Allen. Thanks to executive producer Judd Apatow and the creator, writer and star, Lena Dunham, it's not merely a copy, more of an extension, and in its finest moments it's a triumph.

It's probably as refreshing as it gets. Well it would be if it weren't for the next show on my list.

2. Louie

Wow. This really was a breath of fresh air. Sometimes the smell of that breath was a little ripe, a little edgy, a little grim, but that's what ultimately made it so satisfying. It made you feel something when you watched it. It kept you guessing. It ignored the conventions and structures of the typical sitcom in a way that few shows have ever done.

3. Bored to Death

Jason Schwartzman is a the part time amateur private eye who brings along his pot smoking friends on missions that usually turn into farces. When the friends are played by Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson you know it's going to be fun ride, and so it proved to be. Smart, charming and dry as the white wine that Jonathan Ames constantly quaffs. Soho screened all three series this year and sadly that's all there will ever be although some talk of a movie has been bandied about. A great box set gift.

4. Episodes

Produced by two Americans who have shows like Friends and Mad About You in their CVs, and starring British comedy stars Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan and Joey from Friends (Matt LeBlanc). This whip smart satire about the American TV industry is familiar enough to fans of Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm but it's also fresh and knowing. A mid season wrench from the TV1 schedule almost derailed me but Episodes is worth seeking out, and would make a great summer DVD.

5. Hounds, Jono and Ben at 10 and Auckland Daze

Will a New Zealand comedy ever be at the top of one of these lists? Possibly, but you could also say the same thing about drama, news or even film. Advertising occasionally rises to challenge, (Ghost Chips anyone?) but it's easy to keep it up for 30 seconds especially when you're lying back and thinking of the money.

Hounds did a bloody good job for nearly 30 minutes at a time, and it did it with it's own uniquely crusty style. This is the New Zealand of the great unwashed, wallowing as it does in the anti-glamour of the dog racing world. (There was also a lovely lack of spruced up Ponsonby villas on Maori TV's Dean Waretini: Now is the Hour.)

Jono and Ben also impressed this year mainly due to a cracking pace, the easygoing tom-foolery of the hosts and of course the gangly antics of Guy Williams.

But by the end of the season it was clear that the true stars of the show were the young chaps known as the 'Manchilds' who played the young Jono and Ben.

Armed with grown-up smart arsed questions they are sent into interviews as proxies, a device that allows the gentle abuse of the celebrity guests.

Auckland Daze emerged from its previous life on the internet and looked pretty much like a fully formed TV show. Entourage is an obvious influence as is Ricky Gervais, but Millen Baird and his talented ensemble have created something uniquely their own. However as an Aucklander, I'm slightly worried that it may well be the last nail in the coffin in regards to our reputation south of the Bombay's and north of John Key's bach in Omaha. They have always suspected that we are all f**wits, now they have the proof.

What were your top five comedies of 2012?

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