Three US sitcoms start screening on free-to-air this week, and all of them are well worth a look: the first because of its rock-solid track record, the second because of its gilt-edged reputation, and the third because it has strong potential.
The show that's already proven itself a comedy classic is Parks and Recreation, which returns for its sixth season tomorrow night. I've sung this series' praises before - quite recently, in fact, as I mentioned these new episodes when they were meant to debut a month ago, only to inexplicably fail to appear. Ah well, better late than never.
The undisputed star of Parks and Recreation is Amy Poehler, who won the Best Actress in a Comedy Golden Globe in January for her performance as a local government representative who's more interested in the betterment of her community than in self-aggrandisement (which is a strong comic conceit in itself, am I right?). But it's also got a supporting cast to die (laughing) for: Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, and Rashida Jones are all brilliant, plus New Zealand's own Lucy Lawless currently plays a recurring character on the show.
The new season kicks off with the resolution of last season's cliffhanging question of who's pregnant, giving rise to another question, before the gang all take off to London for some comic cross-cultural shenanigans.
The winner of Best Actor in a Comedy at this year's Globes was Andy Samberg, for his role in police procedural spoof Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and the series itself - only a few episodes into its first season - took out the Best Comedy category. That seems like quite an achievement, given Samberg was up against the likes of Arrested Development's Jason Bateman and the show was competing with Parks and Recreation and Girls. That is, of course, until we remind ourselves awards are ultimately useless as an objective measure of anything much - particularly the Golden Globes, which are run by a bunch of journalists, for goodness sake. The reason I'm keen to check out Brooklyn Nine-Nine (which was unavailable for previewing) is that it comes with the much more reliable quality indicator of having been co-created by Michael Schurr, who was also a co-creator of Parks and Recreation, as well as a the key creative on the US version of The Office.
The fact Mom, a comedy about intergenerational dysfunction and addiction, was created by Chuck Lorre isn't something I regard as a similarly resounding recommendation. On the one hand, he's responsible for The Big Bang Theory, among the best of the broad appeal comedies currently on telly. On the other, he bears the blame for Two and a Half Men, which exhibits all the wit and sophistication of a sniggering 13-year-old boy in a class about sexual reproduction.
The first episode of Mom didn't exactly convince me the series will be a keeper, but I'll bear with it for a wee while at least, thanks to the presence of Allison Janney and Anna Faris. Janney's CV includes such series as The West Wing and movies like Juno; Faris, meanwhile, has an extremely patchy resume (eg, Scary Movies 1-4) but she also has great comic chops, which I'm hoping she'll have the opportunity to exercise here.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine debuts tomorrow, 9pm, on TV2; Parks and Recreation returns tomorrow, 10pm, on Four; Mom starts Wednesday, 7.30pm, TV2.