1. Parks and Recreation, Seasons 1-2
Parks and Rec is one of the few bright spots in NBC’s schedule. Created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, of The Office fame, the show had a bit of a shaky start before gelling as a solid and hilarious comedic enterprise. Amy Poehler owns as Leslie Knope, the deputy director of the Parks and Recreations department in rural Indiana, and the supporting characters are getting their due now, too. Best part? The third season begins on January 20, 2011. In other words, you have time to catch up on Netflix before new episodes start again. Win!
2. Chappelle’s Show, Season 1
Everyone here should know who Dave Chappelle is. If not, now you have no excuse. See him bring the LOLs while playing Tyrone the crack addict, messing with Japan as Blackzilla, and - my personal favorite - imagining a Real World episode with a nearly entirely black cast (except for one awkwardly white dude). Hilarity.
3. The IT Crowd, Series 1
Like British comedies? Here’s a great one, especially for the geek crowd. This show’s from the producer of The Office - the original - and follows the geeky shenanigans of the stereotypical IT support team of Reynholm Industries. Deliciously awkward. Start with Series 1; it’s only six episodes.
4. The Sarah Silverman Program, Season 1
I’ll confess to rarely having watched this on the air, but I’m going to blame that on the fact that my college didn’t offer cable television in dorm rooms. In any case, the first two seasons of this show are now at your fingertips. Irreverent, hilarious, and surreal, this show meanders between life action, musical numbers, and animation, so you can be sure your attention will be held. Tig Notaro, one of my favorite stand-up comedians, shines as Officer Tig. And there is, of course, the loving relationship between Brian Posehn and Steve Agee - gold.
5. That’s My Bush!
This one’s a guilty pleasure. That’s My Bush! was created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, of South Park fame, and lampooned both Dubya and the stereotypical qualities of sitcoms. Catchphrases, wacky neighbors, and trite dialog dominate this show. There are only eight episodes, so you could knock out the entire run in a day, easy peasy.
6. A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Season 1
Want to see the now infamously cantankerous Dr. House in more compromising situations? Check this sketch show out. Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are the perfect comedy duo and showcase absurdity to, well, an absurdly hilarious level. Seasons 1-4 are available, but the first has some of the best sketches. Check out episode 2 for “Derek Nippl-e” and the musical stylings of Hugh Laurie on “America.”
7. The State, Complete Series
MTV’s brief foray into sketch comedy is now online. Check out Michael Showalter, Thomas Lennon, Michael Ian Black, and more before they hopped over to other projects likeReno 911. The sketches still work today, even though the show ran from ‘93-‘95. Look for sketches starring Louie, a postmodern parody of sketch comedians, and Barry and Levon, two guys who have a wonderful relationship with some pudding.
8. Strangers With Candy, Season 1
Amy Sedaris. Stephen Colbert. Paul Dinello. Sarah Thyre. So much talent in such a weird show. If you’re looking for a politically correct, tame, straight-forward comedy, you won’t find it here.
9. Black Adder, Series 4
It was a happy day when I discovered I could watch Black Adder whenever I wanted. Though you can watch all four seasons online, my favorite is, without a doubt, Series 4, set during WWI. Though the show remains saturated with laughs from Baldrick and Lt. George (Hugh Laurie, again!), the final scene of the final episode is one of the most poignant, bittersweet moments on television. Seriously. You owe it to yourself to see it, but keep some tissues handy.
10. The Larry Sanders Show, Season 4
I can’t say enough positive things about this show. A sitcom about a late night show (meta enough for you?), The Larry Sanders Show features a glut of familiar comedic faces, including Sarah Silverman, Jeffrey Tambor, Bob Odenkirk, and Mary Lynn Rajskub. Four seasons are on Netflix Instant, but check out season 4 in particular - 12 Emmy nominations. Damn!