Jerry Seinfeld and Julia Louis-Dreyfus
In honor of TV Guide Magazine's 60th anniversary, senior critic Matt Roush names the 60 greatest comedies of all time. Here are the top 10, and pick up the new issue (on sale now) to see numbers 11 through 60.
Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski
Given the fanfare with which NBC is closing The Office after nine seasons (at least two too many), you'd think it was a Cheers or Seinfeld-sized hit from the "must-see" glory days, instead of the show that presided over the slow fade of a once-powerful comedy brand on the back of too many same-seeming niche comedies specializing in preciously arch irony. At its best (the Steve Carell and early Jim-Pam years), The Office had heart as well as range, as it found comic magic in its ensemble once the show emerged from the large shadow cast by the classic Ricky Gervais original series. But now it just hits the same beats over and over to lesser effect, which hasn't stopped NBC from pulling out the stops. The celebration (eulogy?) begins with an hour-long behind-the-scenes retrospective (Thursday, 8/7c) produced by NBC News — which didn't have more pressing business? — featuring interviews from cast members and producers. The main event is a super-sized finale (9/8c) that has swelled to an hour and 15 minutes, staged as a mock reunion of the Dunder Mifflin gang several months after the airing of the mock documentary that took nearly a decade to finish.
Though as popular as ever, ABC's top comedy Modern Family isn't always the most pleasant company — and in this week's episode (Wednesday, 9/8c), several of the more abrasive and prickly characters (notably, siblings Claire and Mitchell) confront their dark side with sporadically funny if sometimes predictable results.
Famous last words: "Nothing can go wrong," says Jess on Cece's lavish wedding day ‑ not accounting for the runaway horse, the badger on the loose, and the inappropriate soundtrack that factors into the buds plotting a "sabo" (Schmidt-speak for "sabotage") in a pivotal and blissfully funny second-season finale of Fox's New Girl (Tuesday, 9/8c). Schmidt has brought Elizabeth (Nurse Jackie's delightful Merritt Wever) as a date while having "eye conversations" with the conflicted bride, and with Jess's disapproving dad (Rob Reiner) amplifying the insecurities underlying his daughter's romance with Nick, there's plenty of relationship drama amid the raucous comedy. And while Fox hasn't made a secret of the celebrity cameo amid the wedding crowd, it makes for a fun twist and even better joke, a grace note for an episode that will leave fans happily awaiting next season. ... On the finale of its companion piece The Mindy Project (9:30/8:30c), Mindy plans to accompany Casey to Haiti on a volunteer mission, prompting a farewell party by Danny and his ex-wife. Not to worry; she and the show will be back for a second season in the fall.
Kaley Cuoco, Kunal Nayyar
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Question: Two slightly related questions. First, in recent weeks, we've had the return of (at least) three classic TV stars guest starring on hit shows, with Bob Newhart on The Big Bang Theory and Patty Duke and Meredith Baxter on Glee. While a large part of me got a kick out of seeing them again (especially Newhart), part of me was kind of saddened to see how much they've aged. Newhart seemed fairly frail (granted, it has been almost 25 years since Newhart left the airwaves), though still funny.
Nathan Fillion, Stana katic
Time for some serious soul-searching on the usually glib Castle, so it must be the end of another season. "With any luck, this could be your last case," crows the tone deaf-as-usual Capt. "Sir" Gates as the boss lady celebrates the prospect of Kate Beckett being "headed for bigger things" — or so promises the FBI Deputy Director (guest star Kyle Secor) who recruits the sultry homicide pro for a federal task force based in Washington, D.C. And what would that mean for Beckett's still budding but not quite defined romance with Castle? "I think our plot just thickened," quips the mystery writer-turned-crime solver — though he's talking about the week's murder case, not yet aware of his squeeze's big opportunity. With Castle fuming over trust issues that expose doubts in both parties, Beckett is left at an emotional crossroads: "What happens when the music stops? What if all we were in love with was the dance?" ABC dropped the last minutes of the episode (Monday, 10:01/9:01c) from the advance screener, so it's anyone's guess what their next step will be.
Chris O'Dowd and Tom Bennett
It can't be easy to learn that one's ancestor is a literal horse's ass. But sad-sack Londoner Tom Chadwick takes such news in stride, again quite literally, as he acquires his great-grandfather's horse costume from a long-ago pantomime show, and after trying the rear end on for size, adds it to his collection of quirky family keepsakes.
HBO's droll-to-the-point-of-precious and occasionally delightful Family Tree (Sunday, 10:30/9:30c) follows Tom on an offbeat personal odyssey into his cloudy lineage. "In our clan, family is what disappears when you're not looking at it," says his retired dad, who keeps busy inventing useless objects like a fan for shoe trees. The dad is played by Michael McKean, who like the rest of the cast often talks directly into the camera, mock-documentary/improvisation style. The casting and the format are two of the more obvious signs that Tree is a Christopher Guest production.
Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik
Few things bring more pleasure than watching a deservedly hit comedy firing on all cylinders. Such is the case with this week's rollicking The Big Bang Theory (Thursday, 8/7c on CBS), which no matter how long we've enjoyed it still manages to show that it has new tricks up its sleeve — notably, Simon Helberg's gift for celebrity impressions. They come in handy as Howard assumes the role of dungeon master in a game of Dungeons & Dragons on what's supposed to be a boys' night, soon invaded by the gal pals when their plans for a Vegas getaway crap out. "I've never played Dungeons & Dragons with girls before," whines the resistant-to-change Sheldon, to which Penny answers: "Don't worry, sweetie, no one has." Big boom!
Don't you hate when this sort of thing happens? Country diva frenemies Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) and Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) both get nominated for CMA Awards on ABC's Nashville (Wednesday, 10/9c) — oh who am I kidding, we love when these things happen.
Cher loves her mom. No reason to think Rihanna doesn't, but for now, the career comes first. Two of pop's highest-profile divas take the spotlight in new docu-specials, with Lifetime's Dear Mom, Love Cher (Monday, 10/9c) going for the heart-strings as Cher pays tribute to her 86-year-old mom, Georgia Holt, who uprooted her family from Arkansas to Hollywood to pursue stardom that would take another generation to achieve. Cher performs a duet with Georgia and introduces recordings her mom taped more than 30 years ago that Cher is preparing to release commercially. Think of this as a helpful reminder if you haven't done your own Mother's Day shopping yet. Rihanna's love-fest in Fox's self-promotional vanity production Rihanna 777 (8/7c) is with the fans who follow her on a world concert tour, packing a 777 airliner along with journalists and a film crew capturing her every move.