You’ve seen our favorite drama episodes of 2011. Now, for the stuff that made us laugh.
As you’ll see below, we love us some “Community” and “Parks and Recreation” at Zap2it. But we also found room for episodes of shows that aren’t always consistent still capable of being very good. And also “Jersey Shore,” which is not strictly a comedy but sure can be funny.
These were our favorite comedic episodes of 2011. What were yours?
“Community” – “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”: There were a lot of great “Community” episodes in 2011, but my personal favorite was when the gang took Fat Neil under their collective wing and played an epic game of Dungeons & Dragons to make him feel included. From the portentous voiceover to Annie’s hilarious portrayal of Hector the Well-Endowed, it was a massively fun episode.
“Psych” – “Last Night Gus”: Gus and Shawn having adventurous shenanigans is par for the “Psych” course, but adding in Lassiter and Woody the coroner was a stroke of genius. That, coupled with a fun storytelling technique of the boys having to piece together the past night’s events by retracing their steps, “Hangover” style, made for a bust-a-gut episode.
“Parks and Recreation” – “Flu Season”: No comedy on TV had a more consistently great year than “Parks and Rec” did (as evident in having multiple episodes on this list). I considered going with the Season 3 finale “Li’l Sebastian” and the super-romantic “Citizen Knope,” but I’m going with “Flu Season” because while it may have not quite have been as emotionally resonant as those others, it may have packed more laughs than any other episode. Amy Poehler (“I’m Leslie Monster, and this is ‘Nightline'”) and Rob Lowe (“Stop … pooping”) in particular turned in standout performances.
“The Office” – “Garage Sale”: The aftermath of Michael Scott’s departure has been a rocky road for “The Office,” but the show handled the announcement he was leaving perfectly. Holly (Amy Ryan) tended to bring out the best in Michael (Steve Carell), and the episode in which he proposes to her, then announces he’s leaving, managed to both have its romantic cake — all those candles! — and eat it too, finding just the right way to undercut the sentiment with the sprinklers going off and their bad Yoda impressions. It was an example of the show at its finest, and gets the nod over the almost equally good “Goodbye Michael, Part 2” for Ryan actually being on camera. How Carell didn’t win an Emmy this year still escapes our comprehension.
“United States of Tara” – “The Good Parts”: The Season 3 finale of “Tara” wasn’t meant as a series finale, but it ended up being a pretty great one. The last episode took Tara (Toni Collette, who was typically fantastic all season) to a place where she feels at least somewhat in control of her alters, made note of the toll her condition has taken on her loved ones — Max’s (John Corbett) epic outburst at the final family dinner was fantastic — and still managed to be warmly funny in more than few spots. I would have liked to see a little more of the show, but if this is all we’re getting, then “The Good Parts” was a more than satisfying way to go out.
“Jersey Shore” – “And the Wall Won”: Some shows jump the shark. Others hit the wall. “Jersey Shore,” f’rinstance. In a fourth season that started wearing thin on even die-hard fans, the fifth episode from Florence raised (or lowered) the bar for the show’s reality action. Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino literally hit a wall — that’s right, he hit a plaster wall with his own head. On purpose. The moment was exquisite. The goofy neck-brace confessionals? Not so much.
“The Big Bang Theory” – “The Russian Rocket Reaction”: The reason this episode ends up on one of my favorites is it showed a depth of character we hadn’t previously seen from Howard (Simon Helberg). The basic premise is he’s given an invitation to work on the international space station. Like anyone in his situation might do, Howard jumps at the chance, but he does it without consulting with his fiancee, Bernadette (Melissa Rauch). This causes a rift between the two lovebirds, a rift they ultimately resolve sweetly and lovingly. Plus there’s the return of Sheldon’s (Jim Parsons) arch nemesis Wil Wheaton. And these battles are always good.
“Community” – “Regional Holiday Music”: This show is one of my favorite on television right now. Hear that, NBC? Bring it back and stop pitting it against “The Big Bang Theory!” This year’s holiday episode was everything that I love about the show. Its perfect meta-ness. Its ability to stretch reality and keep a joke running. “Does anyone know what Regionals are?” The music was brilliant. In fact, I’d actually listen to the soundtrack for this episode all day long. “Baby Boomer Santa” was “We Didn’t Start the Fire” on crack. Also, the “Glee” jokes made me realize I wasn’t alone in severely disliking that show.
“Community” – “Remedial Chaos Theory”: Honestly, you could scribble down each “Community” episode onto scraps of paper, toss them in a hat and pull one out and there’s an 85% or greater chance that it was one of the best half-hours that aired on television that week (yes, that includes cable). But one of the things that sets “RCT” apart is that it’s so self-contained, even as it shoots off into a half-dozen different possibilities. These characters are so established now that we can easily follow the small nuances that are both in character for them individually and so important to the group dynamic. It’s fascinating to see how the slightest change in the group dynamic can lead them down a rabbit hole.
“Happy Endings” – “Like Father, Like Gun”: As a rule, I HATE physical comedy. Slipping and sliding and bumbling about does nothing to endear a character to me … until now. Penny’s (Casey Wilson) discovery that when she’s drunk she spe
aks Italian was a funny, original premise in its own right. But then she takes an Italian lover and has a scene where she has to guzzle a bottle of vodka to try and keep up as he’s pouring his heart out to her. Needless to say, things do not well for her, but it’s a marvel to behold.
“Mr. Sunshine” – “Lingerie Football”: If you don’t get how Allison Janney and James Taylor singing “A Song for You” together wasn’t one of the most sublime moments of television in the past 12 months, I can’t help you.
“Toddlers & Tiaras” – “Southern Celebrity Glitzmas”: Three words: Pageant Power Tail. Take a moment and don’t allow the creepiness of child beauty pageants to polarize you. Refuse to let yourself be terrified by the unhinged families featured on the TLC show. If you can briefly suspend your instincts, then you’ll understand that little Riley and her brother Bob take the TLC cake this year. This episode had it all: Children who perform “Poker Face” on the bar at Applebees, espouse the lessons of RuPaul and general “fierceness,” and a 15-inch long rattail with supposed mystical powers. They may not have won crowns, but “Southern Celebrity Glitzmas” was one of my favorite trash TV episodes of the year.
“Parks and Recreation” – “The Fight”: April and Andy role-playing. Jean-Ralphio hitting on women. Leslie and the gang getting their snake juice on. So many things about this episode were perfect, but this tops my personal list of all-time favorite “Parks and Rec” episodes for one very specific reason: Ron Swanson, wasted, wearing a tiny hat. You could not laugh harder if you tried.
“Glee” – “Valentine’s Day”: The much-maligned Season 2 of FOX’s musical hit deserved all the criticism it got. (Yeah, I’m going there.) But that doesn’t mean every episode was bad. The Valentine’s Day outing in particular featured a swoon-worthy performance by breakout star Darren Criss, scheming Santana, a badass duet of “P.Y.T.” by Artie and Mike Chang, plenty of badass Lauren Zizes (played by Ashley Fink) and — hate to say it — no Sue Sylvester. The show is at its best when it focuses on the everyday lives of the McKinley students and doesn’t go for the big Afterschool Special lesson at the end.
“New Girl” – “Naked”: Fall’s quirkiest new comedy hit its stride during this early episode, in which Zooey Deschanel‘s Jess walks in on her roommate Nick naked, and I subsequently howled with laughter for 22 minutes. I’d try to mention some of the episode’s funniest moments (which tend to hit closer to home than most sitcom jokes), but I’m choking back tears of laughter just thinking about it. Just trust me.