The explosion of sitcoms over the past couple of years made it virtually impossible to narrow down the very best of the best, even if it I ignored the hilarity of shows like “Parks and Recreation,” “Raising Hope” and “The Neighbors.” (Yes, “The Neighbors.” It’s way funnier than people have told you.)
“New Girl”: “Eggs”
There aren’t many comedies that speak to thirty-something singles.
While I do find many comedies hilarious, it’s tough to identify with slackers in their 20s or married couples joking their way into middle age. This isn’t the case with “New Girl.” As a single, not-so-young-anymore woman who hasn’t totally grown up yet, I recognize these people.
That’s why I completely identified with everything that happened in the season 2 episode, “Eggs.” As this hilarious half-hour proved, even the most terminally immature of us have to face adulthood some of the time.
The whole thing begins when Jess (Zooey Deschanel) invites her lesbian friends over for dinner. Since one lady is a pregnant gynecologist, talk turns to fertility. Both Jess and CeCe (Hannah Simone) realize that their time to conceive is limited — even though they’re unmarried and unready. Crazy antics follow, of course, but the end result remains serious. When you reach your 30s, no amount of immaturity can save you from the inevitable march of time. Sooner or later, it will be too late for some things.
Nick (Jake Johnson) — with an assist from Winston (Lamorne Morris) — and Schmidt (Max Greenfield) have to confront aspects of growing up as well. Schmidt realizes that he’s gotten to the point where only love can bring great sex, and no amount of female expertise (“Everybody… gets… churro!”) can change that.
Meanwhile, Nick struggles to be a man who can complete… anything. It’s not enough to be a bartender with vague dreams. Sure, Nick’s drunken visit to the zoo (to be like Hemingway, duh) and subsequent zombie novel proved that writing may remain always a dream. But at least he learned that things did have to be done.
The permanent kids of “New Girl” aren’t likely to grow up any time soon. But they — and the audience — still realize that.
“Chuck” — “Chuck vs. the Goodbye”
This episode — the last in the unlikely and oft-imperiled five-year run of “Chuck” — could also count as one of the best drama episodes of 2012. It sure was dramatic — Chuck (Zachary Levi) has to stop a diabolical mastermind, win back Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and disarm a bomb or two in a single hour. The episode is also bittersweet, since Sarah has lost all memory (and love) of her husband.
But it was also funny. “Chuck” is always great that way.
The plot of “Chuck vs. the Goodbye” centers on a series of farewells and on some possible new beginnings. Chuck has to put his feelings for Sarah aside while he hunts down the very last Intersect computer, dangerously in the hands of a bad, bad man. Meanwhile, everyone finally prepares to leave Burbank and the Buy More behind.
So they had to go out with a bang. It’s almost a literal bang too. While the singing duo of Jeffster gives us one final performance (“Take on Me” — the perfect choice), Chuck and Sarah beat the bad guy to take back the Intersect. Alas, Chuck can’t use it to make Sarah remember him, since the survival of an entire concert hall depends on the show’s hero saving the day once more.
He does. In a cute shout-out to the show’s pilot, Chuck even disarms that final bomb using Internet porn.
The actual ending of “Chuck” manages to remain ambiguous but positive. Sarah, still with no real memories of the man she is supposed to love, sits on a beach with Chuck. And then she asks him to tell her their story.
It ends with a kiss. Does Sarah remember? Is this a everyone live happily ever after? Can Jeffster the German success story we hope for?
There is no answer. Just smiles and laughter. It works.
“Community” — “Pillows and Blankets”
I love “Community.” Easily the most brilliant comedy of our age, this surreal show had a solid third season with multiple episodes that could have made this list. From the pitch-perfect “Law & Order” parody, “Basic Lupine Urology,” to the brain-bending psychology and insecurity of “Virtual Systems Analysis,” to the ridiculous 8-bit animation of “Digital Estate Planning,” “Community” knocked comedy out of the park over and over again.
So why does “Pillows and Blankets” make the list?
First of all, the Ken Burns-style documentary is incredible. We get the serious narrator. Small events (like the fact that this was all about a pillow fight) gain importance via the use of old-timey music and strategic sound effects. Facebook, text messages and tweets stand in for momentous letters between the players.
This could have been just funny. But “Pillows and Blankets” is more than that. The setup for the documentary involves a fight that rocked the core of the central Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) relationship. These two best friends had been mostly ignoring each other’s shortcomings for two years. Great in the short term, that tension eventually broke through. Something as stupid as a pillow/blanket fort seemed destined to destroy a once-promising friendship.
But the end of the documentary also marks the end of the pillow fight. When Troy and Abed refuse to stop hitting each other — because that would mean the now non-friends would never do anything together ever again — Jeff (Joel McHale) is able to save the day. Still affecting his normal, callous style, Jeff actually succumbs to the sweetness and insanity of Troy and Abed, and (with complete seriousness) returns their invisible, magical friendship hats.
It is a beautiful moment in which friendship — however weird — is enough give us a happy ending.
And there’s a joke about “The Cape.” Six seasons and a movie!