We never thought we’d willingly relive the most awkward years of our lives — and then Netflix gave us Big Mouth, easily one of the filthiest, most honest animated series on television today. With its superb voice cast (Kristen Wiig as a talking vagina!), insane storylines (a pregnant pillow?!) and killer musical numbers (“Life Is a F–d Up Mess” remains a personal favorite), there’s just so much to love about this under-appreciated gem of a comedy.
9. THE GOOD PLACE
We would almost reserve a spot on this list for NBC’s wildly creative metaphysical comedy just for its jaw-dropping Season 1 twist alone, which completely flipped the script on Eleanor and company… and gave Ted Danson a chance to uncork a seriously devilish laugh. But then it went and upped its game in Season 2, exploring the ramifications of Michael’s hellish plan while blessing us with an endless supply of heavenly punchlines. Plus, it boasts one of TV’s finest comedy ensembles, highlighted by Danson (extending his remarkable career with yet another terrific performance) and D’Arcy Carden, who shines as the relentlessly cheerful — and surprisingly emotional — super computer Janet.
8. WILL & GRACE
Before NBC’s revival premiered, we worried that it couldn’t possibly be as good as the hitcom had been at its best. But it’s turned out to be even better than we remembered. Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally are at the top of their game; the writing is so sharp, you could win a fencing match with it; and, for all the stinging zingers flying around, the show’s soft heart is still right where it belongs — on its sleeve. (Particularly poignant were Jack’s attempt to rescue his gay grandson from a conversion camp and Karen’s farewell to Rosario — and we’re not even halfway through Season 9 yet!) If we didn’t know what we had until it was gone, we sure know what we have now that it’s back.
Whatever your opinion of Lena Dunham, you have to admit that her HBO dramedy concluded its run as fantastically — and fantastically frustratingly — as it began. (C’mon, Girls wouldn’t have been Girls if it hadn’t at least occasionally made you roll your eyes.) Included in its 10-episode sendoff were such standout installments as “What Will We Do This Time About Adam?” (which gave us, as well as mom-to-be Hannah, heartbreaking closure on the relationship that we’d assumed was endgame), “Gummies” (with its tour de force by Becky Ann Baker), “The Bounce” (or, as we think of it, the Andrew Rannells spinoff pilot) and “American Bitch” (which seems eerily prescient in light of the barrage of sexual-harassment claims that have since been made). Our one complaint: not enough Shosh!
6. THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL
Given the series’ pedigree — it’s from Gilmore Girls EPs Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino — it comes as no great shock that Mrs. Maisel is a quick-witted delight. But what is rather surprising is what a visual feast the ’50s-set show is. Between the period details, the breathtakingly artful camera work and just the overall scope, the Palladinos are taking full advantage of their presumably generous Amazon budget. Throw in a career-making performance by leading lady Rachel Brosnahan and you’ve got Amazon’s best show since Transparent.
5. CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND
It made our list last year, too, but The CW’s divinely inspired musical comedy managed to hit even higher notes this year. It delivered a literal cliffhanger with a standout Season 2 finale, as Rebecca Bunch got ditched at the altar by her lifelong obsession Josh Chan. It bravely tackled Rebecca’s psychiatric issues head-on, without flinching at the dark implications. (It’s really one of the most compassionate examinations of mental illness we’ve ever seen on TV.) And it also continued to serve up riotously catchy tunes like the oh-so-timely ’80s throwback “Let’s Generalize About Men.” If you’re not watching this show already… well, you’re nuts.
4. BETTER THINGS
It’d be impossible to sing the Pamela Adlon comedy’s praises without addressing the elephant in the room. Co-creator Louis C.K. did some truly heinous things, and will no longer be involved with the show. Yet, it’d also be wrong to ignore or discredit what Adlon managed to achieve this year. As director on all 10 episodes, she crafted a raw, brutally honest and truly one-of-a-kind portrait of single-motherhood unlike anything else on television, which made us laugh nearly as often as it made us cry. We managed to do both a whole lot during Season 2’s “Eulogy,” when Sam insisted on having a fake funeral, resulting in beautiful tributes by daughters Max and Frankie.
3. MASTER OF NONE
Aziz Ansari’s Netflix comedy could have coasted on the strengths of its acclaimed first season. Instead, the auteur effort returned this spring with a far more ambitious 10 episodes — and plenty to say regarding a wide range of hot-button issues, including religion, dating app culture and sexual harassment in the workplace. Episodes centered on New York’s wildly diverse population and Denise’s coming-out story were also rather brilliant. To boot, Ansari showcased his maturation both as an actor and as a director in the homestretch of Season 2, with a wildly romantic arc exploring Dev’s complicated relationship with Italian friend Francesca.
Netflix’s GLOW could’ve so easily become a campy, silly mess: a bunch of Spandex-clad, untested, female wrestling neophytes going at it in the ring while a B-movie director snarks at them from the sidelines? But the Allison Brie-led series found its humor — and its heart — in mining the very real emotions the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling experienced as they took part in a very fake sport. Plus, bonus points for casting queen of the deadpan Betty Gilpin as soap-actress-turned-ass-kicker Debbie, aka Liberty Belle.
Season 2 of Issa Rae’s HBO dramedy wasn’t just good, it was hella good. When it went for “Oh no they didn’t!” laughs, they were big. (Think: Kelli’s singularly satisfying diner experience.) When it toyed with our emotions, it pretty much wrecked us. (That Issa/Lawrence near-reunion in the season finale alone!) And when it tackled crazy-complicated issues, it did so with uncommon candor and compassion. (How many series would be brave enough in the first place to allow their African-American heroine to even temporarily shrug off her discrimination against the Latino kids she was tasked with helping?) Funny, smart, sexy, daring — no wonder Insecure has a permanent place in our, ahem, showtation.