Issa Rae’s portrait of twentysomething BFFs Issa and Molly had us howling with the raucous, raunchy rap track “Broken P—y” but also made us think with its honest examination of what it’s like to be the sole African-American woman at the office. Dazzling in its specificity and heartfelt in its exploration of modern romance, sexuality and sisterhood, Insecure never skimped on the wickedly funny, whip-smart zingers, either. Exhibit A? When Issa’s clueless white colleague at the teen-mentoring program “We Got Y’all” asked why more of “them” (in other words, their black teenage students) don’t swim, our heroine’s withering one-word response — “Slavery” — was mic-drop perfection.
9. BROAD CITY
Firmly established as two of the strongest comedic voices on TV — of any gender — Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer continued their hot streak with 10 more unforgettable episodes in 2016. Favorite moments include: the discovery of Abbi's priceless JonBenét Ramsey Beanie Baby, guest-star Vanessa Williams' incredible scarf work, and the spot-on recreation of Mrs. Doubtfire's infamous reveal. Frankly, we love these girls as much they love Hillary Clinton (and even more than "Kirk Steele" loves a good beach ball).
With all due respect to series creator Armando Iannucci, Season 5 of the HBO satire — which found Seinfeld’s David Mandel taking the showrunner reins — may have been its best yet. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is at her best when Selina is more than just an acerbic, insult-slinging Madam President; as her character dealt with losses both personal (her mother) and professional (the election), JLD reminded us of the sadness, frustration and hope that’s hiding underneath all those F-bombs. (That said, we never want to live in a world without dialogue like, “Thomas f—king Kinkade couldn’t paint Meemaw in a positive light.”) Veep has never felt more timely than it did in 2016, and thanks to the work of a phenomenal ensemble cast, it has seldom been funnier.
7. GILMORE GIRLS: A YEAR IN THE LIFE
It’s hard to imagine a more herculean task awaiting series creator Amy Sherman Palladino and exec producer Daniel Palladino. Not only did they have to deliver a satisfying conclusion to their beloved WB/CW series, but they had to make it worth the nearly 10-year wait. The duo scored on both counts. The four-part continuation gave us the closure we’ve been yearning for and, even more miraculously, produced some of the franchise’s most emotionally resonant and bracingly funny moments ever (not to mention a career-best performance from leading lady Lauren Graham). Unlike almost every revival that came before it, A Year in the Life justified its existence and left us wanting more.
6. CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND
The “adorably obsessed” Rebecca Bunch got even crazier in Year 2… and The CW’s musical comedy got even better. The endlessly clever writing deconstructs the rom-com genre with a sharp, feminist wit, but delivers a real emotional impact, too. As played by Golden Globe winner Rachel Bloom, Rebecca is a self-involved antihero in the mold of Mindy Lahiri and Hannah Horvath, but it’s admirable how deeply the show digs into her psyche to get beyond the superficial “crazy” label. And the elaborately produced musical numbers — go watch Season 2’s “The Math of Love Triangles” on YouTube for a taste — have a spark of comedic genius that’s unmatched anywhere on TV.
5. BOJACK HORSEMAN
Netflix's dark comedy about the most self-destructive horse in Hollywood reinforced its brilliance in Season 3 by pushing its characters — and the medium itself — beyond their presumed limits. Special recognition goes to the almost-entirely-silent episode "Fish Out of Water," an unconventionally emotional journey told through stunning visuals and a gorgeous soundtrack. Pay attention, Emmy/Globe voters: This is not just a show about incredible animal puns! (They just happen to be the icing on the cake.)
We don’t want to hear anything about ABC’s modern family being past its prime — not if we’re talking about the Johnsons of ABC’s consistently guffaw-inducing black-ish. Led by the outrageous Anthony Anderson and sublime Tracee Ellis Ross as parents Dre and Bow, the show’s multi-generational ensemble cast gels so effortlessly, you’d swear they’re related by blood. And while this seaspm, EP Kenya Barris and his writers squeezed belly laughs out of topics as disparate as biracial identity and Thanksgiving squabbles, last spring’s “Hope” — a searing, somber examination of the epidemic of police brutality against African-Americans — proved a touching, timely tonic for our troubled times.
3. DIFFICULT PEOPLE
In the Hulu comedy's second season, stars Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner continued to make us care about their garbage-bag characters without making us care for them, a difficult balancing act to be sure. From Julie being mistaken for an actress with special needs to Billy dating a (closeted) Nazi, the comedic twosome didn't just toe the line of good taste — they obliterated it. Honestly, the show's only real flaw is its too-short seasons!
Let’s get one thing straight right off: Donald Glover’s FX comedy is one in name only. Sure, it’s funny — you don’t give the brilliant mind behind Community‘s Troy his own series and expect it to be without humor that's sharp (the surreal police shooting the guys witness) and silly (black Justin Bieber!). But Atlanta also is a half-hour meditation on race in America, an examination of modern masculinity, a peek into a nascent rap career and an inspiring look at Glover’s Earn, a man working — little by little — to change his destiny.
1. UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT
To quote the Netflix comedy’s unbearably catchy theme song, females are strong as hell — and that was a central theme of Kimmy Schmidt’s hysterical second season. Don’t get us wrong; Kimmy was still naive, Jacqueline was still shallow and Lillian was as eccentric as ever. But in Season 2, the Ellie Kemper series pushed each one of its leading ladies toward significant character growth, all while cranking out one-liners at breakneck speed (“When you were little, did you think [Robin Hood] was handsome? And then, like, your crotch gets a headache?”). Add in Titus’ adorable new boyfriend, plus guest stars including Tina Fey and Lisa Kudrow, and Kimmy‘s second go-round was the furthest thing from a sophomore slump.