We all know about Friends and The Office. But if you blew through every season and want something new — or you’re mourning the friends’ exit from Netflix and looking for your next binge fix — here are my top 5 favorite ensemble comedies to brighten your quarantine days. These are the shows I turn to for comfort and a laugh. Or to keep me company in the background while I work around the house. I’ve marathoned every season of each of these shows; in some cases, more than a few times. If you feel lonely and isolated, or just need a happy distraction to lift your spirits, try getting lost in one of these fun fictional worlds; the quirky casts of characters can be your temporary squad.
(And for funsies, I included gifs from each show that feel appropriate for our current situation.)
Liz Lemon is who I would be if I didn’t have cool friends to get me out of my comfort zone and balance out my deep grandma energy. Tina Fey created and starred in 30 Rock, which is based on her experience as a head writer for Saturday Night Live. In the series’ first episode we meet Liz Lemon, the showrunner of a network comedy sketch show called The Girlie Show. Liz gets a new boss, who forces her to add a mentally unstable movie star to the cast of TGS to boost ratings and increase network revenue. For seven great seasons, hilarity ensues. The writing is sharp and funny as it tackles the insanity of celebrity behavior, pokes fun at NBC and corporate culture, and ponders if a successful career woman can have it all.
(Sidebar: I love Tina Fey, and highly recommend her book, Bossy Pants*, as well as her other comedy series, like Great News and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.)
Parks & Rec
In a fictional town called Pawnee, Indiana, a midlevel government employee, Leslie Knope, strives to improve her community and the world. With reluctant help from her coworkers in Pawnee’s Parks & Recreation department, Leslie tackles challenges and overcomes hurtles with a passion and dedication to her job that’s equal parts admirable and pathological. Fans of The Office will enjoy this one, which has a similar slow pace and dry humor with a whole lot of heart.
Fun fact: despite critical acclaim, the show had sluggish ratings while it aired from 2009 to 2015. The cast poured lots of love and work into the project while wondering, season to season, if they’d get the axe and be cancelled. Parks & Rec didn’t gain a big following until years later, when it showed up on streaming platforms and people binged it. The result is a series that’s completely unpretentious and pure, with lots of laughs and a set of characters you’ll wish were your coworkers. (Turn it on in the background and pretend you’re at the office.)
gif source: https://wifflegif.com/
Last Man On Earth
All it takes is the first episode of the first season to get hooked into this weird, dystopian sitcom. In 2022, an unnamed global event wipes out the population. Phil Miller, the last man on Earth, traverses the United States in an RV searching for other survivors. That’s all I’m going to say about it, because it all unfolds in such a great and funny way. (But it’s included in my ensemble comedy list, so spoiler: there are others.)
Chad and I were so bummed when FOX cancelled the series two years ago. But now’s the perfect time to watch it, if you want some light and funny end-of-the-world content.
(On a similar note: why is everyone watching Contagion right now?! Too real, my dudes.)
gif source: https://www.fox.com/the-last-man-on-earth/
So I didn’t watch Scrubs during its heyday in the early aughts, and in fact, just marathoned the series earlier this year on Hulu. The series packs lots of feel-good nostalgia + an excellent soundtrack. (Check out the playlist on Spotify.) While some of the jokes haven’t aged particularly well, it’s a fun and easy watch.
And it’s a great time to dive into the series. Zach Braff and Donald Faison — who play best friends on the show and are still best friends IRL — recently launched a podcast called Fake Doctors Real Friends. They’re rewatching the entire series, and each week they relive an episode together. I haven’t listened yet, but I hear it’s really good!
gif source: http://www.cc.com/
I just can’t get enough of this series, which follows the work lives of a group of employees in a big box store in St. Louis. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, but also shines a light on big issues surrounding low wage work, immigration, representation, healthcare, and more.
With an oddball cast of characters, you’re sure to relate to one or more of them and/or recognize a weirdo or two you’ve worked with in your past. I’ve gone through all the seasons on Hulu at least three times, and when people ask me for a funny show recommendation, it’s always at the top of my list.
gif source: https://www.nbc.com/superstore
Whether or not you attended community college (I did) you’ll appreciate Community. Cool guy Jeff Winger (played by Joel McHale) enrolls at Greendale Community College after discovering his law degree has been revoked. He forms a fake Spanish study group to woo an attractive classmate, but to his surprise, a diverse cast of characters shows up in the study room for Winger’s “board certified tutoring”. After learning the study group is a ruse, they decide to stick together and form an unlikely squad, overcoming obstacles in each episode that range from relatable to ridiculous. (Mostly the latter.)
The series is so weird, meta and creative. The first few seasons are the best, and super original. The first time I watched it, I kind of wanted to enroll in a class at our local community college to find my own squad of weirdos.
gif source: https://gifwarehouse.tumblr.com/post/28704637093
The Mindy Project
This one is an honorable mention; while it’s not an all-time favorite, it’s a cute and easy quarantine watch. Created by and starring Mindy Kaling, Dr. Mindy Lahiri is a romantically-challenged OB/GYN trying to balance life and work in her small New York City practice. Kaling poured a lot of energy into her character’s personal style; her colorful designer outfits are a really fun part of the show.
gif source: https://wifflegif.com/