Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

To paraphrase Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, “When the going gets stupid, the stupid turn pro.”

Now is the time for comedy, so put down the Clorox mojito; turn off Contagion (you can wait until after Gwyneth Paltrow’s brain is removed—it’s my favorite scene, too); and open yourself up to the idea of relaxing with some stupid sitcoms. Trust me; I’m a professional.

Dumb comedies have a strange, soothing effect on the psyche that you just can’t get from other modes of TV. (Reality shows with screeching blow-up dolls throwing White Claws at each other might have a similar upshot, but I’m certainly not going to watch that shit to find out.)

Here are 13 recent comedies to stream right now, ranging from the truly stupid to the deceptively dumb-but-subliminally-genius. Or you could just binge the entirety of Friends on HBO Max—you choose your own brain-removal machine. (Cue The Cult riff.)

Alone Together (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Before the #AloneTogether hashtag became a pandemic thing, there was Alone Together, a 2018 comedy about platonic besties trying (barely) to make it in Hollywood. Esther (Esther Povitsky) and Benji (Benji Aflalo) aren’t gorgeous, ambitious or even of average height, but their L.A. self-absorption is hilariously on point, and the millennial jabs are knowing, not scathing.

Broke (Season 1 on CBS and CBS All Access): New CBS comedy Broke debuted just in time for Lockdown 2020 in April—captive audience, literally. The story of obnoxious, destitute relatives moving in is nothing new, but stars Pauley Perrette and Natasha Leggero put a slyly fresh spin on salty-to-sweet sister relationships. The real scene-stealers here are Jaime Camil and Izzy Diaz, often in Spanish (sorry, gringos).

Beef House (Season 1 on Adult Swim): You never know what you’ll get from Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim—well, you kinda do, but not really. Beef House is a twisted ’80s sitcom send-up with no love for the genre; T&E deconstruct and destroy it, then build fresh gonzo laughs on the ashes. It’s Full House, but with five middle-aged dudes of questionable origin, which makes as much sense as Full House.

Three Busy Debras (Season 1 on Adult Swim): A trio of suburban housewives—all named Debra and dressed in white—take the surrealism of Beef House, crank it to 11, and rip the knob off. The Three Busy Debras’ misadventures swing wildly from cutely odd to disturbingly dark—straight-up murdering a dude in the first episode, and stuffing him into a purse. (It’s a big purse.) Watch Three Busy Debras, or they’ll “have your tubes tied!”

Dave (Season 1 on FXX and Hulu): YouTube rapper Lil Dicky (Dave Burd) stars as Dave, a 30-something white Jewish rapper who believes he’s the new Kanye West—the old one’s wearing thin, so why not? Dave could have been annoying AF, but the series’ clever writing and Burd’s chill delivery make for an absurdist look at coming up in indie hip-hop. Hell, Justin Bieber and Macklemore make appearances.

Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens (Season 1 on Comedy Central): Awkwafina’s semi-autobiographical series about growing up in Queens, N.Y., arrived to little media noise for a Golden Globe-winning actress running her own show on little ol’ Comedy Central. As stoner-slacker Nora, she’s the Broad City duo wrapped into a single manic package, with brilliant ensemble support from Lori Tan Chinn (Grandma) and BD Wong (dad Wally).

Brews Brothers (Season 1 on Netflix): Brews Brothers is produced by one of the minds from bro-comedy The League, and it shows—it’s like a pilsner-and-pork-tacos pairing of The League and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s not as sharp as either of those, but Brews Brothers, about antagonistic siblings running a Van Nuys brewpub, still delivers laughs. See: a hefeweizen unwittingly named “Weiss Power.”

What We Do in the Shadows (Seasons 1-2 on FX and Hulu): Far from “dumb,” What We Do in the Shadows (based on the 2014 movie) is the smartest comedy ever about supernatural dummies. Staten Island vampire roommates Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Nandor (Kayvan Novak) have been around for centuries, but learned apparently nothing—very ’Merican. Silly with a capital “SSSSS!”

Bless This Mess (Seasons 1-2 on ABC and Hulu): Frazzled New Yorkers Mike (Dax Shepard) and Rio (Lake Bell) move to a rundown Nebraska farm; Green Acres-esque wackiness ensues. However, Bless This Mess doesn’t condescend to the county folk, and the solid cast (which includes vets like Pam Grier and Ed Begley Jr.) serves up laughs warmer than a window-sill pie. Way better than flyover-state bait like The Conners.

The Detour (Seasons 1-4 on Hulu): Over four seasons, The Detour evolved from a National Lampoon’s Vacation-like family road-trip farce into a multilayered comic thriller with disparate angles and hidden agendas—but still never went too “thinky.” Nate (Jason Jones) and Robin (Natalie Zea) have secrets from each other, and their preteen kids, and the consequences get weirder (and funnier) by the season.  

Documentary Now! (Seasons 1-2 on Netflix): Before Bill Hader struck critical gold with HBO’s Barry, he and Fred Armisen created Documentary Now!, a fake PBS-style doc series that allowed them to play a feral variety of characters. Documentary Now! parodies everything from Vice News to Stop Making Sense to Grey Gardens, but with an attention to detail that belies the ridiculousness. All this, and host Helen Mirren (!).

The Other Two (Season 1 on Comedy Central): After years of showbiz struggle and failure, siblings Cary (Drew Tarver) and Brooke (Helene Yorke) are suddenly eclipsed by the overnight viral-video stardom their 13-year-old brother Chase (Case Walker). The twist: Chase is a sweet kid, and The Other Two zigs when expected to zag at every turn. It’s a hysterical takedown of insta-celebrity culture that also stans the fun side.

Tacoma FD (Seasons 1-2 on TruTV): Super Troopers, but firefighters—that’s Tacoma FD, created by and starring Troopers Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme. The raunch is dialed back for basic cable, but the idiotic antics and glorious moustaches are in full bro-tastic effect. Tacoma FD is proudly D-U-M-B, but earns its laughs through sheer commitment—and yes, of course there’s a weed-dispensary fire.

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Britney Ever After (Saturday, Feb. 18, Lifetime), movie: Britney Spears is a decent pop icon. She barely contributed to the writing of her own music; her singing is at maybe a semi-pro karaoke level; and her attempts at being “edgy” and the perpetual “comebacks” are as laughable as they are tiresome. But! To a generation of young women, Spears is still as important as Madonna was a decade prior. (Side note: Madge, it’s time to give it up … seriously.) A Lifetime biopic was inevitable, so here’s Britney Ever After, a cheap flick that stinks of rush-job non-urgency and, blech, Canada. (Production began just five months ago in Vancouver.) Since Spears’ entire life and career have been over-documented in the media, there are no new revelations in Britney Ever After other than a sad reminder that Kevin Federline was once a thing.

The Good Fight (Sunday, Feb. 19, CBS), series debut: “Remember how great The Good Wife was? Wasn’t Julianna Margulies awesome? And Archie Panjabi, Alan Cumming, Josh Charles and Jeffrey Dean Morgan? So how about a spinoff with none of those stars, on a pay-per-stream platform you’ve never heard of? Here’s The Good Fight!” CBS’ $5.99/$9.99-per-month All Access streamer was supposed to be good ’n’ launched by now with Star Trek Discovery, but that’s been pushed back to a star date in a galaxy far, far away. The Good Fight finds Wife attorney Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) starting over at another Chicago law firm and … I’m already asleep. Regular TV is already clogged up with legal dramas and Chicago procedurals; no one needs to pay extra for another.

Big Little Lies (Sunday, Feb. 19, HBO), series debut: Writer/producer David E. Kelley came back hard last year with Amazon Prime’s Goliath, a standard legal drama juiced with tight scripting and star power. Big Little Lies doubles down on the big names (Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley, among several others), if not the writing; this could have easily been condensed from a seven-hour nonsensical series into a 90-minute nonsensical movie. The pretty, rich white folk of pretty, rich Monterey and their pretty, rich white kids at pretty, rich Otter Bay Elementary are embroiled in a who-among-us-done-it? murder mystery, impacting their daily lives of back-biting, gossiping and screwing (the parents, not the kiddies), and … who cares? The actors work their tiny, toned asses off, but Kelley’s cliché-soaked plot devices can’t be overcome.

Billions (Sunday, Feb. 19, Showtime), season premiere: The battle between semi-shady New York hedge-fund billionaire Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and frothily dogged U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) continues—cue the all-caps ACTING! Billions is dropping its second season of Big Money v. Big Law in a real-life political climate with eerie mirrors, though Bobby may not be as untouchable as the Cheeto-in-Chief: Chuck now has a smarter game plan in mind, while Bobby’s longtime ally—and Chuck’s wife—Wendy (Maggie Siff) has walked away from the men’s Season 1 wreckage, and Bobby’s heretofore loyal wife, Lara (Malin Akerman), might be next. It’s a soapy, twisting power struggle that, while not quite as unpredictable as current reality, digs its hooks in hard.

The Detour (Tuesday, Feb. 21, TBS), season premiere: In its debut season last year, The Detour took its National Lampoon’s Vacation inspiration and exploded it into countless directions over 10 half-hours as new weirdness about harried couple Nate and Robin (Jason Jones and Natalie Zea) was revealed in every episode. The road trip may be over, but Season 2 builds on last year’s cliffhanger revelation about Robin’s mysterious past by moving the family to Manhattan and introducing a new crop of guest stars to clash against (including John Oliver, Laura Benanti, James Cromwell and Jones’ wife/Detour co-creator Samantha Bee). I’ve already repeatedly told you to Hulu Season 1 … and now I am again.

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May is mostly a dead zone of season finales and reruns as TV gears up for the summer. (There’s no off-season anymore; get used to it.) But! Remember all those shows I’ve told you to watch harder in this very column? You know, the shows that are all readily available in various on-demand forms? Now’s the time to catch up! Here’s 12 to start with:

Wynonna Earp (Syfy): Wynonna Earp (Melanie Scrofano) is a modern-day descendent of Old West gunslinger Wyatt Earp, who was also a supernatural demon hunter (just roll with it), and she’s back in town to re-smite evil souls (or Revenants). It’s all true enough to the comic-book source, and Scrofano is a likable combo of badass and goofball.

Orphan Black (BBC America): In Season 4 of tense clone-soap Orphan Black, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) investigates Beth, the deceased sister-clone whose identity she stole at the beginning of the series, as well as the origins of the clone conspiracy. Also, there are more clones, upping Maslany’s character load for the season to eight (and still no Emmy).

Hap and Leonard (Sundance): Hap and Leonard is a six-episode tale about ’80s Texans Hap (James Purefoy) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams), a pair of luckless laborers dragged into a get-rich-suspiciously-easy scheme by Hap’s ex-wife (Christina Hendricks). The plan soon spirals into a cacophony of conflicting agendas and colorful characters, with Fargo-like comic-to-violent jolts.

Idiotsitter (Comedy Central): An unemployed Ivy Leaguer (Charlotte Newhouse) takes a baby-sitting job—but the “baby” turns out to be an adult wild-child heiress (Jillian Bell) under house arrest. As the series progresses (or regresses), it’s clear that Bell and Newhouse can do stoopid repartee almost as well as the Broad City ladies. All this, and a Channing Tatum cameo!

Baskets (FX): Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis), having flunked out of a prestigious French clown academy, returns to uncultured ’Merica to be a rodeo clown—and then it gets weird. (Chip’s mom is Louie Anderson in drag, for just one example.) Baskets is a funny-to-sad-to-funnier-to-sadder commentary on artistic failure and Western decline, but don’t be afraid.

Better Call Saul (AMC): Better Call Saul continues to be a minor-miracle follow-up to, and expansion on, Breaking Bad in a flawless second season, further transforming small-time lawyer Slippin’ Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) into medium-time legal shark Saul Goodman. Even better, Rhea Seehorn, Michael McKean and Jonathan Banks get equal time to shine.

Banshee (Cinemax): Season 4 will be the last for this gritty slice of Amish-country crime noir, so there’s hope for eventually catching up on Banshee. The twisted tale of an ex-con/thief (Antony Starr) who assumes the identity of Sheriff Lucas Hood in the small town of Banshee, Pa., has taken many a bizarre turn, but the outcome is always the same (and bloody).

Vinyl (HBO): Vinyl is as excessive and beautiful as you’d expect a collaboration between Martin Scorsese, Terence Winter and Mick Jagger to be, mixing Almost Famous’ music-saves earnestness with Velvet Goldmine’s visceral glam bombast and Boogie Nights’ druggy chaos—and cranking it to 11 in 1974 NYC. It’s not perfect, but neither is rock ’n’ roll.

The Detour (TBS): Jason Jones (The Daily Show) and Natalie Zea (Justified) star as harried parents on a family road-trip where everything that could possibly go wrong does—spectacularly. Sound like National Lampoon’s Vacation? It is, but far funnier than last year’s limp Vacation reboot—and usually dramatic Zea is a comedic revelation.

Billions (Showtime): Damian Lewis (as a charismatic hedge-fund billionaire) and Paul Giamatti (as a troubled U.S. attorney) churn bluster and testosterone Acting! against each other, but they’re not Billions’ most interesting players: Maggie Siff, as a psychiatrist-turned-performance-coach with an invisible, spooky command, could lead this series on her own.

Teachers (TV Land): Teachers is a part of TV Land’s makeover from reheated sitcom repository to smart comedy destination, and six-woman improv troupe The Katydids (their first names are all variations on “Katherine”) gender-flip Super Troopers into an elementary school, dosed with Broad City’s fearless, vanity-free pursuit of so-wrong laughs.

Not Safe With Nikki Glaser (Comedy Central): Comic Nikki Glaser gets right down to topics like “losing your virginity, masturbation and putting stuff in your butt!” Not Safe is a sex-and-relationships talk show with fellow-comedian gab and pre-taped bits—it’s been done before, but Glaser has the smarts and presence to rise to the level of Amy Schumer.

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The Girlfriend Experience (Sunday, April 10, Starz), series debut: No Starz series has ever arrived with as much critic-melting Prestige Television pageantry as The Girlfriend Experience: The 13-episode series is produced by Steven Soderbergh (and based on his 2009 movie of the same name); it’s written and directed by a pair of indie filmmakers; it stars the granddaughter of Elvis Presley (Riley Keough, Mad Max: Fury Road); and it and premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Keough plays a law-firm intern who moonlights as a high-priced escort with occasional bouts of self-awareness and humanity. The Girlfriend Experience looks like Soderbergh’s film—natural lighting is always a giveaway—but packs more story (and sex) into its taut, 30-minute episodes. Just don’t expect much cutesy comedy à la Secret Diary of a Call Girl—this Experience is serious business.

Fear the Walking Dead (Sunday, April 10, AMC), season premiere: Good news/bad news if you’re among the non-whiners who are onboard with The Walking Dead’s sorta-prequel, Fear the Walking Dead: Season 2 will feature more than twice as many episodes as the first, but it will also be “split” (ugh), with the first half running through May, and the second airing “later in 2016” (presumably August, leading up to TWD proper in October). When last we left the Los Angeles residents living among the still-fresh dead of the early Z-pocalypse, they were prepping to escape “the infected” (West Coast for “walker”) by yachting into the Pacific Ocean— setting up a perfect confluence of Yacht Rock, horror and Styx’s “Come Sail Away,” if the producers would just listen to me. Season 2 promises to still pile on the family drama (a sticking point with the whiners), if not give a glimpse of what’s going on in the rest of the world and/or the swimming prowess of zombies.

Dice (Sunday, April 10, Showtime), series debut: George Lopez’s new semi-real-days-in-the-life-of-a-comedian series Lopez was a pleasant surprise that no one thought to ask for, but it turned out to be a worthy addition to the Curb Your Enthusiasm/Louie/Maron family of doc-coms. Andrew “Dice” Clay’s new Dice comes to similarly low, why-is-this-a-thing? expectations … and you’re right! So, so right. Sure, Clay recently redeemed himself somewhat in the role of an insufferable blowhard on HBO’s Vinyl, but that ended with (Spoiler Alert!) his skull being bashed in; unless Dice’s six episodes culminate in the same fate for the real-life insufferable blowhard … pass. Like the Las Vegas suburbs where the show is set, Dice sad, dry and wasting space on prime real estate. Why not hand one of these shows to comic from this century?

Hunters (Monday, April 11, Syfy), series debut: The best current aliens-among-us sci-fi series isn’t even on Syfy—it’s Colony, on cable cousin USA. Hunters is a passable consolation prize with considerable cred: It’s based Whitley Strieber’s Alien Hunter novels, and the series is produced by Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead) and written by Natalie Chaidez (Syfy’s 12 Monkeys). When his wife disappears mysteriously, FBI agent Flynn Carroll (Nathan Phillips) joins a covert government organization, the Exo-Terrorism Unit, that tracks and fights alien terrorists. (Why yes, there is a strained allegory to earthly terrorism afoot—thanks for asking.) Apart from one truly inspired bit of product placement—the aliens commute via secret messages though Spotify!—there’s not much to distinguish Hunters from other Spacemen What Look Like Us generica of years past. And, for the record, I prefer Slacker Radio.

The Detour (Monday, April 11, TBS), series debut: TBS has been previewing The Detour so hard that it feels like the season’s already happened—it hasn’t, right? Experiencing some Angie Tribeca déjà vu here. Anyway: The Detour stars Jason Jones (The Daily Show, The Night Before) and Natalie Zea (Justified, The Following) as harried parents on a family road-trip where everything that could possibly (and impossibly) go wrong for them and the kids does, spectacularly. Sound like National Lampoon’s Vacation? It is, just doled out in weekly half-hours, all of which are far funnier than last year’s limp Vacation reboot. In particular, Zea is a minor comic revelation now that she’s not playing her usual role an endangered ex-wife—more of an endangered current wife, but hilariously.

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