The best comedy on television at the moment is Parks and Recreation.
Here's why others aren't.
Community is too inconsistent.
Two and Half Men, Big Bang Theory or other Channel 9 dross isn't funny.
Arrested Development is too niche.
Modern Family is...
...well, actually, pause on Modern Family. Modern Family matches up with a lot of essential television comedy criteria. It has to be consistent. It has to have accessible, deeply compelling characters. It has to be funny. It has to be able to be watched by most age groups without too much hassle. Modern Family ticks all of these boxes.
Television comedy is the backbone of Americacna Primetime viewing. My adolescence was shaped by Friends, Seinfeld and Will & Grace, not to mention re-runs of 30 Rock From the Sun and Murphy Brown. Then of course there's the Brits. An important key to my relationship with my parents was a mutual love of The Good Life, The Vicar of Dibley and many others.
To get this fine science right is a difficult task. Modern Family is a fantastic example of a tightly written ensemble show. It's the 21st century evolution of classics such as All In the Family. What pushes Parks and Recreation over the line is it's flexibility. Modern Family is always going to have a formula, a set of emotional beats that it hits within each episode. Parks and Recreation has more freedom to hit broader, more satirical notes. It often feels sharper, more intelligent, without ever sacrificing its compelling humanity.
Where Modern Family has grown to smooth over its quirkier characters to more humanised voices (think of Cam in the early episodes of the show and how much calmer he is now), its stories are similarly restricted.Similar to Friends and Seinfeld, the show has also grown attached to its ensemble cast. The show would essentially be unable to continue if one of the adult performers left.
Not so for Parks and Recreation; the ever-changing line-up of supporting characters provides just the right balance of cartoon silliness and grounded humanity. In fact, all of the characters have taken on enlarged quirky behavior and quieter sentimentality, often in the same breath. It's never felt unbelievable or strange.
The shows governmental premise also allows plots to satire the American culture at large.Much like The Simpsons best episodes, Parks and Rec can move from domestic human drama to political harpooning with relative ease.
The show is now in its sixth season and at a curious cross-roads. Several long-term stars have vacated the series for stretches of eight or more episodes to pursue other opportunities. At the moment, the program hasn't suffered. In fact, smaller characters have been given more room to shine, but it's hard to ignore the fact that Parks and Rec isn't the show it was originally.
The tour de force behind it all is Amy Poehler, who was so long-deserving of that Golden Globe for her role it's a wonder she hasn't swept the category for years before. One predicts that when Poehler feels it's time to close up, the series will end. She's currently the only cast member who could stop the show from running by her absence.
The show's consistency, and it's intensely likeable ensemble cast of characters, make Parks and Recreation a winner. It hasn't broken through the bubble in the same way as others, but represents an important piece of television that pays respects to television comedy's essential roots.