The best TV comedies on Amazon Prime

Images from The Office, Fleabag, A Different World, Community, and Scrubs
Clockwise, from left: The Office (Screenshot), Fleabag (Photo: Amazon Studios), A Different World (Screenshot), Community (Photo: NBC), Scrubs (Screenshot)

Streaming libraries expand and contract. Algorithms are imperfect. Those damn thumbnail images are always changing. But you know what you can always rely on? The expert opinions and knowledgeable commentary of The A.V. Club. That’s why we’re scouring both the menus of the most popular services and our own archives to bring you these guides to the best viewing options, broken down by streamer, medium, and genre. Want to know why we’re so keen on a particular title? Follow the links for some in-depth coverage from The A.V. Club’s past. And be sure to check back often, because we’ll be adding more recommendations as series come and go.

For this edition, we look at the best TV comedies on Amazon Prime—which, given the acclaimed likes of Fleabag and Catastrophe and the sorely underrated Red Oaks, Mozart In The Jungle, and One Mississippi, has always the strongest suit of the streamer’s original programming. If you’re looking for more viewing options, here’s a list of the best TV dramas now streaming on Amazon Prime, and another of the best sci-fi, fantasy, and horror shows—we’ve got some picks for the service’s best movie offerings, too.

Managing editor, The A.V. Club

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2 / 19

30 Rock

30 Rock

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Screenshot: 30 Rock

The further away television gets from 30 Rock’s time on the air, the more prescient the sitcom becomes—especially when it comes to all things NBC. Which is maybe the last thing anyone would’ve thought when it first premiered, compared to the series that was supposed to succeed, Aaron Sorkin’s funny-for-the-wrong-reasons Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. However, Tina Fey’s absurd and quick-witted comedy lasted for seven seasons, created a television legacy, and spawned a comedic style and sensibility that made shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and (the woefully underrated) Great News work. It also left us with the greatest life advice possible: “Never follow a hippie to a second location.” [LaToya Ferguson]

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3 / 19

Absolutely Fabulous

Absolutely Fabulous

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Photo: BBC America

Seinfeld gets a lot of credit for being “the show about nothing,” but not much happened during Absolutely Fabulous’ multi-decade TV run, either. Generally, PR agent Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and her ambiguously employed yet exceedingly well-connected pal Patsy (Joanna Lumley) would get into some sort of pill-and-booze-fueled trouble, make complete fools of themselves, and learn nothing because Edina’s daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha), was always there to bail them out. Ridiculous outfits were worn, backhanded compliments were exchanged, and a drunken good time was had by all. [Katie Rife]

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4 / 19

The Addams Family

The Addams Family

Illustration for article titled The best TV comedies on Amazon Prime
Photo: Hulton Archive (Getty Images)

Well before superheroes became a primetime staple, television had a relationship with the funny papers. During the heyday of the Big Three networks, comics were a source of inspiration as viable as any other printed medium, with Blondie, Dennis The Menace, and Hazel all making the leap to the small screen alongside literary short subjects like Dobie Gillis and Mister Ed. These strips brought with them built-in audiences and standing casts of characters—but in the case of one comics-to-TV adaptation, all it took to sell the project was an evocative look. Producer David Levy famously pitched The Addams Family on the basis of a single image: The cover of the Charles Addams collection Homebodies, a tableau essentially recreated for the series’ opening sequence.

Expressive as Addams’ New Yorker cartoons remain to this day, the single-panel illustrations didn’t present much in the way of stories to be converted into 30-minute scripts. They provided a mood, a look, and a macabre sense of humor (but not character names, which would become Addams’ sole contribution to his namesake show), all of which provided a properly gothic frame for stock sitcom plots of the era. But the novelty of the presentation and the characters’ pen-and-ink roots make an Addams Family take on a cartoonish sitcom trope preferable to practically any other comedy’s version. [Erik Adams]

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5 / 19

Catastrophe

Catastrophe

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Screenshot: Amazon

[The 2010s] was a decade filled with “anti-rom-coms”—darkly shaded dramedies that have honestly and often hilariously depicted the exhausting grind of couplehood. In Catastrophe, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney play strangers who become life partners, after one night of passion makes them accidental parents. As these two deeply broken people adjust to each other’s flaws, Horgan and Delaney express something profound about how life is often just a series of mistakes: sometimes devastating, sometimes fortuitous. [Noel Murray]

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6 / 19

Community (coming November 8)

Community (coming November 8)

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Photo: NBC

It can be easy to forget how great Community was. The off-screen accounts that plagued the show during its run—threats of cancellations due to underwhelming ratings, ousted and re-hired showrunners, unruly/exiting stars, dysfunctional writers’ rooms, Yahoo! Screen—often overshadowed its on-screen greatness, shifting the narrative surrounding the show from one about its genre-jumping, cultishly adored “anything goes” attitude toward ensemble comedy to one about beating the odds and constantly fighting for survival (Dan Harmon and his team of writers, ever the fans of meta-commentary, undoubtedly leaned into that narrative). Either way, Community remains a seminal piece of television, one that embraced absurdity, parody, and drama equally and influenced the sitcom landscape of the 2010s along the way. [Baraka Kaseko]

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7 / 19

Cougar Town

Cougar Town

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Photo: TBS

At the center of what is affectionately known as the “Cul-de-sac Crew” (named for the enclave in which many of the show’s characters live) is Jules Cobb (Courteney Cox), who at the start of the show is a recently divorced mother. Co-creators Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel initially conceived the show as a star vehicle for Cox after coming up with the title as a gag inside the writer’s room of Scrubs. But attempts to make the show work as a literal interpretation of the title yielded instantly unsatisfying results. Only by repositioning the series as a meditation on adult friendship (and copious amounts of wine) did it start to find itself. [Ryan McGee]

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8 / 19

Coupling

Coupling

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Screenshot: Coupling

Six thirtysomething Londoners examine the steamy side of relationships in a show that’s like one of those innumerable Friends clones launched in the States in the ’90s, except, you know, good. Many on this side of the pond may only know Coupling from the deplorable American remake. Wipe the horrific memory of that sinking ship from the mind and embrace this witty, wonderful series. The show started out examining the relationship between Steve (based on show creator and writer Steven Moffat) and Susan (based on Moffat’s wife, producer Sue Vertue) and eventually branched out to develop an even more interesting relationship between self-deprecating Sally and arrogant Patrick. Sure, it’s reminiscent of Friends, but Coupling is a bit darker, and usually delves more deeply into sex than romance. Fans of How I Met Your Mother will appreciate the show’s experiments with concurrent plotlines and flashbacks. [Gwen Ihnat]

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9 / 19

A Different World

A Different World

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Screenshot: A Different World

A Different World was immune to the adverse effects of introducing serious topics into a sitcom because with Hillman [College] as its backdrop, it lived up to its title. The show’s unique environment was unfamiliar to many viewers and was ideally conducive to topical episodes. College is about students feeling out their identities, challenging their most closely held beliefs, and exploring new ways of looking at the world. It’s also the time when kids get their first intoxicating taste of freedom, and enough latitude to make consequential mistakes. Those universal dynamics have contours all their own for students at historically Black colleges. When students choose a college like Hillman, that’s a political statement in itself, a commitment to shaping and refining a Black identity and immersing themselves in Black culture. With those students as television characters, solemn topics can be gracefully folded into stories and dialogue without a speed bump. A Different World isn’t one of history’s funniest sitcoms, but it’s certainly one of the most revolutionary, and a rare example of a sitcom that works as a vessel for even the thorniest of ideas. [Joshua Alston]

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10 / 19

Fleabag

Fleabag

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Photo: Amazon Studios

We’ll be the first to admit it: We just like it when Phoebe Waller-Bridge looks at us. As Fleabag, her sly, knowing glances to the camera make you feel like you’re in on something; they’re also integral to understanding the series’ debaucherous, sardonic, and ultimately anguished title character. In the first season, Fleabag’s wry asides emphasize her loneliness and guilt—she turns to the audience because her best friend is dead. In the second, her glimpses act as release valves when Andrew Scott’s Hot Priest digs too deep into her feelings. It’s all about looking and being recognized and how it can be scarier for another person to really see you than no one at all. [Laura Adamczyk]

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11 / 19

Green Acres

Green Acres

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Screenshot: Green Acres

Veteran Hollywood character actor Eddie Albert stars in Green Acres as Oliver Wendell Douglas, a New York attorney who experiences what later generations would dub a “midlife crisis,” which stirs him to buy a farm in a hick haven named Hooterville. Flamboyant Hungarian celebrity Eva Gabor plays Oliver’s wife Lisa, a flighty socialite who at first protests the move, but ultimately seems more at home with the oddballs of Hooterville than Oliver ever does in any of the show’s six seasons. Early in season one, Green Acres is fairly closely tied to Petticoat Junction, and even follows something like a serialized structure, showing the Douglas’ adjustment to country living. The couple buys a dilapidated farmhouse, hires gawky, childlike live-in handyman Eb Dawson (played by Tom Lester), and meets a progression of unhelpful local businessmen and bureaucrats, as [creator Jay] Sommers and his head writer Dick Chevillat carefully build the world of Hooterville, episode by episode and kink by kink.

By the second season, though, Green Acres’ gentle wackiness evolved into outright lunacy. Witness the opening of the episode “I Didn’t Raise My Pig To Be A Soldier” (which aired early in season two, on Sept. 28, 1966). While Oliver works on his busted tractor—in a dress shirt, vest, and tie, as always—Lisa comes out of the house to ask him for a favor, but both of them keep getting distracted by the show’s credits, which are popping up in front of their eyes. (Meanwhile, the cartoon cornpone bounce of Vic Mizzy’s score keeps humming merrily in the background.)

That opening scene gives a good sense of Green Acres’ overall sense of humor, as well as what kept the show grounded. There are outlandish gags, such as the way the wheels fall off the tractor every time Lisa points at them; and there are verbal gags, such as the way Oliver makes fun of Lisa for saying “shtuck” instead of “stuck.” But there’s also an appealingly flirty give-and-take between the two leads, who at the time were one of the friskiest couples on the tube—even sharing a bed before that became commonplace. [Noel Murray]

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12 / 19

The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis

The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis

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Screenshot: The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis

Quoth the theme song: “Dobie wants a little cutie / Dobie wants a little beauty / Dobie wants a gal to call his own.” Dwayne Hickman plays the eponymous lover boy, a TV everyman for the ages who busted down the fourth wall nearly three decades before Ferris Bueller invited moviegoers to play hooky. Eternally at his side are the characters who’d eventually upstage the program’s nominal star: unshaven jazzbo Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver) and the one girl who’ll give Dobie the time of day, pesky know-it-all Zelda Gilroy (Sheila James Kuehl). Max Shulman didn’t invent the myth of the American teenager when he introduced Dobie in a series of short stories. Still, the TV series based on those stories went a long way toward defining the type: heartsick, strapped for cash, and so willing to find an identity that they’d join the army for the better part of a season. Dobie also portrays the adolescence of the TV sitcom, indulging in flights of fancy that move away from the stage-bound realism of ’50s comedies without lapsing into the full-blown fantasies that defined the genre in the ’60s. It’s no longer considered daring to feature a beatnik in primetime, but the playfulness of Dobie Gillis keeps the show vital as ever. [Erik Adams]

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13 / 19

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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Photo: Sarah Shatz/Amazon Video

Premiering in 2017 on Amazon Prime, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel mixes fantastical ideas and historical accuracy in its portrayal of New York City in the late ’50s. Rachel Brosnahan nails it as Midge Maisel, a self-possessed Jewish-American woman entering the male-dominated world of comedy with raunchy humor and astute self-jabs. The quick-witted, big-hearted show was the first streaming series to win Outstanding Comedy at the Emmys, proving it couldn’t have been written by anyone but Amy Sherman-Palladino. [Angelica Cataldo]

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14 / 19

Mozart In The Jungle

Mozart In The Jungle

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Photo: Sarah Shatz

Mozart In The Jungle spent its entire four-season run blithely moving to its own beat, shifting TV landscape be damned. The Amazon dramedy explored the world of classical music, and the ongoing clash between tradition and innovation therein. That struggle afforded the exceptional cast, including Malcolm McDowell, Bernadette Peters, and Saffron Burrows, much to work with. But Mozart was often at its most captivating when it focused on the harmonizing going on between the roguish Rodrigo (Gael García Bernal) and grasping Hailey (Lola Kirke). [Danette Chavez]

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15 / 19

The Office (U.K.)

The Office (U.K.)

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Screenshot: The Office

The Office is the most influential TV comedy of the last 10 years and probably the most influential TV comedy since Seinfeld. You could make an argument for Friends or Arrested Development or the U.S. remake of the show or even Everybody Loves Raymond, but most of those shows were reacting to Seinfeld or trying to ape what made this show so great. In just 14 episodes, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant took the standard workplace sitcom—full of will-they/won’t-they romances and wacky hijinks—and brought it slightly more down to Earth. They brought cringe humor into the TV mainstream in a big way. They invented a set of characters that resonated from the very first episode, and they create a full story that leaves at just the right point in time—twice. [Emily VanDerWerff]

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16 / 19

One Mississippi

One Mississippi

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Photo: Amazon Studios

The burgeoning subgenre that critic Matt Zoller Seitz recently dubbed “comedy in theory”—half-hour TV programs that aim for the heart and gut as often as the funny bone—has so far tackled mental illness, addiction, gender identity, systemic oppression, and abduction. Telling the story of a dysfunctional family dealing with the passing of its matriarch (among other traumas), Amazon’s One Mississippi adds “grief and grieving” to that list of not-just-for-dramas-anymore topics. Based in part on the life of comedian Tig Notaro (who co-created the series with Diablo Cody), that gauntlet should be familiar to anyone who’s followed Notaro’s career since the celebrated performance that became her 2012 album, Live. [Erik Adams]

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17 / 19

Red Oaks

Red Oaks

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Photo: Amazon Studios

Red Oaks works best as someone’s reconstructed memories of a time that didn’t really happen. The 1980s weren’t a John Hughes movie, but they weren’t David Meyers’ (Craig Roberts) summer at Red Oaks Country Club, either, and neither of those things is a 100 percent accurate depiction of what it’s like to be young at any point in history. The truth lies somewhere in between, in the ineffable elements that Red Oaks absolutely nails. The show takes place in a world where lives are as planned out as a country club’s summer itinerary, but it’s smart enough to see through that illusion. Growing up isn’t a progression from childhood to adolescence to college to marriage and beyond—and Red Oaks acknowledges this, by placing its wedding episode before the bar mitzvah one. And even after that, David has some maturing to do. [Erik Adams]

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18 / 19

Scrubs (coming November 14)

Scrubs (coming November 14)

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Screenshot: Scrubs

Nineteen years since it debuted, it seems clear that Scrubs is a pivotal show in recent television history, even if it lacks the lasting popularity of The Simpsons or the acclaim of Arrested Development, two shows it bridged to a certain extent. The show was set at the Sacred Heart teaching hospital, and mostly followed a group of medical interns—referred to as “scrubs” because of their uniforms—as they struggled to put their newly completed education to use. Zach Braff, in his breakout role, starred as John “J.D.” Dorian, a competent doctor, goofball, and extremely emotional guy. J.D. forms relationships of desperate intensity with everyone around him: best friend and surgeon Turk (Donald Faison), professional rival and on again/off again love interest Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke), and most intensely, chief resident Perry Cox (John C. McGinley), who J.D. makes a mentor and father figure over Cox’s overwhelming opposition. (J.D. can’t do this all on his own—he’s no Superman.) Surrounding them are nurse Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes), who’s the hospital’s most efficient employee; Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), Sacred Heart’s penny-pinching and gleefully dickish chief of medicine; and an unnamed janitor (Neil Flynn) with an unwavering and mostly undeserved grudge toward J.D. [Ryan Vlastelica]

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19 / 19

Managing editor, The A.V. Club