Co-Winner: The Colbert Report, Comedy Central
Who cares that the economic crisis is dragging the U.S. down, fast? It’s still a privilege to be part of Colbert Nation. At a time when the bar on political satire keeps rising, comedic genius Stephen Colbert continues to write the book on how to most effectively skewer our political and media mavens. He’s assisted by some of the industry’s best scribes and often his willing and able guests, and he gets at least one vote as funniest man on television. We delight in his rapid-fire, razor-sharp wit, as demonstrated in his recent comparison of each presidential hopeful to a Shakespearean character. Extra credit: Who’s Macbeth and who’s Hamlet?
Co-Winner: 10 Items or Less, TBS
We agree — TBS is very funny, indeed, as home base for this part-scripted/ part-improvised quirk of a show that invites us to declare with glee, "only on cable." We cringe and crack up watching the absurd, anti-PC antics of creator John Lehr’s small-town, small-minded indie grocery store owner Leslie Pool as he continually tries to do battle with the big chain across the street and boost employee morale. And the terrific ensemble cast of dysfunctional Greens & Grains clerks keeps the laughs coming. Season two highlights such as the employees’ keystone cops-like effort to foil an already bumbled robbery attempt or Pool challenging the new manager of the SuperValueMart to a joust on Renaissance Day place the series squarely between the best of slapstick and improvisation.
Flight of the Conchords, HBO: We’re hooked on the droll humor that’s interlaced with the everyday minutiae of real-life folk duo Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie’s somewhat fictionalized quest to prove they can indeed make it in New York.
Head Case, Starz: Witty, acerbic and decidedly not family-friendly, Head Case is a perfect example of a programmer realizing it’s on to something hilarious — the improv’d celebrity shrink sessions started life as a series of shorts — and running with it. We can’t wait for more couch time with Dr. Goode.
Monk, USA Network: When Monk reached its 100th episode this August with no signs of slowing down, we heaved a sigh of relief that Tony Shalhoub’s obsessive-compulsive sleuth really never will be able to get himself together enough to rejoin the SFPD. Thank goodness.
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Comedy Central: It’s not that we want the political commentary of Jon Stewart during an election year. It’s that we need the political commentary of Jon Stewart during an election year. Why else would so many of us claim to fill our news quotient from his show?
The Soup, E!: Zany recurring characters who weave in and out of biting commentary about the best celeb and television clips du jour? We’re all over that, especially when host Joel McHale ditches the script and delivers some juicy ad-libs.