Q. Thanks for recommending “Ted Lasso.” It was a treat, and the perfect escape from the state of the world. Can you recommend some good comedies that are similarly positive?
A. Just so you know, Apple TV+ has already renewed “Ted Lasso” for two seasons. But in the meantime, there are comedies to recommend that tend more toward the positive end of the spectrum, by which I mean they don’t fully rely on cynical humor and moral bankruptcy like, say, “Arrested Development,” “Veep,” “The Comeback,” or “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” I like both the dark, sarcastic comedies and the sunnier ones, too, but at this moment in history I completely understand your hunger for the latter. Indeed, if it’s pure positivity you want, and you’re willing to take on a drama, and you haven’t seen it yet, then watch “Friday Night Lights,” which features a similarly inspiring coach. It’s a show that isn’t dragged down by its hardcore sincerity, even if that same sincerity probably didn’t help it in the ratings.
“Ted Lasso” is fairly unique, but a few positive comedy titles that instantly come to mind are probably already known to you. “Parks and Recreation” on Peacock and Hulu is certainly rooted in optimism, and Leslie Knope’s resilience, along with another Michael Schur sitcom, NBC’s still-airing, fast-paced “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” on Hulu. “Schitt’s Creek,” on Netflix, has been a binge favorite this year for its inherent faith in people’s ultimate goodness. And Amazon’s “Catastrophe,” which is, like “Ted Lasso,” set in England, also has a affirmative message when it comes to overcoming the challenges presented by monogamy, sobriety, culture clash, sex, and romance. I’ve recommended it many times in these pages, and will do so again.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first two seasons of “Master of None,” the Netflix series from Aziz Ansari (whose third season was recently announced). Along with Alan Yang, Ansari created a charming portrait of a struggling Indian-American actor looking for love and good food in NYC. It’s rich in character depth, narrative experimentation, and what it means to have integrity in a world woefully short on it. Also about integrity: “Sports Night,” Aaron Sorkin’s two-season half-hour comedy (now on Amazon) about the creative people trying to produce a top-notch TV show without succumbing to network compromises.
Is “Better Things,” still airing on FX and available to stream on Hulu, a positive series? Yes, it is, even while it can be hauntingly bittersweet. Pamela Adlon, who stars, writes, and directs, delivers an homage to single parenthood, to aging gracefully and wisely, and to raising and being a powerful woman. Built on small moments that accumulate into revelations, “Better Things” is inspirational and well worth your time. “The Kominsky Method” on Netflix — whose third and final season is due this year — is also about aging gracefully, with Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin (who won’t be in season 3) trying to become adults during their — dare I say it? — senior years. Likewise, Ricky Gervais’ likable “After Life” on Netflix is about a despairing widower growing up — and finding a reason to live — before it’s too late.
“Broad City,” a love letter to living in New York in your 20s, is endearing and joyous and never fails to make me smile. Now streaming on Hulu, it manages to be simultaneously juvenile and wise. TBS’s “The Last O.G.,” on Netflix, is a warm-hearted treat, if you like Tracy Morgan. Co-created by Jordan Peele, it stars Morgan as a guy who gets out of prison after serving 15 years on a drug charge. He goes back to a changed Brooklyn and a changed former girlfriend, played by Tiffany Haddish. He lives in a halfway house while trying to glue together his broken world. And finally, I’ll mention an Amazon comedy called “Upload” that is set in a future when you can live forever in a virtual afterlife. It’s light-hearted, witty when it comes to the near future, and positive, I think, in its respect for true love.