Take a moment and think about the single-camera comedy series that are genuinely hilarious -- the ones that make you turn to your couch partner and ask, "Did they really just say that?" There's a good chance that you're now thinking of the stellar comedies on Showtime and HBO. Sure, Community is golden and New Girl has perfected its quirky appeal, but these six cable comedies prove that outside the confines of network television, the laughs are limitless.
The Office's Michael Scott has nothing on Kenny Powers; it doesn't get much more "limitless" than this. Though HBO's Eastbound aired its final episode this season, Danny McBride's mullet-sporting moron Kenny Powers has certainly made a name for himself among the ranks of iconically vulgar characters. My face blushes in embarrassment just thinking about some of the things that fall out of this guy's mouth, and with episodes directed by comedy veterans Adam McKay and David Gordon Green, Eastbound should deservedly enjoy a long life on DVD.
The Big C
Only on cable can you find a show that approaches a terminal melanoma diagnosis as realistically as possible while still remaining absolutely hilarious. Not to say that Showtime's The Big C and its star Laura Linney shy away from the tragic side of cancer; a box of tissues should always be kept close at hand while watching. But the show realizes that there is great comic potential in a woman abandoning her inhibitions and living life to the fullest during her last days, which is a topic you'd never see on the funny but safe Parks and Recreation and Modern Family.
Life's Too Short
Under the creative lens of Extras alumni Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Life's Too Short benefits from having no direct competition from the networks. What other show completely abandons the concept of political correctness and follows a dwarf (Warwick Davis, playing himself) and his day-to-day struggles with difficult tasks such as reaching doorknobs, snagging groceries from the top shelf and getting in and out of a car? Not only is Warwick vertically challenged, but he is also a narcissistic tool lost in the delusion of his pseudo-celebrity status -- the perfect recipe for a hysterical leading man.
Like many people out there, I hesitate to label Nurse Jackie as a true comedy, but I'll throw it on this list for two reasons: a) the show is truly great, and b) black comedy deserves its place in the sun. Edie Falco's fantastic turn as the crass-yet-empathetic Jackie has won our hearts (and an Emmy), reminding us that the best comedy comes from well-written characters and not the WILD AND WACKY situations of network TV.
House of Lies
Here we have the kind of series that didn't blow the roof off its competition in ratings, but deservedly earned its forthcoming second season with whip-smart writing and spot-on performances. Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell lead the cast of management consultants willing to lie, cheat and backstab their way to a closed case. No, not a one of these cutthroat businesspeople is necessarily likable, but that's what makes watching them so funny -- we're laughing at them, not with them. Oh, and make sure you have a bar of soap handy, because you may want to wash your own mouth out after a couple episodes.
How can I possibly include a show that hasn't aired a single episode, you may ask? Because based on the talent involved, Veep is guaranteed to be a winner. Co-written by Armando Iannucci and Simon Blackwell of The Thick of It and In the Loop fame, this political satire about a fictional and clueless U.S. vice president (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has already been dubbed hysterical by early viewers, and appears to be what The West Wing would look like if it kept its political edge and sharp wit but lost more than a few brain cells. Veep premieres this Sunday on HBO.