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Friday, December 27th, 2013

A Comedy-Filled Year in TV

There's never been more comedy on TV than there was in 2013. With several channels amping up their comedy programming, an explosion of new shows in the late night world, and Netflix and Amazon rolling out their first batch of original content, countless TV comedies — both new and old — aired this year. Beloved series like 30 Rock, The Office, and Eastbound & Down ended their runs, while excellent new comedies like Nathan For You, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Birthday Boys have emerged as qualified heirs to the throne.

Let's take a look back at the TV comedy of 2013, including Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's stint as Golden Globes hosts, the return of Arrested Development, and a transitional year for Saturday Night Live.

NBC's comedy lineup falls apart, and Fox starts making the kinds of shows NBC used to make

NBC's efforts to pump out a broader style of comedy via their once-dominant Thursday night block haven't proven successful so far. The network opted to cancel all of their new comedies in May (Go On, The New Normal1600 Penn, Guys with Kids) alongside two sophomore series (Whitney, Up All Night), and one of the network's new fall shows (Welcome to the Family) has already been canceled while the other two (The Michael J. Fox Show, Sean Saves the World) aren't faring so well in the ratings. Considering that The Office and 30 Rock both ended their runs early this year, NBC has lost its grip on critically-acclaimed comedies with only Parks and Rec and Community remaining while competitor Fox is creeping in on NBC's former territory with comedies like Bob's Burgers, New Girl, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine feeling like the kinds of shows the peacock network used to make and succeed with.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler make awards shows worth watching

Awards shows are never a place to go to find anything funny really, but Tina Fey and Amy Poehler turned that around this year with a well-received co-hosting stint at the Golden Globes in January. It's no surprise that they've already been hired to host the next two Golden Globes.

The return of the sketch show

In the wake of Portlandia and Key & Peele's success, 2013 saw the debut of an unusual volume of new sketch shows, like Kroll Show and Inside Amy Schumer on Comedy Central and The Birthday Boys on IFC. On top of that, shows like Adam DeVine's House Party and Drunk History have a sketch element. It's a great time to be able to see sketch comedy on TV, and it's especially exciting to see a show given to a pre-existing sketch group, The Birthday Boys. It's something that doesn't happen a ton these days, but given how funny The Birthday Boys' IFC show turned out, networks should turn to self-formed sketch groups more often.

Arrested Development returns and is not quite the same

Arrested Development made its long-awaited return for a 15-episode Netflix run this summer, and while the new season suffered from not being able to get the whole cast together at once and the show felt a little off, this was by no means the Star Wars: Episode I-style disaster it could have been. It was nice to see the Bluths back in action again, even if we were deprived of those great family meeting scenes, and the new season proved to be just as dense with hidden jokes and gags as Arrested Development was during its original run.

A transitional — and controversial — year for SNL

After losing veteran cast members Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Jason Sudeikis in May (which followed Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg's exits the year before), Saturday Night Live was faced with its biggest transitional season in nearly 20 years. For the fall, the show added six new cast members: Beck Bennett, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, Michael Patrick O'Brien, Noël Wells, and Brooks Wheelan. SNL was criticized in the press for its lack of diversity because all six new cast members are white and five of them are white males, causing Lorne Michaels to hold showcase auditions for black female performers on both coasts and to promise that he will add one new black female cast member in January.

Nathan For You and Brooklyn Nine-Nine are TV's funniest new shows

With most new network sitcoms falling flat, Brooklyn Nine-Nine stood out amongst the rabble as one of the two best new comedies of the year. It's no surprise that the show turned out to be good, being that it comes from Parks and Recreation co-creator Mike Schur and his right-hand man on that previous series, Dan Goor, but the big shocker is how quickly Brooklyn has managed to find its footing. Only 11 episodes in, the Andy Samberg-led series is already Season 2 good.

TV's other best new comedy came from a more unexpected source. Debuting on Comedy Central quietly in February with a short 8-episode season, Nathan For You stars Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder (Jon Benjamin Has a Van), playing a fictionalized version of himself trying to help real companies with wacky ideas. Fielder co-created the series with Michael Koman, who's also the co-creator of Adult Swim's Eagleheart, another of the year's best TV comedies. Thanks to Fielder's Twitter shenanigans going viral and the quality of the show catching the eye of the comedy community, Nathan For You was able to score a second season, meaning that one of the sharpest and most original comedies on TV will be back in 2014.

The late night talk show field gets crowded

There were a whopping 19 late night shows on the air in 2013, with the field starting to feel a little crowded. Five new late night shows, The Pete Holmes Show (TBS), @midnight (Comedy Central), Nikki & Sara Live (MTV), Tom Green Live (AXS TV), and The Arsenio Hall Show (syndication), debuted this year, while the plates started to shift in the network late night world. ABC moved Jimmy Kimmel up to the 11:35 slot, putting him into direct competition with Leno and Letterman for the first time ever and scaring NBC into handing The Tonight Show over to Jimmy Fallon and Late Night over to Seth Meyers in an awfully-quick transition that's set to take place in February.

We said goodbye to The Office, 30 Rock, Delocated, and tons more shows

In 2013, we said goodbye to a whole slew of solid shows, including 30 RockThe Office, Happy Endings, Eastbound & Down, Enlightened, Delocated, Futurama, Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23, Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous, and many more.

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