Best TV Comedy Shows of 2019
From Fleabag to Pen15 and everything in between, we count down the best TV comedies of 2019.
Comedy television did a lot of growing up in the 2010s. As we kiss goodbye the decade, 2019 was another prime example that the genre continues to take bold creative risks, visually innovate, and push back on the inane idea that “edgy” material has been outlawed in contemporary comedy.
This year we saw the fine line between comedy and drama shrink to mind-blowingly awesome results (you can classify 3 of our top 4 picks as “dramedy”). Animated comedies that take longer to produce than feature films (looking at you, Roiland and Harmon) redefined any preconceived notions about that subgenre. It was exciting to see refreshing new voices tell stories that connected with audiences on a deeply personal level. And a sketch comedy show finally made it back on our best of list. What a time to be alive.
Let’s cut to the chase… it’s time to reveal the outcome of our annual vote for the best TV comedies of the year! To capture the breadth of the best TV comedy in 2019, we polled 12 Den of Geek staff writers and enlisted our recurring guest contributor Brian Volk-Weiss, Comedy Dynamics CEO and creator of the The Toys That Made Us, to submit a special ballot. Below, you’ll find our honorable mentions, the shows that received votes but just missed the cut for the top 20.
Big Mouth | Bob’s Burgers | End of the F***ing World | Silicon Valley | South Park |The Astronomy Club | The Righteous Gemstones | This Way Up | The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel | Tuca & Bertie
The 20 Best TV Comedies of 2019
When Hulu’s PEN15 dropped early in 2019, it came during a wave of popular coming-of-age stories. Sex Education, Eighth Grade, and Big Mouth had all created waves with poignant, sometimes raunchy content about navigating adolescence, but none of these properties went to the depths that co-creators and co-stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle did to recreate every cringe-inducing experience of their middle school years. Despite being 31-year-old actresses, the pair play 13-year-olds starting seventh grade among actual 13-year-old co-stars and they channel their younger selves so thoroughly you sometimes forget about the gimmick altogether.
read more: Pen15 Review (spoiler-free)
Set in the year 2000, PEN15 is also quite a nostalgia trip for viewers of a certain age, as we watch Maya and Anna use their dial-up internet to instant message boys, create Spice Girls-soundtracked dance routines, and devise plans to skip out of a showing of Chicken Run to see Coyote Ugly. However, those broad “remember when?” gags ultimately take a backseat to drilling into the rites of passage that suburban American kids experience going from pre-teens to teens. Careening through one mortifying moment to the next, Maya and Anna try on every insecurity imaginable and bear the brunt of the cruelness of school children as an unpopular duo, while taking their own opportunities to tear other kids down every chance they get. Growing up is hell, and PEN15 reminds us of each of its nine layers. Just like a 13-year-old’s mood swings, this show will make you laugh, break your heart, and have you ruminating on your own awkward years all through the span of a single episode.
– Nick Harley
19) The Good Place
NBC’s celestial sitcom The Good Place always has more items on its agenda than merely making its viewers laugh. The show raises some of life’s biggest questions, including but not limited to, what happens after we die? What does it mean to be a good person? And how can we make Ted Danson our dad? Those are all some some heady concepts, indeed, but they never feel like a drag because at the end of the day this remains simply one of the funniest entities on television.
read more: The Good Place and the Problem with Mindy St. Claire
The Good Place’s 2019 output (which includes the back portion of season 3 and the front half of the fourth and final season) is another testament to the level of talent that showrunner Michael Schur has assembled onscreen, behind it, and in the writers room. The end of season 3 finds Michael, Janet, Eleanor, and the rest of Team Cockroach uncovering the reason why no one has actually made it to The Good Place in centuries. The morality of day-to-day life has just gotten too darn complicated. What follows in season 4 is an experiment that sets out to prove that this damned species of ours can really get better if given the chance. But ultimately the only evidence needed for the usefulness of humanity is The Good Place itself.
– Alec Bojalad
18) Schitt’s Creek
Just as Schitt’s Creek, the CBC/Pop! series about the once-wealthy Rose family who was forced to move to the unfortunately named titular small town they purchased as a goof, was reaching the height of its popularity with the airing of its fifth season, series co-creator and star Daniel Levy decided to pull the plug–its upcoming sixth season will be the last. It was a daring move, one designed so that the show could go out on top a la other classic comedies like Fawlty Towers. But then again, nothing about Schitt’s Creek has been traditional.
read more: Schitt’s Creek Season 5 Review
On paper, the series’ characters, which include sarcastic David (Daniel Levy), his vapid sister Alexis (Annie Murphy), their out-of-touch faded actress mother Moira (Catherine O’Hara), and well-meaning father Johnny (Eugene Levy) seem little more like archetypes. Yet through the show’s performances and slice-of-life storylines, we have watched each of these individuals become fully realized, embracing (for the most part) the town and its Simpsons-esque menagerie of huge personalities.
The fifth season gave us supporting characters like David’s fiancé Patrick (Noah Reid) and motel co-owner Stevie (the scene-stealing Emily Hampshire) their time to shine, proving that the series has the most gifted comedy cast on television today. Ultimately though, Schitt’s Creek is a welcoming place for all. The show’s matter-of-fact treatment of LGBTQ+ issues raises the bar for network television. While the Rose family may sometimes be ambivalent about where they find themselves, viewers have come to learn that every second spent in Schitt’s Creek is worth celebrating. And in these difficult times, there is so much value in visiting there.
– Chris Cummins
The media landscape, though I wouldn’t shy away from extending that to society as a whole, needed Aidy Bryant’s Annie Easton—TV in 2019 wouldn’t have been complete without her. Hulu’s Shrill kicks off with Annie staring in the mirror, pulling and tugging at her clothes before settling down on a marketing ploy “Eat this and be thin” prepackaged diet meal. If you were thinking that the point would then be to watch this woman try to get thin as she gazes onto the toned shiny torsos of Instagram “models” just to feel a little worse about herself, you’d be completely wrong. While it might take a moment for Annie to settle into being our confident unapologetically body positive lead, her journey to it makes for just the type of television excellence we so desperately needed.
read more: Shrill and the Accurate Depiction of Online Trolls
Bryant as well as her co-stars, specifically Lolly Adefope who I immediately became obsessed with in her role as Annie’s roommate Fran, come together to craft a narrative that is emotional and thought provoking while also being downright hilarious. The first season of this breakout hit (an accolade I will personally defend) went places I didn’t see coming, like a take on the morning after pill right in the first episode, while not shying away from tropes I did see coming: like that opening scene. I can’t wait to see what the next season has in store.
– Daniella Bondar
16) It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
It’s not easy for any series to still feel fresh after 14 seasons, but the latest season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was a glorious return to form after an underwhelming (largely Dennis-less) season 13. There’s a powerful redemptive energy that fuels this season. The Gang leaves their comfort zones, but also return to their greatest hits in bold new ways. Episodes like “The Gang Chokes” and “Dee Day” are some of the most satisfying episodes in years and these characters continue to subtly evolve in hilarious ways (Mac’s gradual shift into becoming Dennis is perfect growth/regression). The show’s cast has never been better, but this year Danny DeVito seriously steals the show (his “feast of blue” scene is a masterclass in absurdity).
read more: Why Always Sunny Gets Better With Age
Always Sunny Season 14 literally covers all of its bases, gleefully bouncing from parodies of B-action franchises to inspired film noir pastiches, to a tribute to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot that’s set within a laser tag center (something Beckett never had the courage to do). Few shows can hit such disparate extremes while still being gut-bustingly hilarious and feature some of the most deranged characters to ever grace television. And don’t forget, blue has the most anti-oxygens.
– Daniel Kurland
15) Derry Girls
A comedy about The Troubles might sound like an impossible needle to thread, but for Lisa McGee’s Northern Irish half-hour comedy Derry Girls, it feels like the most natural thing in the world. Set in the pre-Good Friday Accord 1990s, the show focuses on a group of teenage Catholic girls, and one British boy (Dylan Llewellyn), a cousin who joined their ranks in season 1 because he’d catch too much of a beating in a boys’ school.
Writer/showrunner Lisa McGee elevates low-stakes embarrassment to a high art, from ditsy Aunt Sarah (Kathy Kiera Clarke) wearing a massive white dress to someone else’s wedding to lovable bad girl Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) serving pot scones at a wake. Meanwhile the actual high stakes politics of the era, from bomb scares and efforts at friendship across the sectarian divide to a visit from President Clinton, are relegated to setting up jokes. And thus the teen shenanigans are made all the more hilarious for how self-serious the teens can be.
If Derry Girls has a thesis, it might be that teenagers can be hilariously moronic, no matter how massively intense the politics are that they live through. The group regularly bedevils Sister Michael (Siobhan McSweeney), the dryly cutting school headmistress who quickly went from antagonist to a fan-favorite character. Nothing in their lives is too important for Erin Quinn (Soairse-Monica Jackson) to make it about herself, including Clare’s (Nicola Coughlan) coming out at the end of last season. Louisa Harland’s space cadet cousin Orla is a highlight, as was the return of a priest the group accidentally drove from the priesthood (Peter Campion, who starred in Lisa McGee’s previous show, London Irish). Come for the inexplicable hilarity of using the peace process to try to hook up with cute boys and the elbow-throwing brutality of the “Rock the Boat” wedding dance, stay for a show with more heart than just about anything else on television.
– Delia Harrington
14) BoJack Horseman
When BoJack Horseman first premiered in 2014, it seemed easily skippable. This animated series about a depressed ex-actor horse came from little-known creator Ralph Bob-Waksberg and got off to a slow start. Not only that but Netflix was still finding its voice in an entertainment landscape where the concept of a “streaming service” was relatively new. Now here we are, six years later, struggling to say goodbye to one of the most important series of the decade.
BoJack Horseman’s sixth and final season was split into two halves, with the first premiering in October 2019 and the second due to arrive in January 2020. That release strategy means that season 6 part 1 is lacking the incredible (and usually devastating) season finale that we’ve come to expect. Still the first eight episodes of this final season find the show very much at the top of its game.
read more: BoJack Season 5 Proves The Show Can Last Forever
The series catches up with BoJack in rehab where he’s making the healing process just as difficult as he’s made everything else. Meanwhile Dianne, Todd, Mr. Peanutbutter, Princess Carolyn, and the other inhabitants of Hollywoo grow up and evolve as best they can through new relationships, children, and a plethora of wacky business opportunities.
The end is nigh for BoJack Horseman, but these hilarious and touching next-to-final episodes prove that there may be a future yet for BoJack himself.
– Alec Bojalad
13) Broad City
Arguably 2019’s biggest TV loss was Broad City, Comedy Central’s hit about two twentysomethings (played by show creators Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson) navigating their way through life against the surreal backdrop of New York City. Although deeply smart and hilarious–the episode where Abbi is hopped up on pain medicine following having her wisdom teeth pulled and proceeds to wreak havoc in a Whole Foods deserves to be on every Best of the 2010s list–the groundbreaking series also tackled topics ranging from the spectrum of sexuality to cultural appropriation in an organic way that felt in touch with how these characters experienced the world.
further reading: The Best TV Comedies on Hulu
As the series progressed, the characters of Abbi and Ilana matured. The fifth and final season was focused on the biggest crisis ever to face the women: Abbi’s leaving New York City for an artist’s residency in Colorado. Ilana’s infatuation and love for Abbi was one of the show’s strongest ongoing jokes, but the last season let this plotline truly breathe.
Ilana views Abbi as much more than a friend; she’s a soulmate. The episode “Sleep No More” has Abbi telling Ilana about her moving plans during a trip to a popular immersive theater experience, resulting in an installment that is classic Broad City and a rumination on the power of losing a friend to long distance. Yet as the credits on the final episode rolled, we knew that Abbi and Ilana’s relationship was a strong as ever… and that we had witnessed a series whose influence will be felt for decades to come.
– Chris Cummins
12) Rick and Morty
After quite a long hiatus, the first half of Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s brilliant animated sci-fi sitcom resurfaced to (from what I’ve observed) somewhat contentious fan reception. It’s true that a few of these first five episodes have gotten a little lost up inside their own plot holes, Morty. However, there’s been enough funny episodes to balance it out (a parody of the Terminator series featuring snakes and an episode entirely about pooping are notable standouts).
read more: Keep up with all of our Rick and Morty news and reviews right here
Most importantly, a Dan Harmon-run writer room cranks out zany sitcom plots like no other. There simply isn’t another comedy airing right now that week-to-week so packs its individual episodes with ever-escalating, unpredictable storylines and wall-to-wall gags. Even when Rick and Morty’s aim is a little off, you can’t help but appreciate that this is a series that never does half-measures.
– Joe Matar
11) The Other Two
Sometimes life imitates art in a way that’s too crazy to comprehend, and at other times art imitates life so brilliantly that you just want to retreat into that art and never leave. The Other Two’s premise is simple enough: two fame-hungry siblings experience a major reckoning when their 13-year-old brother gains staggering success and turns into a Justin Bieber-like pop star overnight. Desperate to latch onto their brother’s fame, Cary and Brooke Dubcek are relegated to the unglamorous shadows of their little brother’s stardom and the humble family’s life starts to transform.
read more: The Other Two Spoiler-Free Review
The Other Two is one of the most brilliant and insightful satires of where the entertainment industry is at and just how ridiculous celebrity culture has become. Deep dives into areas like the extreme regiments of performers, manufactured romances, Instagram fame, and how the whole industry is inherently dishonest are elegantly handled.
Series creators, Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider (formerly of SNL fame), find the perfectly nihilistic tone to bring this world to life, but are still able to tap into some very real emotion and they always make sure there’s a heart to their story. As strong as Ken Marino and Molly Shannon are in this show, Drew Tarver and Heléne Yorke are the best new comedic duo of the year. If The Other Two doesn’t reduce you to uncontrollable fits of laughter, then you’ll at least have “Stink” or “My Brother’s Gay” stuck in your head until the end of 2020.
– Daniel Kurland
10) Documentary Now!
Anthology television continued to thrive in 2019, though comedy is still one area the trend has yet to really permeate. Documentary Now! nicely fills that void—giving us a fresh story, actors, and writing talent in each episode—while also tapping into a love for the art of documentary filmmaking. Credit to Alex Buono and Rhys Thomas, who have co-directed or directed every episode of the series thus far, for tirelessly committing to the format by replicating the varied cinematic style of each documentary they’re spoofing. Like any anthology, the overall quality of each installment may waver depending on the material, but Doc Now feels safeguarded by its sheer ambition.
Bill Hader is noticeably absent from season 3 due to his work on Barry. But any slack left from Hader was picked up by the series’ highest profile guest stars yet, including Owen Wilson and Michael Keaton in “Batsh*t Valley, Parts 1 & 2,” and Cate Blancett in “Waiting For The Artist.” Otherwise, it was business as usual for Doc Now. Season 3 presented some of the series’ best work. We could have watched a full season of Wilson as a batshit cult leader. Zack Kanin and Tim Robinson, co-creators of another series you’ll see very high on this list, penned the excellent bowling episode titled “Any Given Saturday Afternoon.” And John Mulaney and Seth Meyers wrote what arguably is Doc Now’s finest half hour with the musical-focused “Original Cast Album: Co-Op.”
– Chris Longo
One of the appeals of GLOW is that, like life, everything changes. And Season 3 is no exception. Thrusting audiences into the messiness of transience, and in a sitcom that actively asks its characters and viewers to reject a “safe” status quo, season 3 proves GLOW is one of the high points of “peak TV” as, unlike most of its contemporaries, it gets better every season. The women of ladies wrestling are thrust into a new environment in Las Vegas where the dynamics of their show-within-a-show have been locked into place like it’s a Broadway play, but their lives are continuously in flux. Beginning with the bold move of finding dark gallows humor in a national tragedy—with Alison Brie’s Ruth Wilder unintentionally mocking the Space Shuttle Challenger crew as they explode on live TV—the series constantly subverts expectations and finds new dimensions for its core cast of misfits.
read more: GLOW’s Evolution in Queer Storytelling
At its heart, however, is the need for women to find themselves, even in a landscape as hostile as Las Vegas entertainment. For Sheila (Gayle Rankin) that might mean befriending and coming to understand a gender fluid performer who does not wish to comfortably fit under any specific label, just as Sheila learns not to be just “a wolf,” and for Debbie (Betty Gilpin) it means finding autonomy and control of GLOW away from any male hands, even Sam’s (Marc Maron). For Ruth though, it can mean simply following her own muse and different drum that will take her away from Vegas, away from Betty, and away from GLOW… it even appears poised to ruin the reliable familiarity you have with these characters going forward. The show, and its audience, are better for it.
– David Crow
We’ve had plenty of comedy series titled after their stand-up comedian creator and star, but none with such a fresh perspective as Ramy in a long time. Ramy Youssef stars as a slightly fictionalized version of himself, a young first generation Egyptian-American who finds himself caught between the pulls of a typical millennial lifestyle and his Muslim beliefs. Ramy feels guilty about sleeping with white women while trying to forge connections with Muslim woman within his community, ponders the ethics of talking to drunk girls while abstaining from alcohol for religious purposes, and freaks over the moral implications of eating edible marijuana.
On some level, the series looks to normalize a group of Americans that are unfortunately still misunderstood. Struggling with the concept of what it means to be a good person in an increasingly morally gray world, Ramy’s plight is something anybody from any religious background, or lack thereof, can relate to.
read more: Ramy Interview – Why Faith and Family Are The Heart of the Show
This series does much more than educate the ignorant and mines laughs out of sensitive topics that many comedy series would never even touch. Perhaps inspired by the way that executive producer and co-creator Jerrod Carmichael similarly tackled weighty subjects on his unfairly short-lived NBC sitcom The Carmichael Show, Ramy explores what it was like to be a Muslim American in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the fetishization of otherness, and the dating options of people with disabilities. Most importantly, the show interrogates people who appear to be open-minded until they reveal themselves not to be, Ramy included. With a focused, singular voice steering the series, that’s smart enough to highlight as many universal truths as foreign concepts, Ramy is yet another shining example of why Hollywood needs to keep propping up new, distinct voices.
– Nick Harley
With a political reality that seems beyond satire, it’s impressive that Veep still continued to carve out a unique space for itself. Still, it felt like the right decision to bow out with this, its seventh and final season. In it, the series brought to conclusion its evolution from dark, but goofy satire to pitch-black, vicious satire with some actual major dramatic heft behind it.
The season feels like its telegraphing Jonah Ryan’s gradual transformation into a Trumpian figure who wins the presidency, but that’s a misdirect. Veep is too smart a show for such basic one-to-one parallels, instead going for a much darker, far more unpredictable route, solidifying Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer as one of TV’s greatest comedic villains.
– Joe Matar
Wisely going out on a creative high note, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s brilliant dramedy, Catastrophe, aired its fourth and final series this year. It’s a stunning feat that, in these final six episodes, Horgan and Delaney introduced and resolved new, self-contained conflicts, all the while also building upon the many ongoing dramas of their ensemble cast, and culminating in a moving, satisfying climax to the overall series.
The show always played its darker, more dramatic moments straight, with the final season boldly confronting alcoholism, loneliness, and death (the late Carrie Fisher played Rob’s mother and the series did not shy away from addressing the loss). Considering how dark it got at times, it’s a wonder that Catastrophe still managed to be consistently hilarious, but, somehow, it did!
– Joe Matar
5) What We Do in the Shadows
What We Do in the Shadows was 2019’s comedy version of shooting fish in a barrel. Every aspect of this FX vampire mockumentary seemed like it couldn’t possibly fail. The show borrowed an already ingenious concept from Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s 2014 movie of the same name, brought it to serialized format, and then populated it with a talented cast. Still even with all that in place, who could have imagined that What We Do in the Shadows would be this funny?
read more: What We Do in the Shadows Cast Talks About the Vampire Life
Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, and Natasia Demetriou all shine as inept vampires doing their best in modern day Staten Island. Bringing the show to another level are Mark Proksch as mild-mannered energy vampire Collin Robinson and Harvey Guillén as frustrated vampire familiar Guillermo. Shadows also breathed life into the seemingly dormant mockumentary genre by continually putting its unnamed film crew in mortal danger. At least the footage they’re getting is killer, including the accidental death of a very drunk vampire baron, a poorly planned orgy, and of course: a trial featuring some of pop culture’s most notable vampires.
What We Do in the Shadows proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Waititi and Clement’s concept has real legs and we can’t wait for more.
– Alec Bojalad
Barry knocked us out with its stellar first season and continued to soar in year two. We’ve seen countless iterations of the criminal trying to go straight story, but few that have dived into the twisted morality that comes with “starting over.” Flashing back to Barry’s time in the military was a wise choice to shake-up the structure of the story, as was including a stand-alone surrealist flight of fancy, “rony/lilly,” one of 2019’s single greatest episodes of television. All that said, Barry continues to dazzle because of its all-star cast. Henry Winkler is devastating as deflated, heartbroken Gene Cousineau, Anthony Carrigan continues to delight as the hilariously affable Noho Hank, and Sarah Goldberg perhaps stole the whole show as Sally this year, showing the lengths humans go to create personal narratives for themselves that are more palatable than the truth.
read more: NoHo Hank Interview
That all being said, Bill Hader is a revelation, whether in front of the camera or behind. His direction arguably made “rony/lilly” the treat that it was and he and co-creator Alec Berg have excelled at writing themselves into corners only to find creative, thrilling ways out. Season 2 went to darker, more thought provoking places as the series asked its central characters to be honest with themselves about who they actually are, and Season 3 looks like it will plunge to even darker depths.
– Nick Harley
3) I Think You Should Leave
The first hit sketch series of the streaming age, I Think You Should Leave is the show that launched a thousand memes. Created by former SNL writer and Detroiters star, Tim Robinson, alongside producing partner Zach Kanin, ITYSL is six bite-sized, perfectly surreal episodes of sketch comedy that half of our staff can’t stop quoting if their lives depended on it.
read more: Tim Robinson on his Breakout Sketch Show
Focused on people prone to making social faux pas that then double, or even triple, down on their mistakes, the show is part cringe comedy, part absurdist bliss. Its offbeat humor isn’t for everyone, and it certainly shares some DNA with other comedy series like Key & Peele and Tim and Eric, but if you find yourself in this show’s *ahem* comedic queue zone, you’ll find yourself thinking that this show may have been made specifically for you. The weirder, more deranged these sketches get, the harder we laugh. We’ve read at least a dozen writers try to rank the show’s best sketches, and every single person has a different opinion that we vehemently disagree with (our official list will launch prior to the already confirmed second season). Before this entry just devolves into a series of quotes from the show, fire up ITYSL and see for yourself what this wonderful, weird show is all about.
– Nick Harley
2) Russian Doll
Just when you thought you finally got Harry Nilsson’s 1971 banger “Gotta Get Up” out of your head, here’s a reminder that Netflix’s Russian Doll was on a loop in your brain when it took the streaming world by storm in February. Yes, it’s been a long, long year. Nilsson’s earworm of a song is inescapable because it’s playing in the background of a party every time we meet and re-meet the show’s protagonist, Nadia (Natasha Lyonne), who is stuck in a time loop on the night of her 37th birthday. Think Groundhog Day, but Nadia always dies in some unsuspecting way, then wakes up in a bathroom staring into a mirror with “Gotta Get Up” blasting all over again.
To delve any more into plot would be to spoil the birthday fun for the uninitiated, but the mysteries of the show unfold like the Matryoshka doll its named after (We have our own spoiler-filled theories on the ending). While we may have geeked out on the time loop aspect of the show, series co-creators Lyonne, Leslye Headland, and Amy Poehler devised a darkly comedic narrative that touches on elements of magical realism, moral philosophy, and existential dread.
Perfect is an impossible bar to reach. Several shows this year (including the No. 1 title on this list and HBO’s Watchmen) were damn near close to making a flawless season of television. Russian Doll falls into that camp for the riveting journey it takes us on, but perhaps no other actor on this list is singularly more responsible for carrying a show on its back than Lyonne, who never meets a one-liner or moody glance she can’t elevate as she fully commits to Nadia, an impulsive, neurotic, and lovable salt-of-the-earth New Yorker.
– Chris Longo
With the second and final season of Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge somehow managed to outdo what many considered one of the best seasons of television, won a whole slew of awards for what is now commonly known to actually be one of the best pieces of television of any kind, all while securing her reputation as an auteur creator. While the first season was an unvarnished look at how strange and complicated real grief can be, season 2 added faith and healing to the mix. What does it mean to become a better person, and how does everyone else react when someone they rely upon to be a shitshow actually gets their act together?
From the perfect opening episode of the dinner party, it’s clear that there’s been a reset of some kind. Part of the new generation of half-hour comedies versus sitcoms, Fleabag allows its characters to grow and change, and boy did they ever. Well, everyone except for Godmother, who remains a hilariously awful twat, played to painful perfection by Olivia Colman. Andrew Scott’s (Hot) Priest entered the proceedings with a level of humor and sexiness that should, frankly, be illegal for a man of the cloth, even in a television show, lest all our dead Catholic grandmothers’ collective turning in their grave actually shift the earth’s turning on its axis.
read more: Phoebe Waller-Bridge on Sex, Femininity, and Guinea Pigs
Of course Fleabag is still a comedy, and season 2 didn’t let us down in that regard. The two Claires; the cameo from Kristine Scott Thomas; Claire looking like a pencil; the return of the stolen statue; really everything Sian Clifford. After all, the strange, often-hostile but always loving relationship between the two sisters was the greatest love story of the series, even if this season was explicitly a love story with someone else. For all the heady analysis of the show, it’s simply damned funny. Great writing layers one joke after another into the same scene the way they often happen in real life, with no laugh track and usually a poor reaction from those present, if any at all. Some of the best performances on any screen–any size, any platform, anywhere–make every line crackle.
Fleabag‘s asides to the audience remain here, and PWB’s microscopic control of every muscle of her face allows her to flick the smallest, most artful of playful looks in the middle of pretending to look sad, concerned, or sexy. But a true artist gives us innovation, and the internet’s collective stomach dropped out when the Priest caught Fleabag looking at us. The heartbreaking cleverness of having him be the first person who really sees her enough to know when she’s checking out on her life to check in with us is genius. More than a plot twist, it exposed the show’s essential format for being a harmful emotional crutch for its star. The final innovation was the best of all–Fleabag’s heart may be broken, but she learned something vital with the Priest: she has outgrown the audience and said goodbye. We’re not entitled to her anymore.
– Delia Harrington