COMEDY SHOWS & SPECIALS
I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson (Netflix)
The sketches had a meaner edge this season, but they were no less hilarious or memorable. That Robinson has cemented himself as a meme king hopefully means we’ll keep getting more madness until he decides he’s had enough.
Gary Gulman: Born on 3rd Base (Max)
Stand-up comedy has been dissected, deconstructed and (arguably) destroyed in the last decade. So sometimes it’s nice to just watch a consistently funny special with no agenda or ulterior motive. Gulman has been something of a “comedian’s comedian” for years, occasionally going viral with a great routine on Conan. But this full hour proves his penchant for fancy words isn’t a put-on or pretension. He just genuinely loves words, and uses them effectively.
Stavros Halkias: Fat Rascal (Netflix)
The King of Crowd Work, the Giant of Social Media. Those are nicknames I just made up, but mainly because I’m tired of people attributing similar praise on Matt Rife, the chiseled opposite of this beefy boy. In a fun and filthy hour, Halkias lobs bombs at Silicon Valley and airport security, but saves his best shots for himself (pun intended).
Pete Holmes: I Am Not for Everyone (Netflix)
Holmes continues to be one of my favorite comics, specifically because he gives no fucks (and not in a “Look at me! I can say offensive things!” way). He proudly marches to the beat of his own weird drum, while conceding the title of this special. Only Holmes would follow a profound spiritual revelation with a poop joke.
John Mulaney: Baby J (Netflix)
Now that Mulaney has shed the fans who mistakenly assumed he was a nice guy who never made mistakes, he’s free to be more cutting. But he’s got no bigger critic than himself, and this post-rehab, post-divorce special is Mulaney completely unfiltered. But as a consummate performer, he wouldn’t dare let this be a mere confessional. His flair for storytelling has gotten even better, even as he hit rock bottom.
DIDN’T WATCH BUT PROBABLY WOULD HAVE LOVED
Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man and the Pool (Netflix)
John Early: Now More Than Ever (Max)
Dina Hashem: Dark Little Whispers (Prime Video)
Trevor Noah: Where Was I (Netflix)
Beth Stelling: If You Didn’t Want Me Then (Netflix)
BEST OF THE REST
Beavis and Butt-Head – “Tobacco Farmers/Married”
The newest incarnation of Mike Judge’s perpetually stupid teens has been a reliable source for dumb laughs in its most recent seasons. But this episode might be the hardest I’ve laughed all year. The first vignette finds them trying and failing their hand at community gardening. The second finds the pair in their golden years, making a lifelong commitment because, of course, they think they’ll get to score with the clerk marrying them.
The Crown – Season 6, Volume 1
I was actually fine with Netflix splitting the final season of the show into two parts. Thematically it made sense. Unfortunately it made the episodes in Volume 2 look that much worse. But the first batch of episodes – focusing almost exclusively on Diana and Dodi Fayed – was among the show’s very best, with tender performances from Elizabeth Debicki and Khalid Abdalla.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “Dennis Takes a Mental Health Day”
Any time the Gang decides to get back together, there will be at least one magnificent episode. But this solo Dennis adventure immediately joined the ranks of the show’s very best. Think of it as sort of a modern version of Falling Down, but replace the racism with a hatred of technology.
Ted Lasso – “Sunflowers”
Boy, what happened to this show? The first two seasons were a delight. But knowing this would be the last season, the show crammed in every half-assed subplot it could think of. This stretched a lot of episodes beyond an hour, killing the pacing in order to give just about every member of their excellent ensemble an episode to shine. But this episode, in which the team travels to Amsterdam and then does some serious pondering and partying, was an excellent hour of TV. It’s just too bad the rest of the season wasn’t as sharp.
Yellowjackets – “Qui”
Another show that failed to reach the heights of its previous season (though its drop off wasn’t nearly as hard), Yellowjackets didn’t have nearly as many surprises in store. But this episode, in which the survivors all come together for the first time since their horrific ordeal, made for gripping, moving television.