We Recommend: Happy Endings
Some shows are obviously made for you. The wonderful sitcom Community is such a show. It's quirky, smart, full of pop-culture references, self-aware... everything a huge TV geek like me loves. Other such sitcoms would include the wonderfully layered Arrested Development and the knowingly off-beat Scrubs. They're geek shows, made by geeks, for geeks and while they may cross over to the mainstream, they're still designed for people like me.
Enter 'Happy Endings'. Happy endings is a single-camera ensemble sitcom about a group of six friends. They break down easily enough: there's the married couple (which includes the black one and the crazy one), the gay one, the hot-but-slightly-bigger-than-you-normally-see-on-TV-to-try-and-make-it-easier-to-suspend-your-disbelief-at-her-being-the-perpetually-single-one, the slightly dim one (sister of the crazy one) and the fit but slightly too cool one. Oh, and the last two were meant to get married but dim one leaves fit one at the alter in the first scene of the pilot, and so hijinks ensue.
If you're anything like me, I've just described televisual hell. They're re-making Friends fifteen years on, and while we loved it at the time, we don't need another one. Especially not one with such a ridiculous and clichéd set up as a girl leaving a guy at the alter. It looks clichéd too; everyone is gorgeous, the sets look great, it's filmed so it looks expensive and luxurious even though half the action takes place in a half-dilapidated apartment. I'm still not sure why I first watched it.
Turns out it's bloody brilliant.
Because while the show is a slick, expensive single-camera sitcom, it knows that, and is happy to play with it. Don't get me wrong, it plays out the clichés. Early episodes see such brain-busting plotlines as "guy sleeps with girl and then can't break up with her", "the new camp best friend" and "guy comes out to his parents". But they get messed with. Subverted. Not in a huge way, not even enough to damage the core dull-but-competent sitcom setups. But in the writing, the clever asides, the references, the indications that the writers know exactly how clichéd the whole thing is, lies genuis.
It's clever. It's clever in the same way Community and Arrested Development are clever, and it has absolutely zero right to be that way. It's meant to be a traditional sitcom and yet it's being all interesting and smart.
This is probably one of the hardest things I've written for this site, because it's really tough to explain the brilliance, short of just quoting vast swathes of the script. Just go watch, there's four episodes over on 4oD, spend 25 minutes and discover something you'd never have otherwise given a chance to.
Or put it this way: it has Elisha Cuthbert in it (who for some reason, is starting to look more and like Kirsten Bell) and it only takes them 3 episodes to make an off-hand 24 reference.