Break out of your TV rut: From New Girl to Modern Family, there are plenty of great comedies that aren't in syndication



When I get home from work each night, out of habit, I put down my bag, take off my shoes, and turn on the TV to watch a repeat of How I Met Your Mother. How I Met Your Mother is on, no matter what time I arrive home. It airs on no fewer than three different channels where I live each evening, essentially at the same time. So I watch it. Except for when I'm watching a Two and a Half Men rerun, because How I Met Your Mother has gone to commercial. Two and a Half Men airs on two different channels every evening.

Clearly, there is no shortage of modern comedy reruns to watch on TV. They are what I call "comfort food" comedies, ones you know are always there. They're not particularly exciting, but they never leave a bad taste in your mouth. You could catch an old episode of any of these shows—or Everybody Loves Raymond, Friends, Seinfeld, etc.—at essentially any time of the day. With such access, why bother watching new episodes of any series at all?

Well, because there's a lot of good new TV out there. I would know. Over the past few weeks, 23 comedy series aired their fall season, or in some cases series, premieres on the big four networks—ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS. I watched every one of them. When I told a colleague of mine about this venture, she was thrilled. "Good," she said. "Could you please tell me what my parents should watch so they can stop sitting through marathons of Monk?" Monk, you see, was their comfort food. They didn't know what exotic new cuisine would suit their Tony Shaloub-accustomed palates. And they're not alone. TV viewership has declined dramatically in the past decade, with audiences failing to embrace new shows in the way they once did.

But with my new expertise, I can recommend that my Monk-loving friends would get a hoot out of The Big Bang Theory, for the way it mines laughs from the mannered physicality and social awkwardness of very smart people —something they might enjoy even though the comedy is a little more broad (exotic) than they're used to. And in that spirit generosity, I'd like to help others too. Of the 23 episodes of current shows that I watched, I have narrowed the field down to 12 offerings worthy of recommendation. I've also paired them each with an older series, with the idea that fans of one comedy will enjoy watching the other. Now set your Tivos and start laughing:

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