At 2 AM the day after my high school graduation I could be found on my sofa, sobbing, ruining the already-smudged, slept-in eye makeup from the day before that I didn't bother to wash off or fix in the first place (come on, ladies, we’ve all been there,right?). Based on the timing, one without knowing any context would assume that I was crying because high school was over. Maybe I was feeling nostalgic for my fleeting teen years. Maybe it was because I was leaving behind certain friends and teachers who I might never see again. Or perhaps, I was crying because of the burgeoning responsibility of adulthood that was awaiting me in three months. The truth is, however, that I had just finished the last episode in the final season of the NBC mockumentary "The Office." And, yes, I am well aware that I am a little late to the party; I tend to live under a bit of a cultural rock at times. But this was no ordinary sitcom; it is a cultural phenomenon and most importantly, I had fallen in love with the characters. Over the months I had watched Jim and Pam go from mere office mates to parents of two beautiful children. I had watched Daryll grow in confidence and pursue his dream job and I had identified with Toby on every level from day one. Nellie taught me to have confidence and people will follow your lead, Pam taught me to stop apologizing and be your own advocate, Dwight taught me to be ambitious and that being a hardo pays off, Angela taught me that cats are better than people and to have class, Erin taught me to dance like no one's watching and love others unconditionally, and Creed taught me that anywhere can be a home if you make it one. "The Office" was also philosophical at times, as once my AP Literature teacher cited the show as an example of a modern-day absurdist piece (go figure). The show had also brought my family together, as my sister and I used to send funny clips of the show to each other from Canada to the United States. Not to brag, but I also won a DVD trivia game, racking in the most amount of Schrute Bucks. So yeah, I guess I am going to miss "The Office". Fortunately, I don't need to go outside or pick up a hobby or anything this summer because I have searched out five severely underrated* comedies to fill the void in my life until the next series finale (or at least until season 4 of "Orange Is the New Black" is released).
* By "underrated" I mean that these shows do not have the same wide popularity as "The Office," which is pretty rare. These shows aren't uber underground or hipster, they do have their own following and can be easily searched out on Netflix. Happy laugh-crying!
“The dream of the nineties is alive in Portland” or shall I say, “the dream of 2016 to find a great, relevant, well-written, mildly appropriate, mostly politically correct comedy show starring two amazing people whom I trust with my life is alive in 'Portlandia.'” Am I right, kids? This series has a very distinct, well-developed tone to it. Rocker-chick Carrie Brownstein and SNL legend Fred Armisen certainly have their fingers on the pulse of the generation as they lampoon the laid-back, painfully hipster culture of Portland, Oregon where "young people go to retire." In Fred and Carrie's (appropriately and not-so-coincidentally also the names of the two main characters) world of Portland artisan light bulbs, feminist bookstores, all-encompassing "Battlestar Galactica" binges, a uniquely friendly and relaxed mayor, tandem bicycles, and an obsession with brunch are ingrained into everyday life through a series of different comedy sketches that somehow seamlessly piece together. Watching this show has reintroduced me to the joy of not taking oneself or life too seriously and laughing at oneself. As someone who owns two Arctic Monkeys albums on vinyl and enjoys talking with friends about life at Starbucks, this show has helped me to own and laugh at my pretentious millennial tendencies.
Anyways, I don't know about you but...
2. "Documentary Now"
Wowie. This is quite the crazy show. I’ve honestly only watched one episode thus far and it was enough oddity and pure weirdness mixed with sharp wit to make me fall in love. This show is especially satisfying in my pathetic and unfulfilled post--"The Office" life because it is a mockumentary series, but the characters and the plot changes with every episode so you don’t become too attached and get the shattered remains of your heart stomped on when the show is over. This show has everything: Helen Mirren, sweatpants as a headscarf, hidden cinephile jokes, Pipilok the Eskimo that doesn't quite fit in, and El Chignon’s mansion (see what I did there? Stefon reference because Bill Hader is in the show? Anyone?). The show also boasts a star-studded staff of writers and producers, including Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers, and Lorne Michaels. What makes the show all the more impressive is that every faux-documentary episode is inspired by an actual documentary that has already been made. Part of what I personally find so great about "Documentary Now," as well as "Portlandia,"is how it keeps my favorite people and parts of SNL alive after the cast members have left the show. It's almost as if these shows display the best and most carefully developed sketch comedy into something focused and potent. Make sure to put your wacky pants on and buckle-up because you’re in for one wild and confusing, yet extremely satisfying ride.
Update: I have now watched the second (and third) episode and I am truly impressed. In the midst of a xenophobic epoch where serious potential presidential candidates are preaching about building a wall between the United States and Mexico, "Documentary Now" shines a spotlight on the smaller scale, everyday prejudices that we are all guilty of to a certain extent. For example, it is easiest for us to see people who are different from us in a light that is most comfortable for us. We often have the tendency to paint tragedy as the only picture of other cultures, because we can't imagine that people may be happy living a life that is different from ours, not to mention that this mindset is also the product of a lack of education. The episode also criticizes our disconnect, occasional lack of empathy, and total self absorption that prevents us from acknowledging different forms of human suffering and appropriately listening and empathizing others.
Part of the genius of the second episode, “DRONEZ: The Hunt For El Chignon” is that it highlights the fact that no matter how liberal or open-minded we perceive ourselves to be, we are still fallible to Ugly American Syndrome when we are faced with different cultures and different countries. Fortunately, it is satire like "Documentary Now" that is keenly observant and reflects back our behavior in a way that is palatable enough for us to become more aware of ourselves and others. Not to mention, this episode was hilarious. Bravo, "Documentary Now!"
I don’t know Louis C.K., but I trust him with my life. This series satisfies the various needs of comedy nerd viewers. A stand-up comedian first, Louis C.K. incorporates stand-up comedy routines into the show that include his keen, and at times cynical and perverse, observations on marriage, divorce, parenting, mid-life crises, aging, dating, and human nature and tendencies. Even the opening theme is enough to make one want to cry from laughter, as Louie sleepily, and almost begrudgingly walks down the streets of NYC while the lines "Louie, Louie you're gonna cry" and "Louie, Louie you're gonna die" play from the 1973 song "Brother Louie" by Stories.
Candid, honest, and purposefully dry, the show is not plot-heavy, so it is truly all about the writing, characters, and the comedy found in the mundane. Louis C.K. creates beautiful, painstakingly uncomfortable moments between the characters and the audience. Some killer monologues have come from this show, including this killer, unforgettable one from season four that led me and many others to watch more of the show. Part of what makes this scene and monologue so incredible, other than its beyond-its-time wisdom and honesty, is the fact that the scene is one uninterrupted, seven and a half minute shot full of all the pauses and awkward silences that would come with such a conversation. GOSH DANG IT. I just love this scene and this actress and this show and Louis C.K. so much.
P.S.: This legendary scene from season one between Ferris Bueller's Matthew Broderick and Louis C.K. is also a must-watch.
4. "Trailer Park Boys"
Can I just say that I am so mad at myself for not using any of the iconic and deep lines from this show (which is also a mockumentary, noticing a trend?) as my senior quote? As a Canadian who lives in the United States, I adore this show because of the distinctly Canadian sense of humor, which is in similar spirit to the Canadian classic, "Great White North" (the show is set in a trailer park in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, after all). Lightheartedly self-deprecating and painfully hilarious, I know Trailer Park Boys will keep me busy this summer.
5. "Arrested Development"
Of course, I have finished this show, making the void in my life that much larger. Still, I’ll occasionally re-watch older episodes when I am feeling nostalgic for beautiful sunny afternoons during the eleventh grade in which I would stay inside curled up with my laptop, a blanket, and black coffee. But...miss no more! Season 5 is rumored to be in the making! And it sounds super cool! Remember in the fourth season when Lindsay Bluth was campaigning to build a border between the United States and Mexico? Well, unfortunately I guess that's like a current event or something now, but creator Mitch Hurwitz is going to incorporate this into satirical future episodes, along with other relevant, topical occurrences.
Though I thought that the fourth season was a bit of a disappointment and came across as a poorly-written fan fiction (a la “where they are now!1!”) with the exception of a few episodes (Buster, you never let me down), some fans of the show have made the argument that it was built for binge-watching; to watch the season in one sitting was much more satisfying than spreading it out over time. But maybe I'm being too harsh and uncomfortable with change. Either way, I'm definitely going to be anticipating the arrival of the fifth season. Woo!