Just a couple of years ago, a list like this would appeal to a narrow base of readers. But Netflix now has almost 17 million subscribers, 66 percent of whom streamed a TV show or movie last year. In other words, if you're reading this, you probably pay a few bucks a month to rent DVDs and watch content on your computer. (And if you don't, what's stopping you? The lowest plan shakes out to $10 a month or so, and it includes unlimited streaming.) The good news: Its popularity means Netflix is constantly adding new material. The bad news: It's often hard to weed through the additions to get to the good ones.
To get you started, here are a few comedies you should be watching on Netflix. It doesn't matter if you've seen them before or not; they're all worth revisiting, and episodes are quick enough so you can squeeze in one (or more) on your lunch break. Be sure to check Netflix, @instant_netflix, and Instantwatcher for updates.
The Larry Sanders Show A godsend. The modern classic starring Garry Shandling wasn't even available in its entirety on DVD until last fall, having only received limited home video exposure before that with a first-season set and a best-of compilation. Netflix is now streaming the first four seasons of this iconic HBO series that ran from 1992 to 1998. Set behind the scenes of a late-night talk show, it arguably launched the modern single-camera comedy era. Almost 20 years later, it's as sharp as ever.
The Kids in the Hall The Kids in the Hall has received regular DVD releases as well as a full-series box set, but it's great to be able to stream the episodes on demand. Brilliant sketch comedy and eminently quotable.
Party Down Critically adored but cursed with low ratings (it was, after all, on Starz, a network most people aren't even sure they receive with their cable plan), Party Down revolves around a catering company and stars Adam Scott, Ken Marino, and Jane Lynch (first season) and Megan Mullally (second season). It's hilarious, quick-witted, and definitely worth your time. The first season returns to streaming status on January 14, and the second's ready to stream right now.
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Better Off Ted Same story as Party Down, basically: good reviews, terrible ratings, etc. ABC's offbeat satire from creator Victor Fresco (Andy Richter Controls the Universe) ran for two short seasons as ratings steadily dropped, but in its short time on the air it gained a cult following. Able to straddle the line between witty and goofy better than almost anyone else, the series is off the air but never gone, thanks to the intertubes.
Saturday Night Live Hear me out: Yes, Saturday Night Live has some terrible, terrible moments. But that's what makes revisiting older episodes so fascinating. The entire catalog is now available on Netflix Watch Instantly, which means you can chart the rise and fall of the sketch series and watch its constant internal battle to play to the masses or create something weird and special. (Be sure to check out the infamously bad sixth season, which saw a new producer and cast--almost tanking the show.) Having the archive online lets you skip around to different eras and watch stars rise and fall, watch characters evolve, and avoid anything having to do with Colin Quinn. You can't lose.