Sitcoms for the Summer

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By Caroline Morris

Summer is the peak period for outdoor activities. But sometimes the heat is too much—and some of us are just born as indoor children—and you just want time to kick back in the AC and watch some TV.

Here are the sitcoms you should watch this summer:

Malcolm in the Middle. This show is an oldie but a goodie. Malcolm in the Middle follows a family that canonically doesn’t have a last name, but the main protagonist and narrator is Malcolm, a child genius and middle sibling between three other brothers. The show aired from 2000-2006, so whether you’re watching it for the first time or the tenth, it strikes the nostalgia bone hard in its context and composition for all the early 2000s babies. It’s the perfect throwback comedy for the summertime. The show is available on Prime Video.

Schitt’s Creek. Although the show just ended in 2020, I have already rewatched Schitt’s Creek at least five times. Its comedy is definitely offbeat and will take you a few episodes to get acclimated, but once you do, it is addictive. The premise of the show is that the Roses, an exorbitantly wealthy family, lose all their money due to embezzlement, and the four (mother, father, brother, and sister) are forced to relocate to a Podunk town they bought as a joke: Schitt’s Creek. The comedy of the show shines through its ridiculous characters and situational comedy while also balancing a lot of heart, growth, and the theme of family, both born and found. It’s a quick watch and a great family show, though beware that as a Canadian program they can and do drop the f-bomb. Available on Netflix.

Dead to Me is a dark comedy made by Netflix. It is described by the streaming service as a show about “A hotheaded widow searching for the hit-and-run driver who mowed down her husband befriends an eccentric optimist who isn’t quite what she seems.” Dead to Me is the perfect show for a viewer with a dark sense of humor and who wants to watch a show still in the making.

Jane the Virgin stands out from the comedy crowd because of its cultural influences. The story follows Jane Villanueva, a Venezuelan-American young woman who is saving her virginity for marriage but gets accidentally artificially inseminated, making her a pregnant virgin. The representation of Latino culture and women is beautifully done in this show, but the most interesting part is its meta-fixation with telenovelas. Telenovelas are a huge part of Latin American culture which are often compared to American soap operas, but they are actually quite different in ways this article does not have the space to detail. But the beauty of Jane the Virgin is that the characters, who are all obsessed with telenovelas, are living in a telenovela, which is explicitly acknowledged by the narrator. This “metanarrative” style is incredibly satisfying and innovative while also helping to translate telenovelas to an American audience. If you are looking for a new narrative style or love Latin culture, Jane the Virgin is for you. Available on Netflix.

Brooklyn 99. You’ve probably heard of Brooklyn 99, but I feel the need to recommend it again. The show features an ensemble cast set in a Brooklyn police precinct starring Andy Samberg, playing detective Jake Peralta. This show is quite honestly just silly humor. Each episode includes a cold open that is always ridiculous and disconnected from the main plot of the episode, and the characters’ relationships are constant sources of comedy. The show distinguishes itself in its bold approach to social issues and does an impressive job of integrating them into the plot without it feeling like a lecture. It is a great series to watch once for real and then have as a background show for chores. Available on Hulu.

Other honorable (and quick) mentions:

Arrested Development. The first three seasons are incredible, dry, and intricate, but were made during a time when binge watching was not available. The  writing style that necessitates a binge-watch led to its early demise and later revamp of seasons 4 and 5. Available on Netflix.

Fresh Off the Boat. A highly underrated sitcom that follows a Chinese-American family that moves from Chinatown, D.C. to in Florida during the early 2000s who realize that they are the only Chinese people in their surrounding area and must learn to acclimate to the “true” American lifestyle.

30 Rock. An NBC sitcom all about making fun of NBC starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin. The show is pure social critique with every character being pretty awful, which is why you either hate it or can’t stop watching.
I am a huge sitcom fan and could list at least 10 more shows, but I wanted to hit the shows I think stand out from the crowd in a significant way and are on the lesser-known side (ie. not The Office, Friends, or New Girl, all of which I love). If any of these shows sound like they’d strike your fancy, check them out! Sometimes the outdoors are a little too sweaty.

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