Laugh Off: Ranking the Fall Season's New Network Comedies

Now that we're getting close to swapping out our World's Cutest Baby Animals 2011 calendars for our brand-new World's Cutest Baby Animals 2012 calendars, it's a good time to look back at the fall season's new comedy offerings and put them in an orderly line from worst to best. As is the case in most years, a select few comedies have risen to the top by pleasing the majority, while others have sunk to the bottom by making no threats to deepen people's laugh lines. But make no mistake, 2011 has NOT been a good year for new comedies.

Of course, comedy is—more so than the rest of television—a matter of opinion, and everyone's funny bone is located in a different place. But I know where mine is, and the following list reflects which comedies worked for me. In other words, before you sound off in the comments about how horrible my list is, let yours be known so I can do the same with yours. The holidays are all about bickering and arguing over petty things, right?

11. How to Be a Gentleman

CBS assembled a great main cast that included Kevin Dillon, David Hornsby, and Dave Foley, added support from Mary Lynn Rajskub and Rhys Darby, and this was STILL a disaster of Viva Laughlin proportions. Both CBS and its audience apparently agreed: The show was pulled from its normal Thursday-night slot after two episodes, banished to Saturdays, and then banished from Saturdays and television entirely after a week. It was difficult to pick one show to single out as the absolute worst new comedy of the season, but How to Be a Gentleman stood out from the rest about five minutes into its pilot episode. Congrats, guys!

Status: Canceled after three episodes.

10. Allen Gregory

How bad is this year's crop of comedies if Allen Gregory isn't the worst? I seriously considered a five-way tie for last place, but that's just not in keeping with the spirit of lists. Allen Gregory could easily be number 11 or number 111. Dear future TV producers: It's probably a bad idea to have the main character of a show be its worst part.

Status: Still on the air after a late-season start, but struggling.

9. I Hate My Teenage Daughter

I know what you're saying: "Tim, only one episode has aired! How can you make a judgment?" Well, I've seen the first TWO episodes thanks to the executive TV writer's passcode that unlocks future television, and things do not get better. Jaime Pressly was great as irresponsible white trash on My Name is Earl. She is not great as an insecure suburban mother.

Status: Just debuted. Future very uncertain.

8. Whitney

While putting this list together, I couldn't believe how many comedies actually fell below Whitney, the bane of NBC's Thursday-night comedy block. The show is a classic case of hurriedly slopping together a sitcom around a rising real-world star, keeping the budget low, and making a series that's "edgy" but not offensive. That never works. And what sort of laughing gas do they pump into that "live" studio audience anyway?

Status: Picked up for a full season. I know. Crazy.

7. Man Up

I actually once said this show had potential. But the thing about potential is, it's a hopelessly optimistic euphemism for "doesn't have its shit together." The reality of this show was much different: Man Up isn't very funny and relies on characters plucked from Reverse Gender Roles 101. Men are portrayed as sackless chumps who can't get off the couch, and women are salacious, competitive, and aggressive. It's a visualized Men Are From Venus, Women Are From Mars, and even though it's about men being emasculated, Man Up is probably more insulting to women than it is to men thanks to female characters who are about as deep as a dinner plate.

Status: Effectively canceled, but will finish its initial order.

6. 2 Broke Girls

Item number six is where things are supposed to start turning around, but sadly they only barely do with 2 Broke Girls, a perfectly average comedy that only offends some of its audience. Why this came out of the gate with positive buzz I have no idea; as it's progressed through Season 1, it's only irritated people more with its one-dimensional racial stereotypes, overuse of the word "vagina," and often-unnecessary meanness.

Status: Picked up for a full season.

5. Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing at number five? Are you serious? YES, UNFORTUNATELY I AM. Why? Because at least this show knows exactly what it is, and despite the words coming out of his mouth, Tim Allen is kind of likable in that annoying-uncle sort of way.

Status: Picked up for a full season.

4. Up All Night

Up All Night isn't the hit it should be considering the pedigree of its actors (Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph), but there's actual comedy here! What a novel idea!

Status: Picked up for a full season.

3. Free Agents

You've probably already forgotten about Free Agents or never knew it existed in the first place. NBC yanked this show quickly after dismal ratings, but that doesn't mean it wasn't good. It just wasn't initially appealing because it featured "old" people hooking up. But unlike the previous entries in this list, Free Agents had plenty of room to grow. Sadly, Free Agents was marched out of NBC's offices barely a month into its existence. Now we'll never know what wacky stuff secretary Emma might've gotten herself into!

Status: Canceled after four episodes.

2. New Girl

New Girl's label of "breakout comedy of the year" is a boon for Fox and, and it was the first new show of the fall to earn a full-season pickup. It's got Zooey Deschanel pulling in most of the praise, but the increasingly delightful supporting cast and steady writing are what keep it from being a one-hipster-woman show.

Status: Picked up for a full season.

1. Suburgatory

The premise of Emily Kapnek's fish-out-of-the-city tale of a New York City teen dropped into the 'burbs may not have initially blown you away, but the gated-community world the show has created is successful because it's fearlessly over-the-top. Add to that likable characters on both sides of the picket fence and a heavy helping of heart and hope, and you've got network TV's best new comedy. Heck, this show could be 22 minutes' worth of Dahlia taking verbal poops on everything she sees and it'd still be worth watching.

Now that I've made my list, what's yours?

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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