After ABC's success with "Modern Family," the broadcast networks officially declared the comedy drought of the early 2000s over and began developing more in the genre. So far the results have been a mixed bag of good (Fox's "New Girl") and disappointing (CBS's "We Are Men") with many more series landing in the latter category.
Cable has a similar mixed-bag track record, apparent this week in a returning favorite and a disappointing newcomer.
It's been a year-and-a-half since Showtime last aired an original episode of its comedy series "Episodes" (10:30 tonight) but for a show this entertaining, its fourth season is worth the wait.
HBO's "Girls" and "Veep" may get more media buzz but the underappreciated "Episodes" is much funnier as it chronicles the life of a fictional version of former "Friends" star Matt LeBlanc, now starring as a hockey coach in "Pucks," a broadcast network sitcom.
While the setting of "Episodes" is behind the scenes of the TV business, it doesn't spend as much time on its milieu as it does on its characters, their relationships and predicaments.
When viewers last tuned in to "Episodes," husband-and-wife writers Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) appeared to be reconciling, Matt took a beating from network executive Merc (John Pankow) for sleeping with Merc's wife and network exec Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) was poised to inherit Merc's job.
The season three premiere, written by series creators David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, begins the next day with fallout from the events of the night before.
Carol advises Beverly not to tell Sean about sleeping with another man while they were apart.
"There's a huge difference between omitting and lying," Carol notes. "That said, I also believe in lying."
Carol's dreams of running the network get dashed and she and her co-workers begin to fear for their jobs. The reconciliation between Sean and Beverly hits bumps in the road. And Matt's self-destructive, foolish behavior continues to have negative consequences on his personal life.
"You are the worst client I've ever had," Matt's lawyer tells him. "I'd happily trade you for two Mel Gibsons and a Tiger Woods."
"Episodes" is not as cutting-edge as "Girls" (returning tonight at 10) but it's a lot funnier and maybe even more relatable for much of the audience (with the exception of entitled, 23-year-olds living in Brooklyn).
More good news for viewers who have already gotten hooked on "Episodes": Last month Showtime ordered a fourth season; the wait between seasons should be shorter this time around.
Concept-wise, FX's "Chozen" (10:30 p.m. Monday) has the potential to be a hoot. The show follows the misadventures of its title character (voiced by Bobby Moynihan, "Saturday Night Live"), a gay, white rapper recently out of prison for a crime he didn't commit.
Before prison, Chozen was a clean-living dude; now he's a pothead with dreams of a revitalized career and revenge against the former collaborator who sent him to the big house.
After he's paroled, Chozen crashes in a college dorm room belonging to his sister, Tracy (Kathryn Hahn), and reunites with two former musician buddies who now rap at kids' birthday parties. Chozen is an unattractive, lazy slob and while those characteristics can be comedy fodder, viewers will require a high tolerance for them if they are to keep watching.
Created by newcomer Grant DeKernion and executive produced by Tom Brady ("Good Vibes"), "Chozen" is animated by the same company responsible for FX's "Archer" (returning Monday at 10 p.m.), and the shows share a visual style. But the humor is coarser in "Chozen," and that's saying something for anyone familiar with "Archer." On the few occasions I wrote down a semi-clever line of dialogue from "Chozen," it was clear I could never quote from the show in a family newspaper.
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.