13 Workplace Comedies to Buckle Down With This Labor Day Weekend

There are two kinds of employees. (Three, if you count those who traffic in binary generalizations.) You've got those who squeeze as much life as they can out of every moment they’re not stuck in an office cubicle, and those who can’t resist checking/responding to work emails and Slacks, even when they’re on vacation. Fortunately, both can find the humor in a great workplace TV comedy—whether it’s a small-screen version of him or herself, or an uncanny doppelgänger for that boss you love to hate. With a three-day weekend ahead of you, you’re bound to spend at least part of it lying on the couch, so why not channel the spirit of the holiday by streaming one of these hilarious workplace comedies?


The Office (UK)

Before there was Dunder Mifflin, there was Wernham Hogg—the original misfit middling paper company in a stultifyingly small city. But just because you’ve seen one version of The Office doesn’t mean that you’ve seen both. Yes, there are some shared general character types, like the lovably sarcastic paper salesman (here, it’s Martin Freeman) who shares a desk with a power-hungry oddball (Mackenzie Crook) and is desperately in love with the office’s already-engaged secretary (Lucy Davis). And they both revolve around a boss from hell.

But in the case of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s original creation, Gervais’ David Brent has a much higher cringe-per-quip ratio than even Michael Scott. Whether he’s awkwardly trying to impress the office’s sole black employee by discussing his admiration for Mr. Sidney Poi-tier, showing off his musical chops in the middle of an employee training session, or busting out the kind of awkwardly terrible dance moves that would make Elaine Benes blush (see above video—please), you’ll spend most the series covering your eyes and writhing in visceral embarrassment—and loving every minute of it (if you like that kind of uncomfortable comedy).

Where to Stream It: Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix


The Office (US)

In the same way that some fans of NBC’s version of The Office have avoided the BBC series from which it was adapted, there are some David Brent purists who have no interest in seeing Hollywood ruin yet another brilliant British sitcom (see: The Inbetweeners). That, thankfully, is patently not the case with Greg Daniels’ American reimagining. On its own, The Office stands out for ushering in a new era of offbeat comedies to network television; its success begat shows like 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation (more on those later). And it only got more bizarre with each new season, leading some viewers to wonder if the entire staff was suffering the effects of radon poisoning. Yet The Office always wore its heart on its sleeve, and not just with Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam’s (Jenna Fischer) relationship. For as annoying as branch manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell) could be, all he ever really wanted was for people to like him. Even if he didn’t always make it easy.

Where to Stream It: Netflix


Cheers

The NBC classic that takes place in the bar where everybody knows your name may have debuted nearly 36 years ago, but it still hasn’t lost any of its comedy bite—even if the wardrobe department did manage to find Red Sox relief pitcher-turned-bar owner Sam Malone (Ted Danson) some of the ugliest sweaters the 1980s had to offer. While the bar’s employees and regulars certainly talk a lot about what happens in the world beyond Cheers’ front door, we don't get to see a lot of it.

And that's absolutely fine—because while much of the show’s first five seasons revolved around the on-again/off-again romance between Sam and wannabe poet/waitress Diane Chambers (Shelley Long), it’s an ensemble comedy in the truest sense. The show wouldn't be the same without foul-mouthed waitress Carla (Rhea Perlman), sweet-but-dumb bartenders Coach (Nicholas Colasanto) and Woody (Woody Harrelson), know-it-all mailman Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger), unemployed accountant-slash-bottomless-beer-well Norm Peterson (George Wendt), and psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer). But the greatest testament to the consistency of James Burrows and Glen and Les Charles' creation is that when Long left the series after the fifth season, the show continued without a beat, thanks to the addition of Rebecca (Kirstie Alley) as the bar’s new boss. In fact, one could argue that the show only got better in the Rebecca years—a surprising second act for what was already one of television’s most beloved comedies.

Where to Stream It: Hulu, Netflix


It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

From its pilot episode, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has established itself as a truly one-of-a-kind series—an uninhibited comedy where no taboo is off-limits. Exhibit A: The very first episode is titled “The Gang Gets Racist.” Other episode titles that say it all? “Charlie Gets Molested,” “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom,” "Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender,” and “Who Pooped the Bed?” Though the gang in question—Mac (Rob McElhenney), Charlie (Charlie Day), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Dee (Kaitlin Olson), and Frank (Danny DeVito)—has been known to take an exotic vacation or two (like the time they went to the Jersey Shore and became crackheads or took a sloshy flight to Los Angeles, Wade Boggs-style), they’re much more comfortable within Philadelphia’s environs. Specifically, Paddy’s Pub, the dumpy Irish bar they own in South Philadelphia, and the place from which all of their doomed schemes originate. While it might be easy for someone to dismiss the show as simple shock humor, the series is so cleverly written that no matter how provocative the theme, it’s always “The Gang” who ends up losing. And never learning anything in the process. Which has proven a boon to comedy fans for going on 13 seasons now.

Where to Stream It: Hulu


Taxi

Nearly 30 years before he began palling around with the gang from Paddy’s Pub, Danny DeVito was already pepetually enraged as Louie De Palma, the dispatcher at New York City’s Sunshine Cab Company who gets off on bullying his roster of cab drivers and employees from his tiny steel cage: former corporate drudge Alex (Judd Hirsch), boxer Tony (Tony Danza), single mom Elaine (Marilu Henner), burnout “Reverend” Jim (Christopher Lloyd), aspiring actor Bobby (Jeff Conaway), and innocent mechanic Latka (Andy Kaufman). Like so many other ’70s sitcoms, the series feels a bit like live theater; most of an episode’s action takes place inside the cab company garage, with people moving fluidly in and out of scenes, and its narrative is driven by the strength of its characters and dialogue. Debuting the same year as Mork & Mindy and Diff’rent Strokes, the series stood out for its stellar acting and willingness to tackle then-controversial topics like drug addiction, racism, and sexual harassment head-on.

Where to Stream It: Hulu


Veep

Up until, oh, say about 19 months ago, a position at the White House was considered an esteemed opportunity. But long before a reality star was knocking back Diet Cokes in the Oval Office, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was doing a formidable job of stripping the West Wing of any pomp and/or circumstance with what might be her career-defining role as vice president-turned-president-turned-former-president-turned-wannabe-president Selina Meyer. She’s aided by a pitch-perfect team of assistants, writers, enablers, and one desperately loyal bagman (Tony Hale), all of whom either seem to marvel at her every gaffe or only make it worse. However, if you strip away all the creative swearing (an admittedly difficult task), the show is really about how the people in power of our country are just as fallible as the rest of us. Danny Wa!

Where to Stream It: Amazon Prime, HBO Now


The Thick of It

How many f-bombs can Peter Capaldi fit into a single sentence and still have it make grammatical sense? Good luck keeping track. Seven years before he brought us Veep, satirist Armando Iannucci tackled the inner workings of British government, with future Doctor Who star Capaldi as the prime minister’s right-hand man who has a brilliantly scathing insult for every occasion (i.e. “He’s as useless as a marzipan dildo”). Much like Veep, it’s a sweary, fast-paced comedy that focuses on political ineptitude and the lengths those who work within the government’s hallowed halls will go to to clean up the messes both they and their co-workers create. Only to do it all again the next day (if they manage to keep their jobs at all).

Where to Stream It: Hulu


30 Rock

After gaining fame as the first female head writer on Saturday Night Live, Tina Fey drew even bigger accolades as the creator and star of 30 Rock—a show about a show that looked an awful lot like Saturday Night Live. But before you think Fey developed the Emmy-winning series with a grinding axe, consider that it was executive produced by SNL’s own Lorne Michaels and featured a handful of former SNL cast members, including Tracy Morgan, Will Forte, and Rachel Dratch. Even better, it serves as a stunningly good primer on the bureaucracy that comes with any mass creative endeavor, letting the viewer know just how many corporate executives might need to sign off on a single joke written for a show that’s produced by a media company that's owned by a microwave manufacturer. Each episode essentially revolves around TGA head writer/showrunner Liz Lemon’s (Fey) attempts to rein in her writers and actors and put out the many fires that ignite as they race toward each weekend’s showtime. It’s a scenario that Fey knew all too well, and Lemon became a hero to women everywhere for her ability to maintain relative sanity in a workplace where chaos rules (but slankets and Cheesy Blasters help).

Where to Stream It: Hulu


Parks and Recreation

Anyone who grew up or has ever spent an extended period of time in a small town can appreciate the importance of both history and tradition to that place’s longtime citizens. As the ultimate booster for Pawnee, Indiana, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) takes her job as deputy director of the town’s Parks and Recreation Department seriously. And much more seriously than her boss, parks director Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), who’d rather be whittling wood. Which is totally fine with Leslie, whose enthusiasm for local government and dedication to her hometown is enough to take the place of 20 employees. Parks and Recreation was originally planned as a spinoff of The Office, and it shows in its sometimes-wacky storylines that never stray from the heart of the show, which is Leslie’s annoyingly infectious enthusiasm. (The fact that a tiny horse named Li’l Sebastian is a recurring star is just a bonus.) While co-creator Michael Schur got his start on SNL, and later The Office, this is where he honed the sincere-but-still-hilarious sensibility that led to later beloved projects like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place.

Where to Stream It: Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix


W1A

While a few of the local cultural references may go over some American viewers’ heads, anyone who has ever been in a meeting where many words are spoken but virtually nothing is said will be able to relate to W1A. A follow-up to Twenty Twelve, a 2011 mockumentary following the preparations leading up to the 2012 London Olympics, W1A is the BBC’s chance to poke fun at itself as a historic organization trying to find its way in the age of Twitter. Hugh Bonneville reprises his role as Ian Fletcher, who has just been named as the BBC’s Head of Values—a job title that no one quite understands, but has something to do with dealing with an uncertain future. Which seems to overlap with the job descriptions of several other BBC executives, including the Director of Better and the Head of Inclusivity. Fortunately, David Tennant narrates to help you sort it all out.

Where to Stream It: Netflix


Silicon Valley

Any list of great big-screen workplace comedies wouldn’t be complete without Office Space at (or at least very near) the top. So it’s hardly surprising that Mike Judge’s tech-industry-kebab would follow suit. If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg, this series might change your mind. Especially if you’ve got the kind of social anxiety that might lead you to walk into a plate glass wall. Or vomit in front of your employees. Twice. That’s the situation Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) finds himself in when Pied Piper, the music app he developed, turns out to have a game-changing compression algorithm embedded within. And so begins Richard’s roller coaster ride through Silicon Valley where he and his not-so-merry band of fellow Pipers—including coders Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) and the obsessively loyal COO Jared (Zach Woods)—are a VC firm’s dream investment one day and biggest nightmare the next. While some people have tuned the show out because of its technical storyline, you don’t have to know how to change the ringtone on your cellphone (or even have a cellphone) to understand a) what’s going on, or b) that it’s painfully funny.

Where to Stream It: Amazon Prime with HBO, HBO Now, Hulu


The Larry Sanders Show

Working behind the scenes on a popular late-night talk show might seem like a dream job to a lot of people… until they watch The Larry Sanders Show. After being offered David Letterman’s actual Late Night chair, Garry Shandling said no and instead worked with David Klein to create this fake talk show that sort of worked like a real late-night talk show in that it featured celebrity guests and musical acts—all playing themselves, but with fictional storylines that allowed them to play with their public personas. (David Duchovny has a massive crush on Larry, and Larry and Sharon Stone have a brief fling that leaves him devastated when he realizes that she is much more famous than him.) Shandling, who as a comedian was always a bit ahead of his time, put a lot of himself—insecurities and all—into Larry, making the show as quietly devastating at times as it is cringe-worthy. (Though the latter usually comes courtesy of Jeffrey Tambor’s Hank Kingsley.) Throw in the always-amazing Rip Torn as Larry’s producer/fiercest cheerleader Artie, and you’ve got not just one of the greatest comedies of the ‘90s, but one of television history’s most influential series. (There’d be no The Office—British or American—without it.)

Where to Stream It: Amazon Prime with HBO, HBO Now, Hulu


Fawlty Towers

Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) is not a patient man. Yet Basil Fawlty has somehow decided to buy a seaside hotel with his wife and run it, forcing him to spend his days engaging with guests—most of whom he ends up offending. Same goes for his wife (Prunella Scales), waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs), and chambermaid Polly, who was played by Connie Booth, who was Cleese’s real-life wife. That the main cast is relatively small, and the rotating guests afford an opportunity for Fawlty to interact with a wide range of personality types, are a perfect match for Cleese’s comedy genius. (The character, by the way, is based on a real-life hotel owner Cleese and his Monty Python brethren had to once contend with in Devon, England.) In addition to co-starring in the show, Cleese and Booth created the series together, but ended up parting ways before production on the second season began. Which might explain why there are only two seasons for a grand total of 12 episodes.

Where to Stream It: BritBox, Netflix


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