Mr. Show with Bob & David is an HBO sketch comedy show that ran from '95 to '98. The brainchild of Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, it is anarchic, cynical, sarcastic, satirical and brilliant. While the language and subject matter often veer toward the X-rated, the show is the heir to The Kids in the Hall, SCTV and Monty Python's Flying Circus. Many of the sketches are so comedically sound they might have been on Your Show of Shows back in the '50s. Not the content exactly, as even on live television Sid Caesar never blurted out a "mutherfucker," Imogene Coca wasn't in any mock-ad for a cock-ring warehouse and we were never exposed to a bit revolving around Carl Reiner's taint...but as far as structure, timing and acting, Mr. Show is just as timeless. Not to say that every piece is scatological, but cable put no boundaries on the show's creativity. While the result is definitely for adults only, the writing is clever and insightful above and beyond the shock value. All four seasons are now available on DVD.
David Cross is also a part of the ensemble of Arrested Development. The second season is just underway on Fox, and thanks to DVD you can catch up on the entire first season. With corporate scandals grabbing headlines and dysfunctional families appearing nightly as so-called reality television, the two blend perfectly for this edgy sitcom. Employing a fast-paced and often non-linear style, the misadventures of the Bluth family follow imprisoned patriarch and crooked real-estate mogul George (Jeffrey Tambor) and all his greedy, self-absorbed kin. The only normal one of the bunch is son Michael (Jason Bateman), who tries to hold them and the business together without totally compromising his moral center--usually in vain, but always with plenty of funny.
British import The Office has aired here in the States on BBC-America but hasn't reached the audience it deserves. A low-key mockumentary set at a humdrum paper supplier, it lets us get to know several of the employees and most especially the clueless boss, David Brent, indelibly embodied by co-creator Ricky Gervais. He is painfully inappropriate and unprofessional, though he sincerely believes he is the funniest man alive and the best boss anyone could hope for. The awkwardness he creates in his wake is uncomfortably hysterical. Of course, it's all very dry and deadpan, but this is some of the funniest stuff ever created for television. Ever. Both seasons and the Christmas special that concluded the series with surprising emotional impact are now available on DVD.