Five shows on Thursday night funnier than The Office

Remember the heady days of season three, when Michael was tossing watermelons off the roof of Dunder-Mifflin and The Office was the funniest thing on TV? Unfortunately, the franchise pretty much ran out of awesome more than a year ago. Tonight, NBC will air their second hour long Jim-Pam sap-fest of the season. The baby's coming! Fortunately, while The Office was slipping into a coma, a bunch of other shows started rolling. So please: Don't watch the baby episode tonight. Watch something better. In reverse order ...

5. 30 Rock

Now in it's fourth season, 30 Rock is getting a little long in the tooth itself. That said, it's a different kind of show: More absurd at the outset, and therefore, more flexible. Tina Fey is, no surprise, an incredible sitcom writer and willing to treat her character ruthlessly. The self-referential thing was maybe a little over-saturated last season, but they've toned it back. Plus: Alec Baldwin.

Note: You can't actually watch a new 30 Rock tonight (because the hour long Office special is occupying its time slot). But if you're behind... that's what Hulu's for.

4. The Sarah Silverman Program

The Sarah Silverman ProgramThursday, 10:30pm / 9:30c
Story Time With Sarah St. Claire
Joke of the DayStand-Up ComedyFree Online Games

Either you like Sarah Silverman or you don't. Which is to say: Either you like jokes about poop or you don't. We do, and even when things get exceptionally weird or surreal in Sarah's world, that's better than the boring alternative. Between the writer's strike and Comedy Central's truly bizarre programming choices, the show has taken forever to get into its third season. We're willing to be patient. Oh, and don't try to tell us that Demetri Martin's show, aired right next to The Sarah Silverman Program, is better. It's not.

Note: Incidentally, tonight's episode is a rerun. New episodes resume next week.

3. Community

So it's been a little hit or miss, and the love story is pretty barf-worthy. Still, when Community is on, it's ridiculously entertaining. The reason is mostly the cast: Chevy Chase can make falling over funny no matter how smart you think comedy needs to be, Danny Pudi is a surprisingly charming guy and Joel McHale is ... well, the guy from The Soup.

2. Archer

Pound for pound, the funniest show on television, even though it's only eight episodes into the first season. The dudes who created Sealab 2021 decided to make something you didn't have to be high to laugh at, and wow, did they do the damn thing. H. Jon Benjamin voices Sterling Archer, a secret agent at a dysfunctional spy agency. Your mom probably wouldn't approve of most of the jokes, but isn't that really just an endorsement? Literally only one episode so far hasn't been laugh-twice-per-minute hilarious. The show just got renewed for a second season, which is good news for everyone. Except your mom.

1. Parks & Recreation

If you only saw the first season, you were watching a different show. They must have figured out some things in the break, and nearly every episode of season two has been better than the last. Amy Poehler is actually likable, and Nick Offerman plays our favorite character in any current sitcom. His destruction of the breakfast buffet at the strip club ... we could watch it all day.

Who knows how the show will progress, but so far they've managed to strike the right balance between heartfelt and funny. Sort of like another show set in a shitty workplace that we used to watch all the time...

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Kiernan Maletsky is Westword's music editor. His writing has appeared in alt-weeklies around the country as well as Miley Cyrus's mom's Twitter feed.
Contact: Kiernan Maletsky