With Everybody Loves Raymond Raymond sleeping the sweet sleep of syndication, and many untested successors in line for the fall, the networks wonder: Can anyone save the TV comedy? Here's good news: somebody already hassaved it on DVD, anyway. Whether skit or serial, classic or cult, hour-long or animated, this diverse batch of comedies proves there's more than one way to get a laugh.
ENTOURAGE FIRST SEASON
This HBO sitcom, which starts its second season on June 5, follows newly minted Hollywood heartthrob Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), the support staff that works for (and sometimes against) him, and his three hanger-on buddies. Come for the good-natured insider humor. Stay for Jeremy Piven as Vince's quotably bad-natured agent Ari.
CHAPPELLE'S SHOW SECOND SEASON
What drove Dave Chappelle from the set of his sketch show is the same thing that makes it distinctive: his intense involvement. A roomful of writers would have eased the load but blunted his voice and disconcerting racial humor. We don't know what will happen to Chappelle, but his comedy won't fade away.
HOME MOVIES SECOND SEASON
Brendon Small is a soccer-playing grade-schooler, but what he really wants to do is direct. Cartoon Network's animated series trails Brendon and his pals as they shoot and quibble artistically over some of the worst B movies ever committed to home video. Quirky and unsentimental, this is a rare, sophisticated cartoon that truly understands the weird power of childhood imagination.
THE JOB THE COMPLETE SERIES
Before Denis Leary was a fire fighter on FX, he was a cop on ABC. The 19 episodes of The Job fall further on the "-edy" side of dramedy than those of Rescue Me, but their gallows humor is much the same. As Mike McNeil, a boozing, cough-syrup-guzzling, philandering detective, Leary charms through sheer insolence.
THE BOB NEWHART SHOW FIRST SEASON
This 1972-78 sitcom had the good sense to take a chatty, psychological comedian and put him in a psychologist's office to chat with people. Though Newhart could do slapstick and broad comedy, he was also his own straight man, and this series showed him at his unflappable, Everyman best. It neatly captured the tone of a comic who kept his head when the neurotics around him had already lost theirs.
GILMORE GIRLS THIRD SEASON
This tart, eccentric hour has aged better than the WB's more dour soaps (Smallville, One Tree Hill) because it has a sense of humorfrom the oddball townsfolk of Stars Hollow to the snappy, never sappy dialogue. Girls may look like a drama, but it plays like a romantic comedy. And yet the most central love story is neither the entanglements of single mom Lorelai (Lauren Graham) nor of her brainy offspring Rory (Alexis Bledel). It's the one between the two of them: sharp, witty and highly caffeinated, they're Tracy and Hepburn as mother and daughter. By James Poniewozik