Vanessa Bayer will go down in history as one of the most underrated stars of Saturday Night Live. During her tenure, she had to go up against people like Bill Hader, Kristen Wiigand Kate McKinnon and still managed to be a powerful and unique voice on the show. Her characters were simple-seeming optimists who were living in dark and strange worlds, making her unforgettable. Her new show, I Love That For Youcarries with it the same dichotomy that made her so successful on SNL. The show centers on Joanna Gold (Bayer), an aspiring host for shopping channel SVN, who lies that her childhood cancer has returned in order to keep her job; the story is inspired by Bayer’s personal experience with childhood leukemia. With great writing and a cast including Molly Shannon and Jenifer Lewis, the ending of the show is leaving a huge hole in our schedules. While we wait for Season 2, here’s a list of darkly funny alternatives!
If you want a TV show that will make you laugh and cry, Hacks is the show for you. When Ava (Hannah Einbinder), an up-and-coming and original TV writer, gets canceled for a bad tweet, she finds her once-promising career coming to an abrupt end. Her only option is to move to Las Vegas and work for Deborah Vance (Jean Smart), an old-school, Joan Rivers-like comedian. Though they begin as antagonistic figures in each other’s lives, they soon learn to respect and love each other’s creativity and hard work. Like I Love That For You, Hacks is a once-in-a-generation TV show that not only examines show business but also death and evolution.
In an alternate universe, Vanessa Bayer would definitely have made a great Kimmy Schmidt. The strange and hilarious Tina Fey show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidtfollows Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) a woman who has spent the majority of her life in an underground bunker after being kidnapped by a doomsday religious fanatic. After being rescued, she decides to take New York City by storm with her roommate, Titus (Titus Burgess), and landlord (Carol Kane) at her side. The show may sound like a heartbreaking drama, but with Kimmy Schmidt’s optimism and eccentricities, the show always finds a silver lining without being naive.
For many older comedians, the lazy, privileged, and unskilled millennials is the top target of derision. However, the criticisms themselves are often lazy and superficial. Search Party, made by and for millennials, gets to the heart of what is wrong with the generation. The show centers on Dory (Alia Shawkat), an unemployed and uninspired young woman who finally finds her purpose when she decides to investigate the disappearance of a former college acquaintance, Chantal. As she and her close friends dive into the mystery, their lives unravel and they unknowingly turn the world upside down. Throughout the series, we see these characters rob, cheat and even lie about having cancer, making it a perfect companion to I Love That For You.
Another TV show written by an SNL alum, The Other Two is a darkly funny show about the tragedy of being the family failure. The show centers around Cary (Drew Tarver), an aspiring actor, and his sister Brooke (Helene Yorke), a former professional dancer, who must grapple with the fact that their 13-year-old brother Chase has become an instant internet celebrity. Also starring Molly Shannon, this show delightfully skewers pop culture utilizing characters who can only exist outside of show business due to their lack of networking ability and talent. Because of that, the show is extremely unique and utterly biting!
Many may be familiar with the other short-lived Judd Apatow show, Freaks & Geeksbut this show offers just as much laugh and heart for a different generation. Love follows two Los Angeles residents, Mickey and Gus, as they navigate the dating world. Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) is a troublemaking alcoholic and sex / love addict while Gus (Paul Rust) is awkward and emotionally needy. At times, the two seem like your worst nightmare boyfriend or girlfriend, but by meeting and getting to know each other, we are still able to find ways to sympathize with and relate to them. Not to mention, this show also gave Vanessa Bayer one of her first jobs out of SNL and showed she was not just talented at sketch comedy, but could also hold her own in narrative television.
Though the last episode of this show aired in 2019, most fans are still reeling from the loss of one of the most original and meaningful TV shows of the past decade. Unless you were a strange latchkey kid in the 1980s, you may never have heard of Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestlingthe short-lived series showcasing the colorful characters of women’s professional wrestling. GLOW is a fictional account of the making of this underdog series following Ruth (Alison Brie), a struggling actress, who joins this cast of wrestlers and must work with her ex-best friend Debbie (Betty Gilpin) after having cheated with her husband. Even though Ruth commits one of the biggest cardinal sins by betraying her friend in the first episode, the writing and chemistry between all the girls make us root for her.
When it comes to comedy about cancer, we can only trust Vanessa Bayer, but when it comes to comedy about mental illness, Maria Bamford is it. Her groundbreaking show Lady Dynamite brought interesting visuals, hilarious storylines, and very outside-of-the-box gags, making it one of the most innovative TV shows. The series centers on a fictionalized version of Maria Bamford herself and focuses on her real-life mental breakdown and recovery. The bipolar comedian may present a more exaggerated version of her story, but it’s far from a lie. Her artistic vision gives us a clearer image of her struggles with bipolar disorder than any book could.
If you’re looking for a show about another morally complicated protagonist, Valerie Cherish is a great person to seek out. After the universal acclaim and success of Friends, Lisa Kudrow created a show the world, unfortunately, was not ready for. The Comeback follows Valerie Cherish (Kudrow), a veteran B-list sitcom actress who found fame on a sitcom called I’m It!, which ran from 1989 to 1993. Years later, she gets cast in a new show and agrees to let a film crew document her return. Cherish is vain, idiotic, and endlessly watchable. Though it wasn’t given the run it deserved when it originally aired, Valerie Cherish certainly left her mark.
Difficult People (2015-2017)
No other show depicts gossipy, judgemental, and darkly hilarious friendships better than Difficult People. Starring Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner, the show follows two struggling and jaded comedians living in New York City as they simultaneously try to move up in the world and sabotage their own plans. Right off the bat, we know that these people are not heroes or aspirational figures. Still, we can not help but love them and recognize a bit of ourselves in them. With iconic and headline-creating episodes like the Woody Allen episode, this show will have you laughing and cringing.