Thursday night is going to be big. After three months off air, Community returns! It’s such a big deal even The New York Times has a story about the show’s return in today’s edition.

It remains unlikely, though, that “Community” will suddenly wade into the mainstream in search of more traditional viewers. Coming episodes revolve around a collegewide pillow fight (substituting for the regular paintball-shootout episode) and a full-scale “Law & Order” parody.

Which reminds me, I have not ranked my favorite TV shows at any point this season. A couple old favorites have fallen out, replaced by one new show, and another show that’s new to me.

1 – Parks and Recreation. We are in a golden age of ensemble cast comedies. With large casts come difficulties in keeping all the actors involved in the stories without making an episode too complex. P&R almost never has a bad week. It also hits the perfect balance of smart humor with silliness.
2 – Community. They scratch me exactly where I itch. As Dan Harmon says in the NYT article, they try to swing for the fences each week. Sometimes they whiff, but more often than not, they connect. Where P&R is consistently excellent, Community has had more moments of pure brilliance.
3 – Modern Family. Still a very good show, especially when compared to the trash the networks try to force on us each fall. But it’s a step or two below its first-season peak.
4 – Archer. Even more than Community, this show is not for everyone. But of all these shows, it is the only one that makes me laugh so hard I often can’t share my favorite lines with my wife the next day. Example: pretty much anything Pam says. Bonus points for all the Arrested Development connections.
5 – Up All Night. A fine first-year show. There is definitely a variance in quality from week-to-week, but overall it’s solid.

Bonus Show: We’ve been watching Mad Men for the last six months or so. We’re just about done with season three, so we don’t expect to start watching the season five when it airs. We like it a lot, although I’m not about to put it in the same class as The Wire when it comes to dramas.

Off the List:

The Office. I wasn’t going to be one of those Now that Steve Carell is gone, I’m not watching, people. And I watched for a month or so in the fall. But it just wasn’t as funny as it used to be. One week the DVR failed to record an episode and I took that as a sign it was time to move on. I’ve heard the show has rebounded a bit in 2012, but it hasn’t sucked me back in.
30 Rock. I just got behind on this one – I think I have six episodes on the DVR – and wasn’t loving how this season began anyway. I’ll probably plow through them at some point, but for now it’s not a priority.