Fawlty Towers! Extras! The Office! Ab Fab! Father Ted! Inbetweeners! Peep Show! Monty Python! Mighty Boosh! Gavin & Stacey! Sound familiar? Most likely. These are the British comedies everyone who loves a little bit of British comedy has watched and wants you to watch. But there are some unknown (or really not that unknown, but less praised) gems out there waiting for you to discover them, and I am here to get you on the right track. Here are the five British comedies I believe everyone should watch:
Before ‘Community’ became the current epitome of pop-culture referencing, ‘Spaced’ had done many of the things ‘Community’ did, 10 years before.
‘Spaced’ tells the story of Tim and Daisy, two people who meet at the lowest moment of their lives (one homeless, another broken up with) and decide to pretend to be a couple in order to get a flat together. Of course, as we get to know them, we get to know their new neighbors and best friends.
Pretty standard, right? Well, you could say so, except this show is bizarre. It pays homages in every shot, in every line of dialogue, in every set. If you buy this edition of the DVD you’ll be able to turn on a reference guide that goes so fast you won’t have time to catch them all.
As I mentioned above, everything current comedies are doing these days, ‘Spaced’ did way before. Robot fights? ‘Spaced’ had them. Finger gun battles? ‘Spaced’ had them. Paintball? Yup, ‘Spaced’ did it first.
Directed by Edgar Wright and written by Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes (now Stevenson) way before Shaun of the Dead and The Cornetto Trilogy, this is probably Edgar’s most brilliantly directed project and a masterpiece in its own right.
Before Steven Moffat was massively loved and/or hated by many because of his contributions to ‘Doctor Who’ and being the creative mind behind ‘Sherlock’, he had actually been a pretty successful comedy writer, and his most famous project was named ‘Coupling’.
Now, the easiest, and honestly most reasonable comparison to this show is ‘Friends’. ‘Friends’ if the sex talk had been amped up by 100%.
The two main characters–Steve and Susan– are based in exaggerated versions of Moffat himself and his wife (Steven and Sue, easy!) and the show tackles friendship, sex, marriage and the battle of sexes in a very unapologetic way.
Now, you may say whatever you want to say about Moffat’s women in ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Sherlock’ (those are deep waters I’m not willing to dive in here), but Coupling’s women are some of my favorite women in comedy. The men of the show are all ridiculous, sexist, completely oblivious stereotypes. The women, however, though parting from stereotypes (Susan is type A, Sally superficial, Jane possessive and slightly out of her mind) happen to be smarter than the men in every possible way and more likely than not end up winning every argument they get involved with. The show stars Jack Davenport before being James Norrington and Gina Bellman before ‘Leverage’, as well as an all-round fantastic cast.
Now, one of my favorite things in this show are Steve’s completely pointless and stupid rants on things that don’t matter. Here is my favorite, on cushions (with ‘Doctor Who’ reference included, oh Moffat!):
Black Books (2000-2004)
You will not find a main character like Bernard Black anywhere else. This dark, tormented, drunk, grumpy, hilarious Irish man-child who owns the bookshop that gives the name to the show– Black Books– creates a wonderful contrast to the other two main characters: his best friend Fran, who owns a shop next door and has known him forever and Manny, a man he hires while drunk, and, who after swallowing an anti-stress book, saves Bernard from getting beaten up. Together, Fran and Manny struggle to turn Bernard into more of a socially functional human, to the detriment of their own social skills, since they usually get dragged by him, anyway.
If this doesn’t sound weird enough to you, don’t worry, the show does get weirder, and that is the beauty of it. Here, one of my favorite scenes. If this doesn’t make you want to watch the show, then it’s obviously not for you:
The series is full of guest-stars that you’ll know from other places, including ‘Spaced’, since both shows were intended to be “sister shows”. Most actors from ‘Spaced’ make an appearance here at some point, and just in the first episode, you come across a very young Martin Freeman playing a doctor.
‘Black Books’ is created by Dylan Moran– Bernard Black himself– and co-written by Graham Lineham, creator of ‘The I.T. Crowd’.
I have already talked about the recently finished ‘Miranda’ in length here, but in short: ‘Miranda’ narrates the story of a 30-something permanently single woman, who owns a joke shop that she runs with her best friend Stevie and whose life changes with the return of her university friend and long-time crush Gary.
It breaks the fourth wall, it doesn’t step away from fart jokes and it is honestly one of the most hilarious things you’ll ever see with one of the most realistic female characters you will find on television.
The IT Crowd (2006-2010, 2013)
Okay, this one is a bit of a cheat. Everyone loves The I.T. Crowd, right? Right? If you haven’t watched this sitcom, please do, before NBC goes ahead with a second attempt at a terrible American remake. Before ‘The Big Bang Theory’ was cool (what a great time), Roy and Moss were your standard lovable nerds. Their lives get shaken with the arrival of Jen, a completely clueless woman who gets hired as their manager when she lies her way through her entire job interview (pretty easily, honestly). Of course, we see them trying to adapt to the presence of a woman in their
basement office, but we also see Jenn getting dragged into their world, surrounded by really particular characters, including one of my favorite sitcom characters of all time, Richmond:
I will say, admittedly, that there are one or two episodes of this show that are borderline offensive and slightly cringe-worthy (one that deals with with one of the characters finding out his girlfriend is transgender woman and one where one of the characters pretends to be disabled) but it is generally inoffensive as a whole and very, very funny.
And here are my 5 favorites. What are your favorites? Is it mentioned above? Anything I should watch? Let me know!