British TV has a really strong tradition of comedy, especially of the more off the wall kind, which is really quite different from US TV comedy. Being married to a Brit, I’ve been lucky enough to be introduced to a number of older shows that I probably would have missed out on because they were on before I moved to the UK. Fortunately almost all of these shows are available on BBC, iPlayer, Netflix, 4OD or Amazon Prime for you to enjoy. These are my 10 favourites.
The Fast Show
Years on: 1994 – 2000
Starring: Paul Whitehouse, Charlie Higson, Simon Day, Mark Williams, John Thomson, Arabella Weir and Caroline Aherne
The premise: A sketch show where most of the preamble is dispensed with and the punch line hits almost immediately.
Best character: Where do I even start? Probably the news readers from Channel 9.
Best episode: The final one where Johnny Depp visits the suit shop.
“Billy Bleach: She was half woman, half fish. Terrible in the kitchen, but a bloody good swimmer.”
The Mighty Boosh
Years on: 2003 – 2007
Starring: Noel Fielding, Julian Barrett, Michael Fielding
The premise: The surreal adventures of best friends Vince Noir and Howard Moon
Best character: The Moon
Best episode: Call of the Yeti
“Vince Noir: [grabbing book] Look at this one!
Naboo: Don’t touch that!
Vince Noir: All right! Easy!
Naboo: This is black magic. This is hardcore. Don’t mess with the occult.
Vince Noir: I thought it was good for you.
Vince Noir: Well, you know, good for your digestive system.
Naboo: That’s Yakult!
Vince Noir: Oh, yeah…”
Years on: 2007 -2014
Starring: Hugh Dennis, Claire Skinner, Tyger Drew-Honey, Daniel Roche, Ramona Marquez
The premise: What makes this family sitcom stand out is that it’s part improvised so the kids say the most hilarious things
Best character: Karen
Best episode: Cousin Julie’s wedding
“Karen: How can you not like somebody you’ve never met?
Sue: Good point, Karen.
Karen: Yes, you should only hate people you know.
Sue: Ye… er…
Karen: Like Miss Braybrook.
Sue: But you love Miss Braybrook! She’s the reason you’re Christian!
Karen: Not any more, that’s all rubbish.
Pete: Rubbish is a bit harsh.
Karen: I don’t believe in God anymore, I’m a Satanist.
Pete: I think that’s an atheist. Satanists…do things to goats.”
Years on: 2003 – 2013
Starring: David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Olivia Colman
The premise: Roommates, Jez and Mark are total opposites but somehow their friendship seems to survive all their terrible adventures, which we get to watch from both of their perspectives.
Best character: Super Hans
Best episode: Mark’s stag do
“Jez: There’s only so much happiness in the world and they’re hoarding it all!
Mark: That’s not how happiness works! (It completely is.)”
The Morgana Show
Years on: 2010
Starring: Morgana Robinson, Tom Davis, Ninette Finch
The premise: I don’t think anyone but Paul and I watched this bonkers sketch show but I love ever moment of it
Best character: Gilbert
Best episode: All of them
Years on: 2000 – 2004
Starring: Jack Davenport, Gina Bellman, Sarah Alexander, Kate Isitt, Ben Miles, Richard Coyle
The premise: Six friends navigate romance, relationships and life
Best character: Jeff
Best episode: The End of the Line
“Susan: Well, you know what it’s like at the start, when they’re all fiery-eyed, and eager, and they haven’t seen you naked yet. And it’s like he’s smashing at your door with his mighty battering ram. And he’s promising to ravish you forever. So you brace yourself for man overload, and throw open the doors, and what do you find standing there? An oversized toddler who wants his dinner. And before you can say, “There’s been a terrible mistake,” he’s snoring on your sofa, the fridge is full of empty bottles and the whole place smells of feet.”
How Not to Live Your Life
Years on: 2007 – 2010
Starring: Dan Clark, David Armand, Leila Hoffman
Premise: Dan inherits his grandmother’s house and would have a great future ahead of him if he didn’t keep making such terrible decisions.
Best character: Treacher
Best episode: Don Meets His Maker
“Don Danbury: [repeatedly during sex] Can I have my job back?
Maggie: [repeatedly] No
Don Danbury: [about to ejaculate] Can-I-have-my-job-back?
Maggie: [climaxes] Yes!
Don Danbury: So, shall I start Monday morning?
Maggie: Start what!
Don Danbury: My job, you said I can have it back!”
Years on: 1999 – 2001
Starring: Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes, Nick Frost
Premise: Tim and Daisy move into a flat together where they have to pretend to be a couple… endless pop culture infused shenanigans ensue.
Best character: Marsha
Best episode: Art
“Daisy: Right, I’m going to the shops. D’you want anything?
Daisy: Tim, I’m not going to buy you porn. You can get it from railway sidings like everybody else.
Tim: I can’t, I’m an adult. I’m supposed to leave it there.”
Years on: 1983 – 1989
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Hugh Laurie
Premise: The adventures of Blackadder and his faithful servant, Baldrick, throughout history.
Best character: Baldrick
Best episode: Beer
“Blackadder: I seek information about a Wisewoman.
Young Crone: Ah, the Wisewoman… the Wisewoman.
Blackadder: Yes, the Wisewoman.
Young Crone: Two things, my lord, must thee know of the Wisewoman. First, she is… a woman. And second, she is…
Young Crone: You do know her then?
Blackadder: No, just a wild stab in the dark which is, incidentally, what you’ll be getting if you don’t start being a bit more helpful. Do you know where she lives?
Young Crone: Of course.
Young Crone: Here. Do you have an appointment?
Young Crone: Well, you can go in anyway.
Blackadder: Thank you young crone. Here is a purse of moneys… which I’m not going to give to you.”
Years on: 1995 – 1998
Premise: The surreal adventures of a group of priests living together on the remote Craggy Island with their housekeeper Mrs Doyle
Starring: Dermot Morgan, Ardal O’Hanlon, Frank Kelly, Pauline McLynn
Best character: Father Jack
Best Episode: A Song for Europe
“Father Dougal McGuire: I’ve never met a celebrity before.
Father Ted Crilly: You met the Pope.
Father Dougal McGuire: Did I?
Father Ted Crilly: Yes, do you not remember that time we were in Rome?
Father Dougal McGuire: That was the Pope? That old fella living in the art gallery?
Father Ted Crilly: The Vatican, Dougal! The Vatican!
Father Dougal McGuire: Still, he’s not a celebrity in the true sense of the word.
Father Ted Crilly: He’s God’s representative on Earth, Dougal!
Father Dougal McGuire: You’d think he’d be taller.
Father Ted Crilly: You mean like a giant?”
Honourable mentions: League of Gentlemen, Little Britain, The Inbetweeners, Gavin & Stacey, That Mitchell and Webb Look, The Office