The British sitcom is legend. For a country with a population roughly a fifth of Americas, and a landmass about equal to that of California, The United Kingdom is somehow a powerhouse on equal terms with America when it comes ot producing great comedic television. As such, this week’s edition of Top 10 Tuesday examines my personal favorite British sitcomes. Though every edition of Top 10 Tuesday is hoghly subjective, I want to give an even greater warning for this list. I did not grow up with Monty Python, Faulty Towers, or Mr. Bean. Rather than try to conform to the popular choices of the greatest British sitcoms of all times, I decided to make a highly subjective list that names my personal favorites.
Just look at that cast! Sir Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings), Frances de la Tour (Harry Potter), and even Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones) in a role so drastically different from the one that he is famous for that you will be questioning your sanity. Vicious is a hilarious show about a constantly quipping elderly gay couple. Though they verbally assault each other with such seeming vitriol, there is an underlying love that makes the whole experience fun and charming.
Vicious stars the gargantuan Greg Davies (The Inbetweeners) as Ken, the Father in Law of the perpetually ridiculous titular character, Cuckoo. Cuckoo, portrayed by American Actor and Comedian Andy Samburg (Brooklyn Nine Nine), as a wild free spirit that complicates the lives of Ken’s direct family when he shows up out of nowhere as their Daughters new spouse, and moves in with the family. Largely a tale of acceptance, most of the humor in Cuckoo comes from Ken’s reluctance to embrace Cuckoo as a member of his family, while trying very hard to do so. After the first season, Andy Samburg had to leave the show due to other commitments, the series killed the character off, and introduced a long lost son of Cuckoo, who grew up in a strange cult. Portrayed by Taylor Lautner (Twilight), Dale ended up quickly fitting into the series.
08. The Wrong Mans
Hulu heavily self advertised this hilarious 2 season series about 2 ordinary British men who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances when one of them witnesses a car accident that ties them into an intricate plot. The humor of The Wrong Mans is largely in how out of place these 2 characters are in a world of crime and espionage. The series is shot and scored like an action/spy series, which only adds to the comedy as the 2 leads bumble through highly dangerous scenarios. The series stars current CBS The Late Show Host James Corden, and his Gavin and Stacey co-star Mathew Baynton.
07. Green Wing
The funniest show about Doctors is not Scrubs, in my opinion, but rather this gem of magic realism from the UK. Green Wing is a show about Doctors that doesn’t really address their patients or the practices of their occupation. Rather, the series deals with the relationships between these larger than life characters. Front and center to the soapie story-lines of the series is the competitive friendship between Guy (Episodes‘ Stephen Mangan) and Mac (A Touch of Cloth‘s Julian Rhind-Tutt) that turns into a love triangle when Caroline shows up (Mangan’s Episodes Co-Star Tamsin Greig). The cast of eccentric characters doesn’t stop with them, however, the cats includes Mark Heap (Spaced), Michelle Gomez (Doctor Who), Olivia Colman (Broadchurch), and Karl Theobald (Get Him to the Greek), as well as small appearances by Stephen Merchant (Extras) and Nick Frost (Spaced).
I see Miranda as a sort of modern day, and decidedly British, take on I Love Lucy. The series was created by, and stars, Miranda Hart (Call the Midwife), a 6’1″ Female comedian with an adorably awkward disposition. Miranda tells the story of Miranda, a fictitious version of the Comedian who plays her. Running a joke shop with her friend Stevie (Quantum of Solace‘s Sarah Hadland), Miranda must deal with her waspie mother Penny (Downton Abbey‘s Patricia Hodge), and the attractive chef next door, Gary (Lucifer‘s Tom Ellis) who she is irresistibly attracted to. Hilarious and awkward antics ensue.
Created by, and starring, The Inbetweeners‘ Simon Bird and Joe Thomas, as well as Comedian Jonny Sweet, Chickens tells the story of three British men, who, for very different reasons, avoid the battlefield of the first World War. As such, these 3 are labeled as chickens by the rest of their town, which is almost entirely female, as the other men are all at war. Cecil (Bird) wanted to join the war, but was rejected because of his flat feet. Despite his desire to serve, the people of his town give him no respite. George (Thomas) avoided the war as a conscientious objector to the war, and all other violence. He struggles to hold on to his Fiance, who grows more and more ashamed of him. Bert (Sweet) is the man that neither want to be associated with. Bert is overjoyed at the ratio of men to women in the town, and often forgets their is a war at all. The series only ran for a single season, but was a hilarious romp, from beginning to end.
04. A Touch of Cloth
The only series on this that, as far as I know, is unwatchable by any legal method in the States, A Touch of Cloth is a parody of police procedurals that comes from the mind of prolific Writer/Comedian/Journalist Charlie Brooker (Black Mirror). The series, which stars John Hannah (Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD) as the titular D.I. Jack Cloth, Suranne Jones (Doctor Foster) as his partner D.I. Anne Oldman, and Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing) as their boss A.C.C. Tom Boss, is a densely packed, modern day, and decidedly British spoof in the vein of The Naked Gun. Though the 3 season series is home to a tiny number of total episodes, the series is highly re-watchable thanks tot he remarkable density of its humor. As you laugh at 1 joke you will miss 3 more. Hopefully the series finds its way stateside, perhaps through Netflix.
Though The Office is typically the Go-To comedy from Comedian Ricky Gervais, I was personally more enamored by his second scripted comedy series, Extras. Extras tells the story of a would be Actor (Gervais himself in the role of Andy), who currently gets by as an Extra for the film industry. This premise, alongside Gervais’ growing celebrity from The Office, allowed the series to have stunningly hilarious cameos by a number of high profile Actors, including Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet, Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Stewart, and Sir Ian McKellen, all as rather unflattering versions of themselves. Though the cameos alone are reason enough to watch the series, the real heart comes from Andy’s relationships with his friend and fellow Extra Maggie (The Lobster‘s Ashley Jensen), and his largely incompetent Manager Darren (Gervais’ long time writing partner and fellow Comedian Stephen Merchant). Like with all Gervais projects, there is a heart beyond the comedy that draws us into the lives of Extras’ cast of characters.
There isn’t much to say about Spaced, it is just, flat out, awesome. Fans of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End will be excited to learn that Spaced was the start of the professional relationship between Director Edgar Wright and Writers/Actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. If you liked those 3 movies they worked together on, Spaced is an absolute no brainer.
01. The Inbetweeners
Our number 1 pick is The Inbetweeners, a hilarious comedy about 4 friends at a fictional school. These 4 pubescent misfits navigate issues like bullying, while bonding and attempting to be cool and score sexual experiences. Painfully awkward, and uproariously funny, The Inbetweeners stars Simon Bird (Chickens) as the posh Will McKenzie, Joe Thomas (Fresh Meat) as Simon Cooper, whose crush on his childhood friend Carli as a goldmine of humiliations, Black Harrison (The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret) as the dim witted Neil Sutherland, and James Buckley (The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman) as Jay Cartwright, who is perpetually caught in his many lies. The series was so successful in the UK that it even spawned 2 film continuations of the series, and remains one of the most beloved British comedies of all time. If you like cringe, and had some rough experiences in High School, The Inbetweeners will have you rolling on the floor, laughing your ass off.
As this list was highly subjective, and flies in the face of many top 10 British standards, I would like to know what your favorites are as well. Perhaps my opinion will be swayed. Leave a comment if you agree, disagree, or just want to say “first”.