From sci-fi comedy sitcoms like Red dwarf to deliriously dark and morbid comedy shows like Nighty Night, the UK has been the source of some of the best comedy ever made. The Great British sense of humor is quite unlike any other; it’s a concoction of dry wit, sarcasm, irony, and a real appreciation for making light of the idiocy of normal life. There is also an element of schadenfreude, as much pleasure is taken from delivering a crushing sense of sadistic realism through humor and comedy, and this is reflected in its sitcom scene. Most successful British shows have the tendency to adopt similar approaches when looking for laughs, and this is usually found by being relatable.
Making a scene or sketch relatable to real life, and to situations the audience will all commonly find themselves in, is a key part of the equation. The most coveted British comedy shows all share that same theme to different degrees (sometimes even to the point of hyperbole and absurdity). This element of relatability contains within it a facet of self-aggrandizement, being able to laugh and make fun of oneself and requiring the audience to see past their shortcomings and insecurities. Having a sometimes highbrow sense of humor (and taking funniness seriously) makes the Brits discerning critics of comedy and sitcoms and thus, many have tried and failed at making them. However, these are the British comedy shows that fared so well, that even Brits rave about them.
5 Gavin and Stacey
Forget Posh and Becks, William and Kate, and Ozzy and Sharon, Gavin and Stacey were the true British power-couple. Written by Ruth Jones and The Late, Late Show‘s James Corden before he was that James Corden, Gavin and Stacey depicts a cross-border love story between the show’s titular characters. The English / Welsh divide is ever-present throughout the show, and is utilized hilariously. Aside from Gavin and Stacey‘s relationship, the sitcom draws upon other, more unconventional relationships between ‘Smiffy’ (or Smithy, played by Corden) and Nessa (played by Jones), as well as uncle and nephew Bryn and Jason… what really went on, on that fishing trip? It’s an endlessly sweet show that’s a kind departure from the sometimes acidic British comedy shows.
4 Only Fools and Horses
Only Fools and Horses is considered a part of British heritage, in the sense that the comedy show puts a humorous spin on the quintessence of the British class system, especially the working-class. Throughout the sitcom’s seven series, Del Boy, Rodney, and Granddad Trotter try their hand at a whole catalog of get-rich-quick schemes to disastrous but hilarious effect. Del Boy and Rodney are the perfect combination, the former wallowing in delusions of grandeur, while the latter is just plain stupid.
3 The Inbetweeners
The only criticism of Channel 4’s The Inbetweeners is that it was just three seasons (or series, as the British call them, which are usually only six-episode seasons). Yet, perhaps that was the beauty of it; the show’s creators, Ian Morris and Damon Beesley, pulled the plug when the sitcom was at its peak before any chance of decline had the potential to set in. The Inbetweeners details the lives of a group of four English sixth-formers (equivalent to senior year in high school), Will, Simon, Jay, and Neil, all of whom are social misfits in their own right. It follows the foursome’s sidesplitting attempts at navigating through the challenges and hurdles of adolescence. Everything from failing to lose their virginity, trying to be noticed by girls, experimenting with alcohol and drugs, as well as all the British schoolboy banter in-between. The Inbetweeners was particularly successful at resonating with the British public, and subsequently became a point of reference for many. Following the vast fortune of the series, two feature length films were made, The Inbetweeners Movie and The Inbetweeners 2set in Crete and Australia, respectively.
2 The Office
The Office was a rip-roaring triumph in both the UK and the States. The show (s) was another ingenious birth-child of comedy-maestro Ricky Gervais, who created both the British and American versions (albeit, Greg Daniels developed more of the latter). One of (if not) the first of its kind, The Office takes the form of a mockumentary depicting the lives of office workers in Slough, England. Ricky Gervais plays the now-iconic, obnoxious David Brent, who’s the general manager of Wernham and Hogg paper merchants. The mockumentary comedy show turns what would otherwise be seen as a gray (British spelling), prosaic, and unremarkable setting into a stage for the socially inept to showcase their painfully funny awkwardness, unintentional cringe-humor, and a total disregard for political correctness.
1 Peep Show
A show or film being “ahead of its time” is a phrase banded around so frequently that its purpose as a term recognizing distinctive and futuristic aptitude has lost its potency. However, Peep Show was just that; ahead of its time. Shot in a never-before-seen POV-style, the nine-series-long comedy show documents the middle-aged lives of Mark and Jeremy. Mark is an office-droid, a box-ticking, self-unaware, awkward mess, desperately trying his best to appear as a normal, functioning member of the human race. As Super Hans (their crack-addled maniac friend) puts it, “You, Mark, are a real Meat and Potatoes, straight up and down, Beef Wellington, do not trust the argies, d * ck in the vag * na, cheddar cheese and chicken tikka masala man. ”
Meanwhile, his flatmate Jeremy is the polar-opposite, a bum, or rather, an unemployed, on the dole, weed-smoking, drug-taking serial-womanizing idiot. The very premise of the show incorporates the mundane, the awkward, and at times downright depressing aspects of life as a thirty-something, British, single male. Through the use of internal-monologues, the self-deprecating, self-sabotaging and often, cynical ways of its protagonists make Peep Show a simply hilarious watch. Peep Show has accumulated a cult following over its 15-year lifespan, and there is even a Facebook group dedicated just to lines from the show, “Peep Show Quotes.” All things considered, Peep Show just might be the funniest Birtish comedy show ever made.
The director follows up last year’s Small Ax anthology of films with a look at the pivotal moments that featured in those movies
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