To lighten up the home viewing experience, we present a comprehensive guide to British (and non-British!) comedy.
This time, our team focused on something we can all use more of these days: comedy! Our recommendations are broken into categories from family-friendly to rewatchable favourites and stand up, as well as top picks for what to watch after the kids are in bed.
Favourites by Category
Reviews & Commentary
The IT Crowd
If ever there was a workplace trope that could be easily parodied, it would be the IT department. It is fair to say that no matter what the company, or where in the world, every employee would have had some experience with their IT department, and therefore the comic genius of The IT Crowd has made it a firm fan-favourite. Starring Richard Ayoade, Chris O’Dowd and Katherine Parkinson, this satirical, work-place comedy centres on a team of IT workers up against the trials and tribulations of providing technological support to the employees of a large, London-based corporation. Every episode is fantastic. Stupidly funny jokes, many iconic moments, catchphrases, and a cast of mad, love-able characters have made The IT Crowd a piece of British television pop-culture treasured by many.
A television show which is mainly aimed at school-age children but certainly delivers comedic value for adults too, Horrible Histories is a fantastic, fun way to learn about the stories from history that are particularly gruesome and grotesque. From the ‘Savage Stone Age’ to the ‘Troublesome 20th Century’, you see the full side to history presented by group of British comedians who take on enactment sketches, parodies and even musical numbers, in an incredibly creative and funny way to make history come alive. Learning about the past becomes very fun when the Horrible Histories team are teaching you!
The troubled crew of Avenue 5, a space cruise ship filled with spoiled, rich, snotty space tourists, must try and keep everyone calm after their ship gets thrown off course and ends up needing three extra years to return to Earth. Fronted by the incredibly charismatic Hugh Laurie as the ship’s Captain, Avenue 5 is a delight and one of the best new, original comedy series. Lavish sets and an all-star cast (Josh Gad, Zac Woods, Nikki Amuka-Bird) easily draw you in, however, it’s the quirky one-liners and cringe-worthy, stupid scenarios that make me love this show. Avenue 5 have also been a step ahead of the comedy scene and fully characterised the ultimate ‘Karen’ (a trending meme), into a woman who steals the scenes (and often the mic), making her a fantastically-accurate parody!
The Hook Up Plan
Perpetually single Elsa can’t seem to figure out why she is so unlucky in love. Her friends rally around her, and in a misguided attempt to build up Elsa’s confidence, they hire a male escort—who Elsa knows as schoolteacher Julies—to renew her faith in dating, relationships and finding love. Cue drama, mishaps and funny situations that will have you squirming, The Hook Up Plan is a charming, French comedy series set in Paris that takes you on a journey about the hardships of finding love. If you are a fan of shows like Girls, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Jane the Virgin, I would recommend this!
From award-winning executive producer Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story, Hollywood), Scream Queens is a comedy horror series starring a host of famous names including Ariana Grande, Billie Lourd, Keke Palmer and Nick Jonas. When Kappa Kappa Tau becomes the target of a bloody revenge plot, plucky Sorority president Chanel (Emma Roberts) and her sisters decide to defy the advice of their College Dean (Jamie Lee Curtis) and defend the house against a murderous figure named The Red Devil. Paying homage to famous slasher-movie tropes, within a darkly satirical plot, this show is a gem for delivering fantastic, over-the-top characters and witty, quotable dialogue in a setting that makes it ever more terrifyingly funny when the body count gets higher and higher. I absolutely would recommend Scream Queens to anyone who’s a fan of content like Mean Girls, Legally Blonde and American Horror Story.
Master of None
Most people may know Aziz Ansari as the smooth-talking Tommy Haverford in NBC’s Parks and Recreation series, but in Master of None he stars as the charming and pasta-loving Dev. Loosely based on his own real-life experiences, this show follows New-Yorker Dev, an actor who is struggling to identify with what he wants from life, both personally and professionally. With a script that’s incredibly wholesome and real (there’s a scene where Dev and his friends watch and commentate on BBC’s Sherlock for the evening), and cinematography that feels like the equivalent of holding a cup of tea on a rainy day, Master of None is lovely, well-rounded mini-series that presents the highs and lows everyone experiences during the years of ‘finding themselves.’ Also a fun thing to note: Dev’s parents are played by Ansari’s actual Mum and Dad, which makes the performance ever more heart-warming and authentic.
— Hannah Butters, Senior Coordinator of Global Content and Integration
Club de Cuervos
Described by Ted Sarandos (Netflix Chief Content Officer) as the show that launched Netflix for Latin American audiences, Club de Cuervos follows an ever constant feud and rivalry between the Iglesias siblings (Chava/Salvador and Isabel) to take over the fortunes and legacy of Cuervos FC from their deceased father. Set in the fictional city of Nuevo Toledo, Mexico, this comedy drama follows the Iglesias’ family power struggle, successes and many self-inflicted crises, not to mention murder and fraud. With very different ambitions of running the club from Chava’s ideological “Real Madrid of Latin America” to Isabel’s wanting to remain true to their father’s legacy, they forget their squandering and bickering is creating interest in the club and family fortune elsewhere. A truly one-of-a-kind comedy, with some of Mexico and Latin America’s top talent playing unforgettable characters (look out for Hugo Sanchez and Aitor Cardone) not to forget incredible writing across four seasons, makes this a must-watch.
Ever wonder what an average guy who is down on his luck would do with newly found superpowers? Basically, I am describing most comic book stories, but where El Vecino differs is that Javier, a late 20-something deadbeat, would do exactly what most heterosexual guys his age would: try to impress a girl, learn to fly, and try to enrich himself. He does all of these very badly, continuously. El Vecino is a nod to the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man meets Billy Madison (without the cash) and a story of a guy just desperate to win an ex-girlfriend back over and actually show his friends he can change for the better. He is selfish, arrogant, and dumb, but somehow like-able—a great combination for a comedy. Give season one a try.
— Chris Smith, Senior Manager of Client Development
If I had to choose my favourite British comedy, it would be Father Ted. Silly, surreal and side-splittingly funny, the series follows the lives of Irish Catholic Priests Father Ted, Father Dougal and Father Jack who live chaotically together in fictional Craggy Island’s parochial house, along with their housekeeper Mrs Doyle, who always, always wants to serve them tea. The series follows Father Ted’s schemes and rivalries, or often the ridiculous situations that arise between Craggy Island residents as Ted navigates them with the not so helpful support of his fellow priests. Ted, despite his faults, is by far the most normal person on the island. Sadly, only three seasons and a special were ever made, as Father Ted came to a heart-breaking end in 1998 when lead actor Dermot Morgan tragically passed away at the age of 45, the day after the third season wrapped. Despite numerous high-level offers to continue the series on TV without the title character, creators Graham Lineham and Arthur Mathews never could. This series is short but sweet, and should definitely be cherished!
W1A is the postcode of the BBC’s famous home, Broadcasting House, and home of this mockumentary. Following his ‘success’ as the Head of the Olympic Deliverance Commission in the series Twenty Twelve, we follow Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) as he starts, and tries to clarify, his new role as Head of Values at the BBC. Narrated by David Tennant, the series deals with the everyday events at the corporation, and how the team deals with these, often not very effectively. This BBC self-portrait is a quick, light-hearted watch with only three short seasons highlighting the best of British bureaucracy.
The Thick of It
The Thick of It follows the daily trials and tribulations of the British Government’s Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship, where the ministers and civil servants within the department are closely overseen by Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi). Tucker is the aggressive, profane and feared director of communications for the government; the prime minister’s chief whip and grand master of spin. The Thick of It is hysterically funny, especially when viewed during this period of increased government scrutiny as it leaves you wondering ‘What would Malcolm do?’ while you’re watching the news or the daily government briefings. This series is definitely one to watch after the kids have gone to bed, perhaps at a low volume. During production, they actually employed their own ‘swearing consultant’ and when one U.S. network tried to ‘beep’ the profanity, the resulting episode was likened to 30 minutes of Morse Code. You have been warned!
Inside No. 9
If you have a more macabre sense of humour, you must check out Inside No. 9. Now in its fifth season, the multi-award winning-series from the dark, shadowy minds of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton (The League of Gentlemen, Psychoville) is made up of stand-alone episodes all taking place in, or having some link to a number 9. The only other things they have in common are the creators themselves, who always co-star and an unexplained brass statue of a hare that can be spotted in the background of every episode. This is not a series for the faint hearted, Shearsmith and Pemberton are incredible writers so while the series is darkly, hilariously funny there are also stories that will have you hiding behind cushions, chewing your nails with anxiety or maybe even questioning your own reality. As British comedy heavyweights, this writing duo easily attract great acting talent, you’ll recognise stars like Sheridan Smith, Tamsin Greig, Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory and Sir Derek Jacobi amongst others.
Welsh content is on the rise with the likes of Hinterland, Keeping Faith and Hidden making waves in the drama space right now. But if you’re looking for a little Welsh language comic relief, take a look at Hansh. A breath of fresh air for the country’s younger audiences, the online-only, short-form series satires everyday modern Welsh life. A must-see if you live in, grew up in, or want a taste of the real 21st century Wales.
Parks And Recreation
Parks and Rec is an absolute joy! If you loved either version of The Office, W1A, or The Good Place or just want a warm, funny, relatable watch, I implore you to give this U.S. series a go. As the title suggests, the show is about the Parks and Recreation department of local government in a small, Indiana town called Pawnee. You’ll fall in love with this town, it’s quirky but lovable residents and even start to identify your own personality traits among them, however unflattering they might be. Every office has a Leslie, a Ron, an April, a Tom and a Donna; but hopefully not a Jerry! Starring Amy Poehler, Chris Pratt and Rob Lowe.
— Erin Larnder, Director of Global Content and Integration
Defending the Guilty
London-based comedy set in the toxic and aggressive competitiveness within the British judicial system, but how far will people go to qualify as a barrister? The series follows the charming, hapless yet intelligent legal pupil Will as he faces temptation, finds his feet settling in London, and wrestles with being a serious intellectual who’s still expected to do his boss’s coffee run.
Have a laugh and shed a tear in the same moment, in true Ricky Gervais style. Filled with hysterical quips and emotional heartache, Tony still struggles with immense grief for his wife, but becomes a better friend to those around him, as the local newspaper is at risk of being shut down. Grief and comedy aren’t a common blend but this series contrasts the funny moments of the everyday against an overwhelmingly dark backdrop. It’s brave, smart and very well executed.
If you enjoyed The Thick of It, you’ll love Veep. The series follows Vice President Meyer and her team as they attempt to leave a legacy, but often instead become mired in day-to-day political games. In true Armando Iannuci style, this series makes you squirm, cringe, and roar with laughter.
This is the Phoebe Waller-Bridge sitcom that went slightly under the radar and didn’t get the love it deserved. Crashing follows the lives of six 20-somethings living together as property guardians in a disused hospital, keeping the building safe in exchange for cheaper rent and a strict set of rules. A fantastic cocktail of unconventional characters come together in one confined location, with all the staples of comedic drama: from love triangles to daddy issues.
Murder in Successville
Starring Tom Davis as DI Desmond Sleet, a different guest celebrity is transported into the surreal world of Successville where they are tasked with solving a fictional murder. This is a genius combination format where performance is everything. It’ll have you on the floor in hysterics, as Davis throws curve balls at his celebrity guest left, right and centre.
Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back
Lycett, or should I say ‘Hugo Boss,’ uses his celebrity profile to fight for consumer rights, campaigning on behalf of viewers who have been cheated by businesses, scammers and dodgy deals. It’s true feel-good TV, as it gives a voice to the unheard and brings humour to what are often difficult situations. Lycett uses his fame to improve the lives of the average Joe.
— Toby Harris, Production Coordinator of Global Content and Integration
It’s week something of lockdown and perhaps you’re starting to believe in the philosophy of nihilism? If so, enjoy the nihilistic tone and the perfect satire of the British way of thinking through the comedy genius of Mitchell & Webb and their award winning show, Peep Show. Prepare to feel more uncomfortable.
Puerile, crude and lacking in sophistication. The Inbetweeners, which focuses on the poorly-made decisions of four boys during their latter years in school, works comedic wonders in so many ways. Why? Because whether you are at school or well into middle-age, you can probably relate. Sit back and let the memories of your youth play out in front of you.
— Tim Waine, Senior Manager of Music