Whilst Only Fools and Horses, The Office, Extras, Fawlty Towers, Gavin and Stacey are all clearly brilliant British comedies, they are already widely known and widely celebrated. In this countdown, we’re going to take a look at some less-mainstream or forgotten gems that are well worth tracking down and giving a watch! Here are 9 excellent British TV comedies that you might not have seen…
1) The Worst Week of my Life
If ‘Meet the Parents’ had been written as a British TV series, it would be pretty close to this BBC comedy from 2004. Ben Miller plays a good-intentioned but accident-prone publisher who is about to marry a vet, played by Sarah Alexander. But the week leading up to the wedding proves to be disaster after disaster.
Episode count: 17
Before Shaun of the Dead came along, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were working with director Edgar Wright on this incredibly clever, layered and funny Channel 4 comedy from 1999. It’s filled to the brim with pop culture references; often recreating frame-for-frame scenes from the likes of The Shining, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or The Matrix.
Episode count: 14
From satirical mastermind Chris Morris comes this excellent follow-up to The Day Today. A spoof on investigative-type news programmes, each episode of Brasseye hones in on a different topic – from drugs, through to paedophilia. It often coerces celebrities into commenting on fictitious news events, such as Sutcliffe: The Musical (a musical about the Yorkshire Ripper, starring Sutcliffe himself). Horse racing pundit John McCirrick is disgusted to hear about the musical, and can’t believe Sutcliffe has his own agent. ‘Agent? What a game he’s got going on here!’
With writing talent such as Charlie Brooker involved, and onscreen appearances from Simon Pegg and Mark Heap, you know you’re in for a comedy feast.
Episode count: 7
4) Lead Balloon
The British answer to Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, Jack Dee’s BBC comedy Lead Balloon focuses on Rick Spleen; an anti-social D-list celebrity who manages to upset everybody he comes into contact with, and constantly tells his wife and family white lies that wildly spin out of control, always resulting in extremely awkward hilarity.
Geek Soup suggestion: If you like Lead Balloon, check out ITV’s Bad Move – it stars Jack Dee, and it has a very similar tone.
Episode count: 27
5) Peep Show
One of the most quotable series of all time, this Channel 4 comedy hit screens in 2003. Filmed entirely from the POV of the characters, and often broadcasting their inner thoughts, Peep Show follows free-spirited, sex-addicted, failed musician Jez and uptight history buff Mark, two London housemates whose only similarity is their complete lack of conscience, as they try to navigate the peaks and troughs (mostly troughs) of life.
Episode count: 54
6) Father Ted
There’s a place where the Catholic church sends the priests it would sooner forget about. It’s called Craggy Island, and it’s filled with an increasingly bizarre gaggle of characters. Father Ted Crilly finds himself landed there after an incident where some charity money ended up in his bank account. Now, he’s stuck with simpleton Father Dougal Maguire, grotesque elderly alcoholic Father Jacket Hackett, and tea-obsessed housekeeper Mrs Doyle. The series focuses around the strange situations the priests get themselves into.
Our favourite episode is Speed 3, where the Fathers get a milkman sacked. Dougal volunteers to drive the milk float, but as revenge the milkman has attached a bomb to its underside that turns on when the vehicle goes over 4 miles an hour, and detonates when it drops back under 4 miles an hour.
Episode count: 25
7) Time Trumpet
Released in 2006, Time Trumpet comes from comedy genius Armando Iannucci (The Thick of It, I’m Alan Partridge, Veep). It’s set in 2031, and looks back at the first 30 years of the 21st century, with talking head interviews of the stars of 2006, who are all played by OAPs. An elderly David Beckham recalls the time he kicked Anne Robinson’s face off, and had a human vagina sewn onto his arm. It also recalls the alarming incident where Tesco invaded Denmark.
Episode count: 6
Nick Helms stars as struggling musician Andy King in this BBC3 comedy that ran from 2014 to 2017. It opens with him at rock bottom; lying in a bathtub, preparing to drop a radio into the water. But before he can go ahead with it, he gets a call from his sister – a recovering cocaine addict – who asks if he can take his nephew to football practice for him. Discovering his nephew’s love for music, the two team up to become a musical duo, and go through a hilarious series of situations and misadventures.
Episode count: 19
9) Phoenix Nights
Peter Kay secured his title as a comedy genius with this brilliant series, focusing around a run-down entertainment club in Bolton. Kay plays disabled club owner Brian Potter, who will cut corners to save money wherever he can. The series follows the strange characters and various mishappenings at the club; including doormen Max and Paddy, who ended up getting their own spin-off series.
Episode count: 12
There you have it – 9 excellent British TV comedies that you might not have seen!