Six of the best British comedies you may not have seen
Most people will know about British comedy institutions such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Benny Hill or Ricky Gervais’ ‘The Office’ however there are some other British comedy gems out there that demand more attention than they get … and these are the 6 best British comedies you may not have seen.
(Author’s EDIT: Sorry, I am aware Father Ted is Irish, but it was shown on British TV and made by a British company so it’s quasi-British! Plus it’s amazing so we’re including it! )
The greatest comedy of all time involving priests. The show revolved around the eponymous Father Ted – who had been banished to ‘Craggy Island’ due to a mix-up involving Church charity funds, which was supposed to be used for a pilgrimage to Lourdes but Father Ted used to go to Las Vegas, though Ted himself insists “the money was just resting in his account”.Father Ted is joined by Father Dougal a dim-witted priest (who no one is sure how he became a priest) and, Father Jack who’s interests include drinking, swearing and girls.
The writers of Father Ted have compared it to a real life version of The Simpsons and with exploding milk floats, giant roller-blades and the “lovely girls” contest it is easy to see why. Every episode is a masterpiece of comic stupidity with great lines like “he gives good mass” – for a priest who gives particularly long masses. Genius show. Below I have included one of the show’s most iconic scenes – Father Ted and his fellow priests get lost in and have to escape from Ireland’s largest lingerie department.
Fun Fact: Every year on the Island of Inis Mor (not a made-up name), County Galway, Ireland the ‘Tedfest’ festival is held to celebrate the greatness of Father Ted.
Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place:
One of a kind and completely off the wall. Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place is set inside a hospital known to have many strange goings on from exploding people, gun fights at a funeral, doctors turning into apes and ghostly Scotsmen on the moors and much more. Dark Place was supposedly filmed in the 80s however British TV network Channel 4 opted not to air it, due to the ‘controversial subject matter’ of the show. For controversial read bad editing, dodgy sound effects, cheesey acting and ridiculous story lines, for this reason in the story arc the show has only been aired on Peruvian television however due to a drastic lack of content Channel 4 have now picked up the option to show it…
Due to the show sometimes running as much as eight minutes under Garth and the rest of the crew are compelled to give cast interviews and nostalgic commentary during the episodes to fill out the remaining part of the running time that couldn’t be “filled by slow motion”. As Dean Lerner says in one commentary people have harshly said the ambulance exploding in the opening sequence was the highlight of the show – ergo check out the clip below.
Fun Fact: Dark Place was cancelled after just one season despite its great popularity and cult following. You may have spotted Garth Marenghi (Matthew Holness) in one episode on UK’s The Office playing a computer technician.
Like other short lived comedy gems, such as Fawlty Towers, Phoenix Nights ran for a miserly 12 episodes. The creator, British comedic heavyweight Peter Kay, has promised another season but so far has failed to deliver (he may have just lied to shut annoying fans up). The premise is simple; set in the North of England (an area so boring the revenue from Sega Saturns exceeds that of the tourist industry) in a working men’s club called The Phoenix Club. Peter Kay plays the obnoxious, self pitying wheelchair bound owner, Brian Potter, and throughout the 12 episodes we follow the trials and tribulations that the club, and its staff, endure at the hands of the punters, rival club owners and in one episode a drunk horse.
The first episode hits a comedic peak and it does not decrease in quality from there. The ensemble cast is hugely memorable (although not attractive; many people up North are rather repulsive to the human eye) and the one liners come quick and fast but never diminish in quality. Basically, watch the show and I can guarantee two things; firstly, you will love it and consequently return to it numerous times over, and secondly, not only will you never want to visit the North of England, you won’t even feel the urge to flick through the pages of a holiday guide on the area (it is doubtful any holiday guides for the North exist but amazon could possible find one sitting in the back of factory somewhere). Welcome to The Phoenix Club!
“Kiss my face. Jurassic Park!” So says Alan Partridge, the alter ego of British comedian Steve Coogan (A Night At The Museum, Tropic Thunder, Around The World In 80 Days). Alan Partridge is a ‘TV/Radio presenter’ who is an unlikable, ego-centric loser – however he is blissfully unaware of these facts and has somehow managed to forge a semi-successful career in the broadcast world The Alan Partridge character has had his own parody chat show ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge’ – in which he would inadvertently abuse his guests and cause offence to the viewing public.
This was followed by the seminal ‘I’m Alan Partridge’ – a sitcom which follows the down on his luck Alan living in a travel tavern/motel riling the anger of the Norwich farmers on his red-eye radio show. If you want to see quirky British ironic, sarcastic humor at it’s best Alan Partridge is the man for you.
Interesting fact: When Steve Coogan came up with the concept and name for Alan Partridge, the bigwigs at the BBC were so concerned that the name sounded like a real person on their books they had to check!
A great starting point for Brit born actor Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People) and director Edgar Wright. This two-series North London-based surreal comedy about two housemates scraping through their social and financial endeavors.
The series influenced a generation making them feel a lot more at ease about their low income living situations, their off-beat social circle and the twisted thoughts that go on in their heads as they drift about their days seemingly doing nothing- Seinfeld in its darkest and most surreal hour.
Random Fact: One famous scene from Spaced when Simon Peggs character began seeing Zombies as he became heavily engrossed in a Playstation game; later on influenced the starting point for Shaun Of The Dead.
One uptight, particular posh boy and a gullible, unquestioning slob share a flat together in London and in no time these guys become household names! Cleverly filmed from the characters POV at all times- more conventional and down to earth than the previously mentioned Spaced; this well-observed, witty and side-splittingly funny and on occasions as cringe-worthy as The Office is one of Channel 4’s best pieces of work.
Stories are as close to home as office relationships, sham marriages and jilted brides. Don’t get too comfortable as not too far into the series the main stars feast on a Dog called “Mummy” whom they barbecued by accident. Worth a watch if you have any sense of humour at all!
Fun Fact: An American version was created but did not adopt the POV filming as the British version, needless to say it was unsuccessful. Peep show has won several awards including Best TV Comedy and Best European Sitcom.
Missed a favourite of yours? Let us know in the comments below…
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