The following is a selection of shows we loved which are no longer on the air but should be watched as soon as you can. A brief write up about all of the series will be posted here soon, along with links to decent articles, interviews and videos about the various series.
Latest Update: Death Valley, Detectorists, Mid-Morning Matters With Alan Partridge, Paul Merton The Series, Stella Street.
15 Storeys High – Sean Lock’s masterfully bleak flat share comedy is a thing of beauty, and it’s a tragedy that only two series were made (though it was previously a radio show which is a must listen), and that it appears to have put Lock off writing any more scripted fare as whilst his stand up’s still strong, his panel show appearances are becoming increasingly average. But even if you’re not a fan this is must see viewing, and Benedict Wong is the perfect foil to Lock in the series as well. Link: Sean promotes the show on Richard and Judy.
30 Rock – A greatly underrated series this went from strength to strength with each season (though a few have issues with the fourth, but then it has Michael Sheen’s Wesley Snipes in it so I think they’re crazy personally). Set behind the scenes of a weekly sketch show, Tina Fey’s creation is beautifully silly, smart, and lovable, packed with a great selection of pretty unique characters. Worth it alone for Alec Baldwin and Fey’s interactions, but it offers so so much more than this. Links: Inside The Writer’s Room Splitsider Article / A Long Tina Fey Interview From The Early Days Of The Show.
The Adam & Joe Show – Adam and Joe first arrived on our screens on Takeover Tv, a series which allowed viewers to send in homemade short films and skits that I had a lot of time for, first submitting films and then with the second series Adam took over hosting duties. Soon enough Channel Four soon gave them their own series which is a mixture of sketches and random pieces supposedly filmed in their bedsit. Included in the show were parodies of films made using toys, Vinyl Justice, where the duo would examine rock stars album collections, and Bad Daaad, where Adam’s dad would make very short documentaries about various subjects like Ibiza and what it’s like to smoke cannabis for the first time, all of which were constantly funny and very likeable stuff. It’s a shame they’ve now gone their separate ways, what with Joe directing films in the US, as we’d love to see them make a new series of the show for old time’s sake. Links: Takeover Tv Series 2 Episode 1 / Drowned In Sound Interview with Adam / Adam and Joe fansite.
Adam Buxton’s Bug – Sadly only given one series, Bug saw tv funnyman Adam Buxton screen bits of pretty unusual videos, before then reading out some of the comments from youtube. A show which could have been pretty dull in the wrong hands was thankfully consistently very funny, and it’s a real shame that so few episodes were made. Link: Adam Buxton’s Official Site / Beyond The Joke Interview.
The Alternative Comedy Experience – Stewart Lee introduced this selection of comedians which were mostly his favourites, along with a few that Comedy Central made him have on the show. The best acts were Tony Law, Paul Foot, Simon Munnery, Josie Long, Henning Wehn, and Bridget Christie, and the only problem was that some of the material worked a lot better as part of a full length show rather than the snippets presented here. Link: A huge interview with Lee which covers most of his career.
American Vandal – The first series of this was not only gripping with a central mystery that kept me guessing to the very last episode it was also extremely funny throughout, with a great selection of characters who provided a lot of laughs. The second was a little disappointing though, it was still quite interesting and it raised the occasional smile but I can’t say I found it as funny as the first season so I’m not that gutted it’s been recently cancelled, it felt like it was running out of steam and didn’t have as many memorable characters as the first batch did. I’m not also a fan of the scatological humour found within the second series, with some of the explicit scenes of people shitting themselves, despite being fake, making my stomach churn. Don’t let this put you off though watching the first series though, and if you’re made of sterner stuff than me you might find an awful lot to like about the second lot too. Links: An interview with the creator of the show about season 2 / An interview with both showrunners.
Ash Vs. Evil Dead – Sadly cancelled after three seasons this was a ridiculous amount of gory fun, with some truly memorable set pieces (like the one set in the fertility clinic, and another which features a glove puppet version of Ash) that will remain in my memory for a long time to come. It’s a bit of a shame that series creator Craig DiGregorio was fired at the end of season 2, especially as the season finale that we got disappointed and his version sounds so much better (See the AV Club link below), but new showrunner Mark Verheiden still produced a really fun show, despite the slightly weak beginning to the show’s final season. Links: Bruce Campbell’s Official Site / Craig DiGregorio Interview. / Mark Verheiden Empire Interview.
Assy McGee – An Adult Swim animated comedy, this sees a Dirty Harry type have to deal with the mean streets of a fictionalised Exeter, New Hampshire. The twist? Assy is just an arse, with legs, but no torso or head. Fortunately that doesn’t stop him going on murderous rampages, and whilst it normally looks like he’s screwing up to the nth degree, it turns out that he saves the day pretty much all of the time. Often quoting Stallone’s movies, he’s a bizarre yet oddly lovable character. Larry Murphy impressively provides not only the voice of Assy but also his partner Don Sanchez and the Greg The Police Chief, whilst Jon Benjamin also regularly pops up as the Mayor of the city. Unfortunately only twenty episodes were ever made, but each is a delight, especially the series finale where Assy confronts his fear of squirrels. Because it’s that kind of show. Links: Q&A with Larry Murphy / Season 2 Episode 1 on DailyMotion.
Attention Scum – Simon Munnery is one of the UK’s most respected stand up comedians, and with very good reason too as the man has funny bones, funny bone marrow, funny blood, funny saliva, funny skin and funny everything else that’s part of the human body. He’s created a wide variety of very different hour long shows and if you ever get the chance to see him live and decide not to you’d be a crazy fool who everyone smirks at. So it’s incredibly disappointed that he’s only graced our tv screens a few times over the years, and very rarely of late, as the tv show’s he did create were inspired lunacy of the highest order. Attention Scum was the best of these, directed by Stewart Lee it saw Munnery as “The League Against Tedium” travelling across the country preaching to the masses with the help of an opera singer, a sedated vampire and a monkey (Munnery’s wife Janet). The master of the one liner it contained a lot of Munnery’s stand up, but also a few sketches like 24 Hour News (performed by Johnny Vegas) and two characters fighting over hats, while Kevin Eldon also popped up every so often. It was it nominated for a Golden Rose of Montreux award but despite that the BBC didn’t give it a second season, which I will never forgive them for. Links: Simon Munnery’s website / The first episode is on youtube here.
Big Time In Hollywood, FL – An absolute gem of a series, it’s a real tragedy it only ran for one season (and why it’ll be the subject of a Taken Too Soon article soon). Created and written by Alex Anfanger and Dan Schimpf, this sees two delusional brothers attempt to become film directors, getting Cuba Gooding Jnr. (playing himself in a deliciously over the top way) involved along the way, and it also features Jason Alexander sending himself up in a way that made us laugh a ridiculous amount. Essential comedy, if you’ve not seen it we recommend doing so this very second. Links: Uproxx article on the making of the series / Interview with Anfanger and Schimpf.
A Bit Of Fry And Laurie – What can be said about this sketch show that hasn’t already been written? Very little, probably, but that just goes to show how highly regarded it is after all these years. Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie have never bettered their work here, and the four perfect series are all essential viewing. Link: Comedy historian Jem Roberts has written a book about the series which we recommend everyone buy.
Blunt Talk – Starring Patrick Stewart and written by Jonathan Ames of Bored To Death fame (see below for more info on that particular show) this was a delightful insight in to the workings of a daily news show. Stewart’s on fantastic form as the neurotic but ambitious tv journalist who wants to make a difference, but often places himself in situations that make this all rather difficult. He has a fantastically endearing relationship with his valet (Adrian Scarborough) along with the rest of collection of oddballs who make up his staff. Sadly cancelled after only twenty episodes, and all a bit of a ratings disaster from the get go, fortunately two seasons were commissioned straight away so at least the series got a chance to explore it’s characters in depths, and I’d argue that it’s one of the best comedies of the past decade and definitely deserves a reappraisal. Links: Patrick Stewart Interview / Another Patrick Stewart Interview / Jonathan Ames Interview.
Bored to Death – Jonathan Ames first tv series, and based on one of his short stories, this saw Jason Schwartzman in the lead role as a fictional version of Ames, who has published one novel but struggles to write another. Desperate to make money he sets himself up as a private eye, and takes on a variety of cases despite being ill equipped to do so. The show also stars Ted Danson as his close friend and publisher George, and Zach Galifianakis who takes on a kind of side kick role on occasion. Drily witty and surprisingly charming, with all of the cast being all kinds of lovable, this only lasted for three seasons but I’d recommend devouring them as soon as you can. A movie is in production, but the last news about it was in August 2015 so we’re sadly not holding our breath. Links: Cast Interview / Jonathan Ames Interview.
Brass Eye – Chris Morris’s utterly superb satirical series is one of the finest the UK has ever produced, and easily in the Top Five of best comedy shows ever. But then you must know that, so many articles have been written about it over the years, but on the off chance you haven’t seen it go do so now, as it’s essential tv. Link: The CookdandBombd Chris Morris Archive / Forum.
Burning Love – One of the first show’s Yahoo produced, and featuring Ken Marino, Michael Ian Black, June Diane Raphael, Rob Huebel, Natasha Leggero, Kumail Nanjiani, Joe Lo Truglio and many others whose work is always worth checking out. A spoof of The Batchelor type shows the first season’s good without being amazing, but the second and third are a big step up and provide strong laughs throughout. Link: Nerdist Behind The Scenes Article / Buzzfeed Cast Interview
China, IL – Brad Neeley’s university set animated comedy is one big ball of craziness most of the time, and when it’s really out there it’s at it’s best. Some of the episodes are a bit more workplace comedy / exploring relationships which are fun enough, but personally I loved the series when it decided not to make much sense at all. Ie the Easter Bunny, more examples. Cancelled after three seasons sadly, but binge watch it and you’ll spend hours laughing. Or lots and lots of minutes at the very least. Links: Salon interview with Brad Neeley / Interview with Neeley and Daniel Wiedenfeld.
Comedians of Comedy – A six part documentary this followed Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn and Maria Bamford as they toured across America. Originally one of the first films Netflix produced, after it’s success Comedy Central commissioned the series and it was fascinating and hilarious viewing from start to finish. I’m an enormous fan of Maria Bamford’s and so could watch anything she was in, even if it was just her reading the Bible whilst occasionally vomiting, but here she’s a constant delight, as are Patton, Zach and Brian. We also get glimpses of their various sets at the gigs but the true highlights are their interactions on the road, and it’s hugely insightful to see what the behind the scene experiences of the comedians involved are like. Links: A clip from the first episode / Patton Oswalt’s Shooting Diary / A Vulture article on the film.
Comedy Bang! Bang! – When Scott Aukerman transferred his hit podcast to tv people questioned if such a thing could be successful. Which seems odd in retrospect, as one hundred and ten episodes later many were still sad to see it go, though thankfully the podcast still continues. Indeed we’d argue that the tv show was at it’s very best when it finally came to a close, with third co-host Weird Al Yankovic gelling perfectly with Scott, and despite the number of episodes aired we’d love to see it return. If you’re in any doubt as to whether it’s worth watching check out the many appearances by Paul F. Tompkins as Andrew Lloyd Webber which can be found online, as all made us laugh a ridiculous amount. Links: Uproxx Interview / AV Club Interview / Vulture Interview.
Community – Oh what a mess this series was. For three glorious years it was one of the best things on tv, but then Dan Harmon was infamously fired for upsetting Chevy Chase (and being difficult to work with in general) and we got a very patchy fourth season. He returned for the fifth and sixth seasons but neither were his best work, with Donald Glover leaving in the final year and it being all rather weak, there’s only three episodes from it that I can really rate. But let’s forget about that period of the show and celebrate it when it was at it’s best, as it played with sitcom conventions and did all manner of unpredictable lunacy, from the stop motion animated episode to the paintball stories, the first two of which are amongst the best comedy I’ve ever seen. And then there’s “Remedial Chaos Theory”, which introduced the concept of the show in parallel universes and “The darkest time line” somewhat superbly and which is an example of the show at it’s very best. It’d take a fair old time to list all of the other great episodes and I’m a lazy, lazy man, but there’s so much to love about the show, as long as you pretend it only lasted for three years at least. Links: Dan Harmon’s episode by episode guide for the AV Club / A Dan Harmon interview about season 6.
The Critic – A spin-off from The Simpsons starring Jon Lovitz as film critic Jay Sherman, whose catchphrase “It Stinks” never caught on, neither did the series itself which is a real shame as there’s lots to like here. Sherman’s reviews are always funny stuff, as are the movie parodies (including Howard Stern’s End, Honey, I Ate the Kids, The Cockroach King and Abe Lincoln: Pet Detective) but the show was at it’s best when exploring Sherman’s personal life. Despite it’s links to The Simpsons and a crossover introducing the character it was cancelled after only two seasons, and whilst there were ten new webisodes launched in 2000 and 2001 it sadly wasn’t enough to reignite interest in the show. Links: Al Jean and Mike Reiss interview / Webisode 1.
The Day Today – Chris Morris’ first appearance on television (discounting the vox pops he did for a Sky comedy show in the early 90’s) and it’s a wonder to behold. A transfer of the On The Hour radio show, it’s not quite as satirical as Brasseye, but it’s still astonishingly funny, and packed with gloriously inventive ideas. And of course Alan Partridge too, whose every appearance is always fantastic. Link: CookdandBombd Chris Morris Archive / David Schneider 2011 Interview /
Death Valley – Every so often MTV has dipped it’s hand in to comedy and back in 2011/12 it produced a few shows like the US version of The Inbetweeners, The Hard Times of RJ Berger and this comedy horror series, though unfortunately none of them lasted that long. The former two weren’t terrible but they weren’t particularly that great either, but Death Valley was a really strong and well written comedy which I still miss to this day. Set in a world where vampires, werewolves and zombies co-existed with humanity (and so very similar to What We Do In The Shadows and it’s spin-off Wellington Paranormal) it followed a special task force who had to keep them under control and stop being all murderous. It arrived fully formed and was impressively funny from the get go, and the cast, which included Bryan Callen, Charlie Sanders, Bryce Johnson and Caity Lotz, were all on top form too, and it’s frustrating that the channel didn’t give it a second season, or that Netflix or some other company didn’t buy it from them, I have a feeling if it had been shown on a different channel (FX, perhaps, or Showtime) it would have been far more successful and could have been still on the air to this day. As it is we’ve only got twelve episodes, but all are definitely worth seeking out if you can track them down. Links: The first episode on youtube / Caity Lotz interview.
Delocated – One of our favourite series of all time, this is all about a family in the witness protection system who decide to take part in a reality tv show about their lives. Which is why they wear balaclavas throughout, along with voice modulators. Jon Glaser’s superb creation is packed with beautifully daft and hilarious ideas, and his lead character is one of comedy’s greatest creations. Expect a “Classic Comedy” article about it soon. Links: Jon Glaser’s blog / AV Club interview.
Detectorists – Ah, I could go on and on about Detectorists for thousands of words and probably will do at some point soon in the future, it’s one of my favourite ever sitcoms and so charming when I meet someone who didn’t fall in love with it I question their sanity and suggest to the police that they may be psychotic and about to kill, if they haven’t already. Which may sound a little extreme but then this was one of the sweetest, warmest and funniest tv series ever made, each episode was oddly relaxing to watch too and even though they ran for just under thirty minutes afterwards it felt like I’d had a brief holiday away doing nothing but hanging out with this charismatic and engaging bunch. Set in the Essex countryside as a group of metal detectorists searched the area for rare and unusual items, it had an extremely gentle sense of humour but the characters were so well drawn and acted that even the smallest of jokes made me laugh a great deal. Written and directed by Mackenzie Crook and starring Crook and Toby Jones, unless you like your comedy coming at you with a hundred jokes per minute then it’s something you should devour as quickly as you can, as I genuinely believe it’s a rare example of a comedy which will improve your life and make you feel so much happier. For now Crook has said the series is finished, but I hope he changes his mind as it’s rare that a day passes that I don’t wish it was back on our screens. Links: An Interview with Crook and Jones / Mackenzie Crook interview.
Don’t Trust The B In Apartment 23 – An acerbic sitcom with a biting wit, Krysten Ritter plays Chloe, a self centred yet strangely lovable character who does whatever she pleases without ever considering the consequences, which new flatmate June has to deal with. It also stars James Van Der Beek playing himself, and combined is a pretty unique but fun show. Read more about it here in our Taken Too Soon series. Links: Interview with producers Nahnatchka Khan and David Hemingson / AV Club interview with Krysten Ritter.
Eagleheart – – One of the best shows Adult Swim have ever aired, this starred Chris Elliot, Maria Thayer and Brett Gelman and started off as a spoof of cop shows with the first two seasons being playfully daft and often surreal, with the trio battling the likes of a baron who ruled the sky underworld in his flying zeppelin, an organ thief played by Ben Stiller and a judge-killing hermaphrodite. There were also episodes which played with the format including one which was a behind the scenes look at the life of a Marshall, and an episode where Chris’s blood splatters make him an art star. Even better was the third season though which had an ongoing arc based around Brett going missing which was beautifully absurd and saw the series go to really unusual places, with the final episode being shockingly strange and funny stuff. Links: You can watch certain episodes on Adult Swim’s website / An interview with Elliot and Maria Thayer / An interview with the showrunners.
Early Doors – This very low key sitcom revolves around the inhabitants of a Manchester pub, from John Henshaw’s grouchy if loving landlord, his adopted daughter who he constantly worries about, to Joe (Craig Cash) and Duffy (Phil Mealey), two local men who provide a lot of the more conventional humour. It has a rich supporting cast (including Mark Benton, Maxine Peake and James McAvoy) and was so beloved that after a sixteen year gap the show’s creator Craig Cash decided to bring it back in the shape of a live stage show, which is currently receiving very positive reviews. Links: Craig Cash interview / Cast Interview / Tour Info.
Father Ted – One of the greatest sitcoms of all time, and something that should be viewed by every comedy fan in the world. Even if you hate the Irish because your family got blown up by the IRA, stop being racist this instance and watch it. A really simple premise sees three priests living together in a parish house on a tiny island, but it’s the gloriously stupid and silly and surreal plotlines, along with perfectly portrayed characters, that make it such a classic. Link: Graham Lineham Mustard Magazine Interview
Fist of Fun – The tv series which introduced Stewart Lee and Richard Herring to the world, unless you’d listened to them on the radio at least, this was a mix of sketches and studio tomfoolery, whilst it’s slightly more childish than Lee’s subsequent work (and about the same level of childishness as Herring’s current output) it’s still packed with some very funny moments, including Ian News, The Teachers, Peter Baynham’s lifestyle tips, regular appearances from Rod Hull, and Kevin Eldon’s all kinds of wonderful King of Hobbies, Simon Quinlank. For some reason the BBC refused to release it for years but now the all kinds of fantastic company GoFasterStripe have put out both series, and whilst a tad pricey they’re definitely worth buying. Links: Fist Of Fun Fan Site / GoFasterStripe’s release of the series / Lee & Herring fansite.
Frasier – We’ve gone off this a little over the years and there are certain seasons (five and six being the ones which immediately spring to mind) where the lead character is too annoying and the farces too contrived, yet at it’s best it’s easily one of the finest comedy series ever made, with a supporting cast who make it so special. Ignore the post Niles and Daphne getting together episodes, which is a shame as it would have been lovely to see them in a relationship which made us laugh a great deal, and also try to forget what Kelsey Grammar is like in real life and there’s an enormous amount to enjoy here. Links: An Oral History Of The Classic Ski Lodge Episode / Kelsey Grammar interview.
Galavant – Many shows listed here ran for the perfect length, or even went on for a little too long, but alas a good few were cancelled far too soon. And if we were forced at gunpoint to say which angers the most (an occurrence which happens way too often for our liking), Galavant would be the one we’d name. A musical comedy series about a knight who wishes to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend, only for her to decide she rather likes the new position she’s in, not only was it consistently funny throughout but the songs were often bloody brilliant, indeed we deny anyone to listen to the season one theme tune and for it then not to get stuck in their heads for ever more. The whole cast were on top form, even Vinnie Jones who visibly improves as an actor through it’s run, and if we ever win the lottery we’d put every penny in to a movie, that’s just how much we love it. Links: Entertainment Weekly Interview / Variety Article / The Life She Has Interview.
Garfunkel and Oates – This IFC series sadly only lasted eight episodes, but they were eight episodes of all round general loveliness as Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci performed as the titular characters as they attempted to make it in Hollywood. The songs were the obvious highlights but the scripts were also sharp, and it featured a great array of guest stars including Tig Notaro, Andy Kindler, Rob Huebel, Weird Al Yankovic, and Ben Kingsley. Links: Under The Radar Interview / Tig Notaro Interviews Garfunkel and Oates.
Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place – A spoof of schlocky sci-fi fantasy shows this also pays homage to Lars Von Trier’s amazingly weird tv series Riget (Kingdom) and if you’ve seen that you’ll notice how many elements it borrows from and it then becomes even funnier. Even if you haven’t it’s a fantastic watch, with some top notch comedy acting from the likes of Richard Ayoade, Alice Lowe, Matt Berry, Julian Barratt, Noel Fielding, Stephen Merchant and show creator Matthew Holness, who recently made the genuinely disturbing horror film Possum. Originally a flop on release it’s gained cult status over the years, which helped lead to the spin off series Man to Man with Dean Learner which unfortunately wasn’t that great, but these six episodes are some of the finest examples of over the top ridiculousness that this country has ever produced. Links: The first episode is on Vimeo here / An AV Club article on the show.
The Greatest Event In Television History – Only four episodes of this series starring Adam Scott, Amy Poehler and Jon Hamm (amongst many others) were ever made, somewhat disappointingly. The central concept was based around Scott remaking the opening credits to various supposedly classic tv series, like Hart to Hart and Simon & Simon, but each episode would feature the behind the scenes antics, along with clips of the actors personal lives, all of whom were more than happy to send themselves up with glee. The new versions of the credits sequences were also always extremely funny stuff too, and whilst it’s a show that could never really have gone on for much longer it’s a shame that there weren’t at least a few more episodes. Still, what we have is all rather special, and the series just gets better and better with each episode. Links: You can watch the series on Adult Swim here / Adam Scott Interview
The Harry Hill Show – If you say to comedy fans of a certain age “But Alan! If you’re here, whose grooming the badgers ready for the badger parade?” chances are it won’t fail to make them grin, whilst the rest of the world will just look bemused at best. I’m still vaguely fond of Harry Hill, but more for his stand up than his ITV and Sky tv work, but over twenty years ago he was one of the very best comics the UK had to offer, and his Channel Four show was incredibly funny stuff. Packed with lovable characters like Little Alan Hill, Stouffer, Finsbury Park and Burt Kwouk, whose sketches with Harry were often a highlight, it also featured a great selection of guest stars like Peter Davison, Terry Alderton and Stewart Lee, and whilst occasionally slightly repetitive it’s still extremely watchable to this day. Links: Episode One on Youtube / Harry Hill interview.
Harry Hill’s Tv Burp – At first, at least.
Help – Whilst often shockingly funny this is beautifully constructed and often really touching stuff, as Chris Langham’s psychiatrist attempts to help a variety of patients, all played somewhat masterfully by Paul Whitehouse. A second series never came due to Langham’s arrest and subsequent prison sentence, which does make us a tad uncomfortable when rewatching it, but it can’t be denied that this is a masterclass in character comedy. Link: Chris Langham 2006 interview.
How Do You Want Me? – An extremely charming sitcom with Dylan Moran and the late and extremely missed Charlotte Coleman, this was written by Simon Nye of Men Behaving Badly fame, though the two shows couldn’t be more different. Whilst Men Behaving Badly was a farcical laddish affair (though not without it’s merits) How Do You Want Me? is a rather sweet insight in to a slightly strained relationship as Moran struggles when the couple move to the countryside, and near Coleman’s family. Featuring an early role for Peter Serafinowicz as Coleman’s bastard brother, the real stand out performance is Frank Finlay as her father who’s menacing in the extreme and yet a perfect foil for Moran. A very real feeling series, it’s one of the finest things that everyone involved ever did, which is saying something considering how great the cast is. Links: Episode One on Youtube
I’m Alan Partridge – The follow up to Knowing Me, Knowing You, this sitcom was set during a fallow period for Alan as whilst he was working as a radio dj he had little else on, hence why he ended up hanging around the travelodge he was staying in with sort of friend Michael. It’s a beautiful exploration of an awkward, egotistical lonely man, and every episode of the first series is shockingly funny, and hasn’t aged at all. The second season is a little patchier and has the odd weak moment but it’s still a superb show, with a supporting cast which features the very best British comedy has to offer. As much as I love the shows that have followed this, this really is Partridge at his finest, and is an essential watch. Links: Alan on Clive Anderson’s Chat show / Steve Coogan Interview / Simon Greenall Interview.
The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret – What? Really? Yep, this extremely uneven show is superb in places, but poor in others. But it’s still worth a watch, especially given the quality of the cast. Plus in it’s second season finale it has one of the best endings ever made, which was spoilt a little by the third season, indeed you could ignore it if you so wish. Link: David Cross Interview / CTW Editor Alex Finch’s article about his experience as an extra on the show.
The IT Crowd – I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in this, given Graham Lineham’s previous work, but there’s enough here to make it worth catching, including some great work from Chris Morris in the first series. It’s certainly one of the better British sitcoms of recent years as well, but there’s a sense that with a little more work it could have been something pretty special, rather than simply quite enjoyable. Link: The Guardian’s Interview With Graham Lineham
It’s Kevin – This may not have been the greatest sketch show ever made, but sod it, it’s Kevin Eldon, so of course it’s going to be fantastic at least some of the time. The opening song to each episode certainly made us smile, and many of the sketches had a Big Train feel, which shouldn’t be a surprise as Eldon also starred in that series and some of both was written by Arthur Matthews. Links: Episode 1 on youtube / Kevin Eldon interview.
It’s Your Move – A very early starring role for Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, lots of movies which are quite good but nothing that interesting), for the first fourteen episodes this was a fun and inventive show where Bateman tries to scam his sister, and various others, normally for financial gain. For what’s essentially a teen sitcom it was pretty smart stuff, and fairly subversive given that it was made in the mid-eighties and shown on NBC in a family time slot. Unfortunately the producers lost faith in the original idea and for the final four episodes it becomes a bland family show which ignored it’s concept completely, and was unsurprisingly cancelled shortly afterwards. So ignore those episodes and just watch the first fourteen, which are very funny stuff. Links: Episode One on Youtube / Huffington Post Article.
The Joy of Sets – Australian comedy with Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee, as they discuss the mechanics of making a tv programme nowadays by showing clips and taking the piss out of old tv shows. Much better than I’ve made it sound, this only ran for eight episodes but all are indispensable. Link: The series can be watched on youtube.
Keep It In The Family – Nepotism alert – For I have to confess that the star of this sitcom, Robert Gillespie, is my Uncle. But that’s not the reason for it’s inclusion here, nor has he paid me (alas!) for writing about it, as I genuinely believe it’s a really strong sitcom. Which is quite surprising given that it was on ITV in the early eighties in a family friendly slot. It’s down to Gillespie’s central character, the cartoonist Dudley Rush as to why it’s so charming too, he has an impish charm and whilst occasionally difficult to deal with, mostly when it comes to his editor Duncan Thomas (Glyn Houston, superb throughout), he’s an incredibly endearing lead. Pauline Yates also turns in a strong and funny performance as his wife, and the rest of the cast were also strong. It tailed off towards the end as Yates left the cast at the end of the fourth series, as did the writer Brian Cooke and the last episodes weren’t up to the usual standard, but the first four series are strong stuff and contain lots of laughs. Links: Robert’s website / The complete series on DVD via Network / Youtube Clip.
King of the Hill – Without doubt one of our favourite sitcoms of all time, and an incredible rare case of a series running for over ten seasons (producing in total 259 episodes) without their being a single duffer amongst them. It’s enormously underrated for some unknown reason, but those who love it absolutely adore it, and with good reason as the character’s grow and develop beautifully over the years yet it never stops being consistently very very funny. Links: Den of Geek article / Chicago Tribune Mike Judge interview.
Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge – The first time I saw this it didn’t quite gel with me, it felt too fake, and too, excuse the pun, knowing. But I watched it again last year and fell in love with it. I still feel it would have benefited from Patrick Marber and Rebecca Front playing fewer guests and a different actor being used each time but it’s still a very funny show which highlights what an awful host Alan Partridge was, despite his best efforts. His interactions with pretty much everyone are a real highlight though, with my particular favourites being Doon Mackichan’s punk singer and Patrick Marber’s washed up actor Gary Barker, but there’s gems in all of the interviews, and the ongoing bitterness between Alan and band leader Glenn Ponder creates many a laugh. Partridge would only go on to become a far more fascinating character in I’m Alan Partridge and Mid-Morning Matters, and a fair few other appearances too, but his first main tv series (discounting The Day Today as that was more of a group affair) is still essential viewing. Links: The first episode can be watched here / A Vulture article on the show.
The Larry Sanders Show – The subject of our first Classic Comedy feature, this is one of the finest sitcoms ever made. We go in to a lot of detail in that article as to why it’s so great, but for those who can’t be arsed to read it – in short it’s an incredible satire of the tv industry, from Shandling’s beautifully neurotic host to the incredibly (and understandably) insecure sidekick Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor), whilst Artie the Producer (Rip Torn) is a bulldog who will fight to the death for his star, unless sex with Angie Dickinson is involved and then he’ll disappear within a blink of an eye. The supporting cast includes Janeane Garofalo, Scott Thomson and Mary Lynn Rajskub, whilst it includes cameos from pretty much everyone who was famous in the nineties, the majority of whom send themselves up with glee. An absolutely essential sitcom, if you love comedy and haven’t seen it then do so now, or you’ll miss out on one of the best works of art ever made in any medium. Which might seem a little over the top, but I truly don’t say that lightly. Links: Garry Shandling Interview / Slate Article / Two hour interview on Youtube.
Limmy’s Show – The finest sketch show of the 21st century, that may sound like an extreme statement but it’s the truth, and I’ll fight anyone to the death (or minor bruising, at least) who disagrees. The creation of Scotland’s Brian Limond it’s a selection of character based sketches like the superb Adventure Call (and for fans you only have to say the words “Kill Jester” to make them laugh), the ongoing adventures of Jacqueline Mccafferty, the drugged up fantasist Dee Dee and Raymond Day, a cynical psychic, and one off skits, all of which benefit from Limmy’s skewed viewpoint. My personal favourite of which is the laptop theft sketch, but nearly all of them are oddly lovable, and even the more disturbing moments are strangely endearing. Originally shown only on BBC Scotland if you love comedy it’s a must see series, and Limmy’s many youtube videos are also well worth checking out too. Links: You can watch the first episode here / An interview with Limmy.
Little Britain – Good for one season at least, before it became the most repetitive show ever aired. Which is a shame as the first batch have a lot of charm to them.
Malcolm In The Middle – The sitcom that was responsible for making Bryan Cranston famous (and I know he was in Seinfeld a bit, but that doesn’t count), this is a smart, intelligent and realistic blue collar sitcom where the family weren’t well off and living in a ridiculously expensive abode, something which was quite rare in US sitcoms at the time (discounting The Simpsons, of course). It wasn’t afraid to make it’s characters unlikeable either, what with Malcolm sometimes coming across as smug and superior, but thankfully his family were always on hand to bring him down to earth. Younger brother Dewie provided a lot of strong laughs by being pleasingly bizarre, whilst older brother Francis all but got to be in his own sitcom, with the majority of his antics taking place either at the army base or the farm he goes on to work at. It shouldn’t have worked as they were quite different scenarios, but somehow the writers managed to pull it off. Meanwhile Cranston’s Hal provided lots of ridiculous slapstick and idiocy, but also a warm moral centre of the show, and Jane Kaczmarek’s Lois could be an angry presence in the show she was much needed so the boys wouldn’t step too far out of line. Links: Frankie Muniz 2000 Interview / Malcolm In The Middle Fansite.
The Mark Thomas Comedy Product – Nicknamed “The British Michael Moore” by many in the press, this is a bit unfair as Thomas had a far more nuanced take on British politics, and the show, a mix of stand up and stunts produced to provoke politicians, often angered the public enough that it had an effect on policy. Thomas later removed the word Comedy from the title but it still had a sharp streak of humour throughout each episode, and whilst towards the end politicians and the various corporations he attacked became a little too aware of who he was, and so able to deal with him better, this was never less than captivating television and we wish something like it was still airing today, though at least Thomas is still performing live and writing insightful if depressing books. Links: The Nestle episode on Youtube / Mark’s Official Site / 2001 BBC Article.
Maron – At the last count there were four hundred and twenty nine series about stand up comedians and their complicated lives, but Marc Maron’s entry in to the genre was easily one of the best, second only to Louie and of course we can’t watch that show given what an abhorrent shite C.K. turned out to be. Exploring Marc’s day to day life as he struggled with romance, and, in various episodes, an internet troll, his crazy dad, a strange relationship with Ray Romano, donating sperm, joke theft, anger issues and anti-depressants (and many other things), all of these were dealt with in very funny and intelligent ways. The fourth and final season saw Mark struggle after he had a relapse, and was patchier than what came before and while of interest not the show at it’s best, but everything which came before is endearingly funny and it’s easily one gof the best shows about a stand up comedian. Links: Marc Maron interview / Dave Antony interview.
The Mary Whitehouse Experience – Starring Rob Newman, David Baddiel, Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt, all of whom are around to this day (with two of them still producing some really great comedy, and no, David Baddiel is not one of them), this was a BBC2 sketch show which originally aired in the UK in 1990, with the second series being shown in 1992. Transferring from the radio (though without part time cast members Nick Hancock, Jo Brand, Jack Dee, Mark Thomas and Mark Hurst) it was a huge hit from the beginning, and soon kids across the country were mimicking the catchphrases of such characters like the History Today professors, Mr Strange (best known for his “Milky, Milky” saying) and the permanently sarcastic Ray. I always preferred Newman and Baddiel’s segments but Punt and Dennis had a lot to offer as well. Due to the topical nature of the show certain parts have aged badly, but it’s still an enjoyable watch to this day. My only minor complaint is that when I saw both Newman and Baddiel and Punt and Dennis live (with the former duo being my first ever stand up gig) they largely just repeated parts from the show rather than coming up with any new material, but every one else in the audience didn’t seem to mind so I guess I shouldn’t moan too much. Oh, and they also produced The Mary Whitehouse Experience Encyclopedia which was a very funny read, and I’m especially fond of it as it spent a whole page mocking the small shitty town I grew up in. Links: Sotcaa’s article on the radio series / The first episode of the series on youtube.
Metal Mickey – Some might think I’m taking the piss with this suggestion, but thanks to Network I had the chance to rewatch it for the first time in thirty odd years and it still stands up. Sure, it’s a daft old thing, and hardly the most innovative or inventive show, but it’s packed with gags and has fun with it’s concept. Plus it was made in the eighties and has a strong black character in it and there’s not one dodgy racist joke. Which is a truly rare thing. Links: An interview with the creator, Colin Bostock-Smith / Episode 1 on Youtube
Mid Morning Matters With Alan Partridge – Foster’s beer may taste horribly bland, and jesus, the time I had a can that had been lying in the sun for hours is one of my most unpleasant memories, but the company should be given some kudos as back in 2010 they set up the “Fosters Funny” website and hosted new comedy from the likes of Vic and Bob, The Fast Show, and the creators of this series, Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci and The Gibbons Brothers. It was the first example of the Gibbons’ writing for Partridge and they breathed new life in to the character, making him even more nuanced than before but also a little more likeable too. Of course he could still be a twat, as his co-host Sidekick Simon (Tim Key, fantastic as always) often discovered, but in this series which saw him host a radio show on North Norfolk Digital and gave us footage of him doing this and this alone we saw a softer, less arrogant side on occasion too. The format also gave us what you might call “Pure Partridge”, just the man presenting live and trying to be funny, something that hadn’t occurred since Knowing Me, Knowing You, and it was shockingly hilarious stuff with each episode being a gem. After Fosters gave up being funny a second series was commissioned by Sky which was just as good, and this led to a couple of documentaries, the film, two books and then the BBC series, all of which have been pretty bloody amazing, but for my money Mid-Morning Matters is the best Partridge series of the 21st century so far. Links: The first episode on DailyMotion / An interview with The Gibbons’ Brothers.
The Mighty Boosh – An odd situation where the first series annoys, but the second has a lot to like about it. And one day, one day I’ll watch the third. Probably.
Moone Boy – Chris O’Dowd’s sitcom for Sky, this wasn’t seen by many rather sadly as it’s all a bit of a gem. Based around the idea that he plays a young Irish boy’s imaginary friend, this was a genuinely sweet series which also provided a great deal of strong laughs. It ended after three series and a movie was promised, but considering the time that has passed, and the ageing of the younger elements of the cast, now seems unlikely. For which we shall never forgive Chris O’Dowd. Links: A Collider Interview with O’Dowd / A NPR interview with him as well.
My New Best Friend – Marc Wootton’s comedic output has been a little patchy over the years, he’s the man behind the fairly unfunny psychic Shirley Ghostman and the quite irritating recent sitcom High & Dry, but this particular show was the man at his very best as members of the public had to pretend that one of his character’s was their new best friend, and if they could survive a weekend with him they’d win £10,000. Now that might seem easy to some but he really made them earn the cash, mostly by being shockingly embarrassing and saying outrageously wrong things, and it was a series which made me laugh a great deal as he acted in increasingly demented ways. Given that he was instantly recognisable after the show aired it meant the series could only last for one batch of episodes, which is a real shame as it was easily the best thing he’s ever done. Link: You can watch the series by clicking here.
Nathan Barley – Chris Morris hadn’t put a step wrong before his attempt at a sitcom, co-written by Charlie Brooker, and was considered Britain’s greatest living satirist. The knives were out for the show though which many mocked for being too pretentious and slightly unrealistic, but I was always extremely fond of it from the get go. It’s not perfect in the way Brasseye and The Day Today are, and Noel Fielding’s character annoyed slightly, but it’s filled with a lot of fascinating characters and if anything it was a bit before it’s time, as nowadays Hoxton and similar areas are full of Nathan Barley (and Dan Ashcroft) types. It’s a real shame that the proposed second season never came to light as I’d have been really interested to see where they’d gone with the concept, and if the series would be even better than the first. Links: Chris Morris Fansite / The Custard Tv’s Guide To The Show / Charlie Condou interview / Velvet Onion Article.
Newstopia – Australia’s Shaun Micallef is one of my favourite comedians, if not one of my favourite humans on the planet, and he’s been producing some of the best comedy the world has to offer for a long time now with Newstopia being one of his finest works. Initially it started off as a parody of every day news, taking real life events and satirising them, but the second series became much stranger and weirder and far more akin to The Day Today as it included a lot of surreal but extremely funny stuff, along with a running joke where news reporter Pilger Heston would suddenly find himself attacked by those from the Planet of the Apes movies. It also included some superb fictional adverts, along with trailers for Inspektor Herring, a parody of the series Inspector Rex which never failed to make me laugh. The third series saw a return to the straighter satire of the first and wasn’t quite as good, but all three seasons contain a lot of hilarious moments. Links: Cackfest sketch / Shaun Micallef Fansite.
NTSF:SD:SUV – A spoof the various CSI / NCIS type shows, series creator Paul Scheer assembled together a superb cast including June Diane Raphael, Kate Mulgrew, Karen Gillan, Rob Riggle, Martin Starr and Rebecca Romjin (along with the voice of Peter Serafinowicz) and got them to do all manner of silly things. The series became more and more outlandish as it continued and this was only to it’s benefit, seeing the cast pretend to be high school students, be involved with anti-terrorism time travellers, and deal with a seemingly peaceful alien. There was even an episode for a pretend spin off series called Time Angels, starring Eliza Dushku and Jayma Mays, which was so good it’s a shame they didn’t commission it for real. The series was never officially cancelled either, with Scheer stating that it was just on indefinite hiatus, so we hope it returns one day. Links: Paul Scheer, Karen Gillan and Jonathan Stern Interview / Kate Mulgrew Interview.
The Office (US) – When the American version of The Office first hit our screens it was surprisingly terrible, despite using the scripts from the UK version with only a few minor changes, as the cast didn’t fit and the way it was directed failed to replicate the strengths of the original series, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been cancelled. Fortunately NBC gave them a second shot and the idea of just copying Gervais’s version was thrown out of the window and it became it’s own beast, and a very funny beast it was too, like a lion in a bikini doing the lambada. It pulled off the very difficult “Will they / Won’t they” romance thing without becoming irritating, built up a great selection of complicated supporting characters, and Steve Carell became a far more nuanced character, managing to be much more sympathetic than David Brent despite being as much as an idiot as he was. After Carell left it struggled in it’s eighth season, featuring a great performance from James Spader but not really knowing what to do with everyone else, and then the ninth season was just awful, but from seasons two to seven it’s without doubt a classic piece of comedy, and an incredibly lovable one at that. Links: An oral history of The Dinner Party episode / Interview with showrunner Greg Daniels about the final season.
Parks and Recreation – A rare case of a series which had a very patchy first season and no one would have been surprised, or dismayed, if it had been cancelled. Fortunately for all involved the second series worked out what the series did best, and soon it became a true delight. Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope is a wonderfully optimistic individual (though we thank the lord the series ended when it did so she didn’t have to encounter the Trump years) but it was the supporting cast which led to the series being so great. Most notably was Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson, who’s so set in his ways he may well have concrete flowing threw his veins instead of blood, but his integrity shone through, along with his affection for Leslie. Throw in a pre-fame Chris Pratt as the extremely stupid yet lovable Andy (by the third season at least, interestingly he’s all a bit of a dick in the first two, especially when it comes to his treatment / stalking of Ann), Aubrey Plaza as the acerbic April Ludgate, and not even Azis Ansari’s annoying Tom Haverford, and the show’s mistreatment of Jerry could spoil events. It also managed to lose the dead-weight that was Paul Schneider (a fine actor, but in a role no one could make likeable) and improve events by introducing both Rob Lowe and Adam Scott in to proceedings. There were some mis-steps along the way (season four follows an annoying formula of Leslie screwing up only to discover how she should have acted all along) and the final episode is a little too self-congratulatory, but most of the time it’s an extremely funny and lovable series. Links: Amy Poehler and Adam Scott final season interview / Michael Schur interview.
Paul Merton The Series – Paul Merton’s always frustrated me as the man clearly has a fantastic comedy brain but he’s spent most of the last three decades wasting it on Have I Got News For You. There have been other projects, like ITV’s attempt at remaking the Australian series Thank God You’re Here, and he performs improv on a regular basis live, but when it comes to tv only Whose Line Is It Anyway? and this series have shown just how funny he can be. A mix of stand up and sketches, he spent a fair amount of the show in a newspaper kiosk trotting out the best of his stand up routines from live shows, but there were also a decent amount of daft sketches, many of which were fairly surreal stuff like one where Merton goes to the dentists, is given gas, and then ends up floating out of the window, which went on to bleed in to other sketches in the episode. He also had a fun line in talking animals, the best of which involved two horses moaning about having to stand outside of Buckingham Palace all day, while another skit where he’s in a submarine was memorably funny too. Merton’s not the best comedy actor ever but he was given amiable support from the likes of Paul Whitehouse, Neil Mullarkey, Ben Miller, Caroline Quentin and John Irwin, with the latter helping out on the writing side of things too and though a couple of bits haven’t aged well the majority stand up to this day, and the whole series is worth seeking out on youtube without any doubt. Links: The first episode on youtube / Paul on Richard Herring’s Leicster Square Theatre Podcast.
The People vs Jerry Sadowitz – I’ve mixed feelings about Jerry Sadowitz, especially his work over the past decade which has lost it’s nuance and now seems to be the rantings of a man who doesn’t know what else to do but be as offensive as possible (something even Frankie Boyle realised becomes tiresome after a while) but in the 1980s and 90s he truly was a force to be reckoned with, and whilst this is his most mainstream work, it’s also one of the strongest. Each week Jerry would allow members of the public to discuss a particular topic, only removing them from events if he became bored or thought they were idiots. It’s without a doubt of it’s time, but still worthy of rewatching to this day, and it’s a shame he didn’t continue to make further series of it. Links: Jerry Sadowitz’s official site / Sean Gabb’s article about almost appearing on the show / 1999 Guardian Profile.
Phoenix Nights – I’ve a lot of mixed feelings about Peter Kay, if only because of the amount of dvds he released which featured a lot of the same material. He’s also created some pretty shoddy shows over the year too, including the uncomfortably racist in parts Max and Paddy’s Road To Nowhere, and the horribly lazy Britain’s Got the Pop Factor… and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice which took what could have been a funny concept and played it predictably bland. But Phoenix Nights is the one thing that Kay’s done that I absolutely adore, a sitcom based in a working men’s club in the north of England it’s got a rich collection of characters and a script which is truly sharp, and whilst there’s the odd dodgy joke the majority of it superb stuff. Links: Dave Spikey Interview / Peter Kay interview.
Powerless – A sitcom set in the DC Universe about a bunch of science geeks who work for a company run by Bruce Wayne’s cousin. I wanted to like it because it stars Danny Pudi and Alan Tudyk and after a shaky start it became reasonably watchable, and once Nathalie Morales joined the cast as Green Fury it finally started delivering on the initial promise show. Sadly it was cancelled after one season, and whilst we can partially understand that, it’s a shame as it never got the chance to grow and develop as a series. Links: Showrunner Patrick Schumacker interview / Cast interview.
Respectable – A sitcom about a prostitute that aired on Channel Five and which was actually good? We understand why you may not believe us, but this gentle affair was quite sweet natured, as Justin Edwards (The Thick Of It, The Death Of Stalin) falls in love with a hooker with a heart of gold (Jodi Albert) even though he’s terrified of sex and so their relationship remains platonic, if expensive. Written by Shaun Pye, Alan Connor and Harry Thompson it’s all but a PG rated series, with no sex or nudity, and more of a character piece than anything else. Alas it only ran for six episodes, but it’s still worth seeking out as it’s such an amiable comedy series. Links: British Comedy Guide Article / Youtube clip.
Review With Forrest MacNeil – Andy Daly’s masterful series is quite possibly one of the best (and most unusual) comedy series ever made. Essential viewing for all comedy lovers, it only ran for three seasons but each and every episode is filled with a crazy amount of laugh out loud moments. Our review of one of the best episodes can be found here.
Review With Myles Barlow – As is the Australian series it was based on, whilst they show certain elements they’re very different beasts, but this is no less funny.
Sammy J & Randy In Ricketts Lane – An Australian comedy series where Sammy J lives with his best friend, who happens to be a purple puppet called Randy, though Randy has a predilection for screwing up Sammy’s life often whilst attempting to get back with his ex-wife. Also a musical series, the songs were strong and it was generally a pretty funny show. Unfortunately it was cancelled after just six episodes, but the duo still perform live thankfully. Links: Youtube Interview / Decider Tv Interview.
Sean’s Show – Sean Hughes was one of the first stand up comedians I ever saw live, and that was all due to his superb Channel Four series. Possibly influenced by It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, this saw Sean go about his every day life whilst regularly breaking the fourth wall and chatting to the audience. It was far more surreal than Shandling’s effort though, featuring answer phone messages from God and Samuel Beckett, conversations with a spider who was actually Elvis Presley, and at the end of the first series the entire cast are killed off, only to be resurrected at the beginning of the second. Featuring guest appearances from Pulp, Vinnie Jones, The Cure’s Robert Smith and Bea Arthur, it stands up to this day and is packed with shockingly funny moments, and watching it now only makes me wish that Sean was still with us. Links: Series 2 Episode 1 on Youtube / Sydney Morning Herald Interview.
Shooting Stars – This isn’t the best thing that Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer have ever created (that would be Catterick) but it’s easily the most popular and iconic work of theirs. A spoof of traditional panel shows it saw the duo asking a bunch of questions most of which were either impossible to answer, incredibly easy, or just plain silly. They also threw in a fair amount of sketches which were always one of the highlights of the episodes, Matt Lucas as grumpy adult baby George Dawes was oddly adorable, and the two main team captains provided some strong laughs, especially professional arsehole Mark LaMarr. Which may sound mean but if you check out the fifth episode of the Thomas & Way podcast you’ll understand why. Will Self was a great replacement for him, anyhow, as was Jack Dee once he left as well, and the majority of the special guests were highly entertaining, especially those who didn’t really get what was going on but played along anyway. Like pretty much every panel show it went on for a bit too long (something Reeves and Mortimer were aware of and they only made the last couple of series in exchange for the BBC commissioning House Of Fools) but it never hit a tiresome low like Have I Got News For You or Never Mind The Buzzcocks, which is why it’s the only panel show which features here. Links: The first ever episode on youtube / A 2009 Interview with Vic & Bob about the show.
Sit Down Shut Up – Mitchell Hurwitz’s follow up to Arrested Development (bar the US pilot of The Thick Of It which never got taken to series), for some reason it seemed like the critics wanted to give him a kicking before it even aired, despite Arrested Development being one of the greatest comedy series ever made. Based on a live action Australian sitcom, this animated series did start off a little weakly, but after a few episodes it slowly developed in to something rather funny, and whilst nowhere near as good as his previous work there was a lot to like here. Unfortunately Fox never really gave it a chance, removing it from it’s time slot after only four episode and later showing the final nine after midnight on Saturdays, which is a shame as with a bit of tweaking a second season could have seen it become a really strong series. Links: Cast & Crew interview / Mitch Hurwitz Interview.
Spaced – Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes much loved sitcom came at exactly the right time for me, I’d just left university and it made me nostalgic for the days of sharing a house with fun, crazy types. Whilst the second series isn’t quite as good and is a bit too heavily reliant on spoofing popular movies, the first is a gem, filled with unique characters it was impossible not to love, and scenarios which were often surprisingly joyous, at least for a British sitcom. Pegg’s comics and video games obsessed lead made geeks cool (as much as I hate that sentence and the use of the word geeks it’s undeniably true) and the chemistry he shared with Jessica shines through in every scene. It’s aged well too, which is probably due to Edgar Wright’s superb direction, and the fact that it’s steadfastly it’s own beast and captures an era before the world turned to shit in a smart and endearing manner. Links: A superb oral history of the show / Spaced-Out Fansite.
Stella Street – When you mention John Sessions to most people they think of someone who slightly over-intellectualises comedy, at least if they saw him on Whose Line Is It Anyway? where he was often slightly pretentious and overly wordy on the show, and it turns out he’s a bit of a twat too as he’s an UKIP supporter. But for a couple of years from 1997 to 2001 he surprised everyone by turning up in one of the best comedy series the BBC have ever shown, the ludicrously daft Stella Street which saw a selection of incredibly famous types all move in to a small street in Surbiton and hang about not really doing much. Written by Sessions, the Comic Strip Presents’ Peter Richardson and Phil Cornwell, with the latter co-starring, it allowed them to do some beautifully silly impersonations as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards ran the local corner shop, Michael Caine moaned about his neighbours, Joe Pesci was a scary psychopath, and Jimmy Hill rambled away about football in a dull but very funny manner. It was so successful that it led to a film, with Ronni Ancona joining the cast and celebrities like Madonna and Posh Spice, but it wasn’t that great however so is best ignored unless you’re a die hard fan. Which you probably should be, thinking about it. Links: Episode 1 on Youtube / Phil Cornwell Interview.
Take My Wife – One of the much missed streaming comedy service SeeSo’s best shows, this saw real life Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher explore the lives they have together. There are currently far too many series about comedians right now but this is easily one of the best ones, with a sharp smart wit mixed with a warm very real feeling relationship comedy. It also had a great selection of guest stars including Maria Bamford, Paul F. Tompkins, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Tegan and Sara, all of whom were a huge amount of fun on the show. Unfortunately Cameron and Rhea have now split up meaning that there won’t be any future seasons, but both are now available on itunes and despite being a bit pricey are well worth shelling out for. Links: Interview with Camero and Rhea / And another interview with the duo.
This Morning With Richard And Not Judy – After Lee and Herring made two series of Fist of Fun they found themselves briefly out of work with the BBC, but soon came back with this spoof of a magazine show which screened somewhat amazingly on Sunday afternoons. I say amazingly as it contains a lot of very funny but pretty dodgy jokes for a daytime show (infamously including one where Jack Docherty claims to have had sex with Morwenna Banks when she was dressed as her ‘little girl’ character from Absolutely), along with much mocking of religion in the form of the Sunday Heroes selection of sketches which never failed to delight. For me it’s Lee and Herring working as a double act at their very best, and the various sketches and studio based scenes are packed with some enormously funny jokes. Also starring Kevin Eldon, Emma Kennedy, Paul Putner and Trevor Lock, it’s sadly never been released on dvd despite Lee & Herring considering putting it out themselves (partially as the BBC asked too much money for it, but also because at the time Lee didn’t want to risk losing money on the project) but we hope it is one day as it’s a real gem. Related Links: Lee & Herring Fan Site / Episode one of the series on youtube.
Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! – An acquired taste and then some, this didn’t quite work for me at first, and it’s by no means an even work, but at it’s best it’s really quite unique.
Time Trumpet – A slightly revised version of 2004: The Stupid Version, this is a greatly underrated series from Armando Iannuuci, based around the concept that it was a clip show from the future which looked back on the present day and mocked it greatly. The cast includes Stewart Lee, Richard Ayoade, Katy Wix, Adam Buxton, Matthew Holness and Armando himself and if that’s not enough to get you watching it also contains Iannucci’s unique brand of wordplay and also a great deal of silliness. The best sketches feature Eastenders’ use of green screen, elderly versions of Ant and Dec, and David Beckham, who just happens to now be part horse, and various news stories which are pleasingly daft. Plus it’s a show which calls Tony Blair a mad man so how can you possibly not love it. Link: You can watch the first episode here.
The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon – Steve Coogan’s follow up to the initial success of Alan Partridge, this saw the much loved comedian create a character who was an appalling if egotistical singer, complete with songs packed with dodgy puns and sexual innuendo. Two specials were created around the singer, one being a special which he hosted, the other a behind the scenes look at the man, and both were equally hated by the critics at the time. I’ve admittedly a real weakness for musical comedy but also feel it can be truly painful if done badly, which this thankfully wasn’t, and whilst some songs could be accused of being a bit on the nose they were still damn funny, with Short Term Affair, What Is Life? and Bigamy At Christmas being my particularly favourites, and I really believe this deserves a reappraisal. Coogan brought back the character for his 1998 “The Man Who Thinks He’s It” stand up show, but so far that’s sadly the last we’ve seen of him. Links: Tony’s appearance on Clive Anderson’s chatshow / Pozzitive Tv’s guide to the series / Tony’s duet with Bjork for Comic Relief.
A Touch of Cloth – A spoof of gritty and grimy cop shows from Charlie Brooker, this was the last show he made before hitting the big time with Black Mirror. John Hannah parodied the kind of roles he’d previously played in shows like Cold Blood and Rebus, and Suranne Jones (playing a character called Anne Oldman which they mined a lot of humour from), Navin Chowdhry, Adrian Bower and Julian Rhind-Tutt provided ample support, whilst Eastenders star Todd Carty sent himself off in some fantastically amusing moments. It often felt similar to Police Squad and The Naked Gun movies due to the impressively high gag rate but it managed to maintain it’s own identity despite sometimes covering similar ground. It only lasted for seven forty five minute long episodes which might have been for the best as it was slightly running out of steam by the end, but I’d have no issue if they bought it back every so often as they’re all characters I miss. Links: John Hannah Interview / Charlie Brooker Interview.
We Are Klang – This sketch show from Greg Davies, Steve Hall and Marek Larwood is a patchy affair, with some episodes being far stronger than others, but when it works it is pretty entertaining. A kind of mix of The Goodies and The Young Ones (with the series admitting the former within the first episode) it’s based around three men who work for a town council and follows their daft antics. A lot of people have suggested that they were much better on stage and the transfer to tv didn’t quite capture their brilliance, much like Pappy’s Fun Club’s attempts at tv, but there’s still a lot to enjoy here and the songs are a particular highlight. Links: You can watch the series on youtube here / An interview with Steve Hall about the series.
Wonder Showzen – The show which introduced me to PFFR, this is one of the finest programmes ever made in the US, and considering how much amazing comedy has come out of that country that’s saying something. A satire of kids shows this sees a group of puppets go on disturbing adventures, whilst real life children feature in skits, and in Beat Kids, go out on to the street and interview people in what’s always one of the best segments of the series. It’s even more surreal than I’m making it sound though, truly unpredictable and incredibly lovable. PFFR went on to make a great deal of amazing shows (including Xavier: Renegade Angel, The Heart She Holler and Delocated), every one of which should be tracked down as they’re beautifully strange and incredibly funny productions. Links: Fader article on the Show / Interview with Vernon Chatman and John Lee.
The Young Ones – One of the most beloved and written about British sitcoms of all time, what can I say about it that hasn’t been said millions of times? Nothing, I checked, and every possible opinion and description of the show has already been typed out. But if you’ve a love for comedy then it’s essential viewing, a flat share comedy where four very different characters live together which subverts pretty much every traditional sitcom set up and is packed with an impressive amount of styles of comedy, including slapstick, the surreal, the daft, the satirical and much more besides. It made stars out of nearly everyone (bar Christopher Ryan, but he’s still had a pretty decent career) and shot the writers to fame as well, and deservedly so as it’s still stands up to this day. So stop reading this if you haven’t seen it before and do so immediately. And I’m not just saying that because we’re finally at the end of the page. Probably. Links: Episode 1 of the show on Dailymotion / The Comedy Connections documentary about the series / A selection of interviews with Rik Mayall.
A Brief FAQ
Hey, my favourite show’s not here, I’m going to stab you!
An understandable response, but it’s possible that we haven’t seen any of it yet. Or that we like it, but it doesn’t quite make the list of our favourite ever comedy series. Then again we might just hate it, and if so, ah, please don’t do that.
But I mean, come on, what about Only Fools and Horses, you’re a frickin’ idiot if you don’t like that?
Yeah. I guess. I just have a weird relationship with the show, it can make me laugh and I like certain characters, but there’s something about it that rubs me up the wrong way. Which is possibly Del Boy’s ongoing mistreatment of Rodney, at least in the early years. But anyway, I’m afraid it doesn’t make this particular list. Sorry.
But hang on a minute, you don’t like show X but you love show Y? What the fuck?
Ah, I know, and I (possibly) apologise about that. All comments and suggestions will be read below though, and I’m open to being convinced about any and all series. Apart from the final season of Roseanne. My partner likes it and has tried and failed, so yeah, there’s no chance on that one.
Hey, mofo, one of the links is dead!
Oi, less of the swearing, and also, sorry, all were working when originally posted but if you could let us know in the comments section it’ll be removed and a new one inserted.