I don’t own a TV, but I’m the queen bee of streaming the shows I love to watch online, either via Netflix, Hulu, or some kind of third party.
I’m not a fan of some of the bigger shows that are either on TV right now or recently ended (Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones).
So when Parenthood skips a week (heeeey network TV) or I’m all Grey’s Anatomy-ed out, I head over to Netflix and start watching British soaps and comedies instead.
There are quite a few HILARIOUS shows available online right now, and they’re all quirky and odd in their own individual — and oh so British — ways.
My husband and I very happily discovered Coupling almost five years ago when we were living on campus and needed something to do one night. We proceeded to FLY through the series, eating more nachoes and drinking more Dos Equis than two people ever should. The meal goes perfectly with the show, which aired on BBC2 from 2000 to 2004. It follows the general premise of Friends — six friends in their thirties work! Go on dates! Have sex! — but the humor is so intrinsically British that it doesn’t feel like a copy of something you’ve already seen.
Also, the Mari Wilson cover of Doris Day’s Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps is catchy as hell.
Black Books is my favorite of the bunch! I’m not entirely sure if the show was modeled on High Fidelity (book or movie version), but there’s quite a bit of cross-over by way of character depictions and the general mayhem of the shop. The show is centered around three characters: Bernard, Manny, and Fran. Bernard is a grouchy book shop owner who discovers he’s accidentally hired happy-go-lucky Manny to work in his shop. Fran runs the new age-y shop next door, and the three proceed to get into a whole bunch of hijinks and mischief.
Blackadder was suggested by my husband — he lived in the UK for six or so years and discovered it while there. The premise sounds more confusing than it needs to: each episode is about Edmund Blackadder and his drudge, Baldrick. Each season is set in a different historical period. Though each season is about a different time period, they all forward the highs and lows of the life of Blackadder and in general teach you something about British history — in a super hilarious way. The lives of the upper class Blackadders and the servant Baldricks are interlinked.
EastEnders has been on the BBC since 1985 and follows people who work and play in Walford in the East End of London — hence the name. You’ve likely heard of it before — it’s one of the UK’s most-watched TV shows. Like Days of Our Lives, EastEnders is a standard soap opera, and themes include relationships, family, and dramedic (drama+comedy) moments.
Keeping Up Appearances
Guys, I don’t know why I love Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced BOUQUET) so much, but I very sincerely do. Keeping Up Appearances is one of the first shows my husband ever introduced me to, and nearly seven years later you can park me in front of an episode of the show and find me laughing about fifteen seconds later. Hyacinth is just a stereotype of a nosy, bossy, more or less bored homemaker turned neighborhood spy, and she gives her husband, Richard, plenty to moan and groan about.. but something about this show just does it for me. Cheers!
What are your favorite British TV shows? I’m always going to need more!
Comments on 5 British comedies and soaps you should watch when you need a break from zombies, meth, and fantasy
My local PBS station would have brit-coms on every Saturday when I was young, so I grew up with them.
Amongst my favs: Are You Being Served, Red Dwarf, Faulty Towers, BlackAdder, My Hero, My Family, A Fine Romance, As Time Goes By
How is the ‘Thick of It” not on this list? It is somewhat darker comedy than some of the ones on this list, but watching Malcolm Tucker lose it can be incredibly cathartic. Also, you can watch the whole series (minus the Christmas specials) on Hulu. Also, check out ‘In the Loop’ which is an excellent film based on the show. I saw the film without having seen the show and loved it so you really don’t have to see the show first.
My husband and I just had a brainstorm and we’ve come up with:
Getting On: A Jo Brand sitcom about a couple of nurses in a classic English hospital. I love it because I’m a nurse but my husband gets thejokes too…
The Thick of It: Some of the same actors and Peter Cappaldi (woo, new Dr!). UK based politics, with awkward silences and muted jokes, followed by lots of sweary sweariness…
In the Loop: A film of the above
The Royle Family: A sitcom just in a family’s living room. Like a fly on the wall documentary but very funny. You often see bits of your own family in there.
Ooh, I love this post so much! I honestly didn’t realise British comedy was so big in the US.
Stop trying to blend the American culture! F the EU. The monarchy are scum and not even Britts! Our sell out leaders may bow, but we never will!
SPACED! If you like Simon Pegg movies, you’ll love it!!
Upstairs, Downstairs. Yes, it’s pretty old but still good. I’ve watched the whole thing like 5 times now and it never gets old. 🙂
Dirk Gently.. watch this if your a Douglas Adams fan. They made series based off his book “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” and like his “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” you may find your self lost but in the end it comes together.