Here Are 10 Great British Comedies to Celebrate American Independence Day

I'm full-blooded American. Seriously, I had a blood transfusion that replaced my crimson syrup with motor oil, hot-dog water, and the sweat of migrant workers. So naturally all I want to do to celebrate the birth of my great nation is laugh at the country we fended off for independence. With July 4th days away, here's a list of my favorite British comedies and where you can find them online. 

Note: I've left off some typical entries, like The OfficeBlackAdder, and Monty Python's Flying Circus for obvious reasons. You'll also notice that a ridiculous amount of these shows feature Matt Berry (whose handsome visage is in the .GIF above). That's because I f@*$king love Matt Berry. 


The IT Crowd

My standby choice when there's nothing on television and I fire up Netflix, The IT Crowd, which started in 2006 and concluded with a special last year, is a proudly nerdy workplace comedy that's surprisingly versatile. It can hang with The Office when it's about workmates, it can do the nerdy humor of The Big Bang Theory, or it can delve into the absurd when it wants to elevate itself into the world of other irreverent British comedies. Its cast is the main draw here, with Chris O'Dowd (Family TreeMoone Boy) getting his big break as lazy IT tech Roy (who spawned the catchphrase "have you tried turning it on and off again?"), Richard Oyoade perfectly cast as socially inept geek Moss, and Katherine Parkinson as the know-nothing-about-computers manager of the IT department. Stick around for Season 2, when the hilarious Matt Berry joins the cast as the big boss of the company. An American version with Joel McHale in the role of Roy was mercifully never picked up, but McHale would go on to star in Community, which was no doubt influenced by The IT Crowd. And if you want to further tie in Community, Ayoade has directed several episodes of the NBC series. 

Available on: Netflix, Hulu




The Inbetweeners

Imagine a single-class version of Freaks and Geeks but without the freaks and there's a lot more cursing, drinking, and hormonally charged sex talk. Okay, maybe they really only share the high-school setting and the awkward adolescent's eternal struggle to fit in, but Inbetweeners does both extremely well. Following a pack of four friends—the nerdiest of which narrates the entire thing and looks like a teenage Paul F. Tompkins—as they relive all your high-school nightmares, The Inbetweeners, which MTV adapted in 2012, will satisfy your need for boner jokes and mentions of wanking. A perfect series for fans of Freaks and Geeks and Awkward.

Available on: Netflix, Hulu, YouTube




Peep Show

Starring the duo of David Mitchell and Robert Webb, this sitcom, which started in 2003, is best distinguished by its unique point-of-view: everything is shot first-person. Initially slightly disorienting, the gimmick becomes integral to the show as main characters Jeremy and Mark's disgusting inner monologue delivers some of the best laughs. It's another one of those comedies about a couple roommates, but it's the smart, uncomfortable humor—particularly from Mitchell—that makes this one of the best new sitcoms, British or otherwise, to be released in the last decade. 

Available on: Netflix, Hulu




Black Books

The set up for the early 2000s Black Books is simple: a grumpy man named Bernard (Dylan Moran) owns a bookshop and hates his customers. His friend Fran (Episodes' Tamsin Greig) owns the shop next door. And an odd duck in Manny (Bill Bailey) works as Bernard's assistant. Co-created by The IT Crowd's Graham Lineham, Black Books achieves greatness because of Bernard's sardonic attitude, his unstable relationship with everyone else, Bailey and Moran's fantastic performances, and the series' out-there humor, like when Bernard finds a way to procrastinate from doing his taxes by inviting in door-to-door Bible-pushers. By the end of one episode, you'll want to chug a bottle of wine with Bernard and sling insults and anyone who passes by. 

Available on: Hulu, YouTube




Snuff Box

One of the best things to come from The Mighty Boosh besides Julian Barrett's mustache, Snuff Box reunites Boosh supporting actors Matt Berry and displaced American Rich Fulcher as a pair of executioners who pass time in the hangman's lounge. But this sketch-comedy program is about absolutely nothing, with skits starting and stopping willy-nilly and crawling up the butt of bizarre and staying there. It's home of the somewhat viral bit with Berry helping out women until they tell him they have a boyfriend, but everything else is just as funny or at least as absurd. Fulcher and Berry are comedy gods, and a show featuring them together is my personal heaven.

Available on: Netflix, Hulu Plus




Spaced

Before Shaun (of the Dead) went to the Winchester to wait out a zombie attack and knock back a few pints, there was Spaced, a 1999 television collaboration by longtime partners Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (and costar and co-creator Jessica Stevenson). Spaced preceded the great Rising of the Geeks that's shaped media in the last decade, making it one of the original havens of modern nerd culture. References are everywhere! Star WarsRoboCopPulp Fiction, and everything else that used to be embarrassing to like is homaged in this sitcom about a man and a woman who pose as a couple to become roommates. Look for lots of fantasy sequences, genius camerawork from Wright, and Nick Frost as a militant friend of Pegg's Tim. Listen for a great soundtrack of late '90s British nostalgia. Do whatever you want with your sense of taste and smell.

Available on: Hulu, YouTube




Garth Marenghi's Darkplace

Holy crap you guys this show is totally out there and amazing. A spoof on corny '80s television, this parody of cheesy horror never breaks from character by committing to outdated special effects, terrible camerawork, stilted acting, overwrought drama, and an explosive intro sequence. The faux-series, about a doctor who battles the forces of evil in a hospital, is presented as a lost classic (The Spoils of Babylon owes a lot to Darkplace) that was never aired except in Peru, with actors and directors from the show commenting on the series years later. Co-created by Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade (The IT CrowdSubmarine), look for more scene stealing from Matt Berry as handsome doctor Lucien Sanchez and the occasional body exploding. Note: This one's for weirdos. One of my favorites and a gem that doesn't get the notoriety it deserves.

Available on: YouTube, Hulu




The Mighty Boosh

Imagine Flight of the Conchords on da kine sativa and with many more costumes, and you'll get a sense of this brill (British people say "brill," right?) musical-comedy starring the incomparable duo of Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding. The two play zookeepers (yes!) named Howard Moon and Vince Noir who hang out with a talking gorilla, a fortune teller, and their boss (a blisteringly hilarious Rich Fulcher) who doesn't know the names of animals. If you need an idea of what this is like, in the first episode, Howard is forced to box a deadly kangaroo, and later on in the series a bunch of weirdos fly in on a magic carpet. I love this show so much it's one of the few DVD box sets I've purchased since I went hippie and gave up physical media. It also features the irreplaceable Matt Berry and one of the best intro songs ever created for television. 

Available on: You can find some on YouTube, but mostly this is available on DVD, sorry! 




The Thick of It

Armando Iannucci's mastery of profanity is well-known Stateside for his HBO series Veep, but before Julia Louis Dreyfus got a seat full of diarrhea on a campaign photo op, there was The Thick of It. A fast-talking comedy that shares a lot of DNA with VeepThe Thick of It is set inside British government and exposes it for all the petty goingson that further complicate the process of bureaucracy. And for you Whovians out there, it's your chance to see Peter Capaldi drop a flurry of F-bombs. The series was also movie-ized into In the Loop, a 2009 film that featured Yanks James Gandolfini and future Veep star Anna Chlumsky. 

Available on: Hulu    (In the Loop is on Netflix)




Red Dwarf

Prepare yourself for the premise of this '80s and '90s cult classic: in the fuuuuture the entire crew of a mining spaceship, save for one man and a pregnant cat, is killed in a radiation leak. That one man awakes from suspended animation three million years later and is joined by a human-cat hybrid that descended from the surviving cat and a hologram version of his dickish boss. This is Red Dwarf, a Britcom whose influence on the rest of television might not be as big as that of Monty Python's Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers, but will be fondly referenced by anyone who watches fantastic irreverent comedies. Ingenious and totally bizarre. (Need more reasons to watch Red Dwarf? Read TrevPlatt's great post about the show!)

Available on: Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu Plus




BONUS: Here's Stephen Merchant (Hello LadiesThe RIcky Gervais Show) talking about what would happen if the British kept the United States in its palm:



What British comedies do YOU like?

Comments (141)
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Jul 06, 2014
COUPLING is for me the best British export of all times! I love that show :-)
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Jul 06, 2014
To give the ladies their due, "Absolutely Fabulous" should have been on the list. Old school there was "A bit of Fry and Laurie" and sitcom "Yes Minister". And what about the simply strange anarchic "Little Britain"?
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Jul 06, 2014
I've never been able to get into british comedy but im going to try once again with the choice given here.
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Jul 06, 2014
It's not exactly a sitcom, but QI, hosted by Stephen Fry is one of the funniest shows I've ever seen and has a rotating line up of guests including Bill Bailey, Hugh Laurie and pretty much every other great British comedian alive today. It is just blisteringly witty and clever with humour that goes from the most highbrow of literary references to dick jokes.
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Jul 06, 2014
Green Wing is one of the best British comedies of Modern Times. Love This.
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Jul 05, 2014
Hard to believe Blackadder didn't make the list.

I see one mention so far of Brittas Empire. Chris Barrie IMO funnier than he was in Red Dwarf.



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Jul 05, 2014
I can't believe somebody in the US actually knows about Darkplace. That is a truly classic show that I have always adored to try to force upon people. Matt Berry is an absolute legend. Ever since Mighty Boosh (which he was also in), I have wanted to capture his voice in a jar until technology would allow me to make it my own.
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Jul 05, 2014
It aired on... Cartoon Network, didn't it? Or Comedy Central, I forget.
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Jul 05, 2014
Darkplace? No, I don't think so. It was a Channel 4 show on my side of the pond. Not sure if it was on any others.
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Jul 05, 2014
I meant Dark Place. Yep, I saw it on Adult Swim in the U.s.
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Jul 05, 2014
I really got into Dr. Who during the Tom Baker years (1974 to 1981) and considered it a great comedy with some drama. Later it turned more serious but Tom had great comedic timing.
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Jul 05, 2014
Keeping up Appearances
Fresh Meat
The Office
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Jul 04, 2014
There are so many to choose from, but I have to say I've always enjoyed British sketch comedies and panel shows. Especially panel shows are a very British thing, one that I can't imagine would work in the US.
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Jul 06, 2014
You may like 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown. It's a comedic turn on the popular daytime quiz Countdown.
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Jul 06, 2014
I know it. In fact I've watched all episodes of it, as well as all episodes of 8 Out of 10 Cats.
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Jul 06, 2014
Jimmy carr's accountant will be relieved.
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Jul 04, 2014
Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret! I'd throw in Misfits, but I don't know if thats a comedy.
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Jul 04, 2014
Don't forget Plebs, it's helarious!
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Jul 04, 2014
Coupling was brilliantly well written and the actors were superb but sadly the American version of the British original was predictably awful. I would love to know why American audiences are forbidden from seeing original British comedy programming in it's original form.
But enough whining, here are some great comedies to track down if you can:
Fawlty Towers (only 12 episodes made but John Cleese was NEVER funnier)

The Young ones (a little out there for it's time but it started the alternative comedy movement on tv)

Open all hours (Ronnie Barker and David Jason play small shop owners in Northern England, not sure the humor will 'cross the pond' on that one)

Porridge (Ronnie Barker again, playing a wise, life weary prison inmate)

Blackadder (Rowan "Mr.Bean" Atkinson as a series of different characters always accompanied by his trusty idiot of a servant)

Only Fools and Horses (difficult to see the humour and slang crossing the pond but one of the funniest British comedies of all time if not THE funniest)

The Fast Show (sketch show with very addictive catch phrases)

The Vicar of Dibley (A small village needs a new vicar but little do they know it is to be a feisty woman)

Father Ted (written by the same man who gave us the IT Crowd)

Men Behaving Badly (Again much funnier than the US version, sorry but its true)

There are so many more it is such a shame that they are so hard to find in the US. Try your local library, I found a publisher called Acorn had a great back order catalog of old British shows, rent them and if you like them but them after, thats what I did.



More+
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Jul 06, 2014
Hulu and BBC America have shown most of these.
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Jul 04, 2014
Where is Father Ted? Linehan's best show.
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Jul 04, 2014
Father Ted is technically an Irish show although it aired on a british channel first. I completely agree though one of the funniest TV shows of all time!
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Jul 04, 2014
Coupling is one of the funniest shows I've ever seen. Can't believe it's not on this list. Where else can you learn about "the sock gap", the "giggle loop", or "unflushables" (it's not what you think! well, it IS and it ISN'T)?
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Jul 04, 2014
Teachers was also great whilst Andrew Lincoln was around... and Game On with Samantha Janus was always a treat... "Martin, you ginger tosser!"
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Jul 04, 2014
We get a lot of British comedies on TV here in the Netherlands. I used to love The Young Ones, Bottom, The Blackadder, Not the Nine O Clock News, A Bit of Fry and Laurie (its House you guys!), Alas Smith and Jones.... oh and Men Behaving Badly. (I think they even did an American remake for that one with Rob Schneider. A very shitty remake.)
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Jul 04, 2014
I'll admit I haven't seen much of it but from what I have seen surely League of Gentlemen belongs on this list.

It's so creepy.
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Jul 04, 2014
I caught this show one night by accident & it was so rapid-fire funny, it made my stomach sore from laughing so hard :)


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Jul 04, 2014
They also did a second season but sadly no sign of season 3, so far......
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Jul 04, 2014
This was a great list. I've watched almost all of these and they're genius. Matt Berry makes everything good.
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Jul 03, 2014
Thanks for posting Black Books, I had forgot how much I like that show!!
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Jul 03, 2014
I don't watch comedies often these days, but I love The IT Crowd (duh) and really like Red Dwarf and Coupling. The theme of pretty people going on dates makes me want to throw up, but Coupling is just so damn funny. Richard Coyle, who is currently starring in Crossbones, is fantastic as Jeff.

When I was a kid, Fawlty Towers and The Young Ones had me laughing harder than any other show I've seen. Blackadder was good too. I also enjoyed Yes, Prime Minister at the time, but I don't remember it well.

Someone recommended Green Wing a few years ago. I didn't really care for it, but I have to say that the scene were Dr. Statham did his best to surprise his "girlfriend" in his office was the funniest thing I saw that year.

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Jul 03, 2014
I love Misfits, Skins, Being Human (Seasons 1-3) and Little Britain is a classic. Plus the obvious Sherlock and Doctor Who.
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Jul 03, 2014
Great choices. I would also recommend My Life in Film, which sadly remains so obscure it's difficult to find on the internet.
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Jul 03, 2014
Pramface is also quite fun.
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Jul 03, 2014
Little Britain , The League of Gentleman and Psychoville are hilarious if you like dark twisted comedy.
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Jul 03, 2014
The comment I labored over last night seems to have disappeared. To recap: I love The IT Crowd, really like Spaced, want to watch Peep Show. Prefer Quiz shows like QI, Never Mind the Buzzcocks & Would I Lie to You.
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Jul 03, 2014
Fawlty Towers, Keeping Up Appearances, Jeeves and Wooster, Are U Being Served? and Father Ted..... freaking CLASSICS.
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Jul 03, 2014
One of the funniest British things ever - not sure if it is a comedy strictly speaking but what is these days - is MISFITS esp Seasons 1 to 3
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Jul 04, 2014
Misfits is now finished but you still have seasons 4 and 5 to look forward to (8 episodes each season) although by season 4 a lot of the original characters are gone.
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Jul 05, 2014
Season 4 and 5 weren't really that good. Though, I started to like Rudy eventually--just took some time.
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Jul 03, 2014
I like Not Going Out, Black Books, The IT Crowd, Blackadder, My Family, Yes Minister, Yes, Prime Minister, The Vicar of Dibley, The Catherine Tate Show and Smack the Pony..

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Jul 03, 2014
Are you talking about Big School, or does Cate Tate have soming else I don't know about. Love her...
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Jul 04, 2014
Not talking about Big School, she actually had her own sketch show "The Catherine Tate Show" that lasted for 3 series.
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Jul 04, 2014
There was a show called "The Catherine Tate Show" a few years ago
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Jul 03, 2014
Go for Coupling. You can't go wrong with Coupling
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Jul 03, 2014
'Garth Mernghi's Darkplace' so very very good but my absolute favorite is still 'The Mighty Boosh' which always let us know that Gary Numan, the one hit wonder who gave us the always awesome to hear in the car 80's classic 'Cars' was also a pilot!

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Jul 03, 2014
Another very good British comedy, with most of the same actors from above is the miniseries "Hyperdrive". It can be found on YouTube.
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Jul 03, 2014
I have this on my Netflix list but no watched it yet
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Jul 03, 2014
Out of the more traditional sitcoms, Are you being served, Allo Allo, Keeping Up Appearances and Absolutely Fabulous are my favourites!
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Jul 03, 2014
I forgot the best of all comedies of all time! The League of Gentlemen - You'll never leave!
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Jul 03, 2014
Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, never mind the nine clock news, drop dead the donkey, coupling, father Ted.
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Jul 03, 2014
Coupling, Him and Her, Bad Education are definitely missing here!!!
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Jul 03, 2014
the greatest british comedy i ever saw was are you being served
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Jul 03, 2014
"Coupling" and "Little Britain" hands down!
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Jul 03, 2014
The daddy - Only Fools and Horses.
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Jul 03, 2014
I would add Green Wing, Smack the Pony, Not Going Out, That Mitchell and Webb Look, and The Young Ones to this list.
Fresh Meat and Friday Night Dinner are also alright, they feature some of the Inbetweeners cast.
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Jul 03, 2014
FINALLY! Somebody else mentions Fresh Meat, one of the funniest shows I've EVER seen!
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Jul 03, 2014
Can't believe I forgot Fresh Meat
Love Friday Night Dinner too. Nice bit of Squirrel
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Jul 03, 2014
I would like it a lot more if Jack Whitehall wasn't in it. He is so annoying!
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Jul 03, 2014
Are you implying his antics and banter are not LEGENDARY????? Him and Greg McHugh are my favorite parts of the show! But what the heck is up with Charlotte Ritchie? That girl is absolutely gorgeous yet they seem hellbent on making her look atrocious between hair and wardrobe/
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Jul 03, 2014
Sorry to be nitpicky, but it's in the first rec, so all the more noticeable: It's Richard Ayoade, not Oyoade.
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Jul 03, 2014
I haven't watched the Mighty Boosh for ages, however I use a lyric at least twice a week.
Cant say miso like a normal person any more...
"miso miso fighting in the dojo"
When putting a jacket on my daughter - I sing Jean Claude jackettie (with his jacket on)
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Jul 03, 2014
Bad Education is brilliant as well! Ab Fab, Blackadder, Allo Allo, The brittas Empire, One foot in the grave, Father ted, mrs Browns Boys,
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Jul 03, 2014
Mrs Brown's Boys is Irish, and it is atrocious. Father Ted is also Irish, and it is brilliant.
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Jul 06, 2014
Oh god, totally agree about Mrs Browns Boys. It reminds me of that absolutely terrible show that Ricky Gervais' character created and starred in in Extras. But real. It's embarrassing.
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Jul 03, 2014
Mrs Browns Boys made by BBC Scotland and Father Ted produced in England by Channel 4 if you want to be pedantic about it!
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Jul 03, 2014
Moone Boy...
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Jul 03, 2014
Bottom, the young ones, Drop the dead donkey,
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Jul 03, 2014
I add the THE YOUNG ONES (which is very dated now) as a supreme piece of self-indulgence because that's me dancing behind Ben Elton in the "Nozin' Around" spoof in the pilot episode.

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Jul 03, 2014
I commend all the above except THE MIGHTY BOOSH but only because I've never "got" it. Just my opinion but don't feel bad if it's just too out there. A lot of us over here feel the same way. COUNT ARTHUR STRONG is amazing. Likewise most of the recommendations below. May I add THE FAST SHOW and IT'S KEVIN starring the wonderful Kevin Eldon? You won't regret either.
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Jul 03, 2014
i simply cannot fathom you havent mentioned coupling!
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Jul 03, 2014
Count Arthur Strong co-written by Linehan and Pulling written and starring the awesome Sharon Horgan- inexplicably pulled by The BBC after two series while the awful Two pints and a packet of crisps carried on. Also Hunderby, a gothic pastiche written by Julie Davies available at a torrent site near you but remember its illegal to download torrents so don't do it!
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Jul 03, 2014
Coupling! A great comedy
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