17 series for lovers of subtle British humor

17. Black viper

The Black Adder

  • UK, 1982-1989.
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 4 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.0.

The cycle of comedy mini-series tells about several generations of the Blackadder family, embodied in its only representative visible to us – the cynical, vile and malicious aristocrat Edmund, played by Rowan Atkinson .

In each generation, Edmund is accompanied by a rude and treacherous servant Baldrick, a connoisseur of various bad habits and activities. With each successive reincarnation, Blackadder becomes more perceptive as his servant sinks lower and lower.

The humor of the first season is built on the classic Atkinson tricks, which later migrated to “Mr. Bean”, and the series did not gain much success. Despite this, the show was renewed for a second season, and it was he who brought the Black Adder the incredible love of the audience. Atkinson was removed from the writing team, replaced by Ben Elton, who emphasized deeper dialogue, funny chase scenes, and true to history. And the finale of the series is still considered one of the most touching and thoughtful in the history of the genre.

16. The Fry and Laurie Show

A Bit of Fry and Laurie

  • UK, 1987-1995.
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 4 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.3.
Shot from the series “The Fry and Laurie Show”

Comedy sketches starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie make fun of the upper classes, the rich and, oddly enough, spies. It was this show that forever captured the couple in the hearts of the audience and helped Fry and Laurie achieve star status.

Most of the plots are not interconnected, but in some you can meet recurring characters. The most popular of them are two alcoholic businessmen Peter and John who are planning to open a health and fitness center, and two incredibly naive spies who candidly discuss their work over a cup of coffee.

The masterful combination of absurdity and wit made The Fry and Laurie Show a dish for intellectuals and the actors themselves one of the best duets on the comedy scene. A little later, they pleased the viewers with another masterpiece, the Jeeves and Wooster series about the frivolous aristocrat Bertie Wooster and his wise valet Jeeves, who pulls the owner out of the most delicate situations with British calmness.

15. Absurd natural history

Look Around You

  • UK, 2002–2005.
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 2 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.4.

Comedy series in the genre of absurd educational documentary from Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz. This is a parody of outdated video lessons that teachers played on VCRs in front of bored schoolchildren.

In The Absurd Natural History, science was captured by the anarchists, and the audience became their forced students. Experienced scientists tell how to shave strawberries correctly, how to get “Serpanese” from sulfur and champagne, where the first microbes arose and other curious “scientific” facts.

Any crazy idea is presented with absolute seriousness, and the main characters are often people in white coats, whose faces we will never see. Notably, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening once called “Absurd Natural History” one of the funniest shows he’s ever seen.

14. Mighty Bush

The Mighty Boosh

  • UK, 2003–2007
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 3 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.4.

“Mighty Bush” can be called the most surreal comedy in the world. It has everything from Moons talking to each other to hermaphrodite newts, an army of evil grandmothers and other miraculous phenomena that the viewer will meet on a “journey through time and space”, where the opening song calls. Needless to say, it was this grotesque format that contributed to the development of a whole mass cult of fans of the show.

The lead actors of the series are the provocative goth-looking comedian Noel Fielding and his partner Julian Barratt. The second got the role of a jazz musician who imagines himself to be a mysterious womanizer, and the first appears in the form of a rustic glam rocker who communicates with animals and goes crazy for his hair.

The couple work at a zoo and befriend a Naboo shaman and a talking gorilla, and the show follows their unusual working days. The series attracts with several distinctive features at once: bright scenery, musical numbers and extravagant costumes that made “Mighty Bush” an icon of the comedy genre. But most importantly – a complete disregard for any boundaries and boundaries of the format, television and decency.

13. Green wing

green wing

  • UK, 2004–2007.
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 2 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.4.
Shot from the series “Green Wing”

The dramatic comedy follows the life of a fictional British hospital and its insane staff. The plot centers on new surgical assistant Caroline Todd, who quickly finds herself caught in a tenacious web of relationships with the attractive Dr. Macartney, the arrogant anesthesiologist Guy, and the inexperienced intern Martin.

One of the funniest characters is extravagant and carnal-obsessed radiologist Alan Statham. He constantly gets into sticky situations, which clearly does not benefit his intimate relationship with the caustic and tired employee of the personnel department Joanna. Another important heroine is the crazy coordinator Sue White, from whose mouth the most unexpected jokes about colleagues fly out. She is obsessed with the idea of marrying Dr. Macartney and having children by him, and woe to all who stand in her way.

12. Black’s Bookstore

Black Books

  • UK, 2000–2004.
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 3 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.5.

Bookshop owner Bernard Black doesn’t believe in polite customer service, or in the need for customer service at all. He just sits at the cash register, reads, drinks, smokes and is rude to everyone.

The sitcom aired on Channel 4 for three seasons, bringing out the talents of lead actor Dylan Moran, Tamsin Greg as Bernard’s girlfriend, and Bill Bailey as his assistant Manny, who constantly gets under the hot hand of the boss.

Bernard’s love for wine not only brings a smile, but also allows you to look inside the character, where lies the sadness and despair of his chaotic lonely life. There’s also some perky humor: Moran was nowhere as funny as he was as the eccentric, emotional, and ridiculous Mr. Black.

11. Office

  • UK, 2001–2003.
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 3 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.5.

Ricky Gervais came up with a parody mockumentary sitcom about the workdays of the office workers of the fictional paper manufacturer Wernham Hogg. Today, this concept of the show is unlikely to seem original, but in 2001 it looked like a real television revolution. The show was a hit and a pioneer in the field of documentary parody, paving the way for, for example, Parks and Recreation or Modern Family.

Now more people know about the American version of The Office, in which the main role was played by Steve Carell. But the original is just as good as the remake . And if you think of them as two different shows, you can enjoy both in exactly the same way.

10. My life in cinema

My Life in Film

  • UK, 2004
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 1 season.
  • IMDb: 8.4.

Art is a young screenwriter who lacks stars from the sky, but still remains in business. The roommate has to put up with his activities and expressiveness, because they live on Art’s salary. But most importantly, each of the six episodes of the show is a copy of a famous film.

Immersed in the film industry, Art sees the world around him through the prism of the plots of classical films, presenting his own psychedelic version of reality. The authors have recreated famous footage from Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Federico Fellini ‘s 8½, the drama Top Gun, the thriller Shallow Grave, and the western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. At the same time, the imposition of extraneous scenes did not prevent the creators of the show from developing their own plot.

The cast is also captivating: Chris Marshall created the image of an unattractive dreamer and blockhead, while Andrew Scott (Moriarty from Sherlock) turned out to be quite a sweet romantic, in love with his girlfriend Beth (Alice Lowe), to whom Art was found to be allergic.

9. Inside number nine

Inside no. 9

  • UK, 2014 – present.
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 7 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.5.
Frame from the TV series “Inside the ninth room”

A unique black comedy anthology from a couple of longtime buddies Steve Pemberton and Rhys Shearsmith. Each episode is a stand-alone story that will not only amuse, but also surprise with Hitchcock-style twists and turns.

Detective, gothic horror , historical drama, mystical thriller, musical, sitcom – each of the stories of the show “Inside Number 9” is original and imbued with the spirit of British television retrocasts. But this does not prevent the authors from experimenting with a format that is rarely seen on the small screen: for example, one of the episodes contains almost no dialogue, and the other is filmed through a surveillance camera aimed at the workplace of one of the call center operators.

The series can be dramatic, comedic and truly terrifying. Only the place of action remains unchanged: the room or house at number 9.

8. Geeks

The IT Crowd

  • UK, 2006–2013.
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 5 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.5.

Jen Barber is looking for a new job and convinces the head of Reynholm Industries that she has a lot of experience in IT. She becomes the head of the information technology department, consisting of only two employees. But in fact, Jen does not understand computers at all.

The heroes of this series will seem familiar to almost everyone: a rude, unkempt IT specialist who advises everyone to turn off and on the computer again, his nerd colleague. And, of course, the boss , who does not understand anything.

7. Fucked up

spaced

  • UK, 1999–2001.
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 2 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.6.

Freaks take a typical sitcom idea and turn it into something unique. The series tells about a guy and a girl who decide to pretend to be a couple in order to get inexpensive housing. The premise seems hackneyed, but “Fucked” manages to avoid all the typical elements of such stories, like love triangles or making fun of awkward introverts.

Despite the fact that this comedy, released at the turn of the millennium, lasted only two seasons, it takes pride of place among the British television classics. This unique project by Edgar Wright never made it into the mainstream, but it was loved by loyal fans.

6. Yes, Mr. Minister

Yes Minister

  • UK, 1980–1984
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 3 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.6.
Shot from the series “Yes, Mr. Minister”

The satirical comedy about the political kitchen tells about the parliamentarian Jim Hacker, who is waiting for the appointment. As head of the Department of Administrative Affairs, Jim meets with the state bureaucracy in all its glory, although his assistants provide direct interaction with other departments.

Over the course of three seasons, as well as the subsequent sequel Yes, Mr. Prime Minister, Jim learns all sorts of ways to push really useful projects. Ultimately, he rises to the first government post in the country.

According to the description, it seems that the show is boring and dryish, but it is not at all the case. A wonderful trio of leading actors – Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne and Derek Foulds – pleases with charisma and subtle humor.

5. The thick of things

The Thick of It

  • UK, 2005–2012.
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 4 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.7.

The series can be characterized as a show “Yes, Mr. Minister” transferred to the 21st century, except that here they show not brave idealists, but corrupt and incompetent officials. The plot introduces the fictional Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship, and the central character is the press secretary of the Prime Minister, Malcolm Tucker, whose job it is to yell at others in the hope of avoiding another failure.

The main role in the satirical series was played by Peter Capaldi, known from Doctor Who. The show provides a behind-the-scenes look into British politics and provides a sense of being there: raw audio, partly improvised dialogue and handheld camera footage. Moreover, the team of scriptwriters worked with insiders, checking even the most insignificant aspects of political everyday life – from the decoration of offices to the number of swear words in conversations.

If you like The Thick of Things, you can check out the spin-off “In the Loop” with the main cast of the series, as well as the American version of the show – “Veep” from HBO .

4. Peep show

Peep show

  • UK, 2003–2015.
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 9 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.7.

The sitcom from comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb follows the lives of two eccentric pals. Mark is an introverted and awkward loan officer with a rather cynical outlook on life, while Jeremy is a young slacker musician who has been taken in by a friend in his rented apartment. In the first episode, the heroes try to seduce Tony’s neighbor, but any of their attempts are doomed to failure: Mark, who decided to win her heart with a description of the Battle of Stalingrad, is let down by shyness and conceit, and Jeremy, on the contrary, is swagger and uncompromising.

The premiere of the series in 2003 impressed the audience with an innovative manner of presenting: each frame was shot from the perspective of one of the characters. And most conversations start with internal monologues. Therefore, the audience not only looks at what is happening through the eyes of the characters, but also hear their thoughts, full of selfishness and hidden deceit.

The Peep Show is both funny and sad and touching and lifelike and a bit surreal at the same time. And surprisingly accurately depicting the tedious and aimless existence of immature and irresponsible recent graduates who set off on an independent voyage.

3. Fawty Towers Hotel

Fawlty Towers

  • UK, 1975–1979
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 2 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.8.
Shot from the series “Falty Towers Hotel”

The sitcom tells about the hotel and its owner Basil Fawlty, whose unprofessionalism, tactlessness, short temper and disgust for the guests are eternal sources of trouble. The show boasts an army of funny characters and low-key dark humor .

The series ran from 1975 to 1979, and the comedy of sheer chaos definitely resonated with viewers. The cast is led by John Cleese, who has become almost a national hero in his homeland and a legend of the comedy genre after the gigantic success in Monty Python.

The series would have seemed absurd and childish if it had not been so well-written and cleverly written. Thanks to this, The Fawlty Towers Hotel remains one of the most beloved British comedies of all time.

2. Monty Python: Flying Circus

Monty Python’s Flying Circus

  • UK, 1969–1974
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 4 seasons.
  • IMDb: 8.8.

The cult British sketch show started the trend of absurdism on television. His influence on the comedy genre can only be compared with the influence of The Beatles on modern music. Unprecedented satirical techniques and unsubordinated sketches challenged television traditions from the youth counterculture of the late 1960s.

The opening credits could be inserted in the middle of the episode, or they could be skipped altogether. Some characters returned in subsequent issues, however, all the scenes with their participation were not connected in any way. The sketches of the next episode easily and naturally combine sarcasm with vulgar and intellectual humor.

This cocktail of peculiar animation, word play and apt observations about the life of a typical Briton of that time is so rooted in the land of Foggy Albion that its classic sketches even entered the exams for applicants for British citizenship.

1. Fools are lucky

Only Fools and Horses…

  • UK, 1981–2003.
  • Comedy.
  • Duration: 9 seasons.
  • IMDb: 9.0.

British long-lived sitcom tells about the adventures of the Trotter brothers, who decided to become millionaires. To achieve their goal, they drive around on a yellow three-wheeled “heel”, selling useless and usually stolen goods.

The main plot revolves around the next stupid ideas of the arrogant and carefree Del Boy and the unintelligent Rodney, who was drawn into the Napoleonic plans of his brother.

The show was canceled in 1996, but returned after a five-year hiatus for a few more seasons.

In a 2004 BBC poll, the series was voted the best sitcom in the UK, and its funny stories are still popular and are constantly aired on both the BBC and comedy GOLD.

This article was first published in June 2017. In July 2022, we updated the text.

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