It’s about this time of year that I get asked by Americans about fun British stuff that they can’t get as easily over there, but which they could impress their similarly minded Anglophile friends and family with, imbibed with a sense of snobbery that comes with discovering something new. So, here’s a top ten. Any more to add in the comments?
This should never have been as good as it was. Comedy drama set among a bunch of kids not cool or geeky enough to have their own clique, and stuck between expectations. Forget Freaks And Geeks, My So Called Life or Skins, this series outperforms everything that could have been expected of it and I hate myself for only cottoning on half way through the second series.
“Will you please stop talking about my mother’s vagina!”
Imagine The West Wing meets Curb Your Enthusiam. In The Loop took improvised cruelty and placed it in the corridors of power. Probably the only TV I could hold up in comparison to The Wire in just being so thoroughly good all the way through. Oh and for those who can’t get totally into the whole Bristishness of it, in the movie In The Loop, it’s basically The Thick Of It Goes To Washington.
“Come the fuck in or fuck the fuck off!”
Currently being remade for HBO, this underclass comedy drama is relentless, funny, horrific, hysterical and puts lie to the promise that anyone’s family is, in fact, functional. Get it before they all get American accents.
“Make poverty history! Cheaper drugs now!”
This is the real surprise that very few Americans have heard of. It’s a comedy about a drug dealer who never leaves his flat. But the whole world ends up his doorstep with threats, promises, guns, prosthetic masks and bent police. Sensational.
Okay, this is a bit of a divider. A sitcom set in a pub where superheroes meet, if you like the likes of Pulling, Free Agents, Nathan Barley, Teachers or Moving Wallpaper, it should be up your street. If not, don’t. Me, I loved it. Oh and feel free to check out all those others too…
Change of tone here. Three hours of one of Britain’s finest stand ups, comic-book fan Stewart Lee (last heard of writing a Thor sitcom for the BBC) interspersed with sketches, cutaways and fine glorious things. A very rational, cutting mind who has a love of taking things to their terribly logical conclusions.
Every now and chatting about British movie auters, Stephen Poliakoff seems to get missed off a lot, possibly because he mostly writes his films for television. His general theme is hidden histories, especially family ones, especially in Britain, furrowing out mysteries and secrets forgotten and repressed, and following the consequences when they are dug up. Remarkable work, and not all of them star Bill Nighy.
It’s probably also worth a nod to Alan Bennett, one of our greatest dramatists, who does something remarkable with the monologue and the dialogue, using trivial matters to reveal something deeper and empty within his characters.
I never get tired of recommending Snuff Box. Where Garth Merenghi and Mighty Boosh meet, by way of some of the worst material of Jam, Snuff Box is dark, gamey comedy that’s best never taken on a full stomach. Oh and Alan Moore likes it. So there you go.
UPDATE: Excellent point made in the comments, the Red Riding Trilogy, a remarkable trilogy of police dramas spread out across the decades following a corrupt police force through its rise and fall. On that point, The Devil’s Whore isn’t bad either.
And, though for some reason I thought everyone knew this, but for those catching up, possible the best sitcom of the noughties, Peep Show. First person perspective flatshare – but a world away from Friends.
And the mighty sitcom where Wales and Essex meet in love and sex, Gavin & Stacey…
Oh and for Brits looking for Americophile stuff? How about the Up DVD? It won’t be out here for ages… and it’ll give the kids some bragging rights come Christmas.