TV Comedy in the UK – Show Summary

This page contains information on a selection of UK TV comedies and sitcoms, plus links to other sites containing information on these excellent examples of British comedy…

 

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect First appearing on BBC Radio, this Science Fiction comedy from the pen of (the sadly departed) Douglas Adams, spawned five books, a TV series, a computer game, and towels! Phrases from Hitchhikers have passed into everyday life, it’s oft-quoted, and the number 42 achieved universal recognition as a result of this series.

If you’ve followed the series or read the books, we highly recommend talking a look behind the scenes to learn more. This includes the DVD bonus material, and the several books available.

See this site’s Hitch-Hikers Guide page

Black BooksBlack books shop Amazing Channel 4 comedy, with the Basil Fawlty of bookshops, Bernard Black (Played by Dylan Moran), and Manny (Bill Bailey). Superb comedy that survives watch after watch… the child-eating sofa, onion-stealing creatures, winemaking, and the day that Manny ate all the bees…

See this site’s Black Books page

CouplingCouplingBest described as a UK equivalent of Friends, with a heap of Game On and Men Behaving Badly. Top sitcom that ran for four series from 2000 .
If you’re a fan, note that we have a Coupling forum for discussion and gossip relating to the series. Please stop by.

See this site’s Coupling page

Knowing Me, Knowing YouAlan Partridge in fine form. With a diverse history – starting with hospital radio and the AA, then moving to sports reporting on The Day Today, Alan started his TV career in earnest as a radio, then TV interviewer. Cringe away to Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge on DVD.

For more on the career of our favourite celeb, see this site’s Alan Partridge page

The OfficeThe Office Series 2 DVDFeaturing the boss from hell, David Brent, we’ve now seen two series of the amazingly popular mocumentary set in Slough-based paper company Wernham Hogg. If you’ve worked in an office, you can relate! The DVD of Series One came out in September 2002 – Well worth getting for the bonus material found on the second disc, which includes an excellent documentary, called “How I Made The Office by Ricky Gervais”. See extracts of the pilot, learn the origins of the series, how annoying Ricky is to work with, and how he met co-writer Stephen Merchant (who appeared as the Oggmonster!).

The series stars David Brent (Ricky Gervais), Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook), Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman, who played Arthur in the film version of the comedy sci-fi epic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as well as starring in “Hardware”, a ‘comedy’ on ITV in April 2003) and Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis, Jasper Carrott’s daughter)

  • The Office, on BBC2Series 1 is available from Amazon on DVD and VHS.
  • Series 2 was released on the 20th October 2003, and is now available now from the BBC Shop.com, or from Amazon.
  • Christmas Special Screened on the 26th and 27th December 2003, the two-part special shows us what happens to David and the team after the series 2 finale. Available from the BBC Shop, or Amazon.
  • Series 3? Nope. Reportedly the team don’t want to do a third.The Office, an American WorkplaceThe US Office? If you’re missing your fix of the UK version of The Office – Consider giving the US version a go. Currently at the end of its sixth season in the States, “The Office, An American Workplace” has Gervais and Merchant as the Executive Producers, and actually grows on you. If you haven’t given it a try – it’s well worth a watch.
    Series 1 is now available on DVD in the UK – from Amazon.

The Office (UK) DVDs, videos and the book of scripts can all be bought online at the BBC Shop

FMFM StillComedy set at local radio station Skin FM. Shown in February 2009 on ITV2.

See this site’s FM page

Yes, MinisterHumphey, Bernard and JimReportedly Margaret Thatcher’s favourite comedy, Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister follow the Right Hon James Hacker (Paul Eddington) as he climbs up the political greasy pole, helped by Private Secretary Bernard Woolley (Derek Fowlds), but mostly hindered by Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne). Wonderful office politics and a glimpse at what most go on behind closed doors at Whitehall. Sharpen your political antennae by getting hold of a copy of the BBC Videos, DVDs, the books of the series, or the original radio cassettes. The range of versions can be bought online at BBC Shop.com

Series 1, 2 and 3 of Yes Minister have just recently been released on DVD – See Amazon.

BlackadderAnother fine example of UK comedy… Edmund Blackadder pops up throughout our history in the four series. Check out the whole damn Dynasty videos, DVDs and books at Amazon. If you thought you’d seen every episode, you may find a few surprises if you check out Back And Forth / The Cavalier Years / Baldrick’s Diary on DVD, although as the reviews state, this not-often-seen material doesn’t match up to the quality of the Elizabethan and WW1 series, my personal favourites. Fans may also want to consider the Complete Blackadder , available from the BBC Shop.
Fawlty TowersSurprisingly, only 12 episodes were ever made, with Series 1 in 1975 and Series 2 in 78. There’s no point in describing the series here – everyone knows it, and it’s repeated somewhere in the world several times a day. If you’re a fan of the series, we’d highly recommend the Complete Fawlty Towers DVD – this contains stacks of bonus material, including a commentary, interviews with Basil, Sybil and Manuel, some recovered out-takes, biographies, and extras. The 3 DVD set is well worth a look.
Red Dwarfsci-fi sitcom with a huge following. Lister’s plan of raising animal in Fiji goes a little wrong when he’s thrown 3 million years into the future, so resorts to bumming around the universe, tormented by Arnold Judas Rimmer, his hologrammatic bunkmate.

Dwarf Series II A creature that evolved from Lister’s cat, plus the slightly senile computer Holly (Norman Lovett’s doing the stand-up circuit in London at the moment… track him down!) keep him company, and as the series progresses, the team are joined by Kryten, the android, who, if we could go anywhere in history, would return to a week last Tuesday.

Look out for the episode “Backwards”… if you can get hold of a copy, reverse the audio of the backwards-spoken dialog for a surprise! Mail us if you can’t find a copy!
The earlier few series were undoubtedly the best, but there’s eight series, plus a selection of paperbacks. If you missed any, Holly-hop over to Amazon, where you’ll also find the DVD of Series 1, 2 and 3 (The first DVD has an impressive range of extras including the full version of Cat’s “Tongue Tied”).

Green Wing Another excellent comedy from the Channel 4 Friday Night stable, with a top notch cast from Coupling, Spaced, Black Books, Nathan Barley and The Office. The shining light of hospital comedies.

See this site’s Green Wing page

SpacedSeriously good Channel 4 comedy about two perfectly-matched flatmates, who just don’t know it. Clever use of classic TV soundtracks and camera angles make this a joy to watch – a refreshing change.

See this site’s Spaced page

Men Behaving BadlyMen Behaving BadlyHugely popular 1990’s comedy – Martin Clunes and Neil Morrisey star as Gary and Tony, with Caroline Quentin as Dorothy and Debbie (Leslie Ash). The show ran to 6 series – the oft-forgotten Series 1 had was missing the character of Tony… instead, we had Dermot, played by Harry Enfield.

This sitcom has to be one of the most consistently funny series of the 90’s – we never tire of watching the repeats when they appear on UKTV Gold, with some classic one-liners, and some great Tony & Gary moments on the settee. Some of the office moments with George and Anthea are classic moments too.

If you’re a fan of the series, you may want to invest in the six DVD collectors edition box set – available from under £30 from Amazon.

Game OnGame OnAnother flat-based sitcom, running on the BBC from 1995 to 1998. In this show, we see shy ginger Martin Henson sharing a London flat with the housebound Matthew Malone, and the over-sexed Mandy Wilkins (played by the gorgeous Samantha Janus).

Slightly disjointed comedy that ran for three series – the series certainly had its moments, but lacked the clever writing of Coupling, and the chemistry of Men Behaving Badly. Ben Chaplin played Matt in Series 1, and was replaced by Neil Stuke for the last two series.

The three series are available on DVD and video, or you can buy all three series as a box set – Game On Series 1-3.

Two Ronnies Four CandlesDon’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge Two Ronnies fan, but one memorable sketch never fails to make me giggle… Four Candles (a.k.a. Fork Handles). Here’s a link to the script.
The sketch is available on BBC compilations on BBC Great Comedy Moments DVD or Comedy Greats – Ronnie Barker Video available from Amazon.
Just Good FriendsPenny & Vince are Just Good FriendsClassic relationship comedy from 1983. Penny (Jan Francis) runs into ex-fiancé Vince (Paul Nicholas) five years after his “bottle went”, and instead of showing up at the wedding, ran off to Canvey Island. This starts a love-hate relationship between the two, that ran for 3 series (22 episodes) until ending in 1986. Much of the external locations were filmed in Southend-on-Sea.

In May 2004, the beeb released series 1 and 2 on DVD. If you fancy a flashback to the 80’s, buy the DVD or video from the BBC Shop or Amazon.

 

Little Britain Little BritainStarting life on BBC Radio, the double act of Mark Lucas and David Walliams created an impressive collection of characters that made the transition to TV in 2003.
You’ll need a slightly odd sense of humour to be a fan of this series, but it does grow on you, and there’s some truly funny moments tucked in between the more obvious sketches. Specials for us are the Tom Baker off-the-wall narration, and the tiny Dennis Waterman, who’ll write the theme toon, sing the theme toon…

More on our Little Britain page

The RobinsonsMartin Freeman… (a.k.a Tim from The Office / Arthur Dent from the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide film), stars in this little-known UK comedy screened on BBC2 in mid-2005. This gentle sitcom takes a look at the life of the Robinson family – the loaner Ed Robinson, brother George and his family, ambitious sister Vickie, and the ever-rowing parents. Well-observed British humour, with a fair number of funny moments – I assume we’ll expect a Series 2 sometime soon, and hopefully a DVD release soon. Anybody else watch this series?
KYTVKYTV Series 1KYTV started life on BBC Radio 4 as Radio Active (Britain’s national local radio station). If we’re honest – KYTV wasn’t a patch on Radio Active, but it’s still got its charm, there’s a lot of classic Radio Active moments, and, considering it was made in 1989, it’s still a fresh and inciteful comment on today’s multi-channel satellite TV world. More on KYTV at TV Tome.

Tune in to see Mike Flex, Mike Channel, Martin Brown and Anna Dapter, as they scramble to hang on to their TV audience – still a great watch, and it’s good to see the Radio Active team back together.

Series 1 released on DVD in July 2006 – available from Amazon (for £11.99) and Play.com(£11.99). The DVD includes the pilot episode.

The IT CrowdStarted its run in February 2006, from the co-creator of Black Books and Father Ted, this centres around the working lives of three IT professionals sulking in a company’s basement.

See this site’s IT Crowd page

Peep ShowOdd and edgy Channel 4 comedy looking at life from the viewpoint of housemates Jeremy and Mark.

See this site’s Peep Show page

Trigger Happy TVThe antics of Dom Joly winding up members of the public in style, and setting up celebrities.

See this site’s Trigger Happy page

Joking apartJoking Apart DVDFrom the pen of Stephen ‘Coupling‘ Moffat , this little-remembered break-up comedy from 1993 has a site dedicated to it at www.jokingapart.co.uk.

Update May 2006: After a long campaign, one dedicated fan of the series has now managed to secure an exclusive online DVD release of the series. The DVD of Series 1 is available from May 2006, directly from Replay DVD – if you remember the show, show your support, and get a copy of Series 1 on DVD

Chance in a Million Channel 4 sitcom from 1984 cataloging the life of Tom Chance, a victim of circumstances (played by Simon Callow). The love interest for Tom was Alison (played by Brenda Blethyn). Looking back, I remember some similarities between the bizarre events that intersected Tom’s life, and the storylines that unfold in later episodes of One Foot in the Grave. The series ran for three series in the 1980s. This is another series we’d love to see again, or better still, revived on DVD – just to refresh fading memories.
Comedy on demandIf you’re short of some comedy to view – consider signing up to the free On Demand service from Channel 4. Their 4oD service offers stacks of downloadable comedy including Black Books, Peep Show, Green Wing, IT crowd, and loads of other top Channel 4 comedies. Watch shows online with 4oD, at www.channel4.com/4od. Shows are also available from www.apple.com/itunes
Other sites Comedy database – A superb set of links to UK Comedy
Memorable TV – A great list of British Comedy shows
Steptoe and Son – Stylish site dedicated to this classic British comedy
Funny stuff The world of Weebl and Bob, now showing on MTV as Wobbl and Bob
Benny Hill, The Lost Years – The early years of Benny Hill, now on DVD
Galaxy Quest Review – Our look at this great sci-fi spoof movie
Guess the Sitcom personality – very clever stuff!
Easter eggs – Hidden gems in TV, films, DVDs and software

 

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