If laughter is the best medicine, there’s something about British comedies on Netflix that is highly beneficial, indeed.
Perhaps it’s the more relaxed standards and practices of the BBC, giving the writers the freedom to incorporate whatever language or actions might suit a character or situation. Maybe it’s their age-old performance lineage of buffoonery, pantomime and general theatricality that infuses their modern situation comedies.
Whatever the reason, the Brits have given us some great television over the years. Now, thanks to Netflix streaming, we can have a good healthy dose of laughter with these great British comedies. Last week, we delved into the top 10 British dramas on Netflix, and now we’re going to follow up “serious” with “sitcom.”
Top 12 British Comedies on Netflix!
Part “Star Trek,” part “The Office,” this sci-fi parody follows the disparate crew of the HMS Camden Lock as they seek out new life forms to conquer trade with in the name of our planet the British government. With Nick Frost at the helm, as Commander Henderson, Miranda Hart as his awkward and besotted Diplomatic Officer Chloë Teal, and Kevin Eldon as the by-the-book, slightly psychotic First Officer York.
11. “Gavin and Stacey”
This sweet rom-com follows a couple’s relationship as it develops from their first face-to-face meeting. With their best friends (creators James Corden and Ruth Jones) always ready to give advice and support, the boy from Essex and the girl from Wales manage to navigate some of the more hilarious and awkward aspects of integrating two families.
10. “Black Adder”
The deliciously devious Edmund Blackadder, in all his incarnations, as only Rowan Atkinson can play him. Spanning some 400 years, “The Black Adder” is the moniker assumed by the bumbling Duke of Edinburgh, who seeks to both impress and usurp his father, the king.
By the end of the series (“Blackadder Goes Forth”), Blackadder is a lowly army captain doing his best to avoid “the big push” in the trenches of WWI, marking one of the most poignant and memorable endings of a series ever written. Be sure to check out Atkinson’s other persona, “Mr. Bean,” which ranks in the top 20 British comedies on Netflix.
9. “Fawlty Towers”
Only John Cleese could find the perfect balance between rapier wit and slapstick buffoonery. His original farce about the snobby Basil Fawlty trying to attract a particular, upper crust customer to his modest Torquay hotel, holds up surprisingly well after nearly 40 years.
Despite the fact that they’ve only just met, Tim and Daisy (creators Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson) pretend to be a married couple in order to secure a cheap, comfortable flat. Now all they have to do is keep landlady Marsha, who lives upstairs, from finding out their secret.
Good thing there are plenty of distractions – like her crush on Brian, the kooky artist who lives downstairs – to keep her occupied. Nick Frost is Tim’s gun-obsessed best friend in this often surreal, fantasy-laden series directed by Edgar Wright.
7. “The Catherine Tate Show”
This is sketch comedy at its finest, offered by the most chameleonic performers of their generation. Before “Dr. Who,” Catherine Tate gave us Lauren “Am I bovvered?” Cooper, the foul-mouthed Nan Taylor and a dozen other characters we have all come across in our lives.
6. “Little Britain”
David Walliams and Matt Lucas take us on a tour of their very own Daffyd “the only gay in the village” Thomas, home carer Lou and his sneaky wheelchair-using friend Andy, Vicky “No, but yeah, but no, but yeah, but…” Pollard, and dozens more. Gifted makeup teams on both shows allow these great actors to completely disappear into their characters.
5. “The Inbetweeners”
Part “American Pie,” part “Freaks and Geeks,” this group of friends do their best to transition into adulthood, despite being woefully ill-prepared. The friends include the lovelorn Simon, affable airhead Neil, compulsive liar Jay and swotty Will. Through their failed attempts at romance, clubbing and general social acceptance, the lads are always there for each other, even if it’s just to make fun of their most recent bungle.
When Steve and Susan get together, their best friends — and exes — do as well in a sort of “package deal” arrangement. More than just a British “Friends,” the show deals — hilariously — with some of the very real issues that arise with each stage of new relationship: attraction, trust, fear of inadequacy, meeting the parents, even pregnancy.
3. “The IT Crowd”
“Have you tried turning it off and on again?” The “standard nerds” of Reynholm Industries’ IT department, Moss and Roy, spend most of their workday down in the basement offering this simple, but effective bit of advice to their colleagues on the upper floors. Along with their Relationship Manager, the only marginally less socially awkward Jen Barber, the boys get involved in all sorts of hilarious antics.
But even their best-laid plans have wholly unintended consequences — such as when Moss decides to take a cookery course that turns out to be a German cannibal who wants to eat him. (“But only with my permission.”) Roy tries to clear a debt by agreeing to drive a friend on an errand that turns out to be an armed bank robbery. And Jen’s new boyfriend, Peter turns out to have the last name File, which is announced over the PA system at a crowded airport. This happens to be one of the newer British comedies on Netflix.
2. “Red Dwarf”
“The Odd Couple” meets “Lost in Space” in this campy Sci-Fi series. Slacker Dave Lister is the last human being alive and wants nothing more than to get back to Earth.
Lister and his companions — the Cat, a service mechanoid called Kryten, and the hologram of his dead hated bunkmate Rimmer – are constantly diverted, however, by time holes, white holes, bizarre diseases, parallel universes and raging maniacal killing machines called simulants. The show also tackles a lot of relevant issues, including sexism, the futility of war, and the general consequences of humanity’s overall effect on the universe.
1. “The Office”
When the BBC took a chance on the then-unknown producing partnership of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, they gave us one of the best TV series ever produced. The oft-imitated-but-never-quite-replicated mockumentary of a mid-size paper company in lowly Slough is rife with recognizable and relatable characters.
The multi-layered story arc is both compelling and captivating for both its heart and honesty. Now streaming on Netflix in all its awkward and uncomfortable glory.
When it comes to laughter, these top 12 British comedies on Netflix are a powerful remedy. They’re also just plain fun to watch again.