I do this every now and then for American friends. Basically a list of cool British TV DVDs of stuff, the majority of which is not available in the US normally, or if they are, in in a diluted form. What with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, consider this a handy dandy way to be cooler than your friends and get in on something early.
Anyone who reads Bleeding Cool needs Misfits. Season One here and Season Two on the way. The best portrayal of the superpower on screen to date. X-Men meets Trainspotting. Absolutely essential. And a more acquired taste is the one series of No Heroics, with a far broader humour, and in the same ballpark as the likes of Pulling or Moving Wallpaper. Written by the upcoming Runaways screenplay writer, Drew Pearce.
Four Lions – this film about British jihadists has just had very limited release in the US. But is available cheap on DVD in the UK. From Chris Morris, the creator of Brass Eye and Nathan Barley. You might also like David Baddiel's The Infidel starring Omad Djalili, a film about a Muslim who discovers that he was born Jewish.
Stewart Lee – An incredibly honest, clever, playful and dazzing comedian, and co-writer and director of Jerry Springer The Opera. His iconilastic TV series, the Stewart Lee Comedy Vehicle is backed up by a stack of fantastic stand up sets. Oh, and a book. His comedy partner for years, Richard Herring has a few things out too – I saw his Hitler Moustache show and loved it. You should too.
The Inbetweeners. Skins can go swivel, this is the most accurate and funniest representation of the male adolescent experience I've seen. Butchered when shown on US TV, here are the full three series uncut. Film to follow.
Outnumbered – the improvised family show that see the kids outshine the adults by simply being themselves. Being remade in the states, but it will be impossible to be as good. It just can't be.
The Thick Of It. West Wing meets The Office. The passion of the former dragged down by the cynicism of the latter. And better than both. Has a spinoff film, In The Loop which was possibly even better. Has some of the best swearing on the planet, the classic being "Come the fuck in or fuck the fuck off!" Checking out the writer's The Armando Iannucci Shows and Time Trumpet might also be a grand idea.
Ideal – five series and no box set. The insular drug dealing comedy that moved away from its roots to become something David Lynch would have been proud of. A wonderful journey starring comedy legend Johnny Vegas. Series one, two, three, four and five. Peep Show keeps marching on, into its seventh series next week. Play catch up at this multiple-person-perspective sitcom of self loathing. Also Shameless, the multi-season story of a growing family embedded in the underclass. No hope, no future, no worries.
Rev, about an inner city Church Of England vicar, dealing with his own demons as well as the ones on his doorstep. Co-written by, and starring, Tom Hollander.
Roger And Val Have Just Got In, Dawn French and Alfred Mollina (Doctor Octopus) in a bittersweet comedy set in realtime, around the moment you get in from work. Their battles against the world and against each other, the minutia revealing a dark secret in the house and the real reason why they are trapped there.
The Accused – Jimmy McGovern's superb new drama about crime dragging down the ordinary person, with a killer first episode starring Christopher Eccleston. A thematic followup, in part to his superb The Street.
The Trip – Alan Partridge's Steve Coogan and Gavin & Stacey's Rob Brydon, playing the media image versions of themselves, travelling together reviewing restaurants. Their lives and careers have been so intwined, even as friends they find themselves in constant competition. Worth it solely for the warring Michael Caine impersionations.
Miranda – a blast from the past cemented by the "You Have Been Watching" credits, in all forms an old-style BBC/ITV sitcom but with a much stronger female focus. And starring nd written by one of today' true stars with funny bones, Miranda Hart. I think I kind of love her.
FAQ About Time Travel – no one I know seems to have watched this film before it sneaked out one night on BBC3. A time travel comedy starring Chris O'Dowd from the IT Crowd. And it does time travel paradox knowingly, with increasing complications and throws a love story into the mix. Stay for the end credits all the way. And if you just can't get enough O'Dowd, follow him to radio sitcom FM.
And a history lesson for a few comedy gems over the last couple of decades that you may have missed. No Benny Hills, Young Ones, Spaced, Blackadders, Mighty Boosh or Offices here…
Absolutely. Spanning the decades, this Scottish sketch show was, basically, Monty Python for its day. Very very clever, very very silly, and some great songs.
A Bit Of Fry And Laurie. The first is now a national treasure, the polymath Stephen Fry. The other is the highest paid TV star in America, the lead from House, Hugh Laurie. But this is what they will always be best known for in the UK, an erudite, filthy sketch show. They would also spend years together recreating PG Wodehouse's Jeeves And Wooster.
Discovered by Jonathan Ross, the first show recreated surreal comedy for the nineties and launched the careers of many, the second gave them a budget to play with and the third helped invent the kind of show that The Office and Phoenix Nights would mine. They would also make a very strange remake of Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased) and a most odd comedy drama, Catterick, that would prepare the way for The League Of Gentleman, before getting real mainstream fame on the celebrity baiting show Shooting Stars.
Big Train with Kevin Eldon, Mark Heap and Simon Pegg, written by Graham Lineham. The concentration of talent here is magnificent and it plays out sketch after sketch after sketch or mismatched team ups. Ming doing the housework, a French film where a woman is in love with a traffic light, the Devil as office joker with Jesus as office boss and a small fire being put out by the tiny fire brigade are personal highlights.
With Joe Cornish writing Tintin and Ant Man movies, with his own Attack Of The Block coming soon, why not see where he started with The Adam And Joe Show?
Joking Apart, Steven Moffat's first sitcom, but ostensibly about the breakup of his own marriage. Much of his structure, themes and characterisation would be seen in Coupling and then in Doctor Who. Or course we all know it really began with Press Gang…
Rob Brydon's breakout show, Marion & Geoff, filmed on a budget of nothing, but it never matters. The collapse of a man who doesn't see it coming through his blinkered optimism.
For those of you who love Garth Marenghi's Dark Place, and I know there are a batch of you… did you ever see the spinoff Man To Man With Dean Lerner? Possibly even better, with Garth guesting in the first episode.
Snuff Box – the second sickest sketch show you will ever see. Wonderful. Alan Moore's favourite.
Jam – the sickest sketch show you will ever see. Even better.