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|Written by Emily Goodacre|
|Tuesday, 27 April 2010 00:00|
I'm going to posit something here: the British are a funny people. Perhaps they've had to make up for their lack of traditional attractiveness with witty bon mots, perhaps a nation that drinks and swears so much can't help but be hilarious, but whatever the case, the average Brit is simply funnier than the average North American. Thus it comes as no surprise that British television is highly enjoyable. We've all seen the original British The Office and Extras at this point, no doubt your moms all watch Coronation St., but there is so much more to enjoy. So brew yourself a cuppa, grab a packet of crisps and try these recommendations from an anglophile.
Essentially the story of two adorable, stupid people in love, Gavin & Stacey manages to be both hilarious and sweet. The title characters have a whirlwind courtship and bring together their families and best friends for their wedding. Some UK-centric pop culture references might go over your head (why is it funny that Smithy would "have a right good go on Julie Goodyear"?), but the supporting cast really makes this show worth watching. Particularly hilarious are Rob Bryden as Stacy's uncle Bryn, Alison Steadman as Gavin's mother Pam, and co-writer/creator Ruth Jones as Nessa, Stacy's best friend. Crackin'. Check out the incredible Pam:
This show aired quite a few years ago (1999-2001), but is still one of the funniest shows in memory. It begins with the lamest of sitcom concepts: strangers Tim and Daisy pretend to be a couple in order to get an apartment. But the show soon diverges from the set-up into a veritable orgy of late-90s slacker humour, fantasy sequences, and loving pop culture references. Plus, see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in their salad days before their hits Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz! Witness some male telepathic bonding:
A pretty low-concept comedy, the show follows the wacky antics of three employees of the IT department of a London company. There's plenty of techie based humour for those who enjoy such things (despite the ultra-modern corporate building, the IT department occupies a nightmarish dungeon-like basement space; the techs answer the phone with the words, "Have you turned it off and turned it back on again?," etc.) but also more accessible laugh-out-loud moments that have directly resulted in myself and friends squeaking "I'm disabled!" in inappropriate contexts. Seriously, just try not to quote it!
Part travelogue, part buddy-comedy, the documentary series Long Way Round followed Ewan McGregor and his bestie Charlie Boorman as they travelled from London to New York the (you guessed it) long way around on their motorcycles in 2004. The two went on to film a similar trek from the North of Scotland to Capetown for Long Way Down in 2007, and Charlie filmed his participation in the Dakar Rally (sans McGregor) for Race to Dakar in 2006. The pair travel through gorgeous and rugged terrain and many highs and lows abound (see the part where McGregor, already suffering from a hideously swollen forehead as a result of a spider bite, sprays gasoline in his eye) but what makes these series worthwhile is the camaraderie and genuine likeability of the hosts. I must admit that I never saw McGregor's appeal as a heartthrob, but, since watching these series, I have a serious crush on McGregor the actual person. Awwww . . . friendship!
Did you like The X-Files? Great! Now imagine how that show would have looked if Mulder and Scully were sleeping together. And also with half of the FBI. And also with several of the alien villains. It would look something like Torchwood, BBC Wales' contribution to the world of sci-fi serials. Omni-sexuality aside, this show manages to be genuinely tense and entertaining, weaving a compelling mythology around interesting and complex characters. While the special effects are definitely more budget than, say, Fringe's or V's, the show has a gritty charm, and enough wit to ensure cult-show devotion. Watch a relatively G-rated bit here.
Tests and reviews of cars: I cannot think of a show concept that would be less interesting to me. And yet? This long-running show is among my favourites. The three hosts are clearly having fun and watching them giggle like children as they roar down the track in a Lamborghini worth more than some island nations is priceless. The good-natured ribbing as they build a home-made car out of sheet metal or run for their lives from rednecks during an Alabama road trip makes their enthusiasm infectious. Add in celebrity guest races, ridiculous theme challenges, and the Stig (the test driver whose face is never revealed but who is rumoured to remove his shoes with an Allen key), and it adds up to one of the most fun hours on television. This clip is a bit long, but do yourselves a serious favour and watch it through to the end - it is so worth it!
Following several teenagers as they get up to no good, this is a decent show for fans of teen soaps (Gossip Girl fans, take heed). Skins can be a bit ham-fisted in its humour and it tends to go for cheap shocks (is anyone really surprised anymore when 15 year-olds have sex and do drugs?), but it is a great guilty pleasure. Bonus: see a pre-Slumdog Millionaire Dev Patel as a manic horndog, and an all-grown-up Nicholas Hoult (the kid from About A Boy) as the ultimate high-school lothario. Here's the About a Boy Kid now, traumatizing all of us who remember his wee precocious adorability:
As it turns out, Gordon Ramsey is tolerable and even a bit charming when removed from the competitive reality show format. Outside of a combative environment, he doesn't constantly scream profanities, and his genuine love of food shines through. The F Word features do-able recipes, celebrity cook-offs and amateur chef competitions, filmed in Ramsey's London restaurant. Particularly enjoyable are the segments where Ramsey raises livestock in his backyard, featuring his cute-as-all-get-out four children (if anything can win me over, it's a child with a British accent), and his trips to exotic locales to sample local delicacies. Seriously, British children can single-handedly create world peace.
BBC Canada has me convinced that all British people are obsessed with buying, selling, building, decorating, and cleaning their homes. Their line-up includes Fantasy Homes by the Sea, A Dream Home Abroad, The Unsellables, Escape to the Country, Fantasy Homes in the City, and Homes Under the Hammer to name a few. Be warned: it is extremely easy to lose track of time under the hypnotic power of these shows, and you may end up wondering where your weekend went.
Now, I recognize that these shows are all a couple of years old or older. This delay is due to my catching series on DVD, or when they finally roll around to Canadian networks. I'm open to suggestions for new things (I hear Misfits is good?), so please put any recommendations in the comments. In the meantime I'll be re-watching my old favourites, annoying my friends with quotes in my horrid British accent, and just generally havin' a larf.
Tags: angophile, british, gavin & stacey, long way down, long way round, nick frost, play, simon pegg, skins, spaced, the f word, the it crowd, top gear, torchwood, tv, you should be watching
Wow, I've heard of like... one of these? Must check out the others! Some of the embedded videos are disabled already, but the clip with Ewan McGregor was cute. In more ways than one.