Iconic British comedies are some of the finest UK exports, and there have been several examples from different generations — all of which cultivate nostalgia and humour, depending on your comedic preference.
There’s a wide range of comedies to choose from, and Prime has quite the selection to sink your teeth into. Today, we will cover some old and more recent comedies to give you a bit of inspiration about which British sitcom should be next on the binge list.
It’s not just sitcoms where British comedians, directors and TV producers have excelled over the last 50 years; a host of panel and sketch shows have generated significant interest. Would I Lie To You is one of the most popular panel shows alongside 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown, which combines the classic Channel 4 game show, which is available on Prime, with a cast of comedians and a slightly different package than what the weekday shows usually on offer.
Streaming services have transformed how we watch our comedy, and as TV is on the way out, the internet has become the main constant that runs through our lives, from shopping to placing a casino bet. While some casino gambling shows previously dominated late-night television before the internet, live game shows have become a stalwart of the online casino industry. While they might follow a different mould than a TV panel show, having a punt and having a laugh are two pillars of British culture.
Below are some of the most iconic British comedies that have graced our screens:
If you’re of a certain age, the idea of referring to The Inbetweeners as a “classic” British comedy could make you feel old. The adventures of four sixth formers navigating life in the late 2000s was a huge hit when it first aired on Channel 4 in 2008 and later E4 when the series concluded. Such was the immense quotability and rewatch value of the show that it spawned two films, the first of which was well-received and performed well at the box office.
This sitcom captured the indie fashion and music of the period, in a time when mobile phones and social media played a far less invasive role in our lives. Despite the first episode airing over 15 years ago, it has found a new audience of Gen Z fans and is often quoted in viral social media posts and pop culture.
Despite the subjectivity of comedy, there’s a strong argument to be made that the UK version of The Office is the most important British comedic creation of this century. While the argument rumbles on between those who prefer the US version, the show undoubtedly catapulted Ricky Gervais into the limelight.
Like The Inbetweeners, despite first airing on mainstream television in the noughties, it spawned countless international remakes and has stood the test of time. David Brent’s character draws a beautiful line between comedy and tragedy. Providing a grave, intrinsic human sadness, the story focuses on the then-new concept of 15 minutes of fame.
This perfectly encapsulates the mundanity and bleakness of the hollow, lamentable disposition of wanting to be loved by people he will never meet — and this was years before Instagram or Twitter existed! Reinvigorated by the rise of lockdown streaming and the mammoth success of the US equivalent, it is undeniably one of the greatest British comedies of all time.
Regarding generation-defining comedies, Fleabag was a show that bottled up the desperate, comedic nothingness that can come with being in your late 20s and early 30s. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s phenomenal depiction of this age from the unique prism of a female comic perspective was lauded upon its initial release.
Upon retrospective review, it is now considered the seminal comedy of its time, innovatively fusing cinematography and a relentless breaking of the fourth wall while adding dimension to the main character. Classic might seem premature, given that it came out less than a decade ago, but it is one of the highest-rated comedies on Prime for a reason, and it is a show that is aging like a fine wine.
In the event that none of the comedies we have touched on today tickle your fancy, there are a host of other shows currently on Prime. For instance, Fresh Meat was lauded upon its release and the ever-popular Blackadder is one of the few British comedies of its era that has been able to remain fresh and attract new generations. Given that Prime is one of the premium streaming services, this is just the tip of what’s on offer if you’re a fan of classic British comedies.