While the major channels continue to churn out sitcom after sitcom of insipid and dull programming, there is a haven for comedy fans out there, in the form of DVD boxsets of those little comedy wonders that flew somewhat under the radar. Some you may already be aware of, some you may have forgotten and some I may have imagined, but hopefully all are enjoyable.
What Matt Lucas and David Walliams did before Little Britain and that horrific airport thing. Featuring Jamie Theakston playing the straight-man interviewer there are two series of Lucas and Walliams imitating (by imitating I mean reimagining in a very surreal manner) various personalities from the world of pop music. Personal favourites include The Happy Mondays, Take That and two different sketches of George Michael.
Garth Marenghi's Darkplace
Featuring the best and brightest of the turn of the century London comedy scene (Matt Berry, Richard Ayoade, Julian Barratt, Noel Fielding and even a brief cameo from Stephen Merchant) ‘Dark Place’ takes the form of a previously cancelled 80s hospital drama based on the books of the eponymous horror writer Garth Marenghi, that sees the actors playing actors playing characters. Sounds mental and it is mental but also equally as brilliant. It’s quote-tastic and the talking heads of the ‘actors’ that intersperse the programme are very special.
15 Storeys High
Possibly Sean Locks finest ever work. The show started off on Radio 4 show and focuses on the lives of Vince (Lock) and Errol (Benedict Wong) as they co-habit a flat in a tower block. Prototype Peep Show in terms of its setting but fizzes with misanthropy and a delightfully British take on life in general. Ran for two series with no real sign of a third it has been criminally missed by most. Best enjoyed with a can of ‘Blue Rat’.
An animated beauty darker than a black hole. The show deals in subjects such as divorce, suicide, paedophilia and murder through animated sketches, all nicely linked together to form coherent episodes. Various companies contributed to the show resulting in a nice mix of animation styles throughout. It ran for three series and picked up a few awards along the way too. May not be everyone’s cup of tea (especially the easily offended) but well worth a look if you like the darker side of humour.
An animated beauty darker than a black hole. The show deals in subjects such as divorce, suicide, paedophilia and murder.
Some may not consider Spaced to be an undiscovered or underrated show, but having taken a straw poll amongst my work colleagues and friends very few had actually heard of the show in which Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jessica Hynes and Edgar Wright made their collective and individual names. The focus of the show is on the relationship between Tim and Daisy pretending to be a couple in order to rent a flat with the two series paying homage in a brilliantly fan boy type way to cult film, TV and books with charming and hilarious results. Also features Mark Heap in spectacular form as Brian, their weird artist and neighbour. Your purchase of the DVDs will be worth it if only for the fight scene at the end of episode 5 of series 2 ‘Gone’.
With the multitude of ‘paint by numbers comedy’ the US produces it’s little wonder that genuinely funny shows sometimes get lost in the mire. Sketch comedy in the US also seems pretty limited to Saturday Night live, so Human Giant is a refreshing take on the format. Sketch comedy is notoriously hit and miss but in this instance the hit ratio is dangerously high. It does take a few episodes to get going but once they hit stride the show is brilliant.
The Smoking Room
One of a number of shows that owes a lot in its style to the Royle Family but stands up on its own where others don’t. Featuring an ensemble cast based around the somewhat central character of Robert Webb's ‘Robin’ it travels very much down the line of ‘people sitting around just talking’, where the comedy is contained between the lines and in the subtle inferences made. Not necessarily laugh out loud funny, but still charming and full of wit.
Him and Her
Based around the early stages of the relationship of Becky (Sarah Solemani) and Steve (Russell Tovey), it is a refreshing twist on a well-trodden format. Anyone that’s ever been in any sort of relationship will find something here to identify with and point a finger at their partner and say, “that’s what we do!” Again a very charming show with its humour in its subtlety but with appeal to those who get the jokes and those who don’t as well. Scene stealer however is Joe Wilkinson as upstairs neighbour Dan.
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