24 great comedy shows that deserve more love

We asked Den Of Geek’s writers to recommend brilliant comedy shows that deserve to have more of a fuss made about them. Here they are...

Banging a drum about stuff we love is more or less our remit on Den Of Geek – hence what many readers have started referring to as the ‘inexplicably regular’ appearance of Statham, squirrels and Harold Bishop from Neighbours on these pages.

To that end then, we asked our writers which comedy shows (past and present, UK or otherwise, on TV, radio, or online…) deserved more praise, and here are the ones they chose. You might already like them too, or you might discover something new to dig out and enjoy. That’s the fun of it.

Please note that this list isn’t ranked in any order, nor is it exhaustive. It’s compiled from the opinions of a group of different people, all of whom felt moved to write about the (largely) unsung brilliance of a particular show. Because recommending great stuff to other people is ace, please add your own recommendations below.

(Oh, and in case anyone asks, the terrific Toast Of London and Limmy’s Show aren’t on it because we’ve already written about them here and here.) 

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No Heroics

Nowadays, Drew Pearce has a pretty high level of geek credibility, thanks to his fantastic work scripting Iron Man 3, and having been involved at various stages in Godzilla, the upcoming Mission Impossible 5 and Sherlock Holmes 3. But back in 2008, he was just another comic book nerd – albeit a comic book nerd who’d written ITV2’s first original sitcom. No Heroics was a quintessentially British take on the superhero genre, set in an alternative London where “capes” are a part of everyday life. The series followed the out-of-costume downtime of four pretty low-rent heroes as they hung out at capes-only pub “The Fortress” while attempting to give their careers (and personal lives) a much-needed boost.

Although there was a fair amount of puncturing of the usual superhero bombast – the series’ heroes swap trading cards of one-another, drink things like “Shazamstell” and “V for Vodka”, and have to get the bus to drugs busts when they can’t fly – it was predominantly a character comedy at heart, and frequently a very funny one, with a great main cast and several excellent guest appearances (especially noticeable to Spaced fans). Unfortunately, perhaps because it was an ITV2 sitcom, no bugger watched it, so it only ran for one series – and its DVD release is out of print, too. Can we start up that campaign to get it reissued, please?

Where you can find it: ebay and second-hand DVD shops.

By Seb Patrick

 

Time Trumpet

“I don’t see how singing I Don’t Like Mondays was going to resurrect a corpse”

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Armando Iannucci’s Time Trumpet, originally shown back in 2006 on BBC2, takes the format of those compilation shows that used to glut TV schedules (a la I Remember the 70s) to look at major events in politics and pop culture of the time, satirising the dumbing down of the media, political spin, celebrity culture, as well as heavier stuff like the BBC’s bid to create an entertaining lottery programme for the primetime Saturday evening slot. Set in 2031, the show features future versions of great minds of our day including Charlotte Church and Paula Radcliffe ruminating on historical highlights from the early 21st century including Bob Geldof’s charity concert to end death, Tesco’s invasion of Denmark, and TV classics such as ‘The Girl With the Voice of Boris Johnson’, and ‘Newsnight Prays For Victims of War’.

If you’re a fan of Iannucci’s work on The Thick of It, Veep or The Day Today, Time Trumpet works as a highlights mix from all of them, featuring re-edited news footage, surreal turns, and imaginative swearing. Also, any show that features a programme called ‘Ross Kemp on Fire’ deserves to be watched by everyone, everywhere, immediately – (re)discover the randomness.

Where you can find it: a DVD, released in 2009, is available from all the usual places.

By Phoebe-Jane Boyd

 

15 Storeys High

Fans of Sean Lock’s grumpy Eight Out Of Ten Cats persona or Live At The Apollo stand-up on TV who haven’t yet sought out this 2002-2004 sitcom are missing an absolute treat. Adapted from Lock’s original radio series, 15 Storeys High builds a brilliantly sordid world of miserable characters, absurd obsessions and loneliness, and makes it deeply, deeply funny.

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Lock plays bitter swimming pool attendant Vince, a reclusive cheapskate cynic who makes Cheers’ Cliff Claven look like a winner. Vince’s misanthropy is set off by the arrival of lodger Errol (Benedict Wong, replacing Peter Serafinowicz from the original radio series), a newcomer to London who’s filled with the joys of the world.

15 Storeys High was co-written by Lock, Mark Lamarr and Martin Trenaman and received plenty of much-deserved love from critics at the time for its laughs, unusual tone and inventive take on tower block living. Nowadays it’s something of a Breaking Bad of UK comedy – the series that fans foist on their friends so they too can experience the joys of Vince. You’ll never see swans, or budget supermarket-branded energy drinks the same way again.

Where you can find it: it’s no longer available on UK Netflix, but the DVD of both series can be picked up for a very reasonable price online at the time of writing.

By Louisa Mellor

 

Old Harry’s Game

Old Harry’s Game is a Radio 4 sitcom about Satan written by and starring Andy Hamilton. Hamilton’s world-weary Devil deals with the day-to-day issues of running Hell – over-crowding, demon rebellions – helped and/or hindered by his demon PA Scumspawn, a deceased academic and Thomas, possibly the most despicable human being ever to have lived.

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One of Hamilton’s master-strokes is the idea that Hell isn’t just full of murderers and terrorists, but of nearly everyone who’s ever lived, because Nigel Jehovah God (He doesn’t like His first name) is too picky and hardly anyone passes His stringent criteria for getting into Heaven. This explains the presence of the Professor and Edith, both highly morally upright but atheist characters, in Hell, and it also allows Satan to interact with any dead celebrity, some of whom (notably Jane Austen) turn out to be a little different than their reputations would suggest. The show also takes great delight in describing the ever-lasting torture meted out to religious fundamentalists of all flavours, from suicide bombers to Hell’s Pope enclosure. Since it’s a radio show, there are no budgetary or special effects issues and Satan can trap Thomas under an incontinent hippo for an entire episode with only a sound effect. This is also why, unlike other successful radio sitcoms, it has never been transferred to TV; radio sitcoms rarely get as much publicity or recognition as their TV counterparts, but if you’ve never listened to Old Harry’s Game, you’re missing out on a gem of a show.

Where you can find it: on various CD releases from the usual online places. 

By Juliette Harrisson

 

Perfect Hair Forever

Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim recently caused a splashed with their demented sitcom pastiche Too Many Cooks, but it’s not the first time they’ve aired something completely unfathomable. In 2004, when the premiere episode of their new show Squibillies wasn’t finished, instead out of nowhere came the first episode of Perfect Hair Forever. And nothing was ever same. Or at least, I’ve never been the same since.

Adult Swim is known for their surreal animation from Aqua Teen Hunger Force to Space Ghost, but Perfect Hair Forever is a whole another step into non- sequiturs. Ostensibly a parody of 80s and 90s anime following a bald kid on his long quest to gain a full head of hair, it quickly streams off on wild, incoherent tangents. The brilliantly named Gerald Bald Z encounters various insane anime archetypes, including elderly family figure Uncle Grandfather, Pikachu stand-in Action Hotdog (a gibberish talking sentient hotdog), and generic bishounen-type Young Man, who’s also accompanied by a giraffe (voiced by cult rapper MF Doom). Where as even Aqua Teen Hunger Force resets its madness at the end of every episode, Perfect Hair Forever just keeps going and going and going. By the final episode it all breaks down and turns into a pilot for a sitcom called ‘Japanese Bear Dad’. It only lasted for six eleven-minute episodes (with two more online), but there’s so much insanity in that hour-and-change that it will leave even strongest minds completely frazzled.

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Where you can find it: here at the Adult Swim official website.

By Wil Jones

 

The Walshes

With Mrs. Brown’s Boys consistently ranking amongst the most watched sitcoms on the BBC, here’s a far superior sitcom about an Irish family that’s been sorely overlooked. Comedy group Diet of Worms teamed up with Father Ted and The IT Crowd writer Graham Linehan to adapt their web series about an eccentric Dublin family for a three-episode run on BBC Four earlier this year.

Those three episodes marked a very promising introduction to the Walshes as they had to deal with their relatively normal daughter Ciara moving her nice but dim boyfriend Graham into their tight-knit family home. The highlight thus far is probably the real-time episode Limbo, in which the family spend half an hour trying to go out for a traditional meal while a lover’s tiff and a truly disturbing photograph keep them housebound. 

It’s a very traditional sitcom, but it’s got tonnes of laughs and some genuinely moving moments between the family. The first series has just started a repeat run on BBC Two on Tuesday evening – give it a go on telly or on iPlayer and hopefully we’ll be rewarded by another series in the future.

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Where you can find it: Tuesday nights on BBC Two at the time of writing, and on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after broadcast.

By Mark Harrison

 

Reaper

Ah, Reaper – a comedy show with ambition by the bucket-load, which could have become a rival to the likes of Supernatural if given more of a chance. Instead, it ran for a mere two seasons, barely scratching the surface of its potential.

What made it so good? Well, the premise wasn’t half bad, for starters. Our protagonist was college drop-out and menial retail worker Sam (Bret Harrison), who received a hell of a shock on his twenty-first birthday on learning that his soul is actually property of the devil, and that he’d better do Satan’s bidding if he wants his to save his mum’s soul from eternal damnation. Yikes.

He and his similarly hapless friends (including Tyler Labine in a Jack Black-alike role as Sam’s best friend Sock) are then presented with a series of ‘vessels’ with which to capture demons on Satan’s behalf. These included hoovers, live doves and a toaster. This mix of the novelty with the supernatural provided some incredibly enjoyable telly at points, and it’s a real shame the show never went further.

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If you ever watched the show, you won’t need reminding of its standout performance – Ray Wise in the role of a lifetime as Satan himself. If you’ve never seen Reaper, it’s worth watching for Mr Wise’s sly, smarmy performance alone.

Where you can find it: on UK Netflix and imported DVD.

By Rob Leane

 

John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme

In this age of high speed internet, the humble radio seems like an anachronism. A relic in an age of podcasts. As a medium however, it’s been the launchpad for some of the greatest comedy for decades. It is impossible to list every landmark series, highlights include the incomparable Tony Hancock’s Half Hour, Marshall and Renwick’s The Burkiss Way, the Dave Hollins: Space Cadet sketches on Son Of Cliche that would morph into Red Dwarf and Chris Morris’ seminal debut series On The Hour. One modern show that really should be required listening for everyone is the excellent John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme. A sketch series written and performed by the creator of Cabin Pressure, a radio sitcom that starred a certain Mr Cumberbatch. To put it bluntly, John Finnemore is one of the best living writers in comedy and his talents are put to great use here with a mix of sharp observations and silly flights of fancy that can stand with the best of the Pythons. Finnemore has an obvious love for the medium and Souvenir Programme really shows what radio is capable of.

Additionally, a podcast that really deserves a bigger audience is the excellent John Dredge Nothing To Do With Anything Show. A throwback to the anarchic chaos of Kenny Everett’s radio years with some superb production! All episodes can be downloaded for free here.

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Where you can find it: series four of John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme is currently airing on Thursday evenings on BBC Radio 4 and is available here on BBC iPlayer at the time of writing (but disappearing soon, so get a move on). You can also buy it on CD and via iTunes.

By Jake Laverde

 

Trying Again

Proper characters, an involving story, and proper jokes. That’s what Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche and Chris Addison’s Trying Again provided this summer on Sky Living. That’s why the news that Trying Again won’t be returning for a second series, despite it feeling far from over, came as such a blow to fans. 

Taking the premise of a couple in a small town attempting to rebuild trust after an affair, Trying Again starred Chris Addison and Jo Joyner, aided by the able supporting cast of stand-up Alun Cochrane, Elizabeth Berrington, Renton Skinner and Charles Edwards. If the premise sounds sappy to you, it isn’t. There’s nothing soppy about this rom-com, which combines classic sitcom escalation with sharply written characters to create eight consistently funny instalments. From the writers of The Thick Of It and In The Loop, you’d expect nothing else. 

Where you can find it: there’s no DVD at the moment, unfortunately, but cross your fingers for a repeat on Sky?

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Stella Street

If you’ve always suspected that John Hurt is a drunken luvvie who breaks into houses for food and warmth, or Death In Venice-era Dirk Bogarde is still out there somewhere subscribing to Country Life and The Lady, cult-fave Stella Street is for you. Here, stars of stage and screen (all played by John Sessions and Phil Cornwell) have sequestered themselves away from the bright lights of Hollywood to sleepy Surbiton. Why have they chosen to move here? We’ll let Stella Street’s Joe Pesci explain: “well, ya know, what kind of a prick-fuck question is that?”

You might have missed the ten minute bursts of celebrity impression genius when the show originally debuted tucked away in BBC2’s Christmas schedule in 1997. If so, seek out the first three seasons straight away, pick your fave celeb impression (Al Pacino, here), and quote the hell out of it. Just… don’t make the same mistake this writer did and choose Surbiton as a place to live during university because Stella Street was set there… only to find out ten years on that it was actually filmed in Hartswood Road, London. *mumbles expletives*

Where you can find it: on DVD in the usual online places.

By Phoebe-Jane Boyd

 

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Early Doors

Early Doors was the natural successor to Craig Cash’s own The Royle Family. Written by Cash and Phil Mealey, the show followed in the footsteps of its popular predecessor by both embracing a distinctly working-class northern sensibility as well as locating its stories almost entirely in one place. This time it’s within the confines of a smoke-filled Manchester pub. There’s a great array of humour to be found across its two series, ranging from clever running gags to silly one-liners. What really makes the show special though is its perfect cast of characters. The two writers themselves are great as pals Joe and Duffy and they are joined by John Henshaw as loveably sarcastic landlord Ken, Mark Benton and Lorraine Cheshire as endearingly dim-witted couple Eddie and Joan and Rodney Litchfield as miserable grouch Tommy. Not to mention Ken’s manipulative mother Jean, her cleaner Winnie and crooked cops Phil and Nige, all of whom bring something to the party and have their own moments to shine.

There are bittersweet elements to the show’s ongoing storylines, with Ken’s stepdaughter finding her real dad proving especially poignant, but it’s the warmth and humour found in life’s simple pleasures which really shines through. It’s an underrated comic masterpiece that deserves to be recognised alongside its more lauded contemporaries.

Where you can find it: on DVD online in the usual places.

By Rob Keeling

 

Attention Scum!

BBC 2’s continuity announcer initially announced Simon Munnery’s 2001 series as a ground-breaking comedy show, though by the time it ended, the voiceover may as well have said ‘This is weird. We’re sorry it’s weird. Aren’t weird people weird? Sorry again.’

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In his guise as The League Against Tedium (a kind of Big Society Nietzschean dictator), Munnery drove around the country preaching silly one-liners from the top of a transit van to crowds of intrigued passers-by. Featuring Johnny Vegas as a 24-hour news anchor (who’d been up for twenty-four hours), regular interruptions from Kombat Opera, as well as Kevin Eldon, Richard Thomas and Catherine Tate in its various sketches, Attention Scum! was commissioned, made, and then cancelled before broadcast due to it not fitting BBC 2’s new image.

The show has never had an official DVD release, but Munnery continues to write and perform, being a regular at The Stand during the Edinburgh Fringe.

Where you can find it: [UPDATE] it appears to be available to buy online, though we can’t vouch for the official-ness of the site selling it.

By Andrew Blair

 

Isy Suttie’s Love Letters

Best recognised for the role of Dobby on Peep Show, comedian Isy Suttie’s musical stand-up act makes her a natural inheritor to the brilliant Victoria Wood (it’s an easy comparison to make, but nonetheless apt). Suttie’s songs, observations about growing up in the North and series of letters from her ‘mother’ are the backbone of her sharp, funny sets (some of which can be seen on the highly recommended, Stewart Lee-curated The Alternative Comedy Experience, filmed at The Stand in Edinburgh and airing on Sky).

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Suttie’s  BBC Radio 4 series is a beautiful thing, a series of portraits of relationships she affects to have witnessed in and around her childhood home town of Matlock, interspersed with guitar-led songs. The stories across both series are warm-hearted, funny, and surprisingly poignant. Think Alan Bennett, if he could sing folk. Look out for them on repeat on BBC Radio 4 Extra or buy the series on iTunes.

Where you can find it: available to buy from iTunes.

By Frances Roberts

 

The Misadventures Of Awkward Black Girl

Web series and underappreciated gem The Misadventures Of Awkward Black Girl is a tonic for anyone bored to tears by endless repeats of Friends, Coupling (UK knock-off Friends), How I Met Your Mother (high-concept Friends), Happy Endings (low-concept Friends) – we could go on (don’t worry – we won’t). So many sitcoms about groups of interchangeably bland actors pretending to struggle through menial day jobs while living in fabulous apartments – if only more people had screamed “PLEASE, GOD – NO” and turned off the TV to go online for the adventures of Issy Rae’s awkward J.

A show that started on YouTube and grew with funding scrambled together from Kickstarter (an extra bit of fun is seeing signs of the budget growing as the series goes on) Awkward Black Girl has won plaudits and awards, but deserves that big mainstream audience that lesser shows have from their exposure on television. Seriously – this has friendship raps. “You are my main bitch/we make a great team/I’m Saved By the Bell/you’re California Dreams” – now, isn’t that better than ‘Smelly Cat’?

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Where you can find it: at its website, here.

By Phoebe-Jane Boyd

 

Go On

On the face of it, a recently widowed sports broadcaster attending a bereavement support group in order to try and move on from the death of his wife doesn’t sound like the most promising idea for a comedy series. But the Matthew Perry vehicle Go On was a masterclass in keeping sentimental comedy on the right side of mawkish. Go On’s biggest strength lay in the chemistry between its eccentric cast of characters, from Laura Benanti’s woefully unprepared group leader to the enigmatic ‘Mr K’, a creepy oddball with a mysterious past which is only ever hinted at. And of course there’s the ever-watchable John Cho as Perry’s best friend; if ABC’s Selfie has taught us anything, it’s that Cho livens up even the weakest of material.

Matthew Perry’s post-Friends TV career has had a number of false starts, and sadly Go On was no exception, being cancelled by NBC after one season. But much like the seminal Studio 60, Go On’s final episode brings the show some kind of closure, making its one season a self-contained story which is well worth tracking down.

Where you can find it: a DVD release is yet to be confirmed.

By Pete Dillon-Trenchard

 

Detectorists

This low-key, tightly observed series written and directed by Mackenzie Crook recently concluded its first six-episode run on BBC Four and has already been recommissioned for a second series.

The first thing to praise about Detectorists is the cast, and particularly the joy of seeing Toby Jones in a rare comedy role that proves what a versatile performer he is. Jones plays Lance, a metal detecting enthusiast who can’t quite set his ex-wife (Lucy Benjamin) free. Lance is best friends with Andy (Mackenzie Crook), also a detectorist, who shares his dream of finding Saxon gold instead of the vintage ring-pulls their search most often produces.

Detectorists is perhaps best thought of as an indie comedy feature split into six parts. Its naturalistic writing and performances steadily grow on you, and the room it leaves around its jokes makes it stand apart from today’s studio sitcom fare. It’s a wistful look at hobbies and their role as escape routes from the world, and a sometimes poignant look at male friendship. It’s also not above the odd moment of bathos, or the absurdity of invisible dogs. Funny, warm-hearted, but never schmaltzy, Detectorists is one of this year’s comedy treats.

Where you can find it: on DVD, or if you hurry, on BBC iPlayer.

By Louisa Mellor

 

Bob And Margaret

An animated series that span out of the 1994 Best Short Film Oscar winner, Bob’s Birthday, Bob And Margaret was created by Alison Snowden and David Fine and first aired in the UK on Channel 4 in 1998. Its eponymous married couple, winningly voiced by Outnumbered co-creator Andy Hamilton and Snowden, are a dentist and chiropodist whose day-to-day lives threw up any number of awkward social encounters and comic moments.

Bob And Margaret’s simple animated style belies its sharp perspective on social manners and typically British mores. The characters – including the couple’s demonic dogs – are brilliantly observed. Great writing and great voice work combine to make a sitcom gem.

While the first two series were the only ones aired in the UK, a further two were made in which the socially awkward London couple emigrated to Canada and, we’re told, experience the culture clash that comes with it.

Where you can find it: on 4oD, here.

By Frances Roberts

 

Happy Endings

Back in 2011, the new season brought a flurry of rom-sitcoms all trying to capture some of the success of How I Met Your Mother and other shows like it, but the only one to survive beyond a couple of weeks was ABC’s Happy Endings. But, as is usually the case with interesting, good-natured ABC sitcoms (see also: this year’s Selfie), it was constantly battling cancellation from that point onwards.

On paper, it was a carbon copy of Friends and the other sitcoms that had adopted the same formula – six friends living in New York and navigating the trials of being 20-30-somethings. There was a set of siblings, a married couple and even a will they/won’t they pairing at the centre of early episodes.

But Happy Endings was a little slice of joy while it was airing, its lack of audience but healthy share of critical adoration enabling it to try pretty much anything it wanted, and it belonged in the niche, ‘quirky’ comedy category alongside Community and Scrubs by the end of its three season run.

It was a victim of madcap scheduling and an impenetrable sense of humour, but it found a small, devout audience. Obviously, they weren’t enough to save it, but it’s well worth a look for anyone who missed it the first time around.

Where you can find it: on DVD import over here or Channel 4.

By Caroline Preece

 

Lab Rats

Unfairly labelled the “Worst New British TV Sitcom” of 2008 by the British Comedy Guide, reviews for Chris Addison and Carl Cooper’s Lab Rats at the time included the words ‘failure’, ‘appalling’ and ‘lame’.

Lab Rats’ six episode run was set in a university laboratory and had plenty going for it. Chris Addison had cut his teeth in stand up and alongside his co-writer Carl Cooper, plus a director and producer that had worked on many Armando Iannucci productions, there was plenty of talent involved, not to mention a great ensemble of comedy actors.

In many ways Lab Rats reminds me of the work of David Renwick (One Foot In The Grave, Jonathan Creek) as it contains a strong ethos of random, surreal moments that seemingly bear no relation to each other, only for them to come together in the final moments. Comparisons to the quick-fire one-liners of Milton Jones and Tim Vine also come to mind. Its mix of puns, surreal elements, silly jokes and wordplay is also peppered with more geeky references than The IT Crowd. Its creative family-friendly humour is well worth seeking out.

Where you can find it: on DVD from the usual places. 

By Philip Lickley

 

Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23

Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23 was doomed from the start, with an off-putting name and a premise that required a huge suspension of disbelief from the start. The show starred Dreama Walker as a type-A aspiring lawyer and Krysten Ritter as the implausible party girl she ends up moving in with, and the odd-couple dynamic works far better than it should have done.

It was unapologetically made for a 90s audience, with James Van Der Beek stealing the show as an exaggerated version of himself and lots of loving jibes directed at Dawson’s Creek and celebrity culture in general. As with a lot of shows that don’t get a huge audience, the plots and characters became more and more mad and unwieldy as it went along, and this only made it more charming.

ABC’s scheduling for the show was a mess, so much so that there were season one episodes peppered throughout the second season run, placed with no regard for character or storyline development, and this was enough to turn the remaining audience away. It got cancelled, but that’s no comment on the show’s consistent quality throughout, and there really wasn’t anything else like it on the air.

Where you can find it: US readers can see the ABC show on cable channel Logo TV. UK viewers can buy it at Amazon Instant Video or DVD import.

By Caroline Preece

 

KYTV

To call KYTV a product of its time would be fair, yet the way television had evolved since, it’d arguably be just as relevant now. The television spin-off from the excellent Radio Four show Radioactive, KYTV ran for three series, which each 30 minute episode being a show broadcast on the fictional low-budget satellite service of the programme’s name. Particular highlights? The telethon, Brown Nose Day, was particularly exquisite as was the attempt to mount a period drama on a miniscule budget (“We’ve got Gyles Brandreth”). The show was shuffled around a little (not least when one saucy episode had to be put back), but even in its weaker episodes, it had jokes and observations that firmly hit the mark.

It serves as a fitting tribute too to the late Geoffrey Perkins too, who starred in an ensemble that also featured Angus Deayton, Helen Atkinson-Wood (anyone else remember her presenting Style Trial?), Michael Fenton Stevens and Phillip Pope.

Where you can find it: It’s on DVD and VHS if you look in the usual places.

By Simon Brew

 

Rex The Runt

Given the enduring appeal of Aardman Animations, it’s always been something of a mystery that Rex The Runt doesn’t have more fans. Initially shunted randomly around the Christmas 1998 TV schedules, the series of 10-minute claymations chronicled the misadventures of four talking dogs: the arrogant titular Rex, lazy but loyal Bad Bob, cynical Wendy and the truly bizarre Vince, whose dialogue mostly consisted of short non sequitirs such as “I like jam” and “Tuesday”.

What made Rex The Runt so brilliant was its imaginative, joke-packed and often downright surreal writing; plots included the gang piloting a mini-submarine inside Vince in an attempt to cure his Random Pavarotti Disease, and Rex winning the city of Birmingham in the National Lottery. The show’s also packed with guest stars: Paul Merton, Bob Monkhouse, Arthur Smith, Kathy Burke and June Whitfield all appear, and in a memorable episode Eddie Izzard pops up playing all of the Easter Island statues.

Perhaps the best thing about Rex The Runt, for the purposes of this article, is that all 26 episodes are available on Youtube; start with A Holiday in Vince and keep going; you won’t regret it.

Where you can find it: On Aardman’s Darkside’s YouTube channel and second-hand VHS.

By Pete Dillon-Trenchard

 

Stressed Eric

Carl Gorham and Michael Hatt’s adult animated series Stressed Eric ran in a late-night slot from 1998 to 2000 on BBC Two in the UK. It was the story of classic sitcom underdog Eric, a single parent divorcee with an overbearing boss, alcoholic au pair and difficult kids, all of whom combine to keep him in a permanent state of blood-pressure-raising anxiety.

The voice cast was brilliant, with UK comedy stalwart Mark Heap as the titular lead, Morwenna Banks as his lisping, gymkhana-loving daughter Claire, The Thick Of It and Alan Partridge’s Rebecca Front as his ex-wife, and Smack The Pony‘s Doon Mackichan as Eric’s horridly unreliable au pair.

Well-loved by the few who saw it on its original run, Stressed Eric was finally released on DVD in 2011. If you missed it at the time, you could do a lot worse than picking up a copy and enjoying its two series run.

Where you can find it: It was released on DVD in 2011.

By Frances Roberts

 

Pulling

Before he gave us all a teaspoon phobia with the brilliant, much-missed Utopia and won awards aplenty for Matilda: The Musical, Dennis Kelly co-wrote BBC Three sitcom Pulling with Sharon Horgan. 2006’s Pulling was the filthy, cynical and very funny story of two awful women and one sort of nice one sharing a London flat, and starred Horgan, Rebekah Staton, Tanya Franks, Cavan Clerkin and Paul Kaye.

After attracting decent ratings and deservedly enthused reviews for its two series, Pulling’s cancellation by BBC Three was baffling. In fact, if anyone’s questioning this critically adored show’s place on a list of comedies that deserve more love, I’ll be specific: Pulling deserved more love from its channel. It was ace, unlike anything else around at the time, and deserved to go on until Donna, Karen and Louise were ruining people’s lives, smoking crack and dating sex pests in their dotage.

Where you can find it: on DVD in all the usual places (though not the 2009 Special, according to Wikipedia, which was made available for download only).

By Louisa Mellor