British Cosy TV Where Everything Is Beautiful and Nothing Hurts

These TV shows say ‘there, there’ to your brain

The cast of Channel 5's All Creatures Great and Small
Photo: Channel 5/PBS Masterpiece

It’s natural that, while you may want to stay on the cutting edge of prestige TV drama and join in all those “How great is Shogun?!” conversations of the moment, there are also times when the world makes you want to shrink down to the size of a Subbuteo player, step into a book illustration from a copy of Thumbelina you owned as a child, and go to sleep underneath a single feather inside a walnut shell.

Those walnut shell moments demand a TV accompaniment that isn’t noisy or confrontational. There should be no difficult thoughts there, just a gentle tide of ‘everything’s okay-ness’ lapping at your brain’s shore. These British TV shows all provide exactly that sense of comfort. Please recommend your own picks below.

The Good Life

Stream on: BritBox (UK & US)

Tom and Barbara, Jerry and Margo. Repeat those names as a mantra on the in-breath and the out-breath, and feel your pulse slow. This 1970s BBC sitcom is a soothing balm. Starring Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Paul Eddington and Penelope Keith, it’s the story of couple in leafy Surbiton who chuck middle class propriety out of the window and try to become self-sufficient, to the horror of their snob neighbours. When the world feels as though it’s burning down around you, what you need is a bit of time with a couple whose major problems involve a nighttime thief stealing their leeks or Geraldine the goat getting into next door’s dahlias.

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Top tip: set the theme music as your morning alarm clock and instantly improve your life by approximately a million percent.

Jeeves and Wooster

Stream (Unofficially) on: YouTube

Speaking of theme music, why wasn’t the Jeeves and Wooster tune the first dance at my wedding? Remind me to get a divorce. There’s jaunty feel-good, and then there’s this, a stonking jazz number that introduces the beauty of Hugh Laurie as hapless posho Bertie Wooster and Stephen Fry as his smoother-than-silk fixer valet Jeeves. What a casting coup. Laurie is perfect as dipstick aristo Bertie, a man several hoops short of a croquet set who’s always accidentally getting engaged to women named Sniffy and Bon-Bon, and pushing small boys into ornamental lakes. Fry is equally spot-on as the suave servant who untangles every one of his master’s knots.

Read the books, obviously (if you’re able to put Wodehouse’s idiotic wartime Berlin broadcasts to one side). There’s no finer comedy on a page.

Dinner Ladies

Stream on: BritBox (UK)

There is arguably finer comedy on a screen however, in the form of Victoria Wood’s Dinner Ladies, a TV sitcom with an embarrassment of riches both in Wood’s scripts and in its cast. Most pre-2005 comedies are a safe bet for comfort viewing, but Dinner Ladies especially so because of its workplace setting. There’s a The Office (US) sort of comfort in the daily routine of this factory canteen, just with better jokes.

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To take any of Wood’s lines out of her mouth, or those of Anne Reid, Thelma Barlow, Maxine Peake, Shobna Gulati and co. is folly, but for a taste, here’s Bren’s yet-to-be-beaten explanation of how to distinguish between various British TV period dramas:

“If they’re in carriages and their bosoms are like, just under their chins, that’s Jane Austen. Catherine Cookson there’d be like, a horse and cart and they get pregnant a lot and chop the heads off mackerel and it’s raining and their bosoms’ll be a lot lower. There’s Dickens, are you thinking of Dickens? If they’re all covered in warts and they go ‘Oh, Mr Wizzigog!’, that’s Dickens. Shakespeare, that’s BBC Two and they have like robes on and never sit down and they run on, every seen it? They run on. ‘What is it, you? Oh, the Duke of Widdlebob’s done such and such and such a body’s fell down the stairs in her nightie. Okay, fair enough, off you go.’ That’s Shakespeare. It’s good.”

House of Games

Stream on: BBC iPlayer (UK)

Here’s a nice thought: however terrible a day you or the world might be having, somewhere in a TV studio in Glasgow, a celebrity of low to medium standing has just won a pair of Richard Osman-branded salt and pepper shakers by mashing together a term commonly used to describe the dung of cattle with a correctly identified picture of the former presenter of Fun House to form the phrase “Cowpat Sharp”. There. Doesn’t the whimsy somehow make it all feel a little bit better?  

All Creatures Great and Small

Stream on: My5 (UK); PBS Masterpiece (US)

On the subject of cowpats: you can’t err for comfort when it comes to the Yorkshire-set stories of 1930s Scottish veterinarian James Herriot. This latest adaptation for Channel 5 is a warm tucking-in of the bedsheets and a kiss on the head of a TV show, but any will work (even the slower-than-slow 1970s film starring Anthony Hopkins as Siegfried). It’s not just the animal stuff, but the food. Farmhouse tables laden with bacon, freshly cooked bread, bricks of butter, apple pies and thick cream – just looking at it is enough to get a dopamine hit.

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The books too, are a sticking plaster for a grazed brain, and are also episodic enough to provide a 10-minute emotional lift whenever you need to stop thinking about anything but vaccinating sheep or easing stones out of horses’ hooves.

The Dog House

Stream on: Channel 4 (UK); Max (US, as The Dog House: UK)

While we’re on an animal tip, this Channel 4 show is a heart-warming reminder that there’s a key for every lock (locks being lonely humans and keys being the dogs they’ll love). Each episode, a rescued pooch is paired up with a dog-seeking person, couple or family at a specialist rehoming centre that employs people who are as lovely as they are covered with dog hair. It’s perhaps less of a comfort blanket of a show and more of an emotional valve-opener (tissues required), but the reassurance is built-in to the repeating structure: sad person adopts previously unwanted dog and happiness ensues. Play next episode? Yes please.


Stream on: BBC iPlayer (UK); Paramount+ (US)

One of the few modern sitcoms that can be relied upon to be both a) actually funny and b) actually lovely. From the cast and creators of Horrible Histories and Yonderland, Ghosts ended after five series in 2023, to much upset among fans who didn’t know what they were going to do without the Captain, Pat, Robin, Lady B, Kitty, Julian, Thomas, Humphrey and the rest of them. Its story of Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) inheriting a dilapidated mansion and the ability to see the ghosts of people who’ve died there across the centuries is warm and entertaining family fare.

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, what are you doing reading this? Go and have the pleasure, immediately.

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Sort Your Life Out With Stacey Solomon

Stream on: BBC iPlayer (UK)

Reckon you’re immune to the catharsis of somebody donating 33 identical spatulas to a charity shop so that they can finally open their cutlery drawer? You’re not. Nobody is.

In this reality series, Stacey Solomon and her gang travel the country like human enemas, blasting through the blocked houses of the UK. They empty your place, lay out all your stuff out individually on the floor of an aircraft hangar, make you get rid of half of it, then put the rest back neatly in storage boxes to which Solomon has glue-gunned seashells and bits of stick that she’s spray-painted gold. I recommend watching it on mute accompanied by whale song.

Death in Paradise

Stream on: BBC iPlayer (UK); BritBox (US)

Not just cosy crime, but cosy crime on a beautifully sunny Caribbean island filled with scuttling hermit crabs and shady palm trees. What do we call that? Tropical crime? SPF-50 crime?

Yes, the Caribbean isle of Saint Marie is beset by murder on a weekly basis, but it’s the kind of murder that can be investigated while drinking rum out of a coconut to a steelpan soundtrack, so don’t expect to feel anguish.  Every episode is reassuringly the same to the point that if you were to drop off in one, sleep through the next and wake up in a third, you’d still be able to follow it all. Perfect for a walnut shell escape from reality.

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Stream on: BBC iPlayer (UK); The Roku Channel, Acorn TV (US)

Mackenzie Crook’s Detectorists, about metal detectorists Lance (Crook) and Andy (Toby Jones), has a distinct atmosphere that’s immersive enough to drown out the real world. Set between the fields, local pub and community hall of a quiet, rural village, as Lance and Andy search for buried history while sometimes ignoring the world going on around them, it’s perfectly painted on a very small canvas. With well-drawn characters, a great cast, and a wistful take on what life is all about, it’s comforting without being twee and warm without being sentimental. Johnny Flynn’s folk music score is spot-on, too.


Stream on: Channel (UK); YouTube (Worldwide)

If you don’t know by now that Taskmaster, about to enter its 17th series on Channel 4, is the crème de la crème of comfort TV, then you may wish to seek medical advice.

It’s a simple premise: five comedians per series are set a bunch of spectacularly stupid challenges by creator Alex Horne, and are then judged on their performances by Greg “The Taskmaster” Davies. It’s funny, silly, varied, family-friendly, and there’s so much of it (including the international versions) that you’ll basically never run out and have to face the real world – the dream!