Saluting the undersung British TV shows of 2014

As the 2010s draw to a close, James looks back at some TV gems from 2014 that deserved more love...

2014 was a Winter Olympics year, which means all other TV was placed entirely on hold for basically all of February. Countdown hit episode 6,000, Bruce Forsythe handed over his dancing shoes to Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman as he retired from Strictly, and perhaps the biggest broadcast of the year was guideline-breaching aerial footage of Cliff Richard’s roof.

But while you were watching all that, this was happening elsewhere…

Continuing our 10-part series revisiting some of the best undersung British and non-US TV shows of the decade, here are a few favourites that arrived in 2014.


No it’s not a prequel to Babylon 5. It’s a comedy series co-created by names like Danny Boyle, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, and starring actors like Brit Marling, Daniel Kaluuya and Nick Blood. Set in London and focusing on the police force, this Channel 4 show was witty yet uncompromising in its satirical bent. There’s only one series, but it’s well worth a look.

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Perhaps stretching the definition of underappreciated here, but if there was any justice Detectorists would have been a BBC One prime-time show instead of the BBC Four breakout hit that it is today. Created by and starring Mackenzie Crook, the show looks at the politics and passions of a group of metal detectorists. With three glorious seasons and a conclusion that lives up to the quality of the show, it’s undeniably one of the UK’s top sitcoms of recent years, and here’s why we love it.

People Just Do Nothing

Bang! Lyrical blow to the jaw! Filmed mockumentary-style, this sitcom about a pirate radio station set in the London suburb of Brentford began as online shorts and will conclude, next year, in a film set to be released in August. That gives you eight months to catch up! The characters – largely confident well beyond their abilities – are ruthlessly on-point, yet well-rounded enough to be timeless in that true sitcom manner. If you watch one we guarantee you’ll be glued to it. 

Lovesick (Scrotal Recall)

The frankly abysmal title of Scrotal Recall might explain why the original Channel 4 run wasn’t a smash, but this show about a trio of housemates looking back over their sexual misadventures when one is diagnosed with chlamidya is refreshingly honest about love (physical and emotional) and a welcome antidote to most sitcom romances. Over its three seasons, its characters and their entanglements develop into something very satisfying, very romantic and very much worth a Netflix binge.

Inside No. 9

Spun from the minds of League Of Gentlemen alumni Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, this dark, weird comedy anthology varies in tone from episode to episode but is never less than gripping and inventive. The rotating cast features some huge British talents, including Kayvan Novak, Noel Clarke and Alice Lowe. From its sleeper-hit first series to its inventive 2018 Halloween special, from 12 Days Of Christine to Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room, it’s been nothing short of essential viewing. Read much more about it here.

House Of Fools

It’s fair to say that Reeves and Mortimer are a pair of surrealist geniuses, and that their two-series sitcom House Of Fools was, if anything, a casualty of their own originality. With bizarre running gags and an unbridled sense of anarchism about it, House Of Fools was never anything less than genius. It’s a mystery that it didn’t find enough of an audience to keep going.

The Crimson Field

Set during World War I, this little-discussed drama takes a look at the lives of medics and patients inside a field hospital in France. Written by the genius Sarah Phelps (whose Agatha Christie BBC adaptations are now a yearly treat), its somewhat idealised take on The Great War was a humanising look at one of recent history’s most important events, and it’s a shame it never got to see its planned four-series run.

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Set in rural Berkshire, this eight-episode whodunnit (featuring a pre-Fleabag Phoebe Waller-Bridge) focuses on the friends of a teenage boy and the community around him which unravels to reveal dark secrets as the search for the killer progresses. A great story from His Dark Materials‘ Jack Thorne and some overlooked home-grown noir.

Trying Again

Debuting on Sky Living, this show co-stars Chris Addison and Jo Joyner as a couple attempting to rebuild their relationship following an affair. It’s an unusual set-up for a comedy, but one that mines some new comic seams, not least the small-town feel of its Cumbrian setting where an affair is, it’s fair to say, bigger news than anyone realises. Emotional, witty and revealing, it’s a scandal this wasn’t allowed to continue.

Murdered By My Boyfriend

Perhaps one of the bleakest things on TV in the last decade, but no less brilliant because of it, Murdered By My Boyfriend is a one-off 60 minute piece based on the true story of Ashley Jones, who was murdered by a man who claimed to care for her. Inexorable and chilling, it shows in brutal detail how abuse can take over – and then end – a young life.