British Comedy

Chase Away the Winter Blahs by Streaming These Notable British Sitcoms

Winter weather got you down?  I find the best way to fight the cold weather blahs is a good dose of British comedy. Sitcoms are a great antidote because they are short, efficient at lifting spirits and they’re brimming with chuckles and the occasional guffaw.

In aid of the communal mental health of British TV fans, I’ve compiled a list of stream-able UK comedy series. Each is celebrating an anniversary of sorts in 2018 and with this sort of variety you should be able to find one to suit your sense of humor. If you're unfamiliar with a particular show, test out the clips and see what tickles your fancy.

Retirement Is a Laughing Matter (on British Telly)

Whether you call them senior citizens, retirees or OAPs (old age pensioners), people of advanced age certainly have a sizable presence in British entertainment. Popular series such as Last Tango in Halifax, Vicious, The Old Guys and Boomers feature seniors as main characters, not just someone’s colorful grandfather or an eccentric old auntie to provide a laugh or wise word when called upon.

Think back to 2011’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel wherein a group of British retirees make the trek to India to live out their golden years. Their reasons may have varied –the warmer climate, cheaper cost of living, an opportunity to reconnect with the past and as a means for getting a needed operation much sooner – but they all found a sense of community. The success of this film is a prime example of the bankability of stories focused on elderly characters and their concerns.

This showcase of British acting legends was so popular that a follow-up, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, was just released. With a cast of respected and award winning veterans who range in age from 62 (Celia Imrie) to 80 (Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench), this highly anticipated sequel demonstrates that there is a significant audience for stories that don’t involve perfectly pert bodies, martial arts fighting sequences or pyrotechnics.

That’s not to say that aging is a cozy, gentle process. Ask anyone who’s approaching AARP membership eligibility (that includes me) and they’ll tell you there’s nothing easy about getting old or about adjusting to retirement. Fortunately, British telly strives to makes us laugh at an issue we all have to face sooner or later.

Bickering Telly Couples: ‘Vicious’ and Beyond

The sitcom Vicious has just started airing on PBS stations this past weekend and it certainly lives up to its name. Starring British acting legends Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi, the two play a gay couple who’ve been together for almost half a century. A lifetime of companionship has worn on their collective nerves and most of what remains between them is catty remarks, primarily from Freddie (McKellan), and not just a little resentment on the part of Stuart (Jacobi).

Of course deep down the two men really do love one another, but if everything between them was sweetness and light it wouldn’t be nearly as funny, would it?

That got me to thinking about other telly couples who are prone to rows and other types of altercations. Regardless of the nature of the relationship, discord and disagreement makes things interesting and, when you’re not the one in the middle of it all, funny as well.

British Actresses You Should Know: The Many Faces of Catherine Tate

Normally when we do these British Actors You Should Know installments, Lacy or I choose a talented British performer and then introduce you, the readers, to a sampling of their TV and film work. This time I’ve selected Catherine Tate as my featured actress.

Sure she’s played my favorite Doctor Who companion Donna Noble, appeared as James McAvoy’s mother in the delightful comedy Starter for 10 and even crossed the pond to join the cast of the American Office for their final two seasons. But I’ve elected to highlight her sketch comedy work from The Catherine Tate Show. This wide range of characters display Tate’s talents for memorable catchphrases, comic timing and a hilarious ability to transform into characters of any age, class or gender. Let’s meet a few, shall we?

Missing 'The IT Crowd'? Here are Some Workplace Sitcoms You Should Watch Instead

If you are a fan of The IT Crowd like me, you too have been on pins and needles over the past few years. Back in the summer of 2010, we left co-workers Roy, Moss, and Jen celebrating the relatively successful outcome of their boss, Douglas Reynholm’s divorce trial, secure in the assumption that we’d be seeing them again quite soon.

Little did we know that our expectations were premature. After all, before Series 4 even aired, the show’s creator Graham Linehan announced that IT Crowd would be returning in 2011 for a fifth series.

Hurray! We were innocent and carefree. We had no reason to believe we’d never hear Roy ask if someone had turned their computer off and back on again.

Except it didn’t (and hasn’t) quite worked out like that. We’re still waiting. So here’s some advice on what to watch in the meantime.

We’ll Miss You, Captain Peacock: “Are You Being Served?” Star Frank Thornton Passes Away at 92

Fans of British comedy will be saddened to hear of the passing of Frank Thornton, the remarkable character actor who was probably best known for his portrayal of Captain Peacock on long-running, popular Britcom Are You Being Served?.

Thornton, who was 92, died peacefully in his sleep at his home on London on Saturday, March 16, according to his longtime agent David Daley. He is survived by Beryl, his wife of 67 years, their daughter Jane and three grandchildren.

"He was a great friend and consummate performer who was the glue who really held Are You Being Served? together," said co-creator Jeremy Lloyd.

Click through for the BBC report on his passing, as well as clips and links.