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Sound the Crumpets

10 Binge-Worthy British Comedies

Catch Sharon Horgan on the new season of Todd Margaret starting January 7th at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: BBC America

It used to be said that Americans just didn’t “get” British humor with its heavy emphasis on irony, the absurd, and insults, but thanks to the growing number of ways people are both making and watching television on screens large and small, the Pond (as it were) between these two stalwart nations of comedy is growing smaller by the second. British comedy has influenced everything from All in the Family to the American version of The Office. Before you catch Sharon Horgan on the new season of Todd Margaret on IFC starting January 7th, check out these 10 hilarious series from the U.K. that will make you think BBC actually stands for Binge-worthy British Comedy.

1. Extras


Following the success of both the U.K. and U.S. versions of The Office, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant wrote, produced, and starred in this series about background actor Andy Millman (Gervais), his best friend Maggie (the delightfully daffy Ashley Jensen from Ugly Betty), and his apathetic, awkward agent, Darren (Merchant). As Andy begins to work his way up in showbiz, he encounters various celebrities (all playing arch, exaggerated versions of themselves) and often finds himself majorly putting his foot in his mouth. Extras brilliantly satirizes showbiz, celebrity, and the perils of trying to “make it,” employing Gervais and Merchant’s signature style of cringe-comedy blended with some surprisingly tender moments.


2. Miranda


American audiences may recognize Miranda Hart from Paul Feig’s hit comedy film Spy or as the lovable Chummy on the excellent PBS period drama Call the Midwife, but in the U.K., Hart is a beloved, well-known comedian who wrote, produced, and starred in this traditional, three-camera style sitcom loosely based on her own experiences as a thirty-something woman. Hart’s endearingly klutzy onscreen version of herself owns a joke shop with her best friend Stevie (Sarah Hadland), fending off her overbearing mother’s (Patricia Hodge, loftily great) plots to marry her off whilst crushing on her restaurant-owning dreamboat of a high school classmate, Gary (Tom Ellis).  Hart, much like her Spy costar Melissa McCarthy, is a wonderful physical comedian who is equally as adept at delivering punchlines and genuine moments of drama as she is pratfalls. Miranda is a silly (there is the occasional fart joke), fun, if occasionally bittersweet look at one woman’s journey to true adulthood.


3. Absolutely Fabulous


If you haven’t heard of glamorous BFFs Edina and Patsy by now, sweetie darling, you are seriously behind the times. Ab Fab, as it is more affectionately called by its enthusiastic fan base, is one of the most beloved sitcoms ever produced in Britain. PR maven Edina (show creator and writer Jennifer Saunders) and magazine editor Patsy (Joanna Lumley) often can be found drunk, high, and hilariously trying to stay “hip” to the most current trends much to the increasingly bitter chagrin of Edina’s teenage (then twenty-something) conservative daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha). The show has such a cult-following in both the U.K. and U.S., a film version, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, will hit the big screen in 2016.  World box-office domination in style sounds just like something of which Edina and Patsy would approve.


4. Pulling


Though it lasted only two seasons, Pulling was a hit with both critics and audiences alike and was a breakout vehicle for its writer and star, Todd Margaret‘s own Sharon Horgan. The series focuses on three single girlfriends living in a southeast London suburb and their various romantic misadventures with often laugh-out-loud, cringe-inducing results. This delightfully filthy NSFW comedy is the perfect companion series to Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck (but maybe also don’t watch it with your parents).

Watch Sharon Horgan talk with David Cross about the new season of Todd Margaret.


5. The Thick of It


Largely considered to be one of the best political satires of all-time, The Thick of It also gave actor Peter Capaldi one of his two signature “doctor” roles (and it’s not the one where he’s a time-traveling alien in a blue police phone-box over on BBC America): as foul-mouthed PR spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker. This hysterical, expletive-laced show with razor-sharp dialogue focuses on the fictional Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship and its blundering cabinet-members, often using real life current political events in Britain for inspiration. Creator Armando Iannucci is also responsible for one of the best political satires on THIS side of the Pond: HBO’s hit, Emmy-winning series Veep.


6. Gavin & Stacey


These days, James Corden is busy hosting The Late Late Show over on CBS with our old pal Reggie Watts, but before he became a household name in America, he already was one in the U.K., thanks in large part to Gavin & Stacey.  Corden got the idea for this endearingly kooky, bittersweet romantic comedy about a young couple falling in love after meeting one another over a series of long-distance phone calls from his own real life best friend, Gavin.  The series follows Gavin (Matthew Horn) and Stacey (Joanna Page) as they meet one another for the first time, get engaged, and work through all the little bumps and milestones along the way while their best friends Smithy (Corden) and Nessa (co-creator/writer Ruth Jones) struggle with their own complicated feelings for one another. Gavin & Stacey proves love can go the distance…even the kind over the telephone.


7. Getting On


While HBO has pulled off a fairly successful remake of Getting On, the original U.K. version from BBC Four is not to be missed. Praised for its realism and the superb performances of lead actresses Jo Brand, Joanna Scanlan, and Vicki Pepperdine (who also serve as head writers), Getting On is a scathingly funny, masterfully-rendered look at the ins-and-outs of nursing in the most difficult of conditions, leaving audiences unsure as to whether the tears in their eyes are from laughter or sadness. (Fun fact: the first two seasons were directed by Doctor Who himself Peter Capaldi.)


8. Coupling


Before he took on mega-hits Doctor Who and Sherlock, executive producer and writer Steven Moffat gave audiences Coupling, a sitcom focused on three men and three women in their late twenties and early thirties as they navigate work and relationships, partially inspired by his own relationship with his wife, producer Sue Vertue. If that formula sounds familiar, that’s because it’s something of a cross between Friends and Seinfeld. But as with most Moffat-penned shows, the brilliance of Coupling lies in the way he pushes the envelope of the traditional sitcom format by using devices like split-screens or non-linear storytelling, resulting in something intricately-plotted, wholly-original, and full of breezy wit. Which is something the short-lived American version of Coupling severely lacked.


9. That Mitchell and Webb Look


The U.K. has a rich tradition of sketch comedy (see: Monty Python, Catherine Tate, Fry & Laurie, Rowan Atkinson, etc.), but David Mitchell and Robert Webb form one of the most prominent and prolific sketch comedy duos in the modern era.  The pair wrote the popular Peep Show and also for Bruiser, the single-season BBC Two comedy that launched the careers of Martin Freeman and Broadchurch‘s Olivia Colman. That Mitchell and Webb Look features a number of recurring sketches and characters; some filthy (“Bawdy 1970s Hospital” comes to mind), some absurd (see the sketch, “The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar”), all laugh-out-loud funny.  It’s not hard to see why the show won a BAFTA for Best Comedy Program in 2007.


10. Moone Boy


Okay, this one is technically Irish, but it airs on British network Sky so we’ll count it. Chris O’Dowd has steadily been making his mark in the American comedy scene thanks to his 2011 breakout role as Kristen Wiig‘s adorable love interest in Bridesmaids, but some of his best work is his critically-acclaimed, semi-autobiographical series, Moone Boy, shot in his hometown in Ireland. The series, which is set in the late ’80s/early ’90s, centers on twelve year-old Martin Moone (Peter McDonald) and his imaginary best friend (O’Dowd) as they try navigating the perils of growing up using increasingly ridiculous schemes. The wondrous thing about Moone Boy is how O’Dowd brings Martin’s imagination to life by mixing animation and live-action to create something totally unique, surreal, and heartfelt. An American version is said to be in development at ABC, but the original is awfully hard to beat.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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