The USA has its fair share of great comedy shows, but the British take on the genre is an altogether different experience. If you want to indulge in the UK’s eccentricities, awkwardness, and wit, here are the best British comedies to watch on Netflix.
After the success of The Office, a lot was resting on Ricky Gervais’ and Stephen Merchant’s next major venture. Could the comedians deliver a series that was the equal to the mockumentary that arguably changed the TV landscape forever?
Fortunately, Extras proved that they weren’t one-hit-wonders. In fact, some corners of the internet think Extras is even better than The Office.
Andy Millman tries to get fame and fortune, working his way up from being a supporting artist to getting his name in lights. Along the way, he mixes with the stars and discovers they’re not as brilliant as Hollywood paints them.
Extras features a who’s who of the big screen, with Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, David Tennant, Samuel L. Jackson, Daniel Radcliffe, and the late David Bowie all playing twisted versions of themselves.
This show is barmy. You may already know its leading man, Greg Davies, from his role as Mr Gilbert in The Inbetweeners. He’s one of the best-known British comedians, and the ideal choice for the lead, Ken Thompson. Ken is driven to the edge by his son-in-law, played in the first season by Saturday Night Live’s Andy Samberg.
When Thompson’s daughter, Rachel (Tamla Kari, then Esther Smith) returns from her gap year, she brings along her new husband, Dale. He’s a loud, laissez-faire American who brings out the worst in the uptight family unit he finds himself in.
Cuckoo gained a lot of press for its second season after Samberg proved too busy to film more episodes. Twilight star Taylor Lautner subsequently replaced Samberg as Dale’s illegitimate son in the second season. For the fifth season, Lautner’s absence is filled by Andie MacDowell (Four Weddings And A Funeral) as Ivy, Ken’s wealthy half-sister with sinister designs.
Dad’s Army is a true British classic. Broadcast from 1968 to 1977, the series swiftly became recognized as one of the best British comedy TV shows. So much so that writers, Jimmy Perry and David Croft, are considered comedic legends.
Dad’s Army focuses on the fictional Walmington-On-Sea home guard as they prepare for German invasion during World War II.
In lesser hands, the conflict’s seriousness could have overshadowed the sitcom’s whimsy and ridiculousness. Fortunately, the clever writing and hilarious performances—including Arthur Lowe (Coronation Street), John Le Mesurier (The Italian Job), and Clive Dunn (The Avengers)—make this a charming, witty, and joyous show.
It ran for 80 episodes across nine seasons, so is a great British comedy show to binge-watch!
Have you ever wondered what Brits think Hollywood is really like? Episodes takes that notion, adds in Friends star, Matt LeBlanc, and questions “the American dream”.
Tamsin Greig (Black Books) and Stephen Mangan (I’m Alan Partridge) play married writing team, Bev and Sean, who dream of hitting the big time in the US. After their sitcom wins a BAFTA, they’re sent to America to remake it, albeit with LeBlanc unsuitably cast as the lead.
The whole cast is strong, but LeBlanc really makes this worthwhile. He’s very happy to tear down any idealized version of himself people may have, and instead poke fun, transforming his good nature into a hideous distortion.
If you’re searching for shows like Doc Martin—the ever-popular series that’s sadly now missing from Netflix—then Last Tango in Halifax is a strong contender.
Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) are former childhood sweethearts whose lives went in very different directions. Now in their 70s, they get back in touch and discover that their love for each other is still there. They form the anchor for the narrative, which veers off to explore the experiences of their families, as mindsets clash and societal boundaries butt heads.
There are tonnes of great shows exclusive to the streaming service. There are even some cancelled Netflix Originals worth watching. After Life, though, hasn’t suffered the same fate as Daredevil, Sense8, or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Its first season was such a success, a second was quickly commissioned.
It’s a typical Ricky Gervais premise: Tony’s world is turned upside-down by the death of his wife. This makes him look at life in a different way; he’s now determined to say and do whatever he feels like, regardless of it hurting others. In response to this, his family and friends attempt to turn him into a better person.
It’s a grim topic, but dealt with well through dry humor and an endearing, dissonant optimism.
And now for something completely different… If you really want to take a trip through the looking glass, Monty Python is for you.
You’ll probably have seen the franchise’s films, notably Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) and Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979). If so, you’ll know what you’re in for from the original TV series. Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin wonderfully satirize the British establishment through this surreal sketch show.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and remains a milestone in TV history.
Many classic sitcoms like Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, The Thin Blue Line, and Only Fools and Horses were broadcast on the BBC. And one of the reasons it’s such an important institution is its ability to make fun of itself. W1A is a prime example of that.
The series began as Twenty-Twelve, a tongue-in-cheek mockumentary about organizing the London 2012 Olympics. The spoof proved so popular, the BBC used the same strong cast—including Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Jessica Hynes (Spaced), and Jason Watkins (Nativity!)—to joke about its own branding, jargon, and high-profile disputes.
Narrated by Doctor Who’s David Tennant, W1A also features a number of celebrity cameos, including controversial novelist Salman Rushdie, actor Samuel West, and mathematics whiz Carol Vorderman.
What Are Your Favorite British Comedies on Netflix?
If you’re searching for funny British shows on Netflix, there’s something here for everyone. Hopefully, you’ll invest in a few and use them as entry points for other great British comedies, such as Are You Being Served?, As Time Goes By, and Fawlty Towers.
If you’re looking for more ways to stream British TV, consider BritBox and Acorn TV. And be sure to read our article pitting BritBox versus Acorn TV
to decide which of these is the best option for you.