British humour is sharp. It is wry. And there is a distinct flavour to it. The immaculate etiquette with which something sarcastic is delivered, means the joke stings more than it should. However, for the audience it is funny unlike anything they've ever seen. Over the years, the etiquette might have gone down the drain but the jokes are extremely witty even when they are dirty.
Credit to writers like Ricky Gervais and Steven Moffat who bring out those inherently funny scripts and have taken over splendidly from the earlier generation of John Cleese and Stephen Fry. Here are 20 British sitcoms you should watch instead of the usual American humour:
1. The IT Crowd
Chris O'Dowd, Richard Ayoade and Katherine Parkison form an inept IT team for an inept CEO. The show made the phrase "Have you tried turning it off and on?" famous. The show follows the mishaps the team has to face time and again in everyday operations.
2. The Office
The original series was equally hilarious before Ricky Gervais rewrote the show for an American audience and put Steve Carell in the middle. David Brent (played by Gervais himself) was the centrepiece of the British version which chronicled the daily operations of a company and the eccentric characters working there.
Edgar Wright's claim to fame before Hollywood discovered him. The show stars his long-time collaborator and friend Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson. The show follows the lives of two twenty-something Londoners who meet during flat-hunting and pose as a couple to attain a cheap flat in a posh colony. The show ran for two seasons between 1999 and 2001.
Ricky Gervais in the thick of things again, as he co-wrote, co-directed the show with Stephen Merchant and then went on to star in it. The show follows the lives of a few 'extra' artists used in film and TV as they go about life so close to fame and yet without it. The show is famous for its Hollywood cameos by Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Stiller and Patrick Stewart to name a few.
5. Peep Show
The show follows the lives of two friends sharing a flat in Croydon, London. One of the two is a cynical loan manager, the other is a slacker, no-good musician. The show plays on the dynamics of these polar opposite friends. Peep Show never became a commercial success but went on to become a cult favourite.
6. The Inbetweeners
Following the lives of four teenagers, The Inbetweeners explored themes of school bullies, a broken home, failed sexual encounters and bonding with the boys. The show went on to become a hit based on which two movies came out, both of which were successes.
The sitcom follows the struggles of a suburban couple 'outnumbered' by their three children. The show's brilliance came in the form that the two adult actors knew the script before hand while the children were given last-minute instructions by the writer's team. It was lauded for its semi-improvisational script and the realistic portrayal of the children.
Britain's answer to Marta Kaufman's international hit TV series FRIENDS, Coupling was about 3 couples. The show followed three separate tracks of love stories which keep intermingling since all six character know each other. The show was widely appreciated for its witty dialogue and is rumoured to have been inspired from Steven Moffat's personal experiences of dating.
9. Monty Python
This show was put together by a bunch of famous directors including John Cleese and Terry Gilliam who chose to target the everyday idiosyncrasies of British life and had a dark, political undertone to it. It started off in 1969 and was revived in 2000. The show's satire is considered to be one of Britain's finest.
10. Fawlty Towers
Another venture by the brilliant John Cleese, this show had its leading man running a hotel called Fawlty Towers set in the fictitious town of Torquay. It focuses on the 4 main characters trying to run the hotel amidst farcical situations popping up everyday. It has been noted to be one of the influential sitcoms of all time.
11. Mr. Bean
Rowan Atkinson owns this goofball character, as he goes about his everyday activities and the hilarious-yet-believable situations he faces every day. The sitcom was co-written by Atkinson and Richard Curtis. Mr. Bean was later adapted to Hollywood movies as well. It remains one of the funniest one-man acts.
12. A Bit of Fry & Laurie
When two actors of the pedigree of Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry came together to write and enact sketches, it was bound to be one of the funniest. Some of the sketches like The Understanding Barman are still popular three decades after it came out. They went on to become a popular duo in the British comic circuit.
The same team behind Mr. Bean, both Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis co-wrote the show as Atkinson went on to star in the title role of Edmund Blackadder. Each season of the series was set in a different time period accompanying its two lead characters Blackadder and his errand boy Baldrick. The show has guest appearances by both Fry and Laurie in separate episodes.
14. Yes, Minister
The series premiered on British television during the mid 80s and went on to even get a sequel with the name Yes, Prime Minister. The show followed the deeds of a British cabinet minister and his personal assistant as they navigate their way through everyday bureaucracy and politics. The show was rumoured to be Margaret Thatcher's favourite show on TV.
15. Are You Being Served?
Following the misdaventures of the staff within a departmental store called Grace Brothers, the show became one of the longest running sitcoms within Britain, as it lasted over 13 seasons. The show chronicles the mishaps of the gentlemen and ladies section of the departmental store as customers walk in everyday. The show had several spin-offs which came in after the show went off air in '85.
16. Gavin & Stacey
Starring James Corden in a supporting role, the show follows the long distance relationship of the title characters. While Gavin lives in Essex and Stacey stays in Glamorgan. The other significant characters are played by the couple's friends, their respective parents and elders of the family. The show ran for 20 episodes between 2007 and 2010.
17. The Thick of It
Our very own modern day Yes, Minister - the show parodied the inner workings of the current British government. It follows the life of a mid-level minister, his personal assistant and his advisers as they go about everyday bureaucracy and navigate their way through political landmines.
18. Black Books
The show follows the daily chronicles of the owner of a bookstore Bernard Black, and the daily mishaps he faces with his assistant and friend. Black Books is the name of the store Bernard owns, and is the site of the everyday action.
19. Jeeves and Wooster
After the success of A bit of Fry & Laurie, the two actors went on to star in PG Wodehouse's adaptation of Jeeves (Fry) and Wooster (Laurie). The show had Laurie playing the nonchalant billionaire, while Fry played his bold, intelligent valet. The stories chronicled their witty banter.
20. The Mighty Boosh
An underrated, bizarre show based on the work of the comedy troupe of the same name, it follows the life of two eccentric, failing musicians who get in touch with an alien called Naboo and hang out with a gorilla called Bollo. It has elaborate music sequences performed by both leading men - Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding.
They're funnier, innit?