I bet Paul Revere wouldn’t have been able to see this coming. What am I referring to, you ask? The influx of premium British television shows that seem to exist in abundance, for us all to pluck from as we see fit. I am going on the record, right now, to say that I truly believe that some of the best television I have ever seen has been British in lineage. And the factors for this are many.
The main reason is that British TV is far less scrutinized and censored, so often times what we see will be ripe with sex and violence of the most uncensored kind. But that is not the selling point at all. As you will see from these five shows, no single element runs through them. A few of them are riotously funny in ways we have never seen before. A few of them are incredibly dark and deal with things that would be taboo to most American audiences. And mainly, you have shows that don’t pander. Shows that do not dumb themselves down for the sake of their audience. Shows that change the terms of what we are used to seeing on TV. Also, in a few of these cases, shows that introduced huge future movie stars to the world through British television.
And honestly, even if you hate British television because it makes you think of stuffy, uptight humor, YOU are the reason I am making this list. I promise (and you can hold me to this here) that every single one of you reading this right now will find at least one British television show on this list that you enjoy immensely.
And only Commies don’t like Spaced.Next
You know I had to start with the show that launched the careers of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, who are now in the final chapter of their Three Flavours of Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End). Spaced is, and I mean this, the best “nerd” show ever. When people tell me The Big Bang Theory is the best “nerd show” ever, I want to big bang them in the brain with a hammer. Sorry, I have violence issues.
Spaced is a show about two friends who need to pretend to be a couple to be able to afford the flat they want. The couple in this case is Tim (played by Simon Pegg) and Daisy (played by Jessica Hynes, who deserves to be WAY more famous than she is) and the flat they want is in a building full of a motley crew of personalities, the most memorable being the war obsessed Mike Watt, played with passion by Nick Frost.
What made the show work so well was the genuine camaraderie between the cast, and the constant flow of nerd references, from anti-Jar Jar speeches before they were cool, to video game references only the nerdiest of us will get, Spaced is not only one of the best shows out of the Britain. It is one of the best shows ever made.Previous Next
The Young Ones
How do I explain The Young Ones to someone who has never seen it?
Imagine the Sex Pistols and The Three Stooges had kids, and this show was about them, as 20-something slackers living in England in the 80′s, and you have a quarter of an idea, at least.
The Young Ones was a British television show that ran from 1982-1984, about four flat mates living together even though they had wildly different personalities. The humor on the show ran the gamut, from dark (with a beheading used for laughs) to the slapstick (same scene, body now stumbling around looking for its own head). It was insane and irreverent, and everything you had never seen on a television show outside of Monty Python, yet here it was.
Funny side fact about this. It was on at midnight on Sundays on MTV in the very early nineties. It was also the first non-musical program the channel ever ran. Also, the anarchist character RICK is pretty much my favorite TV character of all time.
The Fades could have (and probably still should become) a film. It is an epic good-versus-evil tale on the scale of Buffy (the Whedon show) and it was creepy, tense, and incredibly well made. The Fades was a British television show about a teenager named Paul who is haunted by apocalyptic visions, and on top of that, can see “The Fades”, which are the spirits of the dead that can’t be heard, seen, touched, or smelt by other humans. It puts Paul at a real disadvantage.
Add into that the “evil” Fade named Polus, who figures out a way to become human again, and suddenly you realize Paul is not only cursed with this “gift”, but pretty much has to figure out a way to save humanity against the Fades, who want to become real again and destroy all of humanity in the process.
See, light-hearted stuff.
No, but seriously, if you are a fan of shows like Buffy and The X-Files, The Fades reminds me of the best aspects of those shows, all while bringing something entirely new to the table as well.Previous Next
Okay, brace yourselves for this.
I think that the first two seasons of Misfits might be the best television I have ever seen. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I can tell you NO SHOW in history pulled me in like that show did, and it really was the best of everything. It was gritty, funny, and very fucked up, tackling subject matter I never thought I would see in a show disguised as a teen drama.
Misfits also has Robert Sheehan in the first fourteen episodes as Nathan Young, who may be, and I do mean this, one of the most memorable characters from all of fiction. Why he is not a mega superstar is beyond me. I know it sounds like I am going a bit overboard, but really, this show is perfect.
Misfits is about a group of juvenile delinquents serving community service who get granted insane super powers during a freak electrical storm. It sounds silly, but by the end of the first episode, this show will be crack, and you will be reaching for the lighter.
First you have Nathan, whose power I will not ruin because half the joy of season one is trying to figure out what it is. He is brash, cocky, and utterly hilarious. A more engrossing character you are not likely to see anytime soon. Sometimes despicable, but always entertaining, he will draw you in and get you watching.
You have Curtis, the fallen track star who can rewind time when his guilt gets bad enough.
You have the gutter snipe, Kelly, who suddenly goes all Professor-X and can read minds.
You have the very sultry, Alisha, who is cursed with sending people into a sexual frenzy (I have that curse, too).
And you have Simon who, well, you’ll see. He has many layers to his character, and by the end of season two, he will have blown your mind, many times over.
Though the show fell off quite a bit when Robert Sheehan left, it is still well worth watching, but those first two seasons are so good they cast a spell on you. Watch them and try to tell me I’m wrong on this.Previous Next
The Mighty Boosh
Okay, The Mighty Boosh, out of all the British television shows on the list, will be the one least likely to win you over, just due to how odd it can be. So let me give you that disclaimer one more time, this show is odd. Think Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job as fed through the Monty Python machine, and you still have no idea what you are in for. Is it sketch comedy? Or is it an actual show with an evolving story? Well, it is both, and so much more.
But I am here mainly to tell you about Old Gregg.
Old Gregg is a magical soul that every human being needs to experience, and you can only experience Old Gregg through The Mighty Boosh. So what is an “Old Gregg”? Well, if you look at that picture up there, you can SEE an Old Gregg. He is an intersexual merman who likes to drink Bailey’s out of a boot and paint watercolors, and that is him in a tut flashing his “mangina.”
Which is to say, this shit is exactly as awesome as it sounds. Need I say more?
I think not.Previous