Best comedies on Netflix UK 2018: From Peep Show to The Good Place
Ah, Netflix. Pillar of our cultural zeitgeist, it’s become a much-needed source of respite for its 110 million users. Replete with quality content, from gritty Scandinavian noir to technicoloured nature documentaries, Netflix is certainly the content-streaming service du jour.
There are, however, few rituals more relaxing in our stress-ridden world than coming home, cracking open a bottle of red, and indulging in some cleverly conceived TV comedy.
We’ve rounded up the best comedies on Netflix UK, from the site’s highly esteemed Originals series to cult classics like The Thick of It.
We will regularly update this page with new entries. Not least of all at the behest of the office here at Alphr, who are enjoying this “research” immensely. Stay tuned.
Best comedies on Netflix UK
This US sitcom has perhaps the most loyal fanbase I’ve ever encountered. Following the lives of the fictitious and eminently dysfunctional Bluth family, the show is revered for its “Easter egg” jokes, spawning internet-wide tributes to its cleverly concealed genius. If the mark of a truly great TV show is that it gets better with each watch, Arrested Development fits the bill perfectly. Every watch reveals some minute detail or in-joke that the casual watcher might have missed on first inspection. That, and Michael Cera stars, which is reason enough to watch just about anything.
Season five has just landed now, alongside a remixed version of the extremely complex season four to help you get up to speed with the myriad plotlines.
The show that needs no introduction. But we’re going to give it one, anyway, because who doesn’t enjoy gushing about the show that everyone loves to love. Friends is the TV equivalent of a big, warm, reassuring hug. If you’re ever feeling down, or sick, or hungover, Friends is just the show to whack on as a failsafe mood-lifter. Chronicling the (wholly unrealistic) lives of six twenty-somethings living in Manhattan in the late nineties and early noughties, Friends has made us laugh for decades now, and no doubt will for decades to come. The sitcom to end all sitcoms.
This is British comedy at its finest. You’ll almost certainly be acquainted with the El Dude Brothers, aka the lugubrious Mark Corrigan (David Mitchell) and hapless Jeremy “Jez” Usbourne (Robert Webb). If you thought your love life was calamitous, your career plateauing, or your familial relationships strained, you’ll have a big old re-evaluation (for the better) after a dose of Peep Show. Marvel at their misfortunes, which are comedically fleshed out by a vibrant roster of astoundingly well-developed secondary characters; think Olivia Coleman as love-interest-turned-embittered-baby-mama Sophie, and Matt King as the OG wild card Super Hans, a persona so popular he’s continued the franchise as a DJ.
The Good Place
Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) is dead. That’s not ideal, but it’s okay, because she’s gone to The Good Place – an afterlife in stark contrast to The Bad Place. The bad news is that she’s not supposed to be there, and the rest of the season involves her trying to maintain her life in a world she’s definitely not supposed to be in, while not arousing suspicion of The Good Place’s architect, Michael (Ted Danson). Not only is The Good Place a pretty funny series in its own right, it has an impressive number of twists and turns along the way, with each 20-minute episode leaving with a cliffhanger which will see you shoot through series one in no time. Series two is, sadly, a whole lot less interesting, falling for familiar sitcom tropes – but hey: the first series is brilliant and innovative.
Monty Python (Flying Circus, Life of Brian and The Holy Grail)
Does Monty Python need any introduction? It shouldn’t do, and from 15 April, UK Netflix will have access to Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and several live specials. Okay, so The Meaning of Life is missing, but this is a great opportunity to rewatch some of the most influential British comedy of all time, straight from the clever minds of Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
How to explain It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? In theory, it’s about four (season one) or five (season two onwards) dysfunctional friends, trying to run Paddy’s Pub in South Philadelphia. In practice, the bar barely gets a mention, as the group have increasingly unlikely adventures where they (for example) make Lethal Weapon 6 or host a child beauty pageant. It’s hilariously offensive and has been described as Seinfeld on acid – chiefly because like Seinfeld the characters are all hugely unlikeable and never learn anything ever.
Rick and Morty
If you’ve been looking for a comedy that plays with science fiction tropes such as time travel, parallel universes and more, then Rick and Morty might just fill that Red Dwarf-shaped hole in your life. Following the foul-mouthed adventures of genius scientist Rick Sanchez and his easily-led grandson Morty Smith, the animated show has plenty of memorable moments and laughs along the way. My personal favourite episode? Total Rickall where a space parasite infects the main protagonists, manifesting itself as wacky guest characters that implant posiive memories into the hosts… look, just watch it, I’m doing a terrible job of explaining.
Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father
Jack Whitehall can be quite polarising, but he must have a loyal fanbase because he keeps being commissioned to host and feature on various panel shows and comedies. He takes a slight back seat in Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father because his Dad is the star of this show.
A documentary-cum-road trip comedy, Jack and his father Michael travel through Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia in an attempt to experience what it’s like to be on a gap year. Michael is insufferable, but amusingly so, and refuses to stay in hostels and eat the Asian food. It starts off a little slow but as it warms up, the relationship between the two is rather endearing and gives an interesting glimpse at the cultures of the countries, even if that’s not always the point.
A (very) adult take on the James Bond-style spy genre where the protagonist, Sterling Archer, is a selfish tool. Featuring an instantly recognisable voice cast including Chris Parnell (Saturday Night Live, Rick and Morty), Jessica Walter (Arrested Development) and H Jon Benjamin (Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy), Archer is a fast-moving comedy that’s instantly quotable with plenty of running jokes that awards repeat watching.
There are a whopping nine series on Netflix, and although it loses its way a bit towards the later stuff, the first four seasons are well worth watching. And then watching again.
“How do I know he loves me? I guess the only way to prove it… is with abstract symbolism,” opens a song from the furiously funny CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. What proceeds is a musical number that vaguely riffs off Beyoncé’s Lemonade, in which the show’s protagonist Rebecca Bunch hoards “love kernels” to sustain a phantom bond between her and a former summer camp boyfriend. “Want some of my smoothie?” asks none-the-wiser Josh to a lovesick Rebecca. “Each little crumb another tasty clue […] ‘cos if you read between the lines he’s saying I love you”. The show is brilliantly funny – The Guardian called it “near miraculous” – even if a musical romcom sounds like your idea of personal hell. Pull a Rebecca, and give love a chance.
The Thick of It
This UK cult classic – birthplace of the insult “omnishambles” – lampoons the day-to-day workings of British government. Described as the 21st century’s answer to Yes Minister, the show is written by, among others, Jesse Armstrong, the comedic mastermind behind Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and Four Lions. “Shall I find out, get some feelers?” asks one governmental underling in the midst of a “massive irretrievable data loss”. “Yeah go on. Get your feelers out for the lads,” barks the show’s protagonist and antihero Malcom Tucker (Peter Capaldi).
The Thick of It launched in 2005 and has careered from success to success since, scooping up “Best Situation Comedy” at the BAFTAs in 2006 and 2010, and gaining recognition from the Royal Television Society and the Broadcasting Press Guild.Its incorruptible stature became apparent in 2007, when an American remake of the show failed to take flight. “It was terrible,” lamented the show’s creator Armando Iannucci, “they took the idea and chucked out all the style. It was all conveniently shot and there was no improvisation or swearing. It didn’t get picked up, thank God”. Nobody does hapless comedy like us Brits.
Okay, so it probably fits better in the romantic comedy subcategory, but Judd Apatow’s Love is too damn funny to omit from this list. The show holds up a magnifying glass to the expendability, treachery and ultimate vulnerability that characterise modern day dating. I defy anyone not to wince with empathy when protagonist Gus (Paul Rust) spends hours drafting a text message to love interest Mickey (Gillian Jacobs), toying with emojis and cringing at his own romantic ineptitude. Compounded when Mickey refers to him as a “weird little dude”. Ouch.
Master of None
Follow the life of 30-year-old commercial actor (“Jack of all trades, master of none”) Dev Shah, brainchild of – and portrayed by – comedian Aziz Ansari, as he navigates the professional and romantic pitfalls of New York City. The show debuted in 2015 to critical acclaim and popular praise – there’s an incredibly rare 100% approval rating for the recently released Season 2 on Rotten Tomatoes that testifies to this. There are familiar romcom tropes, of course, but the overarching effect is upbeat, charming, and eminently heart-warming.
Alan Partridge (I’m Alan Partridge, Knowing Me Knowing You)
Speaking of hapless protagonists, the OG Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) never disappoints – Vanity Fair once dubbed him a “national treasure”. Superfans can even indulge in Christmas special, the aptly named Knowing Me Knowing Yule. A robustly British satire, watchers will be relieved to know there’s almost no creative room for an ill-judged American knock-off. Completely idiotic, but also compelling, cogent, and clever. And I’m not just saying this because my editor threatened to “let me go” if I didn’t include Britain’s favourite radio presenter, although her zealousness certainly attests to his brilliance.
In a male-dominated industry, this 1980s-era comedy about female wrestlers in Los Angeles provides a much-needed breath of fresh air. The premise, which fictionalises a real-life 1980s wrestling franchise, is inspired: an eclectic group of women – all wrestlers – convene to film the pilot for TV show The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW), under stewardship of boozy, misogynistic director Sam (Marc Maron). It’s fun, it’s unselfconscious, it’s empowering. I like to think of it as the TV comedy equivalent of when the ladies of London picnicked on the Underground as a life-affirming riposte to “Women Who Eat on Tubes”. Splendidly, unapologetically mirthful.
On paper, The Trip sounds pretty unremarkable: you watch fictionalised versions Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge from The Day Today onwards) and Rob Brydon (Uncle Bryn from Gavin and Stacy) go around various countries eating food together. In fact, watching the two comics riff off each other’s (excellent) celebrity impressions makes for wonderful television. There isn’t too much of a plot from episode to episode, because not a great deal happens, but overall arcs to emerge over time… and neither actor is afraid to ridicule the level of fame they’ve ended up at as they embrace middle age.
Netflix is free for the first month, and costs £5.99, £7.99 or £9.99 monthly thereafter, depending on the price plan you pick.