Tuesday links: Ides of March edition
First off, the important stuff. Text REDCROSS to 90999 or donate here to help those devastated by the quake and tsunamis in Japan. If you don’t give through the Red Cross, then please give through the organization of your choice. If you happen to be one of the morons who thinks that this was god punishing a bunch of unbelievers and sinners, then you sicken me (and god too, btw) and I hope you find yourself in a dimly lit alley way soon and hear footsteps rapidly coming up behind you.
Now, I was raised to beware the Ides of March, so I thought I’d give you something a little different for the Tuesday links, a top five of my favorite British sitcoms, some of which you may have heard of, all of which are worth your time to seek out. (What does this have to do with the Ides of March? No idea, just work with me and stop asking uncomfortable questions.) One of the best things about British comedies is that the “seasons” (usually called a series by our friends across the pond) are much shorter, and may only consist of 6 or 7 episodes per season. Plus there is a great tradition of ending these shows much earlier than shows in America, so there’s very little filler and much less of a chance that a show will overstay it’s welcome and jump the shark, or, worse yet, resort to a “very special episode.” (Note that I didn’t consider Monty Python’s Flying Circus for this list, since, well, it’s Monty Freaking Python and they exist out on their own plane of existence.)
5. The IT Crowd: The only show on this list that’s still in production, this is basically Office Space with the IT nerd factor of infinity. The IT Crowd just finished its fourth series (and has been renewed for a 5th, which makes it the longest running show on this list, and therefore the one most likely to have a quality drop off at some point. You can find all four series currently on Netflix streaming.
4. The League of Gentlemen: Not to be confused with the not so brilliant The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It’s hard to describe this show with words, other than it is really, really funny, but occasionally really, really disturbing. Disturbing to the point where if some of these scripts were handed into a high school English teacher by a student, I’d hope she seriously consider calling the cops. Available on DVD only in the U.S. Crème Brulee!
3. The Office: The original, and still the best by a long shot. The American version of The Office is of course better known here, but quite frankly it can’t hold a candle to the Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant original creation. (This duo is also responsible for the honorable mention Extras as well as An Idiot Abroad on Science Channel, probably the funniest show going at the moment.) Gervais’ David Brent is so self absorbed and clueless that he makes the characters from Seinfeld look caring and well meaning. Series 1 and 2 of this comedic masterpiece are also currently available to stream on Netflix.
2. Fawlty Towers: This is as good as television comedy gets, has gotten, will get, or some other strained construction of “get.” Only 12 episodes were made, and all of them, you guessed it, are available to stream on Netflix (have I mentioned lately how much I love you, Netflix streaming? No, I’ll try to remember to express my feelings about you more often.)
1. Spaced: Objectively, is it as good as Fawlty Towers? No, probably not, but director Edgar Wright brings a film makers eye and approach to the tired sitcom format, and loads enough pop culture references to make even the hippest trivia buff slow down and take a second look. Spaced brought together the trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost together for the first time before they went on to make two of the best comedies in recent memory, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (you can see the genesis of Shaun in one episode). Spaced, sadly, is not available on Netflix streaming, but is available on DVD in the U.S. after a long, protracted struggle over music licensing, as well as streaming on Hulu.