Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
North Norfolk’s finest broadcaster arrives on the silver screen in typical style – singing along to Roachford’s “Cuddly Toy” while driving to work – in this comic hostage drama, rich with all the awkwardness, pathos and lack of self-awareness you’d expect from Alan Partridge.
Alpha Papa might not win over non-fans, but anyone who’s adored Steve Coogan’s past work (and that’s many of you, we suspect) will get a huge kick out of seeing how Partridge works on a bigger-than-normal budget.
For those who like their comedies dark and stylish, this action-thriller-comedy mashup from Brit director Ben Wheatley features an all-star cast who spend most of its running time shooting at each other in a dilapidated factory.
It might not seem like the most fertile ground for laughs, but there’s an absurdist quality to Free Fire’s depiction of gunfights that’s really something – and it’s likely far more close to real-life than 99 percent of Hollywood shoot ‘em ups.
Amazon spent a long time trying to “do a Netflix” by creating its very own blockbusting TV shows, and Transperent was the moment it got it right. For a start, this is really bold – it tells the story of a sixtysomething divorcee announcing to his three grownup kids that he’s always felt different and is now going to live as a woman.
Sounds heavy, and it sort of is, but it’s also darkly funny, with a degree of wit and sharpness that’s still rare even in this golden age of TV. The bickering between the three kids (each of whom is riddled with their own individual problems and peccadillos) is as chucklesome as it is awkward and believable. Amazing telly.
While never as beloved as The Simpsons, Matt Groening’s “other” cartoon sitcom series is arguably more consistent in terms of quality. All 10 seasons of Futurama are currently streaming on Amazon Prime, so it’s a great time to dive into the adventures of Fry, a slacker cryogenically frozen for 1000 years, then thawed out to continue his life in the future. The sci-fi setting allows the show’s writers to explore all sorts of fertile comedy avenues, giving the show a satirical flavour that keeps it fresh and (for a network series) fairly edgy even today. Unlike The Simpsons, Futurama hasn’t been kept on life support long past its use-by date, so you can dive in safe in the knowledge that things aren’t going to go south halfway through.
Parks and Recreation (S1-7)
The show that propelled Amy Poehler to Golden Globe-presenting notoriety and Chris Pratt to blockbuster ultra-stardom has its wit and one-liners honed to perfection. Taking Modern Family’s warmth, mixing it with Arrested Development’s absurdity and building it around The Office’s mockumentary formula, it centres on the inconsequential workdays of the least consequential department (Parks and Rec) of the council of madeup middle- American town of Pawnee, Indiana.
Like The Office, its brilliance lies in its characters and their relationships, although its comic set pieces are also ingenious. But unlike The Office, it’s not tragic – it’s bright, touching and will leave you grinning from cheek to cheek. It takes until series two to really hit its stride, but Parks and Recreation is a true must-see.
Attack the Block
Aliens descend on Earth with bad intentions. Aliens land in a South London housing estate. Aliens find out that South London housing estates hold their own kind of dangers.
By refusing to cast judgement - either good or bad - on the actions of its teenage protagonists, it leaves you free to make up your own mind. Though you'll probably be too engrossed in the action to bother. Directed by Joe Cornish (of Adam & Joe fame), Attack the Block is scary, funny and very cool.
A hot steamy hook-up while you're out of the country for work - probably the dream of anyone that's ever seen the inside of an airport business lounge. Finding out you've got said hook-up pregnant? Not so much. That's pretty much the gist of Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan's comedy, which is equal parts hysterical and cringeworthy, yet still manages to pull on your heartstrings too.
Moving to London might be culture shock for Boston native Rob, but it's hardly a picnic for unwed Irish teacher Sharon - expect prodding parents, unsubtle school kids and a cool clique of antenatal mummies. Don't miss a foul-mouthed Carrie Fisher as the mother-in-law from hell, either.
All three seasons are now available to stream on Amazon.
Bob’s Burgers (S1-9)
Voiced by H. Jon Benjamin (the man behind Sterling Archer's vocal cords), Bob Belcher is an average bloke trying to make a living for his family by doing what he does best: cooking burgers. Compared to the Griffins or the Smiths, the Belchers are (relatively) normal, though full of enough quirks and uniquely delivered dialogue to provide plenty of laughs. It's less surreal than Rick & Morty and more story-driven than Family Guy, but it's carved out its own unique spot amongst its rivals and deserves to stand up there with them. Well worth a look if you've grown tired of Family Guy's endless cutaway gags.
Red Oaks (S1-3)
A hidden gem in Amazon’s catalogue, Red Oaks’ unremarkable premise belies a nuanced show that blends humour and pathos surprisingly adeptly.
Set in 1980s suburban New York, it follows the bumbling but tumultuous life of David Myers. From the enigmatically aloof love interest to parental turmoil at home, all the classic teen drama tropes are ticked off here with just enough of a twist to sustain your intrigue. What really elevates this show above the many others that riff off a similar tune is its riotous roster of characters. Sleazy, feckless tennis coach Nash alone is worth the price of admission.
Co-written by the comedic dream team of Chris Morris and Peep Show creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, this jihadi-themed satire is still disturbingly relevant (and equally chuckleworthy) in 2016.
Like the politicians in Bain and Armstrong’s In the Loop, the Four Lions are a team of bigoted buffoons who stubbornly cling to an extreme belief (suicide bombing ‘moderates’) in the face of mounting evidence of their idiocy and their agenda’s contradictions.
While it rarely ventures beyond slapstick farce, Four Lions is well worthy of its frequent billing as a terrorism equivalent of This Is Spinal Tap.
The Big Sick
Silicon Valley star and stand-up comedian Kumail Nanjiani plays himself in this dramatisation of how he and his wife, the writer Emily Gordon (here called “Emily Gardner” and played by Zoe Kazan), met each other, fell in love and got married.
An enjoyable culture-clash romantic comedy revolving around Nanjiani’s desire to lead a normal American life while his Pakistani parents pressure him to enter into an arranged marriage with a woman he barely knows, The Big Sick really gets going when Emily falls seriously ill, forcing our hero to confront the two sides of his life – not to mention meet her parents, played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.