PART 3: TV SHOWS
Rick and Morty (S1-4)
This animated comedy series about a teenage boy, his mad scientist grandfather and the strange sci-fi adventures the two embark upon sounds like pretty wholesome stuff, but Rick and Morty is probably one of the dirtiest, most violent and most cynical shows on telly, regularly plumbing the depths of human (and alien) depravity for laughs. But it certainly does manage to get those laughs, which is the point – and it succeeds in posing lots of interesting questions about time, family, physics and existentialism while it does so.
Line of Duty (S1-5)
Who polices the police? The Anti-Corruption Unit, that’s who – and Line of Duty is a fast-paced, twisty BBC drama that follows the efforts of AC12 to uncover dodgy dealings within the ranks of the boys and girls in blue.
There are all five seasons of the show on Netflix, but even that might not be enough to sate your appetite because Line of Duty's mastery of tense situations, conspiracy and behind-the-scenes corruption coupled with its fast-moving police procedural structure make one of the most compelling, binge-worthy British shows in years.
I’m Alan Partridge
There are two types of people in the world. 1) Those who have seen I’m Alan Partridge and love it 2) Those who haven’t seen I’m Alan Partridge. Logically, we suppose, there could be a third type - those who have seen it but didn’t like it - but frankly, it seems too far-fetched to waste time on.
So, if you’re a type 2 person - maybe you’re too young, or were in some kind of coma throughout the late ’90s and early ’00s - here’s your chance to catch up on The Greatest British Comedy Of All Time. And if you’re a type 1 person, watch it again anyway - seeing the faux-pas-prone chat-show host attempt to navigate such real-world situations as a romantic meal and a trip to the garage for some tungsten-tipped screws will never grow old.
A James Bond-esque secret agent with the womanising, drinking and love of casual violence turned right up to 11, Archer is one of the greatest anti-heroes we’ve seen in an animated show. He's in good company at private spy agency ISIS (in hindsight, an unfortunate choice of name) staffed as it is with a collection of selfish, bungling agents and perverts.
Perfect for Netflix binge-watching, thanks to its 20-minute episodes, it's generously packed with snappy one-liners and Arrested Development-esque in-jokes. It’s just as good as it sounds.
Fargo (TV series)
Not to be confused with the Coen brothers’ (also highly recommended, also on Netflix) movie that inspired it – and from which it draws its winning blend of dark deeds, intricate plotting, looming dread and comic “Minnesota nice” dialogue – this is yet another TV series that begs to be binge-watched over a weekend. And at a relatively modest eight episodes, that’s entirely doable.
Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks and Allison Tolman all deliver fine performances as residents of the snowbound titular town, but it’s Billy Bob Thornton, oozing malevolence and menace as drifter Lorne Malvo, who lingers longest in the memory.
Once that's out of the way, the fantastic second and third series are now on Netflix for you to devour too – and each features a totally different story, with a totally different cast, set at a totally different time.
The Office (UK)
Gareth's obsession with lesbians. Tim's hat radio. That dance. Fray Bentos. Keith eating a scotch egg. Monkey Alan in the warehouse. Brent's Princess Diana song. Gareth Keenan 'invetigates'. A stapler in jelly. The difference between dwarves, midgets and elves. Mr Sidney Poitier.
If you've never seen the original UK version of The Office, none of these things will be in the slightest bit funny. If you have, the mere mention of them should be enough to make you break out in a smile and decide to rewatch every episode. Right now.
Truly one of the greatest of all British comedies, The Office was hugely influential, unrelentingly hilarious and incredibly poignant, often all at the same time. Watch it. Right now.
The Thick Of It
You know how The Day Today made it impossible to watch the news without thinking it was a spoof (“Portillo’s teeth removed to boost pound”) and Brass Eye did the same with current affairs (“People say that alcohol’s a drug. It’s not – it’s a drink”)? Well, after watching The Thick Of It you’ll never again take anything a politician says seriously.
The unifying factor in those three shows is of course the supremely talented Mr Armando Iannucci, creator of TTOI and The Day Today and, given that he also worked on the various Alan Partridge shows, a man surely deserving of the title Greatest Living Briton.
But we digress. The Thick Of It could be described as a satire were it not so accurate in its depictions of jobsworth civil servants, careerist politicians and their clueless advisors. A must-watch for many, many reasons not least the virtuoso swearing abilities of Malcolm Tucker.
Additional words: Sam Kieldsen, Andrew Hayward, Tom Wiggins, Tom Parsons, Esat Dedezade, Kyle Pittman, Justin Mahboubian-Jones
For the minuscule number of readers that don’t know, Friends is a long-running multi-cam sitcom about a sextet of… well, let’s call them “buddies”, “pals”, “amigos” or “compatriots” living in New York.
Yes, it’s packed with great gags and interesting series-arching plots, the show’s true pull is in its sharply drawn, likeable and relatable characters. Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Monica’s travails as they navigate love, career, life and everything in between are sure to suck you in, even if some of the writing now feels somewhat dated.