After the success of his own TV show filled Dave Chappelle’s gigs with catchphrasehollering hecklers, the gangly comic all but disappeared from the standup circuit, but this early noughties sketch show remains some of the finest American character comedy of the past 20 years.
While it’s most famous for inventing “I’m Rick James, bitch!” there’s far more to Chappelle’s Show than lazy rinse and repeat catchphrases. Its searing social commentary caused controversy on a weekly basis, flipping and mocking racial stereotypes left, right and centre. Every episode is here (including the three from the aborted third series) but the real highlights are to be found in series one and two.
After the darkasadiscoinablackhole Kill List the last thing anyone expected of director Ben Wheatley was a guffawoutloud, caravans ‘n’ cadavers caper – but that’s exactly what Sightseers is. Chris and Tina are a young couple on a murderous trail across the Lake District and beyond, like Bonnie and Clyde if they were from Dudley rather than Dallas. Taking in the finest sights northern England has to offer – Keswick Pencil Museum and Crich Tramway Village to name just two – by the end of their journey these midlands marauders find out much more about each other than who snores the loudest.
Simply: two flatmates hang out and talk about stuff, usually as a way of avoiding work. Yep, Spaced, written by and starring a preHollywood Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson, is your classic odd couple sitcom. Only it's much, much more than that.
That's partly thanks to the surreal assortment of extra characters – from intense, weirdo artist Brian to militaryobsessed manchild Mike, played with deadpan genius by Nick Frost – but it's the constant popculture references that make it a classic. It's a geek's dream, with loving hattips to everything from Star Wars to Pulp Fiction to Resident Evil.
In The Loop
This bigscreen spinoff of The Thick Of It takes everything that makes the Brit political satire so special and shoves it over the Atlantic to wreak havoc. As you'd expect it plays out mostly like a longer episode of TTOI, with added star factor courtesy of James Gandolfini.
But excellent though the late Sopranos actor is, it's Peter Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker who steals the show – as always. He rants; he raves; he bullies those above and below him with equal abandon; he swears in new and inventive ways. And by the end you'll be convinced that if he really ran the country we'd be much better off.
Cowritten by the comedic dream team of Chris Morris and Peep Show creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, this jihadithemed satire is still disturbingly relevant (and equally chuckleworthy) five years on.
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.