January 2018 saw a long yearned-for wish finally granted to many a Netflix viewer. All 10 seasons of the US smash hit sitcom, Friends, have been added to Netflix UK. Fans of the show were famously dismayed when Channel 4 and E4 stopped airing repeats back in 2011. The programme, in its syndication, became a perennial comfort, almost always on air, which is a subtext that I’m sure is not lost given its name.
Whether you are a long-suffering fan, or are looking for a Netflix programme to binge-watch to help you get through the winter months, you are likely to find some enjoyment in the most successful sitcom of all time. However, if Friends is not the viewing companion that you are looking for, then do not fret, as here we list an alternative – the top three British sitcoms available on Netflix UK…
With a less than favourably reviewed big screen adaptation released in 2016, newcomers to the ‘Ab Fab’ name may be forgiven for underestimating the brilliance of its silver screen sister. In fact, Absolutely Fabulous has been on our screens for over 20 years, first airing on the BBC in 1996, and receiving an Olympics themed revival episode in 2012. The sitcom features Jennifer Saunders as Edina Monsoon, a shallow, binge drinking and infantile PR agent who spends her time pursuing trends, and an increasingly evasive youthful image. Patsy Stone is Edina’s best friend come co-dependent enabler, a fashion magazine executive whose drug using, promiscuity and alcohol consumption are brought to life by Joanna Lumley. Ab Fab however, is not a scathing indictment of hedonistic behaviour, but a modern day parody, and is presented as a satire of the fashion industry and the London elite. In fact, what makes Absolutely Fabulous such an enjoyable watch is that every viewer can feel morally superior to Edina and Patsy, and thus laugh at their expense. You can enjoy every season of Ab Fab’s comical debauchery on Netflix UK, and if you do, will be certain to be chanting ‘cheers, thanks a lot, sweetie darling,’ every time you see Saunders and Lumley grace the screen.
Peep Show is a sitcom that straddles the line between tradition and innovation. In many ways Peep Show is rather conventional – its premise is built around a classic comedy straight man vs. idiot double act. Mark Corrigan, played by David Mitchell, is as uptight and neurotic as he is socially awkward. Jeremy (Jez) Usborne, played by Robert Webb, is his juvenile and freeloading flatmate, whom both leeches off of Mark and fulfills a perhaps unwitting need – someone Mark can exert smug superiority over. However, where the programme becomes innovative is in its camerawork. Specifically, Peep Show often deploys a first-person point of view, wherein cameras are strapped to an actor’s head, granting an intimate view of their screen-partner, an intimacy that even extends to sexual scenes, giving the viewer the voyeuristic sensation of watching someone through a ‘peep hole.’
Often regarded as the best sitcom of all time, Fawlty Towers has a reputation that precedes it, and a legacy that is sure to set very high expectations to anyone who has not yet watched it. In fact, Fawlty Towers one of comedy’s best examples of the straight man vs. idiot double act, with John Cleese’s misanthropic hotel manager, Basil Fawlty, permanently exasperated by the well-meaning but dim waiter, Manuel, played by Andrew Sachs. Sharply written, and matching slapstick with farce, the show depicts the running of the hotel, Fawlty Towers, throughout a series of absurd events, and demanding guests. However, what makes Fawlty Towers one of the most remarkable British sitcoms is its restraint. There are only twelve episodes of the sitcom, with no Christmas specials or charity sketches, ensuring that viewers are left wanting more. Lamenting the brevity of the programme has a secondary effect – it ensures that the writing never becomes tired, and the audience never becomes fatigued, a problem that is seen in more sitcoms than not.
Every season of Absolutely Fabulous, Peep Show and Fawlty Towers are each available to stream now on Netflix UK.