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Check out our guide to comedy gems that will put a smile on your face 

por Andy Degotardi (2020-03-28)


To cheer you up while you're stuck indoors, we're giving you free guides to the best TV available through streaming and catch-up services.

All this week, the Mail's TV critic Christopher Stevens and TV editor Mike Mulvihill will be tapping into the vast archives of dazzling drama, must-see movies, fascinating factual shows and fabulous family entertainment on hand at the touch of a button.

But we start today with the funniest shows available...

Gavin & Stacey - BBC iPLAYER

We all loved these long-distance lovebirds in their heyday at the end of the Noughties, but the sheer depth of affection for this show surprised everyone last Christmas. 

Writers and stars James Corden and Ruth Jones revived their sitcom, based in the South Wales seaside town of Barry and Billericay, Essex, for a one-off special and broke viewing figures for the decade. 

An incredible 17 million people tuned in or watched on catch-up. Not bad for a comedy that began life without fanfare on BBC Three. 

Don't miss the show-stealing turn by Rob Brydon as unmarried Uncle Bryn. Three series and a special 






Writers and stars James Corden and Ruth Jones revived their sitcom, based in the South Wales seaside town of Barry and Billericay, Essex, for a one-off special and broke viewing figures for the decade


Fawlty Towers - BBC iPLAYER/NETFLIX

There were only 12 episodes ever made of Fawlty Towers, but every one was comic perfection. 

Many of John Cleese's perfectly honed phrases as hotelier Basil have entered the language...like 'herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the Serengeti!' 

Add to that two sublime performances, by Andrew Sachs as waiter Manuel and Prunella Scales as the dragoness Sybil, and you have sheer joy. Two series 

Outnumbered - BBC iPLAYER/NETFLIX

Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner played embattled parents with a chaotic home life, but the real stars were the children — Jake, Ben and Karen (Tyger Drew-Honey, Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez). 

The cast were given free rein to ad lib, and the children were encouraged to say whatever came into their heads. 

The results are hilarious and often moving. But the show wasn't afraid to depict real family problems either — Grandad was suffering from dementia, and Gran was an online gambling addict. Five series 

W1A - iPLAYER

Hugh Bonneville and Jessica Hynes reprised their roles from Twenty Twelve (two series available on BritBox) but here, instead of organising the Olympics, they're floundering in the BBC's bloated management structure. 

It's overflowing with perfectly observed jargon and executive nonsense. Three series 

Catastrophe - ALL4/AMAZON PRIME

A one-night stand for Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan turns into disaster — pregnancy, marriage, job switches, parenting ...and alcoholism. They lose their friends, their careers and their self-respect. 

What happens to the dog is the least of their problems. But through it all they never fall out of love, not least because they always fancy the pants off each other. 

Carrie Fisher co-starred as Rob's appalling mother. Four series 






The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, AMAZON PRIME: Rachel Brosnahan stars as Midge Maisel, a 1950s housewife in New York whose husband dreams of being a stand-up comic


Father Ted ALL4 

Dermot Morgan was doing stand-up comedy as a priest who thought he was too cool to be a clergyman for years before this blissful sitcom. 

Writers Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan imagined him being banished to an island off the Irish west coast over a financial scandal ('The money was just resting in my account!' Ted would protest). 

They paired him with a gormless trainee priest — Ardal O'Hanlon as Father Dougal — and a cantankerous senile drunk (Father Jack, played by Frank Kelly) who sat in his armchair drinking toilet cleaner and swearing. 

Without their devoted housekeeper Mrs Doyle, they might all have died of thirst ('More tea, Father? Ah, go on...go on, go on, go on, go on'). Morgan's death in 1998 cut short this most perfect of sitcoms. Three series and a special

The IT Crowd - ALL4/NETFLIX 

Another cult classic. The cast have gone on to greater things, especially Chris O'Dowd, now a Hollywood star. Katherine Parkinson is an acclaimed dramatic actress and Richard Ayoade a panel game perennial. 

Their chemistry was perfect as Roy, Jen and Moss — two bone-idle computer technicians and their clueless boss, stuck in the basement of a vast office block. Four series and a special 

Derry Girls - ALL4/ NETFLIX 

No one can predict which shows will become smash hits. Channel 4 bosses had no idea that their quirky, low-budget sitcom about schoolgirls growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles with their English cousin James would become so wildly popular. 

The dialogue is sharp, the stories will make you curl up with embarrassed recognition, and Sister Michael (Siobhan McSweeney) is a comic monster. Two series 

Absolutely Fabulous - BRITBOX/NETFLIX/NOWTV 

It's hard to grasp the sensation this show caused when it first aired in 1992. We expected raucous antics from Jennifer Saunders, the queen of alternative comedy — but could that really be the posh Joanna Lumley with a smouldering cigarette in one hand and a bottle of Bolly in the other? You betcha, darlings. 

The duo had impeccable comic chemistry as Edina and Patsy, the fashion victims with money to burn and an indestructible appetite for 'partying'. 

Just as astonishing was the appearance of June Whitfield, a foil to every major comedian since the 1950s. Here she was Edina's unshockable mum. 

Never was a show better named... this really was ab fab. Five series 






Father Ted ALL4: Dermot Morgan was doing stand-up comedy as a priest who thought he was too cool to be a clergyman for years before this blissful sitcom


Blackadder - BRITBOX/NOWTV 

It features perhaps the most famous ending in sitcom history, but before Edmund Blackadder and Baldrick found themselves in the World War I trenches, they'd already been in trouble for centuries. 

The first series was set in the Middle Ages, then they fought to keep their heads in the court of Good Queen Bess (Miranda Richardson) before serving the immensely dim Prince Regent (Hugh Laurie). Four series and a special 

The Vicar Of Dibley - BRITBOX/NOWTV 

Dawn French played the breezy, irreverent Reverend Geraldine Granger, who shocks her new parish by cracking jokes and, well, being female. 

When the show launched in 1994 the Church of England had only just accepted the idea that women could be vicars. 

Geraldine's brisk, optimistic character was modelled on the Reverend Joy Carroll, who was the reallife vicar of Streatham in south London. Two series and ten specials 

Dinnerladies - BRITBOX/NOWTV 

Like Fawlty Towers, Dinnerladies ran to just two series but made more of an impact than some sitcoms that last a decade. 

Multi-talented Victoria Wood played Bren, the kindly woman who provides a sympathetic shoulder for her colleagues at a works canteen. 

Victoria's long-time comedy partner Julie Walters was her manipulative mother, living in a caravan and forever cadging favours. 

Coronation Street's Thelma Barlow and Last Tango In Halifax's Anne Reid co-starred. Two series

Only Fools And Horses - BRITBOX/NOWTV 

For 뷰티 comfort viewing, this can't be beaten. John Sullivan's sitcom about chirpy London market trader Del Boy (David Jason), taking care of his slow-witted brother Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst) and their grandad (Lennard Pearce), has wheedled its way to a permanent place in the nation's hearts. 

Grandad gave way to Uncle Albert, played by former bank manager Buster Merryfield, and Rodney grew up and got married, but Del never stopped trying to look after them. 

If he wasn't scolding his brother for his stupidity — 'Rodney, you plonker!' — he was reassuring him, 'This time next year, we'll be millionaires.' 

Everyone has their favourite moments...the chandelier crashing to the floor, Del Boy casually leaning on a pub bar and falling right through, but the moment that sums the show up is when the brothers are heading to a fancy dress party, jogging out of the mist dressed as Batman and Robin. 

They really were the superheroes of comedy. Seven series and more than a dozen specials 

Not Going Out - UKTV PLAY 

Lee Mack's long-running BBC1 sitcom began as a tale of a workshy layabout, and co-starred Tim Vine and Miranda Hart. 

Over the years he got married and had children...and even got a job. The scripts cram in more gags per minute than any other British sitcom. 

Five series available 

Friends/The Big Bang Theory - NETFLIX 

There's an ever-changing roster of British sitcoms on Netflix, but these are its two U.S. giants. 

Both have the hallmark American style of whiplash dialogue, the jokes cracking so fast you'll have to watch every episode three times to catch them all. 

And since there are 236 episodes of Friends, and 279 of Big Bang, that ought to keep you busy for a while. Ten series of Friends, 12 of Big Bang


Riotous panel shows
QI - iPLAYER/BRITBOX/UKTV PLAY 

After 17 years, the fund of trivial facts on QI is apparently bottomless. Stephen Fry hosted from 2003, Sandi Toksvig took over four years ago. 

Alan Davies is the team captain, with a revolving roster of celebs, national treasures and film stars joining him. 

Taskmaster - UKTV PLAY 

A success for the Dave channel, now on C4. Five comedians compete to tackle a series of daft challenges, like blowing a beachball up a hill. Greg Davies is the Taskmaster. 

8 Out Of Ten Cats - ALL4 

Jimmy Carr hosts this newsy panel game, which was even funnier when it took a sideways step and tackled the longrunning C4 quiz Countdown. 

Whose Line Is It Anyway? - ALL4 

The first British show to spot the potential of letting talented comics ad lib. Clive Anderson hosted, though most of the time he stood back and let players such as John Sessions and Josie Lawrence ricochet off each other. Regulars included Sandi Toksvig, Paul Merton and Tony Slattery. 

Mock The Week - NETFLIX 

Host Dara O Briain asks questions about the week's news and the panel of six comics give sarcastic answers. At the end Dara sends them to the standup area, where they must give answers to unlikely scenarios such as 'Rejected exam questions' 


The good, the bad and the hilarious
The Wrong Mans - iPLAYER 

James Corden starred in and wrote this silly thriller with Mathew Baynton from Horrible Histories. 

It sent up action movies from Hitchcock classics to Bond-style blockbusters, complete with exploding cars and rooftop chases. No one's attempted anything so dramatic. Two series 

Upstart Crow - iPLAYER 

Ben Elton wrote this wittily erudite series based on the private life of Shakespeare. 

David Mitchell is the Bard, cobbling together his masterpieces while shuttling between London and Stratford where his wife Anne (Lisa Tarbuck) lives with her argumentative parents (Harry Enfield and Paula Wilcox). Three series 

Inside No9 - iPLAYER 

The sheer inventiveness of writers and stars Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, formerly of the League Of Gentlemen (you'll find that on Netflix and BritBox), is bewildering. 

Another season of these macabre stories, all set in places with the No9, has just ended and still they haven't failed to provide a lethal twist. Five series 

Fleabag - iPLAYER 

A few years ago she was an aspiring writer, best known for a bit part in Broadchurch. 

But it was this TV version of her one-woman theatre show that established Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a major talent. She plays a grieving woman, known only as Fleabag, with a self-destructive love life and a poisonous family. Two series 






After Life, NETFLIX: Ricky Gervais earned his biggest plaudits since The Office with this story of Tony, a journalist who loses all reason for living when his wife dies


What We Do In The Shadows - iPLAYER 

Matt Berry co-stars in this vampire sitcom, sharing a mansion with his wife and a pound-shop Dracula called Nandor. Nandor is served by a devoted manservant, Guillermo, who desperately wants to be a vampire himself. Everyone knows that's not going to happen, except poor, deluded Guillermo. One series 

Detectorists - iPLAYER 

Perfect for self-isolation. It's a hymn to the loveliness of the English countryside: if you can't get outdoors, you might as well remember what it looks like. 

And then, this slowly unfolding story of two awkward friends, Andy and Lance, who share a passion for metal-detecting (Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones) needs plenty of time to be appreciated. Three series 

The Thick Of It - iPLAYER 

Armando Iannucci dreamed up this satire on New Labour's spin machine, never imagining Brexit would make it seem relatively sane. 

Ministers go to pieces on live TV, enemies swap sides, civil servants drop their pretence of impartiality and Westminster seems determined to squabble itself to death. Four series 

Murder In Successville - iPLAYER 

Fans of film noir will adore this. Tom Davis plays a down-at-heel police detective, condemned to train up one rookie after another in a town populated entirely by celebrities. 

Gordon Ramsay is the police chief. Murder suspects range from Lady Gaga to Mary Berry. It's a deranged idea, and the best episodes are the ones where the rookie (always a minor celeb) breaks down in giggles...or tears. Three series 

The Windsors - ALL4

Curled up safely in the castle, is the Queen chortling at this affectionate comedy sending up her family? 

Harry Enfield plays Charles as a hilarious caricature, married to a grotesque (Haydn Gwynne as Camilla), and father to a son who's thicker than porridge and married to a gypsy (Hugh Skinner and Louise Ford as Wills and Kate). Three series 

Toast Of London - ALL4 

No sitcom has been so stuffed full of actorly in-jokes. Matt Berry is Stephen Toast, the pretentious, talentless thesp who imagines himself to be the next Olivier but will do any voiceover, however degrading, if it pays the rent. 

Doon Mackichan is his impossibly luvvie agent, who can barely be bothered to stoke his ego. Three series 

Benidorm - BRITBOX/NETFLIX

Don't write this show off if you've only seen the later, more slapstick series. When it began, Benidorm was savagely funny. 

Steve Pemberton and Siobhan Finneran were Mick and Janice, bringing their teenage children (and her leather-skinned, gutter-mouthed mother) to a cheap Spanish hotel for an all-inclusive week. 

As long as they got their sunbeds, they didn't care that they were surrounded by swingers, alcoholics, warring couples and crooks. Ten series 

That's My Boy - ITV HUB

A forgotten gem from the 1980s — and any show that stars Mollie Sugden deserves a second chance. She plays a housekeeper who takes a job with a doctor and his wife...only to suspect that their adopted son is the child she bore and gave away as an unmarried mother in the 1960s. 

Christopher Blake played her grown-up boy. It's dated, but none the worse for that. Five series

Cuckoo - NETFLIX

This BBC3 sitcom never really caught on, despite its sensational cast. Greg Davies is the boring solicitor whose vivacious daughter comes home from her gap year with a much older, American, hippie husband. 

Then his dim-witted son (Twilight's Taylor Lautner) turns up. After that, it's Andie MacDowell, claiming to be Greg's long-lost sister. If you tried it and didn't like it, look again. Five series