TV: Top 10 British Sitcoms of the 21st Century

By Bill

It’s sometimes easy to think that America has taken the sitcom crown from us nowadays, what with the behemoths of Scrubs, Friends, Frasier, Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, et al, proving global superstars; but I’m here to tell you that not all is lost and since the start of this troubled century, we have consistently had great sitcoms to make us giggle through the tears. Join us as we countdown the ten best.


  1. Miranda (2009-2015 – 20 Episodes)

Sometimes cruelly labelled a sitcom for women, Miranda proved over the course of its three series and a couple of specials to be oodles of fun. Whilst being largely silly and slapstick, it harkens back to the days of the classic British sitcom with asides to camera, monologues, and characters waving at you over the credits, fills any Brit’s heart with joy … regardless of gender. It also made a star out of Miranda Hart, so we should all be thankful for it.



  1. Black Books (2000-2004 -  18 Episodes)

Somewhere James is jumping up and down in his seat with unbridled excitement at the mention of Black Books, before crying at the realisation that Father Ted was over and done with by 1998 and so can’t be included on this list. Black Books brilliant location was that of a book shop, and I’m surprised it took them till 2000 to realise what a great setting it would be for a sitcom. Black Books’ true genius, however, was in bringing together three of the best comedic actors of the past 20 years: Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, and the wonderful, Tamsin Greig.   



  1. The Office (2001 – 2003 – 14 Episodes)

I know, I know, I haven’t put The Office higher and that’s because I find it is overrated. Yes, it spawned an entire subgenre of sitcom and made superstars out of Ricky Gervais (we sure that’s a good thing?) and Martin Freeman, but really, was it that good? I know David Brent is supposed to be annoying and offensive, but I just found him annoying and offensive … and never funny. Regardless of my own personal views on the sitcom, it is considered by many to be a modern masterpiece and put British sitcoms back on the map, so for that reason, it deserves a place on this list.



  1. Outnumbered (2007 - 2014 – 35 Episodes)

Outnumbered was a hugely successful family friendly sitcom that became more popular than I think anyone would have guessed. With a simple premise, it took over the BBC sitcom universe for over a decade. A family of five go about their daily lives, but the crux of the show: the child actors hardly had scripts. This may seem difficult to believe, given how strong the show was, but the majority of the time, whenever one of the children was speaking, it was improvised on the spot and the two adults (the brilliant Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner) had to adapt. Genius.



  1. Extras (2005 – 2007 – 13 Episodes)

Now, here is a Ricky Gervais sitcom I can get behind. Following the massive breakout success of The Office, Ricky came back with Extras, which is one of the cleverest, and purely entertaining shows of recent years. The show was about a couple of TV and film extras who wanted to make it big, whilst having to go about the drudgery of being at the back of the action on screen. Mirroring a twisted version of himself, Ricky Gervais played a character that was funny and often touching. The real selling point of this show, however, is the incredibly hilarious cameos from Hollywood A-listers including, Ben Stiller, Samuel L Jackson, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Kate Winslet, Daniel Radcliffe, and many, many more. It is brilliant television … one that remains endless quotable and endlessly enjoyable.  



  1. The Vicar of Dibley (1994 – 2007 – 20 Episodes)

It’s a list by me, so there must be at least one controversial entry (even though The Office has filled the quota already). The Vicar of Dibley started in the 90s, however it produced a lot of excellent episodes in the new millennium as well and that is what it gets a spot … just not as high as I would like for that reason. In case you didn’t already know (but who hasn’t seen The Vicar of Dibley) a woman vicar is assigned to the village of Dibley, whose inhabitants are, let’s just say, less than normal. The kooky village soon becomes home for our vicar and we share in her adventures, being only one of two sane people in the whole town. It’s the cast of this show that elevates it to utter perfection – there is not one bad or miscast actor in the entire series.



  1. Peep Show (2003 – 2015 - 54 Episodes)

I don’t think there has been a sitcom more loved than Peep Show in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. One of the more long running series on our list, Peep Show centred itself around two friends, played by the wonderful David Mitchell and … you know … that other guy … Webb … One is ‘nerdy’ and bookish and the other is a knob, basically. What sets the show apart from other sitcoms on the list, is that it was filmed in first person, following various different characters around as we saw through their eyes and heard what they were thinking. This device created some truly hilarious moments, especially whenever David Mitchell was around.



  1. I.T. Crowd (2006 – 2013 – 25 Episodes)

The second Graham Linehan show to feature (after Black Books), The IT Crowd works in a similar way to The Big Bang Theory … only it is consistently good and never nosedived off into a pit of stupidity … in that the show features two ‘nerds’ as they try to navigate social situations whilst hanging out with their much more socially knowledgeable friend. The show made stars out of its main trio, Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade, and Katherine Parkinson and it’s easy to see why, as all three of them are infectiously brilliant. This show remains the only show that genuinely has me belly-laughing out-loud and is an excellent example of farce done well. Also, look out for the brilliant gothic Noel Fielding, who lives in the IT office’s cupboard … ‘Have you tried turning it off and on again?’



  1. The Inbetweeners (2008 – 2010 – 18 Episodes)

What a show? It was disgusting, shocking, and downright hilarious. Each episode had you gagging on your cup of tea as you tried to fathom how Channel 4 was letting the writers get away with such filth. This show is one of the ‘cringiest’ TV shows ever made, but never, ever, ceases to be belly-achingly funny. What I love most about the show, is how it genuinely captures the lives of teenage boys at that age, even if I don’t want to admit that myself. We must all agree, however, that the best thing about it was Greg Davies, who is a comedy giant … both literally and figuratively.



  1. Gavin and Stacey (2007 – 2010 – 20 Episodes)

What else could it be? Gavin and Stacey is the cleverest British sitcom ever made. This show captured the lives of English and Welsh people with its absolute pitch-perfect dialogue. Because of this, it proved to be more realistic that the actual conversations you have in real life. The show is outrageous (although not quite to the dizzying heights of The Inbetweeners) and will have you gasping with laughter one second before choking back a tear the next.  That’s one of the reasons I think it really touched people, because much like Scrubs before it, and Grace and Frankie after it, the show wasn’t afraid to dig deep and write some pretty deep storylines. Because the cast were so fantastic and talented, these scenes are often tough to watch, but that’s what made the comedy so effective … the expert alchemy of light and dark moments are what truly great sitcoms are made from.



Disagree with my list? Let me know on Twitter @MugwumpBlog

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