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British Comedy: My Hero

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I realize that sometimes what some consider funny is considered unfunny or stupid by others, so not all of you will agree with this. Especially some of you from across the pond.


A couple of months ago, my wife ran across a comedy on PBS from England called "My Hero". It's about a superhero from another planet who lives on earth, and has a wife and children. His identity (as the superhero ThermoMan) is a kept a secret from all but a select few people. Reminds me a little of a cross between Mork and Mindy and The Incredibles.


Sure, the jokes are predictable and sometimes juvenile, but I just can't help but laughing. Anyone else find this show funny? Any other shows like it that I might enjoy?


If you've never checked it out, you might find it on PBS or BBC.

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My main recommendation is to make the most of it. I used to really like it, too, despite it being the very opposite of the culty humour you usually see from both Hugh Dennis (who plays the doctor in this) and lead Ardal O'Hanlon.


Unfortunately, the most recent season sucked royally, and even worse than the latter half of the previous one where it already looked like they were running out of jokes for the format.

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Any other shows like it that I might enjoy?


Have to say My Hero is far from being my humorous cup of tea, but if you?ve enjoyed watching Ardal O'Hanlon you simply must check out Father Ted, every episode of which (three series and a Christmas special) has been released via BBC America in the US on DVD. It's very quirky and frequently surreal, but every moment is a pure gem. It never ceases to make me laugh.



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... if you?ve enjoyed watching Ardal O'Hanlon you simply must check out Father Ted, every episode of which (three series and a Christmas special) has been released via BBC America in the US on DVD.


Can you beat the look the scene that ran after the credits in the airplane crashing episode (season 2)? Those two priests sitting there trying not to make eye contact kills me.


"Feck!" "Yes." "That would be an ecumenical matter."

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?for god?s sake, Dougal, what is it??

?I?m sorry, Ted, I just remembered.... Aliens is on after the news!?

?Forget that now-?

?But it?s the director?s cut! C?mon, Ted. Bishops love sci-fi?





"I'm not a fascist. I'm a priest. You see, fascists dress up in black and tell people what to do. Whereas priests..."



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  • 1 year later...

Bumping because I just discovered the lunatic joy of Father Ted myself. Oddly enough, I was introduced to the show by the least hip person I know: my Mom loaned me the season 1 DVD because she remembered I liked Python when I was in high school and "this was just like that".




Yeah. Anyway, I have thrown season one on the ipod and I watch it while on the treadmill...great stuff! She just dropped off season two earlier this week, so I'll be adding those episodes this weekend. Go, Mom! :cool:

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Praise of Father Ted is nothing without a good quote, Dave.


"That's the great thing about Catholicism. It's so vague and nobody really knows what it's all about."


My apologies!


Father Dougal: Did you ever see that film, Ted, where your man has his head transplanted onto a fly, and the fly's head was transplanted onto the man?


Father Ted: Oh yes, what was that called?


Father Dougal: "Out Of Africa", I think.

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Never thought I’d want to turn a thread that was initially about something as bad as My Hero into a discussion about decent British comedy, but I feel compelled to throw in some more recommendations both classic and more recent. You’ll find full episodes of some of the following on Youtube, and you can resort to grabbing torrents of some if you must. All are at least available on DVD in the UK:


Some clips possibly not work safe.



The Armando Iannucci Shows – Short lived and little seen series from writer and comedian Armando Iannucci who usually spends most of his time behind the camera as a producer or writer. This series presents his skewed outlook on the world, its culture and the media. Near perfection. (R2 DVD only)




Bottom – Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson play Richie and Eddie, two pathetic layabouts living together in a squalid flat. They rant, they fight and try to make money and have sex with women. It’s that simple. What was great about Bottom was the energy between Rik and Ade. The comedy was of an anarchic level that took things a leap further than The Young Ones.


It ran from 1991 to 1995 for three series. They also took the characters to the stage with five live shows, the last of which was in 2003 though of all of them, only the first two Live performances can be considered flawless works of comedic brilliance. (R1 and R2 DVD sets available)







A Bit of Fry & Laurie – Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie’s sketch show from the late 80s and very early 90s. This ran for four series, the first two of which I consider to be the finest British sketch comedy since Python. (series 1 & 2 on R1 DVD. Series 1 to 4 R2 DVD)





Black Books – Sitcom from 2000 to 2004 created by one of its stars, Dylan Moran, and initially given a helping hand by father Ted creators Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews. It’s about Bernard, an Irishman with a nihilistic outlook on the modern world who owns and runs a book shop in London where he’d rather not have to sell anything at all. There he is assisted by the more positive character of Bernard played by Bill Bailey, and friend Fran from the shop next door. Great characters, very funny series. (Series 1 & 2 on R1 DVD. Series 1, 2 & 3 on R2 DVD)







Brass Eye – Just one single series in 1997, this was the brainchild of Chris Morris, a man some like to call a “radical” comedian. Each week the series focused on a single core theme such as sex, crime and drugs. Episodes were effectively a spoof and attack on the way the mainstream media tackles these subjects. It was a controversial series, taking many years to be rerun on TV and see an eventual home video release. It duped many politicians and celebrities into taking part in fake campaigns and as a consequence many tried to get the series banned for good. That never happened, and in 2001 the show returned for its most controversial episode, a one of special on paedophilia which outraged the right wing media here in the UK to an obscene degree. (R2 DVD only)






The Day Today – This predated Brass Eye, airing in 1994 and was in fact a televised evolution of what was a BBC Radio 4 show called On the Hour. It was produced by Armando Ianucci and was written by/and starred Chris Morris, Steve Coogan, Patrick Marber, David Schneider, Doon Mackichan and Rebecca Front – all playing an assortment of characters. On the Hour/Day Today also marked the introduction of Coogan’s character Alan Partridge.


This was very silly, but utterly brilliant comedy and was ahead of its time pre-dating the 24hr news channels that later would dominate UK satellite broadcasting. (R2 DVD only)





Knowing me, Knowing you With Alan Partridge – Everyone, bar Chris Morris, continued from The Day Today to work on this series, which again began on Radio before moving to television. It marked the further rise to fame of Steve Coogan’s character Alan Partridge who had now left sports journalism and got his own chat show. Brilliantly realised, this was an absolute gem of a series, which only lasted six episodes and also got a Christmas special. (available on R1 and R2 DVD)






I’m Alan Partridge – The next chapter of Alan Partirdge’s life was this sitcom, which ran for two series, the first in 1997 and the second in 2002. It followed Alan on the verge of a nervous breakdown having been left by his wife and fired from BBC television forcing him to go back to being a local radio DJ with a graveyard shift whilst living in a motel. It chronicled his desperate scramble to get back on top, with his appalling attitude toward his underpaid personal assistant Lynn. Series 2 was a little hit and miss, but not without some wonderful moments. Series 1 is just consistently superb comedy. (R1?? and R2 DVD)









Red Dwarf -- Seminal science fiction comedy that ran for eight series over the course of eleven years (1988 to 1999). After being sentenced to a minor stint in cryostasis for smuggling a cat on board the mining ship Red Dwarf, Dave Lister awakens three million years later to find his incarceration had left him as the lone survivor of a radiation leak which had wiped out the entire crew. For company, Lister is stuck with the inept super computer Holly, ‘Cat’ – a mutant who had evolved from the very same cat he had smuggled aboard three million years earlier, and his former crewmate Rimmer, brought back to life as a Hologram by Holly much to Lister’s disappointment. They were later joined by mechanoid Kryten.


This a remarkably well thought out sitcom and one that was constantly trying to evolve the history of its characters and their storylines. I’m not sure there’s ever been anything quite like it. (superb multi-disc special editions of all 8 series on R1 and R2 DVD)







Peep Show – Three series so far, with a forth on the way, the set up is your basic odd couple sitcom (sans audience or laughter track) where the difference is that most of the time you get to hear what’s going on inside the heads of the two lead characters, Mark and Jeremy. (Series 1 available on R1 and R2 DVD. Series 1 to 3 available on R2).








Spaced – If You like Shaun of the Dead and you’re anxiously awaiting Hot Fuzz it should actually be considered a crime if you’ve yet to see where it all started for director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Written by Pegg and Jessica Stevenson, they play Tim and Daisy, two flatmates struggling to come to terms with the realities of their lives as late twenty-somethings.


Filled with loving references to many a TV show, movie, comic and videogame, it’s the likable nature of the characters that particularly drove the show for two series from 1999 to 2001. Naturally the channel that made it and aired had no real love for the series’ style or humour at the time, and buried it. (R2 DVD only)







The Young Ones – Two series from 1982 to 84. Co written by Rik Mayall and Ben Elton, this was about four college student no hopers, Rik, Vyvyan, Neil and Mike living together in their shared student accommodation. Very silly, often downright bizarre, but still very funny. Great musical interludes too. (R1 and R2 DVDs available).





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The Young Ones ? Two series from 1982 to 84. Co written by Rik Mayall and Ben Elton, this was about four college student no hopers, Rik, Vyvyan, Neil and Mike living together in their shared student accommodation. Very silly, often downright bizarre, but still very funny. Great musical interludes too. (R1 and R2 DVDs available).


Vivian, you utter bastard!


I used to have a sound file that was a montage of the characters shouting "Bastard" at various times. It was quite long.

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Spaced is currently being repeated by BBC America. Peep Show, Black Books & I'm Alan Partridge consistently pop up on BBCA too. The Young Ones & Red Dwarf get repeated by PBS occasionally (depending on your local station of course).


Good stuff. Although not BBC shows, it's good that they picked up the rights for things like Father Ted, Peep Show and Black Books in the US. Channel4 just let Peep Show die despite critical acclaim. It was lucky to get a fourth series comissioned.


I?ll have some more recommendations once I?ve found some decent clips from some other shows.

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The League of Gentlemen ? Set in the fictional town of Royston Vasey it followed the exploits of its bizarre inhabitants. It ran for three series, plus a Christmas special, and is an inspired concoction of comedy and horror. A feature film (The League of Gentlemen?s Apocalypse) was also made.


Some don?t rate series 3 highly. It changed the structure and did away with the studio audience and laughter track, but I actually think some of their best work with the characters is in that third series. (series 1-3 and Xmas special on R1 and R2 DVD. Movie, and two Live stage shows on R2 DVD).






The Thick of It ? There?s really little in the way of great comedy in the UK these days, but thank Christ for this. Another creation of Armando Iannucci?s, this chronicles the working lives of the spin-doctors in British politics and has so far had one series and a special (due on R2 DVD soon).


Here?s the entire first episode in 3 parts:







Help ? Can?t find any clips of this, and it?s no surprise. I was amongst what I estimate to have been four people who saw it. Never receiving a repeat airing, and two years later still awaiting a DVD release by the BBC, this was an absolutely stunning series from Paul Whitehouse and Chris Langham in which Langham played a psychiatrist and Whitehouse played every single one of his patients.


If you can find torrents of all six episodes it is well worth checking out [and please let me know if you do find the series online]. Unfortunately Chris Langham (who was also in The Thick of It) is undergoing serious legal issues at the moment, which may have been what has delayed Help getting a DVD release. BBC have opted not to even put his face on The Thick of It DVD cover despite him being the lead. If he?s cleared hopefully Help will finally surface and start getting recognition it deserved.


I can thoroughly recommend another show of Paul Whitehouse?s entitled ?Happiness? however, both series of which are on R2 DVD.



The Fast Show ? Created by Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson, this was the last decent British sketch series to be void of the vulgarity found today in series like Little Britain and Catherine Tate. Returning to many of the same characters and scenarios each week the series always skilfully managed to avoid the feeling of being repetitive. It always seemed to work and feel fresh for three series and a number of specials and was hugely popular. It was a tour de force of excellent sketc writing, performance and timing. It ran between 1994 and 2001. These days it almost seems curiously forgotten. (all series, specials and Live tour shows on R2 DVD)







Reeves & Mortimer ? With their two BBC series ?The Smell of Reeves & Mortimer? (1993) and ?Bang Band It?s Reeves and Mortimer,? (1999) this duo were an obscure but remarkably funny act in their prime a the time both series aired, particularly the ?Smell of? series. It's VERY silly and harmless stuff, and for that they are an acquired taste, but truly one of a kind. (R2 DVD only for both series?)





Their first stint on TV was actually in the form of Vic Reeves? Big Night Out which is also available on DVD in the UK, albeit editing for some infuriating reason.


The best thing they?ve done in recent years was a little seen series in 2004 entitled Catterick. This is also available on R2 DVD. It was a sitcom of sorts, free of an audience or laughter track.

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"The Fast Show" is repeated frequently on BBCA as "Brilliant!". League of Gentlemen is on BBCA too.


I knew League had found an audience via BBCA, but that's good about The Fast Show (though curious that they renamed it). It doesn't get shown here at all anymore - at least no by the BBC on any of their channels. Depressing to think it is thirteen years old now.


I am sure that I had read that the Thick of It had aired on BBC America too. It's getting an American version at some point.


Reeves & Mortimer are thoroughly unknown in the US as far as I can tell - they are very British though.


They are indeed. I selected those clips just scratching my head thinking what some here might make of it. You can't explain why their humour is the way it is... You either like it or you don't. I was trying to find a clip of a Barry White thing they did a couple of times in 'Smell of' where Vic plays him sitting in this chair, and he has a big bulbous body and tiny little arms and legs and he's singing about wanting to make love to a copper pipe. One of my favourite ever bits...

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