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What's the best British sitcom of the 21st century?


1st Jan 2015 Film & TV

What's the best British sitcom of the 21st century?

Mrs Brown's Boys has controversially been named the best British sitcom of the 21st century. We're chiming in with our own top picks, from the mockumentary genius of The Office to the surreal silliness of Green Wing. 

Mrs Brown's Boys has been named the best sitcom of the 21st century in a survey by the BFI and Radio Times. The show out-ranked competition including The Office and Peep Show and has proven something of a controversial winner, having been described as "anti-funny", "the Donald Trump of sitcoms" and "the worst comedy ever made" by various critics throughout its run. 

Creator and star Brendan O'Carroll has taken the win as a victory over his critics, saying "It vindicates the fans’ belief in the show. They have kept us on the air—it certainly wasn’t the reviewers."

To be honest, we agree with the critics. While Mrs Brown's Boys delights many, we feel that in terms of innovation and creativity, it leaves a little to be desired when compared to some of the incredible sitcoms that surfaced in the 21st century. On top of that, we could help but notice some landmark shows were missing.

Here's the complete list then scroll down for our reworking and feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. Mrs Brown's Boys, BBC One (2011)

11. Peep Show, C4 (2003)

2. The Office, BBC Two (2001)

12. Black Books, C4 (2000)

3. Peter Kay's Car Share, BBC One (2015)

13. Green Wing, C4 (2003)

4. Count Arthur Strong, BBC Two (2013)

14. The Inbetweeners, C4 (2008)

5. The IT Crowd, C4 (2006)

15. Bad Education, BBC Three (2012)

6. The Thick Of It, BBC Four (2005)

16. Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights, C4 (2001)

7. Gavin & Stacey, BBC Three (2007)

17. Yonderland, Sky1 (2013)

8. Miranda, BBC Two (2009)

18. Twenty Twelve/W1A, BBC Two (2011)

9. Raised By Wolves, C4 (2015)

19. Benidorm, ITV (2007)

10. Outnumbered, BBC One (2007)

20. Detectorists, BBC Four (2014)


1. The Office

The Office best sitcom
Image via NME

Come on, this should have been number one. Written by comedy giants Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, The Office defined a decade of British television, and its trailblazing format changed TV comedy forever. 

The Office was so much more than a sitcom, and it made its viewers laugh and cry in equal measure. While every office worker watched the show through cringing fingers, they knew it represented an only slightly exaggerated version of their own working day and office characters. 

Its influence can be seen in nearly every sitcom that came after, including the next entry on our list, Peep Show. 


2. Peep Show

For nine brilliantly awkward seasons, Peep Show has shown us the world through the eyes of the pathetic-yet-lovable friends Jez (Robert Webb) and Mark (David Mitchell).

It's groundbreaking use of first person camera angles, had us looking into their eyes and minds and even awkwardly snogging some of the characters.


3. The Mighty Boosh

It's a rare show that manages to make the transition from cult favourite to mainstream success quite like The Mighty Boosh.

The series came to BBC Three the same year that The Office ended, but the childish, glam-fuelled imagination of Boosh couldn't be further from The Office's grey, norm-core aesthetic. 

It's post-modern surreal humour seemed brand new but was laden with cultural references from Monty Python to Bootsy Collins making it the perfect comedy for millennials and their elders alike.


4. Extras


After the success of The Office, the pressure was on writing partners Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant to deliver with their next project. Extras more than succeeded.

With huge star cameos from the likes of David Bowie, Ian McKellen, Daniel Radcliffe and Samuel L Jackson, combined with their signature cringey humour and the touching relationship between central characters Andy (Gervais) and Maggie (Ashley Jensen), the series won the nation's hearts. 


5. The Thick of It

The Thick of It

Fresh from the success of The Day Today and I'm Alan Partridge, Armando Iannucci was inspired by his love for the classic BBC comedyYes Minister to pen The Thick of It, the fast-talking, foul-mouthed sitcom based on the inner workings of the British government. It was a sort of political version of The Office that blurred fact and fiction.

In these uncertain political times, when reality seems to blur even further with farce, perhaps we need The Thick of It more than ever. 


6. Black Books 

This much-loved sitcom centred around the staff of a failing London bookshop, owned by a lazy, psuedo-intellectual alcoholic (Dylan Moran) who was stubbornly set in his ways. 

Bill Bailey's hapless accountant turned shop-assistant Manny is the perfect foil to brooding shop owner Bernard Black, while Tamsin Greig's Fran managed to be simultaneously level-headed and frantic. 

When asked what the friends would be doing a decade after the final show aired, co-writer Graham Linehan said, "They'll grow up, like everyone else."


7. Phoenix Nights

phoenix nights
Image via Bolton News

It wouldn't be a list of the top British sitcoms without a place for Peter Kay. Originally a spin-off from the hugely popular show That Peter Kay ThingPhoenix Nights tells the story of a working men's club in Greater Manchester. 

The Phoenix Club is owned by Brian Potter (Kay), who plans to make the venue the most popular club in Bolton, and so to beat his rival Den Perry (Ted Robbins) of The Banana Grove. 


8. The Inbetweeners


2008's The Inbetweeners followed a gangly group of boys who didn't quite fit in as they struggled through the trials and embarrassment of their teenage years. With storylines that included dodgy attempts at 'pulling', getting lost camping in the woods and desperately punching a fish to death, the show certainly made its mark on the public. 

After two hugely successful feature films, the teens are finally on their way to adulthood, with star Simon Bird saying, "Once you see the film you'll see it feels like they've all moved on with their lives, so unfortunately, this is it. It's a great way to say goodbye."


9. Gavin and Stacey

Gavin and Stacey
Image via UKTV Gold

Gavin and Stacey is packed full of our favourite British stars (James Corden, Sheridan Smith, Ruth Jones and Larry Lamb to name just a few), as well as some of the catchiest one-liners in comedy ("What's occurin'?")

Following the long-distance love between Gavin (Matthew Horne) from Billericay in Essex and Stacey (Joanna Page) from the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales, audiences watched the couple meet, meet the families, become engaged, get married and beyond. 


10. Nathan Barley

Written by Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris, Nathan Barley follows the life and times of the eponymous character—a webmaster, guerrilla filmmaker, screenwriter and DJ, desperate to become the epitome of cool. 

The genius of the show is it captured perfectly hipster culture before hipster culture was fully formed. But who was the laughing stock: uber-hipster Nathan, or the anti-hipster (and therefore hipster idol) Dan Ashcroft?  

The series was as short-lived as the fads it sent up. Its critique of click-bait journalism, evident in the 'bible of cool' Sugar Ape magazine, however, is still bitingly relevant today.


11. Green Wing

Gren Wing

Set in the fictional East Hampton Hospital, Green Wing follows the lives of the staff who range from painfully normal to all-out oddballs. Featuring next-to-no medical storylines, the sitcom instead focused on the personal lives of the characters, as the socially inept new-starter Caroline (Tamsin Greig) navigates her rocky love life, trying to choose between her two fellow doctors (Stephen Mangan and Julian Rhind-Tutt).

Hailed as the most innovative comedy since The Office when it debuted, the series was loved by fans and critics alike.


12. Garth Marenghi's Dark Place

Garth Marenghi's Dark Place became a one-series-wonder, and one of Britain's funniest sitcoms. Claiming to be the lost TV work of the self-professed “author, dream weaver, visionary, plus actor” Garth Marenghi (played flawlessly by Matthew Holness), the series combined clips of the 'show' with commentary from its stars and writer, Marenghi himself. 

Along with The Mighty Boosh, it spurred a new alternative comedy style that inspired The IT Crowd and made Matt Berry and Richard Ayoade household names.


13. Benidorm

Image via Tiger Aspect

Audiences were invited to pack their bags and set off on holiday with the guests of the Solana Resort in Benidorm in this hilarious ITV show. The show has been a huge hit with viewers—5.8 million people tuned into the eighth season alone. 

It's a package deal everyone knows all-too-well. In its sending up Brits abroad, no one can escape relating to one of the holidaying characters—and if you don't like to admit it, you've at least witnessed this sort of behaviour on your jollies.


14. Outnumbered

Starring Hugh Dennis as long-suffering father Pete and Claire Skinner as patient mother Sue, Outnumbered was built around a simple idea—showing the lives of an average middle-class family with particularly witty children.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, James Walton noted, "All of this feels both carefully observed and suspiciously heartfelt...It doesn't avoid the sheer dullness involved in family life either—but, happily, depicts it with a winning mixture of exasperation and affection."


15. Miranda


Although a little bit 'marmite', with nearly four million viewers each episode this show is well-loved. The series is a heartwarming romp through the sometimes horrifically embarrassing realities of everyday life for joke-shop owner Miranda (Miranda Hart). 

Critic Chris Harvey explained, "even when her slapstick is so obvious it wouldn't confuse a small child I still laugh. Even when I'm trying not to. Even when I really, really don't want to." It's absolutely perfect family viewing that everyone can laugh at—even if you don't want to.


These are our top picks, but what's your favourite? Let us know in the poll below.

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