Although the British sitcom landscape has been dominated by returning shows like Ghosts and Derry Girls the past few years, that doesn’t mean new and hilarious shows haven’t also emerged since 2020. Whilst Ghosts continues to prove why it’s a distinctively charming sitcom with its fourth season, it’s likely helped even more unique shows like Staged and We Are Lady Parts find their audience this decade.
They aren’t the only shows that have managed to break new ground while still being funny, with shows like Am I Being Unreasonable? and Cheaters also amongst the more interesting offerings from recent years.
10/10 The Witchfinder (2022) – 6.5
Created by the Gibbons brothers, who are best known for their collaborations with Steve Coogan including the 2013 movie Alan Partridge, The Witchfinder stars Tim Key as a pompous, bumbling witchfinder and Daisy May Cooper as a would-be witch he wishes to put on trial.
For those who might have thought a show set in such a tumultuous period of history would be quite serious, The Witchfinder gleefully subverts this and frequently descends into vaguely historical fun. Whilst most viewers could enjoy the silliness, some were disappointed that the show didn’t have more bite, given the background of its creators.
9/10 Kate & Koji (2020-) – 6.9
Centered on the unlikely friendship between an old-fashioned working-class café owner and an asylum-seeking doctor that begins frequenting the place, Kate & Koji is a cheery offering that usually stops just short of any deep social commentary. Instead, it’s largely the characters that are the basis for the show’s humor.
That means a big part of whether someone would like the show depends a lot on how much they like the cast, though luckily Brenda Blethyn and Jimmy Akingbola (replaced by Okorie Chukwu in season 2) are both likable. However, many criticized the show for its old-fashioned feel, from its studio audience and multi-camera-approach to its central premise.
8/10 The Cleaner (2021-) – 7.0
Ever since he rose to prominence playing the misanthropic teacher Mr. Gilbert on The Inbetweeners, the Welsh comedian Greg Davies has been a mainstay of British sitcoms, as well as the chaotic Taskmaster with Alex Horne. In The Cleaner, he plays a cleaning technician responsible for cleaning up crime scenes and removing all signs of death.
Based on the German comedy Der Tatortreiniger, the show uses Davies’ typically blunt delivery to wring out a surprising amount of laughs from such a dark premise and utilizes oddball characters and farcical elements to make each episode distinct. Some complained about a lack of actual jokes, but Davies’ fans found plenty to enjoy in The Cleaner.
7/10 Hullraisers (2022-) – 7.1
Not to be confused with the upcoming horror remake Hellraiser, Hullraisers gets its title from the lesser-known Northern-English city of Hull as a deliberate attempt to set it apart from the typically London-centric, middle-class sitcoms that dominate the genre. Instead, the show follows the chaotic lives of three working-class Hullian friends.
Though it slipped under the radar somewhat, with only just over 500 User reviews on IMDb, those who did give the show a chance often gave glowing reviews that focused on the endearing characters and relatable humor. A conventional format and relatively slow pace put off some viewers but it still goes down as one of 2022’s more distinctive comedies.
6/10 Here We Go (2020-) – 7.2
Based on a pilot in which the hilariously dysfunctional Jessop family attempted to go on holiday during the pandemic, Here We Go‘s distinctive family dynamic resonated with audiences so much that it became a full series earlier this year. Starring Jim Howick and Katherine Parkinson, who some may recognize from the fantastic cult sitcom The IT Crowd, each episode brings a new misadventure for the family.
Whilst some felt the show’s presentation, which frames it all as a blog filmed by the youngest sibling, disguised a rather uninventive premise, fans raved about the excellent acting and surprisingly clever writing that means each episode has at least some memorable moments.
5/10 Cheaters (2022-) 7.3
Whilst Cheaters has lofty aspirations for a sitcom, attempting to balance comedy and drama while serving as a fascinating and non-judgemental look at infidelity, it gets the basics right with great acting and memorable situations. The show follows Josh and Fola, who are forced to examine their long-term relationships after a one-night stand.
Presented in painfully short 10-minute episodes for those who enjoy the show’s honest approach to romantic relationships, it picks up the baton from excellently written comedy dramas like Fleabag in being perfect for the internet age, and it’s no surprise they were both originally produced for same network. Romantic sitcoms can be hit-and-miss, so many were pleasantly surprised by Cheaters.
4/10 Am I Being Unreasonable? (2022-) – 7.9
The Witchfinder isn’t the only sitcom utilizing the comedic talents of Daisy May Cooper in 2022 as this show stars the actress as an apparently ordinary woman with a big secret. Also written by Cooper, dark twists soon begin to play out in a show that is equal parts comedy and thriller.
For Cooper’s fans and anyone who doesn’t mind a dose of the surreal in their comedies, Am I Being Unreasonable? is a treat and many gave it highly positive reviews. In an age where great dark comedies are becoming more common, it might not have the shock value to truly stand out, but that doesn’t mean it’s not excellently acted and very cleverly written.
3/10 Alma’s Not Normal (2020-) – 7.9
A lot of the best groundbreaking comedies of recent years have been created by women, and Alma’s Not Normal is no exception. Written by Sophie Willan, the show also stars her as an aspiring actress whose search for work and relationship with her family have both been affected by the time she spent in the mental health care system.
This deeply personal subject leads to a show that’s not afraid to be bleak as well as funny, and it’s no surprise it struck a chord with a lot of viewers. Many consider Willan’s performance to be the best part of the show as it earned her a BAFTA in the Female Performance in a Comedy Programme category.
2/10 We Are Lady Parts (2021-) – 8.2
One of the biggest success stories amongst British sitcoms in recent years is the emergence of We Are Lady Parts, a series about an all-female Muslim punk band that celebrates diversity and girl power whilst also being outright hilarious at times. The series centers on the young Amina, a shy microbiology PhD student who accidentally becomes the band’s new guitarist.
Though cultural differences and complicated relationships can make for difficult subject matter, critics applauded the way the show navigates them all without ever losing its charm and endearing sense of humor. Whilst some argued the show played it safe in some ways, it’s a feel-good comedy that most viewers found impossible to dislike.
1/10 Staged (2020-2021) – 8.5
The lifting of pandemic restrictions means Staged has likely run its course, but the two seasons of quirky and innovative comedy it produced will be remembered for a long time. The show stars David Tennant, Michael Sheen and director Simon as fictionalized versions of themselves trying to continue their acting careers over video conference.
Surprisingly, the show commits completely to this premise and uses all the awkwardness and charm of the dreaded Zoom call to its advantage. It also allowed for guest appearances from stars including Samuel L. Jackson and Judy Dench, which delighted viewers who praised its amazing ability to turn the pain of the pandemic into hilarity.
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