Great comedies to stream during lockdown
The Culture Whisper team has picked its favourite comedies now available to stream. From Fleabag to Parks and Recreation, this hilarious selection will keep you smiling through lockdown
This word-of-mouth lockdown hit transcended language barriers and reinvigorated the love for French TV, along with the crime drama Lupin. Call My Agent! dives into the fraught and competitive world of a Parisian talent agency, in which the agents must please their actors at all costs.
Like the Ricky Gervais sitcom Extras (see below), episodes feature cameos from prominent actors including Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Huppert, Jena Reno and Sigourney Weaver – all parodying themselves. It’s a hilarious, bingeable, star-fuelled delight.
Euan Franklin, TV / Cinema Editor
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The six episodes making up season two of Fleabag took the world by storm last year. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator and star of the show, never claimed to speak to everyone’s experience – but her funny, brutal, tender, heartbreaking show about one self-destructive woman, who really just wants to be loved, is as illuminating as it is deeply affecting.
To better understand human relations or to just catch up with the hype, there’s nothing better to discover or revisit right now. And once you've done that – why not read our exceedingly positive reviews of season two, the greatest season of TV to hit our screens for years and years?
Ella Kemp, former Cinema Editor
Take refuge in Stars Hollow, a utopian town of celebrations and camaraderie, and home to Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Fast-talking mother-daughter comedy Gilmore Girls is so uniquely comforting it should be prescribed for anxiety.
Chronicling the lives of a plucky single mum and her bright mini-me daughter, it immerses you in a world of quirky neighbours, zany one-liners and events such as the pumpkin festival, the snowman competition and the 24-hour danceathon. At a time when we will be distanced from our own community, this fictional town is the warm embrace you’ll need.
Lucy Brooks, Commissioning, Books and Theatre Editor
Writer/creator Amy Sherman-Palladino settled into fantastically quaint suburbia with Gilmore Girls; in The Marvelous Mrs Maisel she expands her hilarious horizons to a colourful vision of 50s New York.
Sherman-Palladino continues her energetic writing style – pulsing, thumping and punching through the tale of a domestic housewife, Midge (Rachel Brosnahan), leaving her upper-class life behind and venturing into stand-up comedy. As the world starts losing its colour, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel offers an elated, balletic escape.
Read our review of season one.
Lisa McGee’s lively comedy may be set against the violence and volatility of 90s Northern Ireland, but her irrepressible, adolescent heroes are too busy with body glitter, detentions and crushes to take much notice.
Derry Girls radiates spirit as we see how family life and teenage drama prevail with the same silliness in spite of challenging times. Not only is the series uplifting and entertaining, but we can all learn from the positivity and gumption of Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle and James.
Read our review of season two.
Taking stock of the real story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling in the 80s, this Netflix gem sees Alison Brie lead a group of determined, hopeful, staunch and brilliant women learning more about their bodies and desires as they become wrestlers.
GLOW has one of the best playlists any show on Netflix could dream of, and finds philosophy and endurance in the journey of women of all ages and backgrounds to unlock new meaning in their lives. Come for the metallic Spandex, stay for the moving emotional subtext.
We need as many long-running, feather-light sitcoms as possible right now, and New Girl fits perfectly.
Zooey Deschanel stars as a bubbly, happy, surreal teacher who always looks for the best in people. After a devastating break-up, she moves into an LA apartment with three guys: all of whom adjust to, and eventually love, this friendly female presence in their lives.
Deschanel, who was typecast as the manic pixie girl in many studio romcoms, exceeds her enthusiastic expectations while bringing more depth to her character. And there’s plenty of silly jokes, too.
Simply made yet consistently hilarious, This Country proved another booming success for BBC Three. The third and last series concluded earlier this year.
Following two working-class cousins in the Cotswolds, played by real-life siblings Daisy May and Charlie Cooper, the mockumentary looks into their day-to-day lives – doing very little to better themselves. That’s part of the series’ charm: their bumbling around, attending scarecrow fairs, and pestering the local vicar. And the parochial setting, mundane and isolated though it is, has a local homeliness that’s a pleasure to keep coming back to.
No one can pinpoint where or when Sex Education takes place, with its 90s soundtrack, mostly smartphone-less reality, and students who still talk very much like Gen-Z kids. But we can all agree that Laurie Nunn’s raucous comedy – about a high school turned upside down by an unofficial sex clinic, run by one of the students (that’s Asa Butterfield), whose mum is a sex therapist (that’s Gillian Anderson) – is one of the most comforting, intelligent and deeply sensitive watches on TV.
Sex Education gives an insight into anxieties and desires so wide-reaching it’ll either illuminate your own life or give a deep insight into one of your loved ones. Perfect introspection for these times.
You probably wouldn’t want a daydreaming doctor like John Dorian (Zach Braff) at your hospital bedside. But he provides infinite material for this slightly cartoonish medical comedy, tracking JD’s career progression from a frightened intern to a (sort of) confident physician.
Under the reluctant and misanthropic mentorship of Dr Cox (John C McGinley), the homoerotic friendship with fellow surgeon Chris Turk (Donald Faison), and the will-they-won’t-they romance with the wonderfully weird Elliot (Sarah Chalke), JD navigates the world of Sacred Heart Hospital.
And like many of the great comedy series, Scrubs also hits hard with its dramatic moments too.
Home, friendship, proximity and distance are at the heart of beloved BBC comedy Gavin & Stacey, where an Essex lad falls for a Welsh girl. Sure, you’ll be rooting for the young lovers, but it’s really all about sidekick Smithy (James Corden), best mate Nessa (Ruth Jones) and all the little oddities that make the towns of Barry and Billericay feel like home.
You may have already watched Gav (Matt Horne) and Stace (Joanna Page) fall in love, but re-bingeing it now will remind you to cherish those around you and stay connected to those who can't be there.
Originally named Scrotal Recall, this sitcom about a young man who contacts all his previous partners after contracting chlamydia sounds like a crass laddish comedy. But don’t be put off; Lovesick is one of the most underrated and charming shows on Netflix.
Johnny Flynn (Emma, Vanity Fair) is a delight as the hapless romantic Dylan, with a will-they-won’t-they crush on his best friend and a streak of dire luck when it comes to dating. The humour is understated and the developing love story is so sweet, even cynics will get some warm 'n' fuzzies.
The banal comedy of David Brent’s Slough workplace is a tonic for the new wave of work-from-homers who find themselves pining for watercooler pleasantries, awkward team pub trips and internal email in-jokes.
The low-stakes plot, cringe-worthy leadership and burgeoning romance make The Office gentle but absorbing. Immaculate performances from Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook and Ricky Gervais crank up the comedy, while the focus on the dullness of daily life is a soothing reminder that all will eventually return to normal.
How do you follow one of the most influential comedies ever written? Despite Extras not reaching the same popularity as The Office, writer-director-actors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant still deliver a thoughtful, hilarious and easily bingeable sitcom about the TV and movie industries.
Big-name actors appear in every episode, from Ben Stiller to David Bowie to Kate Winslet to Samuel L Jackson – all playing satirised versions of themselves. It’s remarkable to have these Hollywood men and women under the lights of a British comedy; a funny wonder to behold. And the feature-length Christmas finale is, unquestionably, Gervais and Merchant's best episode of TV to date.
Greg Daniels is clearly a fan of the mockumentary genre, successfully adapting The Office for American audiences. Straight afterwards, he provided another brilliant fly-on-the-wall success: Parks and Recreation. The office this time is a small department in local government.
Amy Poehler plays Leslie Knope, a mid-level bureaucrat in Pawnee, Indiana, who aspires to become the first female President of the United States. But before dealing with the important national issues in the White House, she has to cope with small-town problems. For example: the outrage towards two gay penguins getting married at the local zoo.
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