News: Top TV Comedy 2016

It’s been a bad year in all sorts of ways, but not in terms of TV comedy. I sat down today to come up with a top ten of the year and had difficulty narrowing it down to ten. Of course there were disappointments and programmes that didn’t quite live up to expectations, such as Sky’s Andrew Lawrence documentary, but there was still plenty to laugh at here. And if you are quick some of them are still available on various catch-up services. And in case you are wondering, I decided not to include Black Mirror - it was brilliant but just too painfully real to be funny.

1. Motherland 

You’ve got to be good to make top spot and this really good one-off has stayed long in the memory, not only for the concept of frozen cheese and a starving Anna Maxwell Martin screaming “they’re not feeding the adults”. A series is on its way too - read a review here.

2. Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s stupendous series would have been number one but it was not quite laugh-out-loud funny enough. In fact while it got better as the run went on it also got bleaker and sadder. Totally compelling to the very end, a real sucker punch of a show. Review.

3. Camping

I don’t know why Julia Davies has such a grim sense of humour, I’m just glad she does. When this was announced it sounded like a limp remake of Mike Leigh’s Nuts In May, but, boy, did Davies take it further, aided by an immensely talented – and committed – cast. Review.

4. Stag

Comedy doesn’t come much darker than this filmic outing in which a bunch of blokes head out to the highlands and get bumped off in various horrible ways. The first, but not the last, time viewers saw the Rufus Jones bum this year. Review here.

5. Mum

Another slow burn comedy where the laughs were sometimes low but the social observations smart. Lesley Manville starred as the titular mum coming to terms with bereavement. Shades of Mike Leigh but this grew and grew into a thing of beauty in its own right. Oh happy day, a second series has been commissioned. 

6. Divorce

Sharon Horgan can pretty much do no wrong at the moment and here she teamed up with Sarah Jessica Parker for a brittle look at the break-up process, showing that it is hard however much money you have in the bank. The accents might have been American but the issues, recriminations and frank sexual humour were universal. 

7. Lost Sitcoms: Hancock’s Half Hour

Yes, a fifty year old show has made the 2016 chart, which just goes to show that a great script will be timeless. This recreation of Hancock spying on his new neighbours could surely not have been funnier when the lad himself starred in it half a century ago. We are still laughing at the line about envying next door’s eight inch telly. 

8. Taskmaster

This seems to be a series that really brings families together. I’ve come across a number of examples of parents watching celebrities undertake ridiculous challenges with their kids. More series have already been commissioned, making this one of Dave’s biggest hits.  

9. Upstart Crow

Shock of the TV year was Ben Elton’s return to form. Of course this was never going to be as good as vintage Blackadder but boy did David Mitchell’s performance as the bard help us forget the abomination that was The Wright Way…

10. Flowers

Newcomer Will Sharpe’s comedy drama starring Julian Barratt and Olivia Colman was different from the outset and C4 knew it – they broadcast it all in a week, which means they either wanted to give it a high profile or get it over with quickly. The consensus was the former. 

11. Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle

Too edgy for BBC2 or just not mainstream enough? Either way Stewart Lee’s fourth series was not recommissioned after this series, but we are left with some formidable routines on UKIP, Jeremy Corbyn, migrants and Islamophobia and much more that have taken on even greater significance since they were broadcast.

12. Alan Partridge’s Mid-Morning Matters

Steve Coogan’s enduring character showed no signs of flagging even if his career was now confined to one tiny digital outpost in Anglia. Coogan had to put in a perfect performance otherwise he would have been upstaged by the equally epic Tim Key as Sidekick Simon.  

13. Harry Hill’s Tea Time

TV Burp is dead, long live Tea Time. The madcap absurdist took elements of previous hits and added a cooking theme to come up with this glorious mish mash of a family show. Where else could you see George Michael's face carved out of a kebab this year? Nowhere. That’s right. 

14. Asian Provocateur

Maybe this lacked the impact of the first BBC3 series but on the plus side you did get to see Romesh Ranganathan without any clothes on a few times. And his mother, as expected, was excellent value on this journey to America and beyond.

15. Damned

Jo Brand and Alan Davies delved into the world of social services in this C4 series which had a heart under its hard-bitten surface. Isy Suttie shone too as the most useless member of staff since Baldrick first had a cunning plan. 

16. Josh

Josh Widdicombe’s sitcom does not exactly break the flatshare mould but there is some great chemistry between the main cast – JW, Elis James, Beattie Edmondson and Jack Dee – and the intertwining plots have more than a hint of Seinfeld/Curb Your Enthusiasm about them which is no bad thing.

 

 

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