Family Bonding Over British Telly

The following is a guest post.

When I was carrying my son, Ross, now 22 years old, I found everything around me to be extremely funny. From stand-up comedians on TV to embarrassing faux pas like wearing two different shoes to work because I couldn’t see over my huge pregnant belly, I laughed a lot, often to the point of tears. So somehow it didn’t seem surprising that as he grew, Ross and I came to share a very similar sense of humor. Granted, I don’t appreciate his love of Dumb and Dumber, but we both seem to have an affinity for absurd comedy and its cousin, the portrayal of uncomfortably awkward situations.

Each time Ross returns home for a school break, I look forward to watching things with him that no one else in the family has the slightest interest in seeing. In fact my husband will flee a room when a show breaches his inappropriate behavior tolerance, which is rather often. On this visit my son and I haven’t had as much telly bonding time as I would like, but I did introduce him to Big Fat Quiz of the Year so now he’s on a mission to watch every one that’s ever been uploaded on YouTube.


We did however take time to reminisce about some our mutual favorites and the following is the list we compiled of must-watch series or performers. Think of it as a tool to help you stay connected to your, for all intents and purposes, adult son. Clips were chosen by Ross and anything in italicized text are his insights.

1. Monty Python

This is a no brainer I suppose, but as I mentioned in my introductory post, the Pythons are either something you get or you don’t. With Ross being my first child I guess I wanted to test him out to see if he had my humor gene. We started with The Holy Grail which really brought to light just how amazingly outlandish British comedy could be. It’s the classic cornerstone example of British absurdist comedy and where it all started for me. At some point in middle school, I bought him the complete Flying Circus anthology and we’ve delighted in every fish slapping, silly walking, Spanish Inquisitioning moment.


2. Any TV project Ricky Gervais is involved in

Of course the groundbreaking series The Office is included in this category, but Gervais is so much more than David Brent. Other triumphs include Extras, Life’s Too Short and his discovery and clever manipulation of Karl Pilkington in The Ricky Gervais Show and An Idiot Abroad. Ricky is unapologetically contentious and likes to see people backed in a corner especially the endearingly stupid Karl. He purposefully writes cringe-worthy awkward plot points and characters that never “get theirs”, perfect for those of us with a sicker sense about what humor truly is.


3. The Mighty Boosh

I think we each discovered The Boosh independent of one another though I can’t even recall what possessed me to check it out of the library. Ross found that episodes were being aired on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim at 3 in the morning if that gives you any idea where this is heading. The winding path from Edinburgh Fringe stage show to radio led finally to one of the most creative shows on BBC Three. The lunacy and imagination to invent phrases and ideas that just don’t fit is phenomenal. Julian Barratt is Howard Moon, the underdog character, and Noel Fielding is cool Vince Noir, the good guy who unwittingly seems to always win. The Mighty Boosh also introduces amazing side characters (like Old Gregg) complete with genius catch phrases.

Warning: this may not be to everyone’s taste. I myself prefer the Board of Shaman.


4. Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge

I mentioned Knowing Me, Knowing Yule with Alan Partridge when I talked about Christmas specials but the entire series, in fact any time Coogan plays Partridge, is a treat. Alan is a wonderfully nerdy and uptight character. What it boils down to is I can relate more to his awkward reactions than to any of the people he interviews. Constantly downtrodden, I find Alan endearing for trying to wade through adverse odds (which let’s face it, he’s created for himself in most cases.) Though his guests always seem to turn on him, every once in a while he gets his back.


5. Little Britain

It took a long time for me to decide to watch the infamous sketch show, Little Britain, but once I did I knew it must be shared with my son. Besides the great costume and makeup design, David Walliams and Matt Lucas, famous for their use of popular catch phrases and characters, push the boundaries to a sometimes offensive level. They find humor in vomiting to the extreme yet employ classic British comedy elements such as men in drag, humorous nudity, and the shock value of older people saying surprisingly candid things.

This is a sketch from the Little Britain live show, but derives from the original tv show characters.

I have a new list prepared for when Ross returns to college, things I’ve bugged him to watch for a while now. He’s already been told that he needs to catch up with me and that The League of Gentlemen, Green Wing, and The Thick of It are top priority…I mean, after he’s done his homework of course.
Carmen is an American wife and mother of two college students who live away from home. With her yellow lab Malcolm by her side, she watches and writes about British television for her own blog Everything I Know about the UK I Learned from the BBC. Read more of Carmen’s posts here.


  1. says

    Hi everyone-

    I guess the italics from my son’s input didn’t translate from my submission to the blog itself so if it sounds a little like two different voices are speaking, they are!

    Enjoy- Carmen

  2. Melissa says

    All fixed Carmen, sorry. When the email came thru the text was so small I couldn’t even see the italics. Had to do a lot of squinting I did!