The following is a guest post.
As I’ve stated on a number of occasions, I have a special place in my heart for British comedy. Seeing as we’re smack dab in the middle of awards season, I wanted to take this opportunity to share the results of an online awards competition which recognizes Britain’s favorite funny programs of the year.
For the past eight years The British Comedy Guide, a wonderful resource for all types of humorous entertainment (TV, radio and stand-up) in the UK, has been conducting an annual comedy poll. According to the site, “the results are 100% based on the public vote – there is no biased jury or naive judging panel involved here – just the fans.” Thousands voted for their favorites from the plethora of series that aired in the past twelve months.
No red carpet, no boozy speeches, just internet savvy people voicing their opinions on what was funny, or not, in 2013. (An unfortunate series in each category was also given the dubious distinction of worst of the year.) I felt most of the winners were very deserving, but don’t just take my word for it.
Best New British Sitcom – The Wrong Mans
Written by and starring James Corden and Mathew Baynton, this BBC Two sitcom/spy thriller had the biggest viewing numbers for any comedy broadcast in the UK this year. Americans also got a chance to watch this action comedy on Hulu beginning last November so perhaps The Wrong Mans got the international vote as well.
If you haven’t seen it yet, this series is fresh, funny, and has quite a few puzzling plot twists. And if you didn’t know Mathew Baynton before, he really shines as Sam Pinkett, our reluctant hero who protests that he’s just a town planning and noise guidance advisor for Berkshire County Council.
A second series of The Wrong Mans is in the works though I can’t imagine how Sam and Phil could possibly stumble into yet another case of mistaken identity, international intrigue and government corruption again. But if anyone’s up to the challenge, it’s Corden and Baynton.
Best Returning British Sitcom – The IT Crowd
All it took was one special episode to earn Channel 4’s The IT Crowd the title of the best returning sitcom. For fans of this “cult” favorite, three years was a long time to wait, but we IT Crowdites are basically nerds after all. A loyally passionate group, we apparently got out the vote for our beloved sitcom about two geeks (Chris O’Dowd and Richard Ayoade) and a girl (Katherine Parkinson) who encounter surreal experiences in and around their basement lair at Reynholm Industries.
The payoff for our patience was one awesome forty-five minute wrap-up with calls back to previous jokes, a cameo from everyone’s favorite Goth, Richmond Avenal (Noel Fielding), and Moss’ newfound confidence stemming only from an article of ladies apparel. It’s a modern classic worthy of internet accolades – very appropriate indeed.
Best British Sketch Show –Horrible Histories
This CBBC series features sketches, songs and animated segments that teach historically accurate facts about various time periods from the Stone Age to World War II. Though produced as a children’s program, Horrible Histories is wildly popular with adults and has been the most successful program in the annals of the Comedy.co.uk Awards winning the Overall Comedy of the Year twice previously.
Though Horrible Histories has just ended its run in 2013, its troupe including Mathew Baynton (big year for him), has gone on to create another family friendly comedy called Yonderland for Sky1. Perhaps it will be honored in next year’s poll.
Best British TV Panel Show – Would I Lie to You?
Watching any British panel show that features the erudite David Mitchell always makes me feel a bit smarter. Add to the mix comic “everyman”, Lee Mack as rival team captain and master of impersonations, Rob Brydon as host and you’ve got a UK comedy fan favorite.
It’s a sort of funnier, hipper descendant of America’s long-running panel show, To Tell the Truth. Featuring an extensive rotation of comedians and various TV presenters as guest liars, BBC One’s Would I Lie to You? is a showcase for the deceptive and persuasive skills of British celebrities.
Best British TV Entertainment – The Graham Norton Show
Personally I haven’t watched much in the way of British chat/entertainment shows, but I do adore Graham Norton and so, apparently, do British comedy fans. The Graham Norton Show has won the British Comedy Guide’s Best Entertainment category for three straight years. From A-list guests participating in amusing activities, to some pretty awesome musical performances and the always hilarious audience participation segments, Norton’s show is a unique entertainment experience.
None of it would work, however, without Graham’s mixture of charm, playful snarkiness and just a hint of star struck fan boy. And of course, the infamous red chair.
Best British Comedy Drama – Fresh Meat
Fresh Meat has impressively won this category in each year of its three series run. Channel 4’s university roommate series is at its heart a comedy with touchingly dramatic moments interspersed. It captures the chaotic whirlwind of college life including the struggle find one’s own path, the adjustment to living with strangers and, it goes without saying, lots of drinking and a bit of indiscriminate sex.
Created by Peep Show writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, Fresh Meat features a truly talented ensemble of empathetic, if not loveable, misfits. If there’s one standout worthy of mention, it’s Jack Whitehall’s portrayal of posh public school boy, JP.
While no future series have been announced yet, it’s been reported that a Fresh Meat film is in development. And if you haven’t seen it, the first two series of Fresh Meat are also available to American audiences through the ever growing British collection of Hulu.
Best Comedy of the Year – Would I Lie to You?
WILTY is the first unscripted show to ever win the title of best overall comedy program, a sign that viewers find the concept, the chemistry between the regulars (and the humor that ensues) very entertaining indeed. Well done to all the fibbers and fabricators!
To recap- a new comedy hybrid (a thrillmedy, perhaps); a sentimental fan favorite finale; an educational children’s program with a very silly side; a slice of college chaos; and the one show to rule them all, a celebrity panel show where the object is to convince people you’re lying when you’re not and vice versa. This is the best UK comedy had to offer in 2013 according to the fans who watch it.
Do you agree? And if not, which programs would you have chosen if these awards were based on a voting pool of one?
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.