We Brits are well known for two things: our obsession with the weather and our sense of humour. And this month there’s a crop of great comedies on Freeview where we can escape from the frustrations of snowmaggedon while laughing at the absurdity of everyday life.
Let’s start with some new comedy programmes and some shows making a welcome return to our screens:
Hold The Sunset
BBC One Sunday 4 March at 7:30pm
Hard to believe, but it’s nearly 40 years since John Cleese made the final episode of Fawlty Towers. Now he’s back in a brand-new situation comedy. He stars as Phil, a widower who’s convinced his neighbour Edith (Alison Steadman) that they should tie the knot and find a place in the sun. But their big plans are put on hold when Edith’s son Roger (Jason Watkins) decides he’s moving back to stay with mum. Joining this who’s who of stage and screen are veteran actors Anne Reid and Peter Egan. Watch out for this one – it has all the makings of a classic Sunday night sitcom.
Monday 5 March at 10pm
The creative team behind Murder in Successville has come up with another winner. Described as “The Naked Gun meets The Bourne Identity”, Action Team is a spoof spy series featuring a crack (or is that crackpot?) team of special agents out to save the world. Co-writer and front man Tom Davis hasn’t been shy in explaining how the show came about: “Every year I sit there as the bookies predict who they think will play the next James Bond and I’m always left off the list, so I’ve decided to do something about it.”
BBC Three from 26 February
BBC One Tuesday 6 March at 10:45pm
Catch-up with series two and all of series one on BBC iPlayer
When the first series was screened last year, it didn’t take long for This Country to become a word-of-mouth hit. On the face of it, a mockumentary about two cousins enduring the tedium of rural life doesn’t sound a lot of fun. But the writers and main characters, Daisy May and Charlie Cooper, have created that rare creature – a comedy that’s both critically acclaimed and hugely popular with the viewing public. And the cousins certainly don’t hold back. “You look like Andy Fordham,” Kurtan tells Kerry. “Who’s that?” “A fat darts player, basically.” “Well, I don’t care, because I’m enjoying myself.”
Thursday 8 March at 9pm and 9:30pm
Catch-up on all previous series on All 4
It was only supposed to run for thirteen episodes, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine is now in its fifth season. Its enduring popularity is down to some masterly writing and the wise-cracking conflict between maverick Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and his buttoned-up commanding officer Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher). This comedy cop show crackles with great jokes, but it’s not afraid to get serious or emotional – Captain Holt is an openly gay man who’s been the target of plenty of abuse. But perhaps it’s the sheer silliness of this show that’s won it so many fans, as well as a couple of Golden Globes. In the latest series, we find Peralta behind bars, with a cellmate who just happens to be a cannibal.
Not Going Out
Thursday 8 March at 9pm
Back for an incredible ninth series, this laugh-a-minute sitcom first aired in 2006. After a decade on the screen, some sitcoms fall flat. But not this one! Lee Mack’s quick-fire delivery, along with the show’s surreal set-ups and visual gags make it as fresh as episode one. Lee and Lucy are now married with three children, which provides the foundations for all kinds of domestic mayhem. Not Going Out is one of the great survivors in sitcomland, and that’s a badge the series will continue to wear with pride – series ten is scheduled for next year!
Friday 2 March at 10:30pm
Jo Brand’s come a long way since she was one of the few women to brave the stand-up circuit in the 1980s. Now close to the status of national treasure, Jo’s become a familiar face on panel shows such as Have I Got News For You, hosting the Bake Off Extra Slice show and writing and starring in her own comedies about nursing and social workers. This documentary brings together friends and collaborators to celebrate the Brand that is Jo! And previous episodes, profiling Joan Rivers, Bette Midler and Julie Walters can be enjoyed on Channel 5’s My5 on-demand service.
Thursday 8 March at 9:30pm
Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill make a welcome return to our screens as the evergreen pensioners Jack and Victor. In episode one, the regulars aren’t happy with new ideas for the pub and take matters into their own hands. Meanwhile, the formidable force of nature that is Isa is on a mission to find out who is throwing her a surprise birthday party.
And if you’ve missed any of the great comedy series that have already made their mark in 2018, you can catch up with on-demand services:
It’s been one of the surprise hits of 2018. Derry Girls follows the exploits of a 16-year-old girl (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), her family and friends at the tail-end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Lisa McGhee’s whip-smart script and the bolshy, bonkers and downright brilliant characters have prompted comparisons with The Inbetweeners. It’s also got some cracking one-liners: “You can’t ring Childline every time your mother threatens to kill you!” A second series is already in the offing, so catch yourself on and take a look at the show everyone’s been talking about.
Wednesday 7 March at 10pm
Series one and two on All 4
A single mum sex worker, drug addicted parents, a boy with a transitioning parent and a troubled past. Who’s going to make a comedy out of that lot? Jo Brand, of course, who’s co-written this darkly comical series about a council children’s services department. As you’d expect from Jo (who also stars along with Alan Davies), it’s a sharply-observed sitcom with plenty of black humour and sardonic banter. The subject matter may be bleak, but this show treads a careful line that highlights the funny side of social work without poking fun at the people on the front line.
Man Like Mobeen
The Financial Times, no less, has described this show as “exceptionally funny character comedy”. Mobeen is the creation of Guz Khan, a former Birmingham teacher who’s rapidly moved from YouTube star to Live at the Apollo and now to his own BBC Three series. Khan plays Mobeen, a young man who just wants to follow his faith and look after his younger sister. But the series cleverly deploys comedy to challenge the stereotypes that British Muslims have often been subjected to. Confronted by the leader of a far-right hate group, Mobeen responds: “I know plenty of Muslims and I can’t get them to commit to what time they’re going to Nando’s, let alone commit acts of terrorism.”
The Young Offenders
Here’s the story of two loveable rogues with Cork accents and dodgy moustaches. The show’s a spin-off of a runaway hit movie, with Alex Murphy and Chris Walley as Conor and Jock. Their incompetence knows no boundaries as they blunder from nicking the lead off roofs to getting covered in paint. But, even when the odds are totally against them, the lads’ loyalty to each other is unshakeable. It’s already being touted as the next Derry Girls, the next Inbetweeners and the next This Country. But The Young Offenders has a style all its own. This pair may be feckless, hapless and useless, but their crazy exploits are likely to leave you helpless – with laughter.