Readers of the OxStu, do not be afraid. I know I come to you sheathed in a blinding light, glowing like the holy (in a sassy way) love child of Beyoncé and the Angel Gabriel, but know that I mean no harm. I am here to help you.
As a kind of self-appointed Screen section Fairy Godmother, I feel it my sad duty to bestow upon you a difficult truth: right now, dear readers, British TV comedy just ain’t what it used to be. We must face facts – Gavin and Stacey is long gone; the latest series of The Thick of It was underwhelming, and even Peep Show, that bastion of disgracefully funny narcissism, and purveyor of the best cultural references in any UK sitcom ever, is dwindling; the punch it once administered constantly can now only be felt every few episodes. These are dark days.
Luckily for you O lost masses of laughter fans, across the pond in the US of A there is a rake of smart TV comedies just waiting to fill your revision breaks with their seductive twenty minute episodes. I’m here to tell you all about five of them, so just think of me as your spirit guide (if your spirit guide was really into TV and listened to Turn My Swag On a lot).
First up is one of my favourite shows, which gets nowhere near enough recognition in the UK, or anywhere really – that’s Workaholics. The show follows three college dropout call centre employees and all the dumb crap (that is the only way to summarise it) they do: the ensemble is razor sharp, and the writing mixes gross-out humour with perceptive wit, making for a combination that feels fresh. If Step Brothers was mostly just about smoking weed, this would probably have been the result.
If you’re after something more original still, look to Nathan For You, which aired on Comedy Central in the US earlier this year to great critical praise, and was recently picked up for a second season. The premise is simple: Nathan Fielder, self-styled business guru, offers his services to real, struggling companies. Which is great, until you realise that Fielder is: a) terrible at business, and b) the undisputed king of deadpan, who can squeeze every drop of awkward out of any situation. His exploits include introducing a poop flavoured frozen yogurt to a dessert store (actually), and creating a viral shitstorm with a staged video of a pig rescuing a drowning goat. In the first two episodes. Jump aboard the hype train – this is going to be big.
Another show to keep an eye on is Portlandia, a sketch comedy about the hipper-than-thou city of Portland, Oregon and its residents. It stars the painfully cool SNL veteran Fred Armisen and singer/guitarist/princess Carrie Brownstein, and is worth your time if skits are your thing. If you like your comedy more challenging, you might find Louie – which blends Seinfeld-esque stand-up sequences with ridiculous guest stars and a looser, more experimental stucture than we tend to expect from TV comedy – to be quite a treat; conversely, if you just want a smile slapped firmly on your face, Parks and Recreation, which just started showing on BBC4, will surely do the trick.
There. I have shared my wisdom and now I must depart in a blaze of glory. Do not let it go to waste, dear readers, for laughter is good for the soul – it’s just that right now, American laughter is kind of, well, better.
PHOTO/Arthurly, Brittany Frederick, Dan Weiss