We love a conversation-starter here at Cup of Beans Towers. That’s why we thought it’d be fun to rank the best British sitcoms of the Noughties and open the debate up to you. Turns out it was quite the decade.
Before we start, some housekeeping. Firstly, we’re only dealing with sitcoms that launched from 2000 to 2009. So you won’t see obviously brilliant shows like Spaced (September 1999) and Him & Her (September 2010).
Secondly, when you inevitably disagree with us, just do it nicely, okay? Good. Let’s crack on.
18. Catterick (February 2004)
As a kid, watching Vic and Bob on Shooting Stars let you believe that it might be possible to grow up and get paid to be silly all day, long before you realised how statistically unlikely that was. With Catterick, their mad ideas had a different, but no less enjoyable platform.
The cool thing about Vic and Bob is that they can basically do anything, however daft, and you’re happy to go along with it. Even so, there’s an intriguing narrative beneath the silliness, so while there was a fairly concrete conclusion, it’s a shame that a second series never materialised to give us more time with these characters.
Anyway, here’s hotel manager Roy Oates (Matt Lucas). Try and watch him without chuckling. Bet you can’t.
17. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (January 2004)
The first (but not last) show on this last to spawn from a Perrier-winning stage show, Darkplace maintains a reverent fanbase over a decade after its fleeting run on Channel 4.
It’s a show that almost needed to be a one series wonder, because its fate entirely fit the subject matter. Garth Marenghi could never be anything other than a misunderstood genius.
You only need to watch a genuinely terrible sitcom to know that it takes plenty of skill to weave comedy gold from pretending to be shit. If you’re wearing a cap, doff it now.
16. The Mighty Boosh (May 2004)
Few shows took ‘alternative comedy’ to quite the same level as The Mighty Boosh. Each episode was a tidal wave of weird, as Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding seized the opportunity to bring their Perrier-winning stage show (see, told you there’d be more) to the small screen.
No other sitcom seemed to have a following as dedicated. In fact, my (at the time) late teen/early twenties age group were positively fanatical about it. If you didn’t have one too many lemon VKs and do an impression of Old Gregg, you hadn’t really lived.
15. Pulling (November 2006)
It’s one of the great comedy mysteries of this decade that Pulling wasn’t commissioned for a third series.
Lots of people watched it and critics loved it. Co-writer Sharon Horgan had just won a British Comedy Award and the show had been nominated for a BAFTA. You’d think that would’ve been enough, but according to BBC Three controller Danny Cohen: “Every recommission means one less space for a new project.”
The show at least got an hour-long special that afforded fans the chance to give Donna, Karen and Louise a proper send-off.
14. Human Remains (November 2000)
It’s always interesting to revisit a comedian’s early work and Human Remains represents something of a TV breakthrough for Julia Davis and Rob Brydon. Looking back, it’s a masterclass of character comedy.
13. Gavin and Stacey (May 2007)
As someone who grew up near Barry, Gavin and Stacey became something of a millstone. Like daffodils, leeks and woollen farm animals, it was almost expected of me to enjoy it. Stubbornly, I rebelled. Honestly, if I had a quid for every time someone asked me what was occurin’…
Later re-viewing has softened my stance considerably, as the show’s charm is pretty hard to resist. The titular characters are actually the least interesting, with Smithy, Nessa and Uncle Bryn providing the best bits.
12. Coupling (May 2000)
It’s easy to describe Coupling as merely ‘Friends UK’, but that’d be doing it a disservice. True, there are obvious similarities between the ditzy Jane and Phoebe and the womanising Patrick and Joey, but concepts such as ‘The Giggle Loop’, ‘The Truth Snake’ and ‘The Melty Man’ make it easy to gloss over that and enjoy the ride.
The departure of Richard Coyle’s Jeff after series 3 left a hole that replacement Oliver sadly never quite filled. Nevertheless, Steven Moffat created characters that were easy to warm to, before he was tempted away by an up-and-coming sci-fi show called Doctor Who.
11. 15 Storeys High (November 2002)
Part of me wants to rank this hipsterish indulgence higher, but I’m not quite brave enough. Co-written by Sean Lock, Mark Lamarr and Martin Trenaman, it’s a shame that 15 Storeys High was never really given the platform it needed to build a following.
The show graduated to TV from a Radio 4 show that featured Lock and Peter Serafinowicz as two hapless flatmates. Lock channels his onstage persona into irritable pool attendant Vince, with Serafinowicz replaced by a wonderfully understated, deadpan performance from Benedict Wong as gullible lodger Errol.
Then there are the cutaways, where we get snapshots of what the rest of the people in their block of flats get up to. Weird.
10. Phoenix Nights (January 2001)
Your view of Phoenix Nights can go one of two ways.
If your glass is half full, then a cast stuffed with stand-ups made the most of some memorable characters and, for the most part, very funny material. When the show was brought to the stage in 2015, it packed out the Manchester Arena 15 times and raised £5 million for Comic Relief, which we can all agree is nice.
If your glass if half empty, it’s the show that Peter Kay allegedly tried to take sole credit for, annoying co-creators Dave Spikey and Neil Fitzmaurice. Or the show that infamously marks the lowest point in Daniel Kitson’s career. You’re probably still cringing at those uncomfortable Chinese chefs (the joke is they don’t speak English and are therefore simpletons, yeah?).
Both views are valid and the contents of your glass are up to you. I’m staying on the fence and putting it at number ten.
9. Nathan Barley (February 2005)
By now, we’re all agreed that Charlie Brooker can see the future. However, before the pig-bothering predictions of Black Mirror, there was the terrifyingly prescient Nathan Barley, co-written with everyone’s favourite comedy anarchist, Chris Morris.
Uber-nincompoop Nathan is every tryhard hipster you’ve ever met, brilliantly brought to life from Brooker’s satirical website TV Go Home. It’s rightly regarded as a cult classic, even if that’s just a polite way of saying no-one watched it.
8. Marion and Geoff (September 2000)
Before Uncle Bryn, there was Keith Barret. Rob Brydon’s tragicomic taxi driver is heartbreakingly funny to watch, as the true extent of wife Marion’s extramarital activities is slowly revealed across Keith’s monologues.
Finding the laughs in watching a man’s marriage unravel is no mean feat, but Brydon and co-writer/director Hugo Blick created a truly lovable character that it was impossible not to root for. Keith was so much fun, he even got his own relationship counselling chat show, which is also worth seeking out.
7. Extras (July 2005)
While it was never going to be possible to top the perfection of The Office (spoiler alert, list fans), Extras was a worthy follow-up.
Any fears that Andy Millman would just be a rehashed Brent were quickly put to rest, while the celebrity cameos were well-used and never felt forced.
The Les Dennis episode is among the most memorable, as the entertainer allowed Gervais and Merchant to mercilessly mine his own personal melodrama in the name of chuckles. However, it’s almost a decade later and I still can’t get enough of Patrick’s Stewart’s unforgettable “I’ve seen everything” scene.
6. Black Books (September 2000)
Bernard Black just wants to be left to his own devices without the inconvenience of having to interact with the general public. Isn’t that something we can all get on board with?
Dylan Moran’s whimsical, rambling style has always been very watchable, and Black Books gave it a chance to really shine. The Series One writing team of Moran and Graham Linehan is enough to whet the appetite of any self-respecting comedy fan.
Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig had fantastic onscreen chemistry as Bernard, Manny and Fran launched from one drunken escapade to the next. Bernard simply says what he thinks, however rude or inappropriate, and that’s a premise that made each of its 18 episodes a joy to watch.
5. The Inbetweeners (May 2008)
Sometimes you’re fortunate enough to fall right into a show’s target audience. In 2008, with high school still reasonably fresh in the memory, The Inbetweeners was instantly relatable.
Everyone knows a Will, a Simon, a Neil and a Jay, and we all like to think we got into just as many scrapes as they did. Many of us will have tried and failed to get into a club, or done something daft on a school trip. Okay, we didn’t all swap shoes with a tramp, or punch a fish to death, but still, those were great days.
Let’s just pretend that second film never happened and it’ll all be okay.
4. The IT Crowd (February 2006)
“Hello IT, have you tried turning it off and on again?”
Being trapped in a basement was never so much fun. Eight years on from Father Ted’s fateful final episode, Graham Linehan went solo and created a brand new bunch of equally unforgettable characters.
Spending half an hour with Roy, Moss and Jen was always fun and it was a thrill to see Chris Morris back on TV as the brilliant Denholm Reynholm – until they chucked him out of a window, anyway.
Richard Ayoade’s Moss is arguably one of the best loved sitcom characters of the decade, so much so that he was drafted in to play the same role in the ill-fated US remake, which is not worth your time.
3. Peep Show (September 2003)
A logistical nightmare to film, the extra effort was worth it to allow us all too intimate access to Mark and Jez’s innermost thoughts. This unique feature kept Peep Show going for 12 memorable years, helped along by brilliant supporting characters such as Dobby, Super Hans and the superb Alan Johnson.
While a slight drop-off in quality towards the final few seasons stops it ranking higher, at its outrageous, offensive best Peep Show is one of the finest and most original British sitcoms ever written. It also boasts the catchiest theme tune on this list.
The fourth season is rightly lauded as the show’s high point, but while most home in on the infamous ‘dog-eating’ episode, Mark and Jez meeting Sophie’s parents is my personal favourite. Mainly because it gave us this unbeatable Mark rant:
2. The Thick Of It (May 2005)
The Thick Of It provided one of the greatest sitcom characters of all time in the shape of Malcolm Tucker. Peter Capaldi’s “all-swearing eye” took every scene by the scruff of the neck with some of the most wonderful insults you’ll ever hear.
Any show that employs a swearing consultant is always going to be fun. In fact, the language was so creative that ‘omnishambles’ (another Tuckerism) even made it into the dictionary in 2013.
The varying states of British politics throughout its run led to some fantastic character dynamics, none more so than when DoSAC became home to a coalition government in the final series.
1. The Office (July 2001)
The Office is the first sitcom I watched where there was really a sense of something new and exciting happening. It’s the first sitcom that hadn’t been introduced to me by my parents, which made it instantly cool.
The training day episode is rightly regarded as one of the finest half hours in the history of British comedy, while Tim and Dawn proved that comedy could have a softer side without being cheesy.
Gervais and Merchant’s insistence on quitting while everything was still fresh makes it all the more iconic. It’s no surprise that the latter maintained a safe distance from Life on the Road.
It’s a testament to how much the characters are loved that The Office remains as quotable today as it was then. We’ll give it an A.
Tell us what you think
There we go then.
See you soon.