Small Screen, Big Impact: Our Favourite British Shows

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There’s no denying that British television has set a few trends; from Doctor Who is the longest-running sci-fi show, to Downton Abbey proving so popular that it received a cameo appearance in Iron Man 3. But everyone has their favourites, whether it’s Bake Off talking all about to avoid soggy-bottomed cakes or Blackadder’s most genius and cunning plans. Several writers for The Edge talk about their show of choice:

Ab Fab – Morgan McMillan

Absolutely Fabulous is the epitome of everything that is British. The Britcom stars British legends Jennifer Saunders (Eddie Monsoon) and Joanna Lumley (Patsy Stone), the purpose of the show is to showcase the irony of Britain through satire. Eddie, a heavy-drinking, drug-abusing PR agent who is obsessed with losing weight and bizarre trends to keep her young and ‘hip’, while Patsy, is also a drug-abusing alcoholic who is desperate to stay young. It shows both women still clinging onto the ‘swinging sixties’ as they recapture their ‘glory days’ similar to the mentality of Britons in this era. It’s the greatest show to have ever been created, its political incorrectness pinches fun at British culture especially for its absurd views surrounding our history. This is most seen in the episode titled Poor, season 2 episode 5 when Eddie who is arrested goes on a rant about the absurdity of taxes.

Blackadder – Alice Fortt

Blackadder is, to me anyway, peak British TV. A comedic period sitcom, that changes eras every new season, but with the iconic characters staying the same, without getting boring? AND it stars Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, and Tony Robinson? With Stephen Fry, Tim McInnerny and Miranda Richardson in supporting roles? Honestly, what’s there not to like? It’s overflowing with ‘Britishness’, from its dry deadpan humour to its surprisingly near accurate history, and it somehow balances hard-hitting drama with utter ridiculousness. Take the acclaimed final episode of the fourth season, for instance. Most of the episode is funny, with Atkinson’s claims of madness to avoid the ‘big push’ (the image of Blackadder with underwear on his head and pencils in his nose will always be close to my heart). The final few moments, however, are heartbreakingly poignant, speaking of the horrors faced by all soldiers in the Great War, leaving the audience pondering and teary. The show is legendary, and in my eyes unbeatable; definitely worth a watch if you haven’t caught it already!

The Office UK – Zarah Akhavan-Moossavi

One of the best and most realistic depictions of quotidian British life is the 2001 sitcom, The Office. Ricky Gervais and Stephan Merchant create a relatively boring sitcom where nothing really happens but works perfectly as a mockumentary, centred around David Brent, depicting how mundane life in a cookie-cutter office is. The original Office is always the subject of comparison to the US version, with many favouring the later remake rather than the original, but that seems down to your expectations of the show. The Office (UK) doesn’t serve to entertain in the overt way the US version does, but successfully presents a run-of-the-mill office that we enjoy to watch for its closeness to our everyday lives, and becomes entertaining by following David Brent, someone trying a bit too hard and never really succeeding. Gervais and Merchant deliver a hilarious sitcom that works to represent that quintessential Britishness we know and love (or love to hate).

Downton Abbey

With its first series premiering in 2010 and telling the story of a British Earl in the aftermath of an inheritance crisis, Downton Abbey is perhaps the reason why the British public love period dramas to this day. Spanning across a period beginning with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, through World War One and into the heart of the Roaring 20s, Downton Abbey follows the Earl of Grantham and his family, as well as the household downstairs as they navigate this changing world.

The acting was superb, and I think everyone’s favourite character was Dowager Countess Violet (Maggie Smith) and her sass, but everyone has their favourites to root for. Everyone gets their happy ending in one form or another by the end, but the twists, turns, and sheer heartbreak that audiences go through to get there keep you captivated as you press on (I still miss Michael Gregson).

With an array of Emmys and other awards beneath its belt, Downton Abbey is a show that was highly praised both by critics and fans, even receiving a cameo during Iron Man 3!

– Louise Chase

Outnumbered

Outnumbered seems a no brainer to include on a Best of British list as it entirely epitomises the stereotypical middle-class British family: with two working parents and three rather unruly children, Outnumbered showcases the funniest side of family life.

Spanning over five series from 2007 to 2014, with a few Christmas specials in more recent years, the Brockman family provided British families across the country entertainment concerning their daily lives and trivialities. Watching Karen, Ben and Jake grow across these years was so memorable as the show presented the family in such a personable nature that we as the audience became completely attached to their existence. The relatable nature of the family whose close bonds shine through is definitely what makes Outnumbered so iconic in British TV.

May all women aspire to be hexagons and all Auntie Angela’s out there bring regular annoyance.

– Georgie Holmes

Gavin and Stacey

In 2019, Gavin and Stacey broke records, becoming the most-watched Christmas Day Special of the decade. The show had been off-air for almost a decade and yet its cultural significance endured. Despite the simple concept, the show thrives off its iconic ensemble of characters, genius writing, and it’s impeccable casting – able to turn simple phrases, like Nessa’s ‘what’s occurring?’ into distinctive catchphrases. It retains the perfect balance of relatable and outlandish, simple yet layered. It knows that the devil is in the details, whilst also being a master of leaving the audience guessing – seriously, what happened on that fishing trip? Gavin and Stacey is a masterpiece in character and comedy, a show that 10 years later is just as funny as when it first aired. There’s a reason this rare gem of iconic British television holds the title most-watched scripted show of the decade. Pure comedy gold.

– Jess Woodley-Stewart

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