British television has been part of my television life since first watching "Benny Hill" over 20 years ago. As my tastes changed, I moved on to "Monty Python's Flying Circus". Dad tried to turn me onto "Dr. Who", but the special effects on "Star Wars" ruined me. Both shows were consumed by me when I had much more free time to watch television. I took a break for 10 years as I went from high school through grad school. Sure, I saw occasional episodes of "Allo, Allo" and "Red Dwarf", but they weren't exactly appointment television.
Now that I've had either satellite tv or digital cable for 3 years, I've become a fan of BBC America. This cable network packages several of the most popular BBC shows and airs them for an American audience. There are classics (such as "Fawlty Towers") and newer shows (which air here several months after the original airdates across the pond).
The comedies are my favorites (I think the six episode seasons ensures quality in some cases) and here are a few that I enjoy:
Father Ted is a taped comedy that follows the misadventures of the titular priest and his misadventures on Craggy Island in Ireland. It isn't the most highbrow show, but I love it. Look for Graham Norton as a fellow priest in some episodes. Favorite Episode: "Speed 3", which finds junior priest, Dougal, driving a milk van with explosives strapped to the bottom of it. If he goes below 5mph, it will explode.
Blackadder was, as far as I know, the first showcase for the talents of Rowan Atkinson, a.k.a. Mr. Bean. Each season features a descendent of the Blackadder family, attempting to scheme their way to the top in several English kingdoms through history (Middle Ages, Elizabethan, Regency and WW1). It is amazing to me that co-creator, Richard Curtis, went on to write "Four Weddings And A Funeral" and "Love, Actually". Favorite Episodes "Bells" and "Private Plane" which featured cast members of "The Young Ones"
The Office was the show that the American version on NBC is based on. Not quite as heartfelt as the new version, but still painfully funny to watch. Favorite Episode: "New Girl", in which, Gareth (the inspiration for NBC's Dwight Schrute) is approached to join a threesome with a married couple he meets at the pub.
Peep Show is an R-rated, taped series that tells the story of two 30-something flatmates. Sort of like a really dirty "Odd Couple". The entire show is seen from the point of view from the two main characters. Favorite Episode: "#4" in which the roomies explore friendships with new buddies. Jeremy - the slob, spends most of the episode trying to remember a "bad thing" that happened over a wild weekend. His flashbacks are priceless.
League of Gentlemen is another R-rated series, more in the vein of Monty Python, but episodic and following the same group of characters throughout. Three actors play most of the residents of Royston-Vasey, a small town out in tehe English countryside which holds many dark secrets. Favorite episode: "The Lesbian and the Monkey" which details the post-prison life of unemployment specialist, Pauline as she romances one former client (Mickey) and battles another (Ross). Ross and Pauline share a shockingly funny moment in this episode that has been cut from subsequent airings for content.
Little Britain is new to me and seems to be like League of Gentlemen-lite. Here, two actors play most of the characters in a series of vignettes. Almost all of the characters are recurring I don't have a favorite episode yet, but I did like the scene in Season 3 where politician, Sir Norman Fry explains to the press why pictures of him with other men have been circulating. He makes an excuse about having an accident and landing "inside" another man.