Best TV comedy imports since The Office

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Summer Heights High

Within the next two months, the majority of your favourite shows will sadly air their season finales.

For the television junkies who enjoy a good laugh and the many who will quickly grow tired of summer repeats, here are five television comedies you probably don’t know about, but should be watching.

Summer Heights High (2007)
Summer Heights High is an Australian mockumentary that parodies high school through three main characters all brilliantly played by Chris Lilley (the creator of the show). There is Mr. G, a vain and flamboyant drama teacher, Ja’mie King, a self-centred and persuasive teenager, and a disruptive and defiant 13-year-old named Jonah.

Throughout the season, the sensationalized characters and the crudeness of the dialogue maintain the show’s hilarity. It does a great job of making fun of many aspects of high school, such as cliques, social stereotypes, semi-formals and the education system. HBO picked it up for its comedy lineup later this year.

The Thick of It (2005 " 2007)
If you like The Office (UK), you will undoubtedly love The Thick of It. It ridicules the inner workings of the British government as it follows the Minister of the fictitious Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship and the ways he deals with his associates and the public. The dialogue is well written, as the humour ranges from subtle to gracelessly explicit. The premises, especially in season one, are natural and well executed. On top of that, Mitchell Hurwitz, creator of Arrested Development, has adapted a U.S. version of the British series. Networks including HBO, Showtime and NBC have reportedly expressed interest in the show.

Hotel Babylon (2006 " Present)
Hotel Babylon is one of those shows easy to grow an affinity for after viewing a few episodes. Hotel Babylon is a five-star hotel in the center of London where the wealthy retreat to have their wildest desires looked after. Each episode has a new guest check into Hotel Babylon and expect the staff to cater to his or her wishes. Although the show has some good plots that balance comedy with dramatic situations, it is the characters’ distinct charm and personalities that makes it a joy to watch. The relationships between characters and the guests are equally amusing and make for an engaging 60 minutes.

Extras (2005 " 2007)
If you are familiar with at least one show in this list it’s likely to be this one. The immense success of The Office (UK) gave Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant freedom to pretty much write anything they wanted, and Extras was the result. The premise is simple: Andy Millman (Gervais) is a movie extra that wants to make it big in the film industry. Each episode stars a new celebrity playing themselves with mockingly narcissistic tendencies, including Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro and more. The series beautifully mixes comedy, drama and commentary on the poor state of mainstream television.

Spaced (1999 " 2001)
Before there was Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, there was Spaced. Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes write and star in this surreal comedy about two people who pretend to be a couple in front of their landlady to obtain a lease on a flat. They spend their time on unusual adventures and come to terms with their lives’ purposes. Edgar White’s direction is stylish, exaggerating camera movement with sound effects. As such, the show often spoofs Hollywood blockbuster convention, which Pegg is known for. An American version has been announced and FOX will likely finance the pilot.

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