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The 20 best comedies to stream on BBC iPlayer

The 20 best comedies to stream on BBC iPlayer

As The Cleaner returns for a second series on BBC One, we take a look at other brilliant shows to make you laugh in the BBC iPlayer archives

By Virgin TV Edit

Greg Davies fans, rejoice! Everyone’s favourite eccentric hygiene technician is back as crime scene cleaner Paul “Wicky” Wickstead, who goes about his day job while meeting various oddballs along the way.


For its second run on BBC One, the show has again attracted an impressive guest cast, after the likes of Helena Bonham Carter and David Mitchell appeared in the brilliant first series.


This time around, there’s Asim Chaudhry (People Just Do Nothing), Harriet Walter (Killing Eve), John MacMillan (Back), Alex Lawther (The End Of The F***ing World), Susannah Fielding (This Time With Alan Partridge), Roisin Conaty (After Life) and Four Weddings And A Funeral’s Simon Callow, who also recently guest-starred in Inside No 9, another dark anthology series.


One episode also features none other than 80s pop singer Shakin’ Stevens. Merry Christmas everyone!

As the new run begins, Wicky has sworn off the booze but inevitably finds himself sent to a job in the worst possible place: cleaning up after a brawl in a pub. He’s forced to deal with the hard-nosed landlady (Walter), but as he gets to work on the bloodstains, he comes to understand that there’s more to her than meets the eye…


Series 2 of The Cleaner begins on Friday 24 March at 9.30pm on BBC One HD (CH 101). All six episodes will also be available as a box set via Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer.


And if that gets you in the mood for some classic laughs, here’s some of the best series available on BBC iPlayer.


1. This Country

Find series 1-3 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

You don’t get many TV shows set in rural Gloucestershire, which is perhaps one of the reasons why This Country – created by Daisy May Cooper with her brother Charlie – shone so brightly. It follows the Mucklowe cousins Kerry (Daisy May) and Lee, aka Kurtan (Charlie), as they deal – often ineptly – with the boredom and social claustrophobia of life in a sleepy Cotswolds village.


The Coopers’ performances are deeply silly yet utterly believable, the writing is note-perfect (see Kerry describing her purchase of an alpaca as “physically my largest mistake”), and the tone is often genuinely poignant; this is a show that never punches down at its characters. Prepare to shed actual tears when saying goodbye to Kerry and Kurtan at the end of series 3.


2. The Witchfinder

Find it in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

More Daisy May Cooper in this period comedy from the writers behind This Time with Alan Partridge (another great comedy available on BBC iPlayer). While the show is called The Witchfinder – titularly played here by the phenomenal Tim Key (a long-term Partridge associate) – it’s very much a two-hander as Cooper’s accused “witch” forms an unlikely double act with her capturer.


The performances from Cooper and Key are outstanding and their interplay and chemistry reward whoever had the genius idea of putting these two great comic actors together on screen (as well as the audience). The script, as you’d expect from the men behind Partridge, delivers a big laugh roughly every 30 seconds.


3. Mum/Him & Her

Find them in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

Writer Stefan Golaszewski’s TV work, which includes the BBC drama Marriage with Sean Bean and Nicola Walker, revels in the mundanity of ordinary life and that’s perfectly showcased in this pair of sitcoms. Him & Her, starring Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani, is about a twentysomething couple who share a flat and the people who interrupt their lives, culminating in a five-episode series set during a chaotic and eventful wedding day.


Mum, meanwhile, is a touching exploration of grief and finding love in later life, fuelled by terrific central performances from Lesley Manville and Peter Mullan. Both sitcoms, like the great Only Fools and Horses, are hilarious but deeper, richer and altogether tearier than you’d expect from this well-worn format.


4. W1A

Find series 1-3 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) starred in Twenty Twelve as a hapless marketing man helping to plan the London Olympics, but this spin-off that saw him move to the BBC surpassed the original – not least because it frequently seems relevant to real-life goings on at the Beeb. When the BBC redesigned its app logos, for example, some pointed out the striking similarity to the one created in W1A.


It’s a perceptive portrait of a corporation that sometimes finds itself locked in stasis because no one is quite sure of the right thing to do, populated by people who often contradict themselves in the space of a few words (“Yes no brilliant”). W1A is packed with recognisably useless if well-meaning characters spouting hilariously awful jargon, with special mention going to Jessica Hynes (There She Goes) as PR guru Siobhan Sharpe, and narrated with deadpan mock-solemnity by David Tennant.


5. Better Things

Find seasons 1-5 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

The fifth and final series of this critically acclaimed comedy-drama recently concluded, and we highly recommend gobbling up every single delicious episode on iPlayer. It’s loosely based on the life of the actor and comedian Pamela Adlon, who co-created and wrote the series – and who was twice nominated for an Emmy for her starring performance as Sam Fox, a jobbing actor and single mother in LA.


Sam’s three daughters (Mikey Madison, Hannah Riley and Olivia Edward) are exhausting and brattish in brilliantly distinct ways, while Celia Imrie (dinnerladies) is a delight as Sam’s needy, unpredictable mother Phyllis. This is a pitch-perfect, routinely hilarious exploration of motherhood and middle age that will make you laugh, wince and weep.


6. Gavin & Stacey

Find series 1-3 plus the specials in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

This is one of the BBC’s most loved comedies ever, and rightly so. Don’t be put off by its cheesy premise of a one-night stand blossoming into true love, for this is merely the background to an arrangement of classic comedy characters perfectly played by the actors behind them.


From Smithy’s (James Corden) rant about Indian takeaways and rendition of the John Barnes rap from World In Motion with Pamela (Alison Steadman) and Mick (Larry Lamb), to the mystery behind Bryn (Rob Brydon) and the fishing trip, there are so many scenes to revisit for a guaranteed chuckle.


7. Love Life

Find seasons 1 + 2 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

Like sitcoms, romantic comedies have adapted and evolved throughout the years to stay fresh and relevant to new audiences. This American romantic comedy anthology series looks at the age-old quest to find love through the prism of modern dating, following the lead character from their first romance to their last.


In the first season we meet Anna Kendrick’s Darby, while season 2 tracks Marcus, played by William Jackson Harper (The Good Place). While the light and breezy narration (Lesley Manville in season 1, Keith David in season 2) gives the show a traditional romcom feel, it’s never afraid to tackle big issues such as race, domestic abuse, alcoholism and infidelity.


8. Ladhood

Find series 1-3 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

In one of the best and most honest British TV comedies of the past five years. Writer and star Liam Williams looks back (as a character also called Liam) on his adolescence. Literally. Because the show’s clever conceit means that adult Liam can walk through and narrate his memories as they come to life in front of his eyes.


Throughout the series, Liam explores how his experiences (and mistakes) as a boy have subsequently formed the man. A show bound by the universe to be compared to The Inbetweeners, it’s a much more thoughtful, realistic look at that time in our lives.


9. Am I Being Unreasonable?

Find series 1 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

It’s Daisy May Cooper again, starring in her latest creation as Nic, a lonely mother grieving a secret loss and feeling stifled in her unhappy marriage.


When she makes a new friend in the form of Jen (Cooper’s real-life best mate Selin Hizli, who co-wrote the series), her world lights up. But as their intoxicating friendship develops, Nic’s buried secret comes to the surface – and she starts to question whether Jen is really who she seems.


Part thriller but mostly comedy, you won’t forget this series in a hurry – and a special shout-out to young actor Lenny Rush, who absolutely nails it as Nic’s son Ollie.


10. Here We Go

Find series 1 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

“Broad” is often a dirty word when it comes to TV comedy, but Here We Go is a broad TV comedy in the best sense of the word. Set up as a documentary of family life “filmed” by the youngest son, it’s the freshest and funniest take on the well-worn mockumentary format in years. The series stars big hitters in Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd), Jim Howick (Ghosts) and Alison Steadman (Gavin & Stacey) and cements all three as some of this country’s finest comic talent. Keep an eye out for Freya Parks’ direct looks to camera – they’re probably the most devastating since Martin Freeman’s in The Office.


11. People Just Do Nothing

Find series 1-5 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

Like all-time great The Office (also on iPlayer), this is a BAFTA-winning mockumentary that revolves around confident men who are utterly delusional about their charm and abilities. Rather than a paper company, it’s set inside Kurupt FM, a pirate radio station pumping out UK garage and drum and bass from a flat in Brentford, west London.


MC Grindah (Allan Mustafa), DJ Beats (Hugo Chegwin), DJ Steves (Steve Stamp) and their manager Chabuddy G (Asim Chaudhry) are convinced that global musical success is within their reach; the show’s hilarious pathos comes from the fact that it is almost certainly not, but you root for them anyway. A modern classic.


12. Avoidance

Find series 1 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

This six-part comedy-drama co-created by Romesh Ranganathan joins a growing pantheon of excellent comedies exploring facets of modern British masculinity. It centres around Jonathan (Ranganathan), a self-effacing and “conflict-avoidant beta male” who, in the words of his sister Danielle (Mandeep Dhillon), “just kind of falls through life”. Driven mad by his endless passivity, Jonathan’s partner throws him out – forcing him to grow up, stop burying his head in the sand and (attempt to) take control of his own life. Bittersweet and funny, Avoidance is also genuinely insightful about the problems caused by people trying to ignore their problems.


13. Two Doors Down

Find series 1-5 plus the special in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

Have you watched this wonderful comedy about a suburban Glasgow street and the couples who live on it? If not, why not? Because it’s possibly the finest Scottish sitcom since Rab C Nesbitt (there’s even some connective tissue between the two, with Elaine C Smith appearing in both).


Eric (Alex Norton) and Beth (Arabella Weir) dream of a quiet life, but cannot escape the neighbours who continue to drop into their house unannounced and uninvited. The show takes the idea that you can never choose your neighbours to the extreme: Doon Mackichan’s Cathy is one of the great sitcom beasts, while Smith’s life-force-draining Christine is equally iconic.


14. Blackadder

Find series 1-4 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

One of the joys of BBC iPlayer is going deep into the archives of British comedy. The four series of Blackadder originally aired in the 1980s, and the period comedy is as fresh today as it has ever been – and it remains consistently hysterical. Created by and starring some of the biggest names in British entertainment (including Stephen Fry, Richard Curtis, Ben Elton, Hugh Laurie and Tony Robinson), it follows the devious Edmund Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) throughout multiple historical eras spanning the 15th century to the 20th.


Blackadder usually seeks to exploit his connections with royalty – but in the more sombre final series, set in the trenches of the First World War, his one goal is to avoid being killed. Unquestionably one of the best British sitcoms of all time.


15. Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens

Find seasons 1 + 2 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

Awkwafina has played a supporting roles in movies from Crazy Rich Asians to Jumanji: The Next Level but she takes centre stage in this sitcom, which she co-created with Family Guy writer Teresa Hsiao. Nora (Awkwafina’s real name) is basically unemployed and lives at home with her dad (BD Wong, Jurassic World) and grandma (Lori Tan Chinn, Orange Is The New Black) but never lets those facts knock her self-confidence. 


It’s a witty and warm comedy about a young woman navigating urban life and the expectations of her family. Plus, it’s bursting with talent. Look out for guest appearances from Ming-Na Wen (Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD), Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll), Simu Liu (Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings) and many more. Season 1 episode “Grandma & Chill” is directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, who just won an Oscar for Everything Everywhere All At Once.


16. Inside No. 9

Find series 1-7 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

The brilliant dark comedic anthology series from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton has reached its seventh series and shows no signs of slowing down. It’s endlessly creative without any limits to the style or substance of an episode; from downright terrifying horror (“The Harrowing”) to comedy caper (“Wuthering Heist”) to family drama (“Last Night Of The Proms”).


There tend to be only two rules: the action needs to take place inside something that has a number nine on it, and there needs to be a twist. The show’s live Halloween special is probably the scariest thing on TV since Ghostwatch.


17. The Young Ones

Find series 1 + 2 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

Rik Mayall appeared in Blackadder as the irrepressible Flashheart, but it was this gleefully chaotic 1980s sitcom that made his name. Across two series, he stars as Rick, a self-proclaimed anarchist and sociology student at Scumbag College. Rick shares a grotty London flat with three other undergrads: violent punk medical student Vyvyan (Adrian Edmonson), paranoid hippie Neil (Nigel Planer) and cool, charming straight man Mike (Christopher Ryan).


Interrogating the culture and politics of early 1980s Britain via violent slapstick, surrealism and fourth-wall-breaking, The Young Ones also features regular live performances from bands including Madness and Motörhead. We’ve still never seen anything quite like it.


18. Detectorists

Find series 1-3 and the special in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

A gorgeous sitcom that makes you think that this crazy world of ours might actually be OK (deep down, obviously). Created, written and directed by Mackenzie Crook (who also stars, because he wasn’t busy enough with all the other jobs – he probably does the catering, too!), it’s a comedy about two metal-detecting hobbyists who dream of finding gold.


Co-starring Toby Jones, it’s a series that wears its heart on its sleeve without an ounce of cynicism: something that’s rare in comedy, and even rarer in a show that puts a pastime that is – let’s be honest – quite silly at its centre. The series wrapped in 2017, but returned in 2022 for a one-off Christmas special, which was naturally a delight. There’s not bad time to catch up or reacquaint yourself with the Danebury Metal Detecting Club.


19. State of the Union

Find series 1 + 2 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

State of the Union is so good that it’s puzzling we haven’t seen a raft of 10-minute TV shows since it first hit our screens in 2019. Each super-short episode follows a couple immediately before their marital therapy session: in the first series, it’s youngish pair Louise (Rosamund Pike) and Tom (Chris O’Dowd) meeting in a pub, while series 2 introduces the older Scott (Brendan Gleeson) and Ellen (Patricia Clarkson) who meet in a café.


Written by the great Nick Hornby and directed by the equally great Stephen Frears, who previously collaborated on the movie adaptation of Hornby’s novel High Fidelity, each episode packs more in 10 minutes than most sitcoms do in an entire series.


20. Fleabag

Find series 1 + 2 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer

No BBC iPlayer comedy round-up would be complete without Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s groundbreaking series, based on her one-woman play of the same name. Its deep dive into the psyche of a seemingly brazen and breezy millennial woman is dark, sharp and constantly surprising – and nobody captures the joy and agony of familial and romantic relationships like Waller-Bridge. Fleabag’s influence is already clearly visible in other films and TV series, from She-Hulk on Disney+ to the recent adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion on Netflix; its legacy will be an enduring one.


When is The Cleaner series 2 on TV?

The second series of The Cleaner starts on Friday 24 March at 9.30pm on BBC One HD (CH 101). All episodes will also be available at Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer.

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Image credits: The Cleaner © Studio Hamburg / Jonathan Browning