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The 20 best comedies to stream on BBC iPlayer

The 20 best comedies to stream on BBC iPlayer

As Avoidance 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

Romesh Ranganathan fans, rejoice. Avoidance, the brilliant comedy-drama co-created by the man himself that explores the many facets of modern British masculinity, is back for a second series.


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 (Jessica Knappett) throws him out – forcing him to grow up, to 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.


If series 1 was about a break-up and rebuilding a broken home, this latest run is about falling in love, messy reconciliation and a baby. A year after the first series, Jonathan might have a new body and a new hobby (and a lot of Lycra), but he’s still stuck avoiding conflict and all the mess that causes.


Series 2 of Avoidance begins on Friday 5 April at 9.30pm on BBC One HD (CH 101). All six episodes will also be available as a box set via Apps > BBC iPlayer.


If the return of Avoidance has your funny bones tingling, then BBC iPlayer has loads of other comedy Box Sets for you to keep them rattling away. From classic laughs to modern chuckles, there’s something for everyone. Here are 20 of the best.


1. This Country

Find series 1-3 in Apps > 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. Ghosts

Find series 1-5 in Apps > BBC iPlayer

Ghosts is the story of Alison (Charlotte Ritchie, Feel Good) and Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe, Stath Lets Flats), a young married couple who inherit a sprawling old house that just so happens to be haunted. Co-created by Mathew Baynton, Jim Howick and other cast members from Horrible Histories, it began in April 2019 and became something of a sleeper hit, praised equally for its smarts, sweetness and silliness.


Then it became, frankly, massive, earning five series plus Christmas specials at the heart of the BBC festive line-ups. Its final episode last year broke hearts in households up and down the country. Now you can watch it again and again and pretend it never finished.


3. Mum/Him & Her

Find them in Apps > 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 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 > 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. Dreaming Whilst Black

Find series 1 in Apps > BBC iPlayer

Adjani Salmon’s comedy following a talented but naïve British Jamaican filmmaker was so good right out of the gate, it earned him a BAFTA award for the 2021 pilot alone. As good as that achievement was, it set the bar very high for the full series, which followed in 2023. The fact it’s on a list next to some of the best comedies the BBC have ever produced will tell you everything you need to know about how effortlessly Salmon hurdled that bar.


In a narrative loosely inspired by real-life events, as Kwabena (Salmon) gets closer to his dream, he’s confronted with the tribulations of balancing finances, love, and his own sense of reality. Series 2 will begin filming this year. We can’t wait.


6. Gavin & Stacey

Find series 1-3 plus the specials in Apps > 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. The Cleaner

Find series 1-2 in Apps > BBC iPlayer

Written by and starring comedian Greg Davis, this is very different from his other great TV comedy Man Down, but still has a sense of silliness – albeit with an occasional dive into more sombre places. Davies plays a professional crime scene cleaner, tasked with mopping, sponging and scooping up the grisly aftermath of all kinds of illegal activities. And in this job, you come across people from all walks of life.


It’s also chock-a-block with A-list guest stars, from Harriet Walter (Killing Eve) and Susannah Fielding (Death On The Nile) to Roisin Conaty (After Life). We won’t spoil who, but series 1 also features quite a memorable toilet scene with a rather famous actress. You won’t believe your eyes (or ears), but you’ll never watch The Crown in the same way again….


8. Ladhood

Find series 1-3 in Apps > 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. It’s show bound by the universe to be compared to The Inbetweeners, but it’s a much more thoughtful, realistic look at that time in our lives.


9. Am I Being Unreasonable?

Find series 1 in Apps > 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 1-2 in Apps > 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.


We also don’t know how anyone will get through the Play Your Cards Right scene in series 2 without physically hurting themselves from laughing. Trust us.


11. People Just Do Nothing

Find series 1-5 in Apps > 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. Juice

Find series 1 in Apps > BBC iPlayer

Winning show creator Mawaan Rizwan (Taskmaster) a BAFTA nomination for Male Performance In A Comedy Programme, Juice is probably one of the weirdest TV shows you’ll see this year. But don’t get us wrong, we mean that as a big compliment. The Guardian called it “a cartoon come to life” and that’s the perfect description, putting in the great tradition of shows like The Mighty Boosh.


It’s a surreal comedy that follows Jamma (Rizwan) on his quest for attention as he navigates chaotic family dynamics and literally stumbles through love. Russell Tovey (Him & Her) also stars as Jamma’s therapist boyfriend, Guy.


13. Two Doors Down

Find series 1-7 in Apps > 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 > 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 series 1-3 in Apps > 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 won an Oscar for Everything Everywhere All At Once.


16. Inside No. 9

Find series 1-8 in Apps > BBC iPlayer

The brilliant dark comedic anthology series from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton is ending in 2024 with its ninth series (of course), and has already given us a feast of brilliantly macabre delights. 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 > 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 > 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. The Outlaws

Find series 1-2 in Apps > BBC iPlayer

With series 3 on its way soon, it’s the perfect time to revisit Stephen Merchant’s black comedy about a cross-section of offenders (including Hollywood’s actual Christopher Walken) paying their respective debts back to society through community service in Bristol. Series 2 upped the ante as the fallout of the gang’s actions (no spoilers) from the first series finally caught up with them.


With a great cast including Walken, Rhianne Barreto, Gamba Cole, Eleanor Tomlinson and Claes Bang, plus a standout turn from Merchant, it’s a show that knows how to do laughs, action and pathos in spades.


20. Fleabag

Find series 1-2 in Apps > 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 Avoidance series 2 on TV?

Series 2 of Avoidance begins on Friday 5 April at 9.30pm on BBC One HD (CH 101). All six episodes will also be available as a box set via Apps > BBC iPlayer.

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