5 of the best shows the U.S. is missing out on
America may well be the home of popular TV, but from a quality standpoint it faces some stiff competition from its Commonwealth allies in Australia and the United Kingdom - especially when it comes to comedy.
In fact, some of the U.S.’s most beloved comedies are adaptations of foreign shows, such as The Office, Whose Line Is It Anyway, Sanford and Son and All In The Family to name but a few. Then there’s contemporary adaptations like Comedy Central’s Review and FX’s Wilfred that few know are based on Australian shows. And they’re just the ones that made it to free-to-air and cable television, with some of the funniest shows from abroad never gracing the majority of U.S. screens. And we’re worse off for it. With that in mind, here are five of the funniest comedies from abroad the U.S. is missing out on.
You loved Australian impersonator Chris Lilley in Summer Heights High, Angry Boys, Ja’mie: Private School Girl and Jonah from Tonga, but his original series that started it all is yet to be seen in the U.S. The exact same format of the previous shows but following the lives of five Australian of the Year nominees in the lead-up to the awards show, We Can Be Heroes features the debut appearances of high school mean girl Ja’mie and foul-mouthed twins Nathan and Daniel Sims. Arguably funnier than any of its spin-offs, it also features three other intense characters. There’s Ricky Wong, the self-deprecating Asian exchange student who plays the lead in an aboriginal musical - ala Mr G. There’s Phil Olivetti, a self-obsessed and delusional police officer who nominated himself and is obsessed with his penis size. And then there’s middle-aged woman Pat Mullins - born with one leg shorter than the other and as a result learned to roll along the ground on her side for speed - who’s determined to be the first person to body roll across Australia. What else do you need to know?
Available on Amazon.
It’s recently been added to Netflix, but the cult UK series which ran for nine seasons abroad (48 episodes) is yet to be discovered for the gem it is by U.S. audiences. Following the lives of socially inept 30-something roommates Mark and Jez, a pessimistic loan officer and talentless DJ respectively, Peep Show features all the awkwardness, cringe and wit you’ve come to expect from UK shows such as The Office, only with an additional gross-out and gloom factor. It’s smart, relatable and features consistently solid laughs. And as you’d expect, it was adapted into a U.S. pilot - with Johnny Galecki and Josh Meyers - that failed miserably.
Available on Netflix.
You might know the U.S. version, but by comparison to the original Australian series it’s the equivalent of a kids’ show. Largely due to the fact the Australian version is effectively R-rated and features more cussing than every Tarantino film combined. It’s darker, raw and even more irreverent than the made-for-primetime FX version. Better yet, it’s currently available on Netflix.
Originally titled Scrotal Recall but renamed late last year when Netflix purchased the series for a new season, this UK comedy is unique unto itself. It focuses on nervous 20-something Dylan, who upon being diagnosed with chlamydia must make contact with each of his previous sexual partners to inform them he has likely infected them with the HPV. Told largely through flashback, each episode features a different girl Dylan has slept with, and his awkward attempt to break the news.
Equal parts irreverent, obscure and musical, this surreal fantasy British comedy knows no equal and is the very definition of a cult hit. Which, of course, became a widespread a sensation in the UK and Australia, courtesy of its offbeat humor and mythical tales told with a straight face by eccentric best friends Howard and Vince. The pair are struggling musicians desperate to find the new sound - which they claim to have discovered by playing a guitar through a keyboard, work boot and a mud crab committing suicide. You get the gist.
Available on Amazon.
This one doesn’t really stand the test of time, but it’s interesting nonetheless to see where Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect Rebel Wilson started out. Because long before Wilson became a US household name she was the breakout star of cult Australian comedy series Fat Pizza. Like a more extreme version of her Fat Amy persona, Wilson starred as the erratic, irreverent and foul-mouthed Toula - a junk food obsessed redneck who heads up the girl gang Fat Chick 12, so named because its six members are the size of 12 ordinary people. The show focuses on a local pizza shop operated by an ex-con tyrant boss, his staff of Lebanese delivery drivers and their circle of friends. Not for the easily offended.
Available on Amazon.