Film & TV

Quench’s Essential British TV Watchlist

Many international students come to Cardiff every year – and many may want to immerse themselves in the culture here. What is the one local TV show that you’d recommend them to watch, and why?

Fleabag

by Georgina Hookway

Fleabag is a comedy show set in London that covers topics of love, grief, anger, and family issues in a witty and poignant way. Starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the main character, Fleabag, the show follows her as she navigates her life and the struggles that come with it. 

Although the show is a comedy, some of the topics the show addresses are weighty and serious, and can be a lot to process as a viewer – so it’s not the most suitable to binge watch.. Despite the sometimes difficult topics, Fleabag will have you both laughing and crying, often within seconds of each other, and is definitely one of the best British shows out there!

Gavin and Stacey 

by Abi Edwards

This is a must-watch series if you’re moving to Wales or the UK. Set in Barry, South Wales, and Essex, England, the series tells the story of a Welsh girl and an Essex lad who fall in love, and how their funny, eccentric families are brought together in an unlikely way. 

Along with their families, you get Smithy (James Corden), Gavin’s oldest, very protective best friend and Nessa (Ruth Jones), Stacey’s mysterious but loyal best friend who has bizarre celebrity connections. Their strange, complex relationship throughout the series is arguably more entertaining than that of the title characters. 

Not only is it a well-loved TV show, it has become a British cultural phenomenon. You get a perfect blend of laughing, crying, inside jokes, family drama and everything in between. If you ever move to Wales or anywhere else in the UK, this series is part of the furniture. 

Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Unreleased Monty Python Fare to Get Airing for 50th Anniversary - Variety

by Leona Franke

When it comes to British television and what programmes define the culture, I think that international students should watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Originally broadcast in 1969 on BBC1, the surrealist sketch show took the nation by surprise, shocking many, but also gaining a devoted fanbase. The appeal of the show is the witty punch-lines – or lack thereof, sometimes transitioning sketches into a new one by a sixteen-tonne weight dropping on the characters of an ending sketch, as well as the quintessentially British comedic faces of writer and stars Terry Jones, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, and Graham Chapman.

Possessing a unique charm of complete silliness, genuinely brilliant physical comedy, and entertaining writing, Monty Python’s Flying Circus is a programme that has defined Britain and its sense of humour for years, and remains an absolute essential viewing for anyone coming to Britain. Long live Monty Python!

Sherlock

by Lucia Cubb

Based on the iconic works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, BBC’s Sherlock modernizes the nineteenth century tales with new and exciting twists. Protagonist Sherlock Holmes, played by the loveable Benedict Cumberbatch, is an eccentric character and self-proclaimed ‘consulting detective’, a challenging job considering his antisocial and arrogant tendencies.

However, this only makes the series more hilarious in ways that are unexpected. With Sherlock shadowed by sidekick John Watson, played by Martin Freeman, this legendary duo creates an iconic onscreen friendship – one that will have you revisiting episodes after your first watch. The thrilling cases explored by Holmes and Watson combine classic mysteries and modern elements that refresh the old stories of Conan Doyle, so rest assured, at no point will you be bored. This widely-favoured British series is a quintessential addition to your watchlist, or, in fact, your next binge! 

The Inbetweeners

by Sophie Revell

From dodgy haircuts and embarrassing parents, to exam stress and awkward high-school romances, The Inbetweeners follows four dorky friends Will, Simon, Neil and Jay as they poorly navigate the tragedy that is British secondary school. The series aired for three seasons between 2008 and 2010 and starred Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, Blake Harrison and James Buckley. 

Not only is The Inbetweeners iconic for its excruciatingly accurate portrayal of the ‘lad culture’ alive in Britain in the late 2000s, it’s also known for the (sometimes not so) sharp wit and sarcasm of the characters, and for also generating some classic one-liners which have made their way into the vocabulary of most British young people. Some notable episodes (and my personal favourites) include Series 2 Episode 2, ‘Work Experience’, Series 2 Episode 6, ‘End of Term’, and Series 3, Episode 2, ‘The Fashion Show’.

This is England 

by Luke Hinton

Perhaps one show that encapsulates a rarely seen side of British culture is This is England. Shane Meadows’ epic saga – which started with a 2006 film, followed by three TV seasons across the 2010s – follows a group of working-class skinheads from the early 1980s to the 1990s as they navigate cultural phenomena like ska, new wave music, and the rave scene.

Yet far from a bubbly look at a group of adolescents over the years, This is England is exceedingly dark, covering topics like abuse, drug addiction and white supremacy. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but Meadows’ work is vividly illuminating, with his writing creating a set of characters that feel endearing and real. It’s the perfect portrayal of the dark side of late 20th century British culture – an enriching show that you won’t be the same after watching.

Peep Show

by Maddie Balcombe

Jez: “Have you told her you love her?”

Mark: “Are you kidding? That’s like firing first in a duel!”

In my opinion, there are no other sitcoms that capture the essence of British culture as effectively as Peep Show. The comedy follows the lives of ‘chalk-and-cheese’ flatmates Mark and Jez. Mark is a loan manager who pays the rent, whilst Jez is a self-confessed “musical genius,” who has never had a real job. 

Peep Show uses internal monologues to provide insight into what Mark and Jez are really thinking. From getting engaged out of embarrassment, to joining a cult to avoid the real world, the protagonists have had their share of awkward moments. However, in true British style, they continue to repress their true emotions in a desperate attempt to fit into norms of British society. It goes without saying that every Brit can see themselves in Mark and Jez.

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