Keep Calm and Watch British TV: Feel Like You’re Surrounded by Idiots?


Feel Like You’re Surrounded by Idiots?

You can be honest with me. You know you do. Not only are you smarter than everyone you work with, your kids would be much better off if they would just listen to you, and that person who nearly cut you off in traffic on the way home definitely shouldn’t have been texting, and deserved whatever verbal abuse you dished out.

There’s at least one person who fully understands the predicament of spending your days surrounded by idiots, and that person’s name is Graham Linehan. At least it certainly seems like he understands; he has created and written three of the greatest comedies ever, and they all have to do with the frustrations of being stuck living in close proximity with dullards. You can relate, so…

Keep calm and watch:

Everybody has their own idea of funny, but the cult favorite status that has grown around Channel 4 sitcom Father Ted suggests that it may actually be one of the most surreally hilarious Britcoms ever. For Father Ted Crilly, life on Ireland’s remote Craggy Island is a daily penance of trying to keep alcoholic and angry retired priest Father Jack from accidentally burning the parish house down, while simultaneously trying to fill in the theological knowledge gaps of younger priest Father Dougal (who is convinced that you’re not meant to take any of “it”—it being heaven and hell and everlasting life—too seriously). Throw in a daft housekeeper who won’t take no for an answer when she offers a cup of tea and a rotating cast of other priests (guest star Graham Norton among them) who give new meaning to the phrase “dim bulbs,” and you’ll find that although Father Ted’s life is one of suffering, observing his purgatory will make your life very much brighter, or at least much more laughter-filled.

Linehan then went on to create, with Irish comic Dylan Moran, another classic workplace comedy, Black Books. Although Bernard Black, owner of Black Books and dedicated misanthrope, spends a lot of time castigating those around him for being idiots, including his good-natured and long-suffering employee Manny and his drinking (usually at lunchtime) partner Fran, who owns the store next door, his own ideas are not typically what you’d call “well-developed.” Whether he is insulting skinheads in the hopes that they’ll beat him up and he can put off doing his taxes, or locking himself out of his store and ending up working behind the counter of a fast-food establishment just to have a warm place to be overnight, Black’s own special idiocy somehow seems to escape his self-reflection.

Anyone who has ever interacted with the IT staff at their workplace will feel shivers of recognition when they watch another Linehan creation, The IT Crowd, and hear IT support worker Roy answer the phone with the disdainful techie answer to every computer question: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” This show is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to idiots: Roy and Moss can’t figure out how to successfully talk to women to save their lives; their supervisor, Jen, doesn’t actually know what “IT” stands for; their first boss is completely deluded and their second boss (who takes over when their first boss takes extreme action to avoid legal problems) puts their first boss to shame on the delusion scale. Hilariously, of course, every single one of them thinks that everyone else is the real idiot.

You know who the real idiot is if you don’t immediately go and watch these shows (the entire run of each show could be binge-watched in a day, after all)? That’s right. I’m looking at you.

the small print…

Father Ted

  • Years aired: 1995-1998
  • Episodes and Seasons: 25 episodes in 3 series
  • Episode length: 25 minutes
  • Creators: Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews
  • Writers: Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews
  • Actors mentioned: Dermot Morgan as Father Ted Crilly; Frank Kelly as Father Jack Hackett; Ardal O’Hanlon as Father Dougal McGuire
  • Network: Channel 4
  • Genres: Comedy, Dark Comedy, Sitcom

Black Books

  • Years aired: 2000-2004
  • Episodes and Seasons: 18 episodes in 3 series
  • Episode length: 25 minutes
  • Creators: Dylan Moran and Graham Linehan
  • Writers: Dylan Moran, Graham Linehan, Arthur Mathews
  • Actors mentioned: Dylan Moran as Bernard Black; Bill Bailey as Manny Bianco; Tamsin Greig as Fran Katzenjammer
  • Network: Channel 4
  • Genres: Comedy, Dark Comedy, Sitcom, Workplace Comedy

The IT Crowd

  • Years aired: 2006-2013
  • Episodes and Seasons: 24 episodes in 4 series with one series-ending special
  • Episode length: 25 minutes
  • Creators: Graham Linehan
  • Writers: Graham Linehan and others
  • Actors mentioned: Chris O’Dowd as Roy Trenneman; Richard Ayoade as Maurice Moss; Katherine Parkinson as Jen Barber
  • Network: Channel 4
  • Genres: Comedy, Dark Comedy, Sitcom, Workplace Comedy


  1. I can’t believe I haven’t watched The IT Crowd! For some reason I thought it was very different. I think I know which series I’m going to binge watch next!!

  2. Jackie!
    I think if you liked Father Ted (and I know you did!) you’d enjoy the surreal nature of “The IT Crowd.” All the actors did such a great job–Moss is a character for the ages–and the bit where it turns out that Jen, the supervisor of the IT department, doesn’t know what “IT” stands for? Priceless! Let me know if you watch it and what you think!

  3. We just signed up for Acorn TV and watched the first episode of The IT Crowd. Enjoyed it. I’ve got a list of other shows you’ve mentioned and I’m hoping to find many of them on Acorn.

    • Melanie! Oh, DO let me know what you think about Acorn TV. I can’t decide between that or BritBox although I would LOVE either. Right now I can’t really justify getting it because my public library is so excellent that I can get almost everything I want to watch on DVD!

      Also glad you liked “The IT Crowd.” It only gets more surreal and sometimes the outlandishness of the boss (particularly in the latter seasons, when the boss is played by the guy who is the lead in the equally wacky show “Toast of London”–can’t think of his name right now) gets to be too much, but it’s still a great show.

      Do let me know what other things you see and enjoy on Acorn! Personally I’ve been jonesing to re-watch the entire runs of The Detectorists and Moone Boy, although currently I’m all tied up with Midsomer Murders and A Touch of Frost–both of which I’d never seen before!

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