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Top 10 British Workplace Comedies

VO: Richard Bush WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
If you enjoy what you do, you won’t work a day in your life. Welcome to WatchMojoUK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 True to Life Workplace Comedies. For this list, we’re looking at British comedy shows which focus on the employees of a given workplace, with an emphasis on which ones are closest to reality. Special thanks to our user RichardFB for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 British Workplace Comedies

If you enjoy what you do, you won’t work a day in your life. Welcome to WatchMojoUK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 True to Life Workplace Comedies.

For this list, we’re looking at British comedy shows which focus on the employees of a given workplace, with an emphasis on which ones are closest to reality.

#10: “W1A” (2014-17)

It doesn’t get more meta than the BBC commissioning a sitcom all about what it’s like to work at the BBC. With this in mind, this mockumentary sitcom should be overflowing with realism. We follow a cast of seasoned comedy actors and a star-studded roster of guest-stars – including Carol Vorderman, Hugh Grant, and Olivia Colman to name just a few – as well as narration by David Tennant, as they try to manage various scandals, get things to broadcast on time, keep up with the trends, and rescue the BBC’s ailing reputation.

#9: “Dinnerladies” (1998-2000)

Who knew that a factory canteen would be such a good source of comedy? Presumably the people who decided to make “Dinnerladies”, which has remained a classic sitcom in the decades since its brief run. But considering it was written by and starred the late, veteran comedian Victoria Wood, it’s not surprising that great laughs are found in even the mundane catering industry. It’s the banter between the leading ladies that makes “Dinnerladies” stand out, as they tell each other anecdotes and go about the day-to-day running of the kitchen.

#8: “Damned” (2016-18)

Jo Brand delved into the bleak world of Britain’s social work system as the basis for this black comedy. Taking inspiration from her 80-year-old, semi-retired social worker mother, Brand has a unique insight into the toils of social work staff, who have high caseloads and high stress – but also a high source of comedy. Also starring Alan Davies as Brand’s jaded co-worker and Isy Suttie as the well-intentioned but useless work experience girl, this representation of the unsung heroes who work in child protection isn’t one you want to miss.

#7: “Phoenix Nights” (2001-02)

Starring Peter Kay, Peter Kay, and also Peter Kay, “Phoenix Nights” is a look at the weird world of the working men’s club. We primarily follow failed club owner Brian Potter as he tries to achieve his relatively modest dream of owning the most popular club in all of Bolton. While there are some aspects of “Phoenix Nights” that remain less-than-accurate to reality – like rival club owner Den Perry’s repeated attempts to burn the Phoenix Club to the ground – Brian’s stingy ways are something many people are familiar with.

#6: “Trollied” (2011-18)

Across the UK, hundreds of thousands of people work in the various supermarket chains, making “Trollied” one of the more relatable sitcoms out there. We see the mostly-ordinary working days of all the different employees for fictional chain Valco, from the trolley boys to the executives and everyone in between. It’s the realistic approach to the often-unpredictable world of groceries and shopping – something everybody has to do on a regular basis – that makes “Trollied” so endearing… seeing the show last for seven series, as one of Sky One’s most successful sitcoms.

#5: “Teachers” (2001-04)

It may have more than a few surreal moments – like animals randomly appearing in shot and going utterly unnoticed by the characters – but it tackles day-to-day school life in a realistic way many shows don’t. Focusing almost exclusively on the ensemble of struggling teachers rather than the pupils, it shows the dark underbelly of working in education. This means they spend most of their time in the pub, trying to get out of doing as much work as possible, and chain-smoking behind the school, exchanging increasingly immature banter.

#4: “Black Books” (2000-04)

Comedy staples Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig feature in this bleak comedy about a bookshop called Black Books. Like “Teachers”, the characters are also dissatisfied with their career – cynical shop-owner Bernard especially – and spend their recreational time smoking and drinking, such were the early 2000s. While the other characters desperately try to improve the business and make Bernard interact with society, their attempts never work. Winning multiple BAFTAs, “Black Books’” realistic approach to retail was what made it a success – though it’s doubtful this shop would have survived the recession.

#3: “The Thick of It” (2005-12)

Peter Capaldi has no shortage of iconic roles under his belt. But before taking on the mantle of the UK’s best-loved Time Lord, he starred as Number 10’s foul-mouthed enforcer, Malcolm Tucker, teaching us some of the most inventive swear words this side of the Atlantic. “The Thick of It” essentially portrays British politicians as a bunch of inept no-hopers, who refuse to commit to policies and typically fail to get anything done – all while Tucker wields his unrelenting wrath. If Capaldi’s particular character is even close to real life, then British politics and bad language apparently go hand-in-hand.

#2: “The IT Crowd” (2006-10; 2013)

The nerds who work down in the IT department go ignored in most workplaces, including the fictional corporation Reynholm Industries, where only the audience of this celebrated sitcom really sees what Roy, Moss and Jen get up to. This fan favourite show pokes fun both at the supposed computer experts and the people ‘upstairs’ who can barely even get a computer to turn on. It also explores the central trio’s lives outside of work – though, they don’t really have much going on. All in, it’s relatable to anybody who’s ever had to explain how a computer works – an arduous task at the best of times.

#1: “The Office” (2001-03)

The show that put the “mockumentary” format on the map, “The Office” is one of the most successful sitcom franchises of all time… even spawning a successful US adaptation – and there aren’t many of those around. Tackling the everyday life of a weary and worn-down office staff working for a paper company, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant sure struck gold when they brought this to the BBC. The ultra-boring world of office admin is realism at its peak, and these characters are all too recognisable. So, it’s no surprise that “The Office” is so highly regarded.

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