Up The Ante!

When in England, you learn that there is a lot to watch, read and learn before you can even start to feel like you understand what your friends are even talking about. To try and help any foreigners who are or might be in the position I was at university, I’d like to share some of this knowledge with you.

Today I’d like to talk about movies and TV shows that either everyone knows or that might be sightly obscure but still present, especially if you’re talking to artsy types (I studied art at university, so I know). And no, I’m not talking about Mr. Bean because I think most people already know about him.

Everyone knows…

The Monty Python

Most people  (not only English people) know about the British comedy group formed by John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and the animations of Terry Gilliam. If you like nonsensical humour, or if you want a sense of what British humour is, you should definitely watch the series Monty Python Flying Circus. If you can’t be bothered, you can always watch one of their movies! I’d recommend Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it’s one of my personal favourites.

Black Adder

I know I said I wasn’t talking about Mr. Bean, but I shall mention the actor Rowan Atkinson. Black Adder not only includes him, but also Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie (House). It’s a wonderful show, extremely funny (if you’re into British humour) and you’ll learn a lot of extremely amusing expressions and vocabulary.


Short for “Quite Interesting”, the show which is hosted by Stephen Fry is a panel game show with great guests like Brian Blessed, David Mitchell, Bill Bailey, Rich Hall and the permanent contestant Alan Davies. I guarantee a good time and that you’ll learn something new along the way.

David Attenborough

David Attenborough makes the most wonderful nature programs and he’s one of the prime examples I use to show students what BBC English is (as well as Stephen Fry). His diction is just perfect and I really recommend it to English language students. And to anyone who has a passion for this world that we live in. Also, if you have access to BBC iplayer you can watch a lot of his shows from the 60s at the moment, check them out!

Doctor Who

A Sci-fi show that started in 1963 and is still running. It’s still incredibly popular and I think it’s quite well-known in America as well. When I moved to England, the actor playing the quirky Doctor was David Tennant (the 10th doctor) who actually appears to be one of the most beloved Doctors of all time. I was almost forced to watch all his episodes and I quite enjoyed it. Yes, it’s a bit silly and the Daleks aren’t exactly terrifying but it’s full of action, romance and it does have its share of suspense and darkness (I’d recommend watching the episode Blink, it’s chilling).


I don’t actually watch it, but if you want to pretend you’re British you have to know EastEnders. Everyone else does. It’s a soap opera that started in 1985 and has won 6 BAFTA awards so far. I talked about British accents in my previous post and if you’re interested in more common British accents then you should probably try watching an episode.

The IT Crowd

If you’re into British humour, you should definitely watch this. You probably already know Richard Aoyade and Chris O’Dowd as they’ve been in American movies. Well that’s half the main cast! And if you still don’t know Matt Berry, then I urge you to watch it, as he’s also present in many other titles I’m going to be mentioning tonight. He’s simply amazing.

The Mighty Boosh

A show with the quirky Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt, with collaborations from Richard Aoyade and Matt Berry. It’s not everyone’s cuppa tea, but it is nonsensical, something you’ll find again and again in British humour, just like you can see in Monty Python. It’s kind of a British Flight of the Conchords.

Some know…

Withnail and I

An extremely British movie, all about the dialogue, about two unemployed actors who decide to leave their disappointing lives behind for a holiday in the countryside. However, it’s not all they expected it to be. Starring Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann and Richard Griffiths (yes, Uncle Vernon from Harry Potter), not everyone is a fan and the actors speak quite quickly which makes it harder to understand, but it’s grown on me and definitely improved my understanding of English and British culture.

Garth Marenghi’s DarkPlace

This is one of my absolute favourites, I just can’t help but laugh when I watch this. Starring Matthew Holness, Richard Aoyade, Matt Berry and Alice Lowe, it’s a show where fictional horror author Garth Marenghi (Holness) introduces us to his cancelled series DarkPlace. It’s presented almost as a documentary, with interviews with the actors. The show mocks low-budget 80s shows, so get ready for a lot of bad acting, bad timing, synthesiser music and sexism. It’s a work of art.

Black Books

An award-winning sitcom starring Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig (whom you might know from the series Episodes with Matt LeBlanc) about a bitter shopkeeper who makes the mistake of hiring an optimistic accountant during a night of heavy drinking. Great fun and a great example of British humour.

So these are only some of the many shows and movies that I wanted to share with you. Of course, there are many many more, but I’d be here all week. Hope this is interesting for all you fellow foreigners out there!

Until next time,



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