So you’ve just finished Making a Murderer, your favorite weekly shows are on holiday break, and you think your roommate might actually murder you if you watch through all of Parks and Rec for a 27th time. Well, it’s the holiday season, which means that treacly “very special episodes” and sentimental Christmas songs abound. And, sure, all that can be fun for a while, but if you’re starting to feel like it’s all so sweet you might get sick, why not take a break from wholesome family time and stream a pitch-dark British comedy show? There isn’t a single genre more antithetical to American holiday-season sentimentality. Ahead, our recommendations for shows readily available online that might make you cringe and will definitely make you laugh.
What’s it about? Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) is a hard-drinking bookshop owner who hates everyone and everything. With the help of similarly misanthropic Fran (Tamsin Greig) and optimistic Manny (Bill Bailey), he continues to hate everyone and everything and learns absolutely nothing.
How bleak is it? It’s dark at times, but not necessarily all that bleak. Watching Bernard repeatedly hurt Manny’s feelings may break your heart into little pieces, though.
Where can I watch it? Netflix, Hulu
What’s it about? Nathan Barley (Nicholas Burns) is a vapid, materialistic, self-professed media mogul whose obsession with a Vice-like magazine called Sugar Ape leads him to inadvertently ruin the life of one of its writers (Julian Barratt) piece by piece.
How bleak is it? Co-written by Black Mirror’s Charlie Brooker, the decade-old show presents an upsettingly prescient, overwhelmingly bleak commentary on the way we live now. At times it is downright hard to watch, especially if you work in media ... or live in Brooklyn.
Where can I watch it? Amazon
What’s it about? A parody of I Love the ’80s–esque talking-head shows, Time Trumpet — co-created by Veep creator Armando Iannucci — takes place in the year 2031, where a group of cultural commentators offer hot takes on their recent past (our near future).
How bleak is it? Pretty darn bleak. An episode about the never-ending fallout from the Iraq War is especially incisive in its indictment of early 21st-century politics. Other predictions for the next few decades, like singer Charlotte Church vomiting herself inside out, seem less likely to come true.
Where can I watch it? Daily Motion
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace
What’s it about? Darkplace is a show within a show — found footage of a short-lived ’80s sci-fi program based on a novel by fictional author Garth Marenghi (Matthew Holness). Interspersed with the overwrought, overacted episodes (which take place in a hospital located at the mouth of Hell) are interviews with the show’s creative team, including actor-slash-producer Dean Learner (Richard Ayoade), whose popularity as a character later earned him a spinoff talk show, Man to Man With Dean Learner.
How bleak is it? Darkplace is too aggressively campy, in the best way possible, to be actually bleak. One episode features everyone slowly turning into monkeys; another includes an eyeball-shaped alien baby named Skipper.
Where can I watch it? Vimeo
What’s it about? A sketch show from The Mighty Boosh’s Matt Berry and Rich Fulcher, Snuffbox has loose connective material about a gentlemen’s club for executioners, but no real plot to speak of. To attempt to describe any of the sketches, much less what makes them as weird and funny as they are, would be ridiculous. It’s developed a cult following in the years since it aired, but it’s either a show for you or it’s not. You’ll have to give it a shot to find out.
How bleak is it? Well, like I said, it’s a sketch show that literally takes place in a club for executioners — the fact that it only lasted six episodes may not surprise you.
Where can I watch it? Amazon
What’s it about? Jill (Julia Davis) is a sociopath who uses her husband’s cancer diagnosis to manipulate those around her — including her sweet neighbor, Cath, whose marriage she works tirelessly to break up. Over the course of the series, Jill basically ends up going on a murder spree. Honestly, this makes it sound like a much more upbeat show than it is.
How bleak is it? Brace yourselves: Nighty Night may be the gold standard for pitch black British comedies. Julia Davis is an evil genius.
Where can I watch it? Hulu
The Mighty Boosh
What’s it about? Vince Noir (Noel Fielding) and Howard Moon (Julian Barratt) are best friends–slash–worst enemies who, over the course of three seasons, work at a zoo, start a band, and live above a magic shop. But that’s just the beginning; they also travel to alternate dimensions, go on treasure hunts in the Arctic, almost bring about the apocalypse, dance with the Yeti, box with kangaroos, and make out on rooftops.
How bleak is it? The Boosh gets progressively darker as the seasons go on — when we first meet Howard and Vince at the Zooniverse, the world they inhabit is significantly sunnier than it is by the end. Beware the Crack Fox; he’s a downright stomach-churning comic creation.
Where can I watch it? Amazon
What’s it about? The source material for the American show of the same name, Shameless tells the story of Frank Gallagher (David Threlfall), an alcoholic single father of six, and his family, which is kept together mostly by his eldest daughter, Fiona (Anne-Marie Duff), and her bad-boy boyfriend, Steve (James McAvoy).
How bleak is it? As is wont to happen, the British version is darker than the U.S. remake. The characters are hard to like (and the fast-paced dialogue is hard to understand). If I’m being honest, I only even made it through the first few episodes. Maybe you’ll be braver than I.
Where can I watch it? Hulu, Netflix
A Touch of Cloth
What’s it about?: Yet another Charlie Brooker project, A Touch of Cloth is a spot-on parody of police-procedural dramas like The Wire. The titular Cloth refers to Detective Jack Cloth (John Hannah), who is brought out of self-imposed retirement to investigate a murder that might be related to that of his late wife.
How bleak is it? In somewhat un-Brooker-like fashion, A Touch of Cloth is set in a bleak world, but it’s packed with ridiculously, unapologetically silly jokes.
Where can I watch it? Veoh