More funny, charming, intelligent things to watch?
January 24, 2012 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend funny, charming, gentle movies and TV shows.

As a follow-up to the question I asked a couple of years ago about smart Britcoms, I'm looking for more intelligent and funny TV and movies to watch.

In that thread, two people recommended stuff by Alan Plater, which I have now seen and thoroughly enjoyed. As I mentioned there, I also like Tom Stoppard and things like As Time Goes By.

So, slightly different preferences this time around:

* looking for charming and gentle - avoiding excessive snark or cringy humor, as well as gory murder mysteries
* looking for really high quality - great writing, great acting, great directing
* all countries welcome - US, UK, Canada, Australia; foreign language stuff is okay too
* doesn't HAVE to be funny but definitely prefer at least some comedy in my dramedy
* looking for both movies and TV, not just TV
* strong preference for stuff that's available in the US on DVD, although if you know of something amazing that's not available, I'd still love to hear about it for my "maybe someday" list

I have seen all of Northern Exposure, Slings and Arrows, the Beiderbecke Chronicles (and Oliver's Travels), As Time Goes By, Good Neighbors, and the West Wing (which I utterly loved, but is slightly more serious than I'm looking for here).

Also, I've just seen the pilot episode of Community and i really enjoyed that.

posted by kristi to Media & Arts (54 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Have you watched any Modern Family?
posted by gnutron at 9:51 AM on January 24, 2012

Gilmore Girls? Parks and Rec (way better - so much charming heart post-season 1, if you've tried it and not liked it)? Did you like Gavin and Stacey (recommended in the other thread and seems to hit your criteria here as well)?
posted by kickingthecrap at 9:52 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Life on Mars, while a cop drama on the surface, has a lot of funny, charming and intelligent in it.
posted by LN at 9:54 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, I think you would enjoy the movie Proof with Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins. It's definitely not a comedy, but it's not depressing either, and has a few lighthearted moments. It definitely fits your other criteria (charming, gentle, intelligent).

Also in the same vein, Once.
posted by yawper at 10:04 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Downton Abbey is incredibly charming, very smart, and often Britishly funny. It is heavy with interpersonal drama, however, so not sure it is as relaxing as you might like.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:04 AM on January 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

Pushing Daisies!
posted by mochapickle at 10:06 AM on January 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

Seconding Gilmore Girls.
posted by cmm at 10:06 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Whenever I need my cockles warmed I watch LA Story. Successfully slapsticky on the surface, gently literary underneath, sweet and hopeful ending.
posted by apparently at 10:08 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

On the movie front, go with films from the '30's and '40's. (You really can't go wrong doing that no matter what.) To stay on the lighter side, check out films directed by Preston Sturges, Frank Capra, and especially Ernst Lubitsch.
posted by Currer Belfry at 10:08 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Funny, charming, gentle: you want Modern Family and Parks & Rec.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 10:12 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

And if you want gentle and smart, you could try Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Sure its a childrens show. What's your point?
posted by Billiken at 10:17 AM on January 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

Seconding Pushing Daisies. It was just wonderful.

For movies, you can't go wrong with Love Actually.

Or any of the Muppets movies (or shows, for that matter). What about Pink Panther movies too?
posted by Leezie at 10:19 AM on January 24, 2012

Nthing Modern Family.

Keep watching Community.

Try Pushing Daisies. I found the style far too repetitive to enjoy, but several of my friends loved it (and strongly disagree with my characterization of it). It can be a little gorey (they're dealing with death, after all), but it's usually done in almost a slapstick way.
posted by Betelgeuse at 10:21 AM on January 24, 2012

There are many charming and gentle non-gory murder mysteries from Britain. Whether you also consider them intelligent depends on what you mean by that, as gentle tends to also mean not-overly-demanding. Poirot is the classic example.

The new Sherlock is a little more edgy, but not overly gory, and is very witty and intelligent. Esp good if you know the Sherlock Holmes stories well, as there's a lot of pleasure in seeing how little things have been transposed to the modern day.

If you're not allergic to sci-fi, Doctor Who also fits the bill. (It shares writers with Sherlock.)

A blast from the past.... to my mind Moonlighting perfectly fits what you're after.
posted by philipy at 10:25 AM on January 24, 2012

Extending Currer Belfry's (very good) suggestion of Frank Capra movies, I would specifically recommend You Can't Take It With You. The main family in it is loving and eccentric, and it's just an overall feel-good movie (though it does take a few moments to get used to seeing Lionel Barrymore playing a good guy if you're only familiar with him as Mr. Potter in the equally wonderful It's a Wonderful Life ...)
posted by DingoMutt at 10:25 AM on January 24, 2012

Corner Gas is an easygoing but quirky Canadian "small town" comedy.
Being Erica is a drama but with plenty of humor and I found the first two seasons very appealing.
Freaks and Geeks: there's only one season, but it's just great.

Another vote for Downton Abbey. It's pretty much a soap opera, but it's really lovely to look at and the acting's great.

If you're not opposed to cartoons, both The Penguins of Madagascar and the new My Little Pony cartoons are good-humored and easy to watch - funny and smart, and definitely have adult appeal.
posted by flex at 10:25 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

All Creatures Great and Small, particularly the original three seasons. It's about a veterinary practice, so there's a little blood sometimes, but certainly not what I would call gore. You can also watch it streaming on Netflix, if that's relevant.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:27 AM on January 24, 2012

LA Story is possibly my favorite movie of all time for exactly these reasons.

For TV, try Doc Martin: certainly reminiscent in broad outline of Northern Exposure (successful London surgeon develops personal issues which force a career change, moves to a small seaside village in Cornwall to become the local GP, has friction with the locals), but it has its own distinct character, and it's very sweet and funny (most of the time).
posted by McCoy Pauley at 10:30 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Funny, charming, gentle movies" made me think of Once. Also Mighty Aphrodite, Being There, A New Leaf.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:38 AM on January 24, 2012

Keep watching Community as Betelgeuse said. Well worth it.
posted by santaliqueur at 10:40 AM on January 24, 2012

Cold feet is a UK tv show, about ten years old now, but should fit the bill.
posted by biffa at 10:44 AM on January 24, 2012

I'm nthing Once. Literally my # 1 movie of all time.
posted by Falwless at 11:02 AM on January 24, 2012

I love Miranda, which is a delightful UK sitcom, IMHO. No sign of it on US Netflix, though.
posted by TheDonF at 11:08 AM on January 24, 2012

Can't link to imdb at the moment, but please check out "Truly, Madly, Deeply", a very charming movie.
posted by mefireader at 11:08 AM on January 24, 2012

If you liked The West Wing, you'd probably enjoy Sports Night, which has the same creator.
posted by yaymukund at 11:36 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by yaymukund at 11:37 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I love The Vicar of Dibley. British, gentle, very funny without being mean. The puddle scene is the stuff of legends.
posted by CdnMathTeacher at 11:37 AM on January 24, 2012

Seconding Doc Martin. I think this will do it for you.
posted by Decani at 12:21 PM on January 24, 2012

Ah, yaymukund beat me to it. Seconding Sports Night. It's a lot like the West Wing in terms of fun, smart characters, but since the setting is a TV Studio rather than the White House it's less intense. A lot of fun even if you don't like sports.

It's also available on Netflix Instant Watch, which is nice. I might stop with the first season, though; I didn't think it was quite as good after that.
posted by losvedir at 12:24 PM on January 24, 2012

Stephen Fry's Kingdom is pretty much the definition of gentle dramedy. It's on Netflix Instant at the moment.
(It is much more in the vein of As Time Goes By and Northern Exposure than many of the suggestions here, which are very...exciting? I mean, people are listing some of my favorite shows but they are not 'gentle' in any way that I understand it)
posted by emyd at 12:43 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're not opposed to cartoons, both The Penguins of Madagascar and the new My Little Pony cartoons are good-humored and easy to watch - funny and smart, and definitely have adult appeal.

Don't forget Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends. And if you want something a bit more vintage, you can't beat Rocky and Bullwinkle.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:01 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Heartbreaker! In French. The trailer doesn't do it justice -- it's a love story but it's filmed like a heist movie.
posted by mochapickle at 1:08 PM on January 24, 2012

Also, Shall We Dance (the Japanese original).
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:33 PM on January 24, 2012

Here's a list of things we enjoyed on Netflix that more or less fill the bill and haven't been mentioned (on cursory preview), first on disk, then streaming:

Larry Crowne
Midnight in Paris
The Tempest
Win Win
The Yellow Handkerchief
How Do You Know
Cranford: Return to Cranford
The Barchester Chronicles
Wind at My Back
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont
A Good Baby
Cat Girl Kiki
Cape of Good Hope
Her Majesty
Brides of Christ
That's the Way I Like It
Bob & Rose
Intimate Stories
Unconditional Love
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Love in a Cold Climate
Summer's Lease
Mind the Gap
Something the Lord Made

Broken Hill
Every Day
The Baxter
Russian Dolls

There's definitely more dramedy than flat-out comedy in there, but certainly no gore and not much heartbreak, as far as I can recall!
posted by dpcoffin at 2:52 PM on January 24, 2012

A couple more:
Elvis&Annabelle (disk)
The Treatment (stream)
posted by dpcoffin at 3:23 PM on January 24, 2012

Wonderfalls fits the bill. One of those series' that was prematurely cancelled IMHO, but the writers had enough notice of cancellation to wrap things up nicely so it works as a great miniseries.
posted by apcmwh at 3:52 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thought of a couple movies:
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day
Lars and the Real Girl

and the miniseries Lost in Austen
posted by flex at 3:56 PM on January 24, 2012

Seconding Elvis & Annabelle.

Also I loved Sweet Land and Stardust, two less known movies that people rave about once they're lucky enough to discover them!
posted by jschu at 4:15 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm watching through As Time Goes By with my BF right now and Northern Exposure is one of my favorite shows, so I think I get what you're after.

Mad About You
Seconding Gilmore Girls and Wonderfalls and Sports Night
Haven't seen it, but I hear Picket Fences is a bit similar to Northern Exposure
The IT Crowd
posted by pourtant at 5:48 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding Lars and the Real Girl. And adding Baghdad Cafe.
posted by marsha56 at 7:20 PM on January 24, 2012

The Danish series "Matador" is charming, quietly funny, and wonderful for period details. Each season takes place over several years in a small town in Denmark, starting in 1929 and ending in the final season in 1947. It follows the same characters over this time period. A version with English subtitles exists. It was enormously popular in Scandinavia and has aired overseas in many countries, so hopefully you can find DVDs somehow.

(I am currently watching it through for the second time.)
posted by lollusc at 7:32 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Link to Wikipedia entry on Matador.
posted by lollusc at 7:33 PM on January 24, 2012

Huge anglophile here. The following are from British TV:

Jam and Jerusalem, with Jennifer Saunders, Pauline McLynn and Dawn French. It's a comedy about the goings-on at a townswomen's guild in the West Country.

Wild West, with Dawn French and Catherine Tate as owners of a shop in a quirky little town on the sea in Cornwall. It's shot in Cornwall. ::sigh:: Need I say more?

Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights. Comedy set near Manchester about a workingman's club and the quietly deluded folk who run and frequent it.

Lark Rise to Candleford, a drama set in the 30s-40s based on a series of novels, with a load of people, Julia Sawalha (Saffy from AbFab) probably being most recognizable to American viewers (I can hardly believe she's in her 40s. I still see her as silly, teenaged Lydia Bennett, but that was nearly 20 years ago!).

I'd look in the Radio Times online for more current British TV stuff.

As for films, do see Beginners, with Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer; I think it's in mainstream release now. It's a story about really growing up and accepting things and moving past your fears, even if you've been burnt a bit by life. I loved it and it was very gentle in its sensibility, I think.
posted by droplet at 8:49 PM on January 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Notting Hill!
posted by SisterHavana at 9:37 PM on January 24, 2012

Father Ted
New Tricks
The Number One Ladies Detective Agency
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 5:21 AM on January 25, 2012

Big Night
posted by segatakai at 6:26 AM on January 25, 2012



just -


The amazing thing is: I can tell everything everyone's recommended will be PERFECT - because I've seen about 25% of the recommendations and loved (or at least seriously liked) them all.

I've seen Gilmore Girls, Pushing Daisies, Freaks and Geeks, Jam and Jerusalem, The Vicar of Dibley, Cold Feet, and Wonderfalls; I've seen Once, Love Actually, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Lars and the Real Girl, Big Night. Those were all perfect suggestions. (In fact, I may go watch a few of them again.)

As for stuff I haven't seen:

Gavin and Stacey has been hovering near the top of my To Watch list and just never quite made it to the top; I think that'll be first.

I had somehow never heard of Modern Family; that's probably next in line.

I think I had conflated Parks and Rec with Portlandia and wasn't sure they were quite what I was looking for; Parks and Rec is now on the list.

I'd seen several references to Downton Abbey lately but didn't get any sense of what it was like; thanks to these recommendations, it's now on the list.

dpcoffin, thanks especially for that great long list.

Everything in this thread is going on the list. This is fantastic, and will keep me happily entertained for many, many weekends to come.

Really, this is just a wonderful set of suggestions. I am in complete awe of the Ask MetaFilter community. This makes me very happy.

Thank you - every one of you.
posted by kristi at 9:21 AM on January 25, 2012

Just a few more:

It's Kind of Funny Story
The Other Sister
Dirty Filthy Love
Happy Accidents
City Island
Every Day

And did you ever see Ballykissangel? It was the first thing I thought of, but noticed it was also on that BritSitcoms thread…
Just in case; it's quite perfect.
posted by dpcoffin at 10:08 AM on January 25, 2012

Lark Rise to Candleford, a drama set in the 30s-40s based on a series of novels, with a load of people, Julia Sawalha (Saffy from AbFab) probably being most recognizable to American viewers (I can hardly believe she's in her 40s. I still see her as silly, teenaged Lydia Bennett, but that was nearly 20 years ago!).

O. M. G! Two of our all-time classic favs and we NEVER made that connection! Sheesh! Esp. considering how much time we spend playing "That's the Girl/Guy from ___!!"

Thank you…

posted by dpcoffin at 10:22 AM on January 25, 2012

I'm late to this thread, but I want to also suggest classic Hollywood musicals!

- Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films, especially Roberta, Top Hat, and Swing Time.
- Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in the Andy Hardy films.
- Judy Garland and Gene Kelly in For Me and My Gal (watch this clip, it is adorable and charming to see the two of them so sweet and young)
- The trio of MGM musicals starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra
- MGM movie musicals of the 1940s and 1950s, period, including: Singin' in the Rain, Easter Parade, The Bandwagon.
posted by so much modern time at 1:49 PM on January 25, 2012

dpcoffin, I did indeed see BallyK and quite enjoyed it (especially the first couple of seasons). All your ideas are spot on.
posted by kristi at 3:24 PM on January 25, 2012

Almost forgot the epitome of funny, charming and gentle movies : It Happened One Night
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:16 PM on January 25, 2012

I can't believe nobody mentioned "Raising Hope" yet... If you like "Community" and "Modern Family", you'll like it as well. These three are on my weekly Hulu watch list :)
posted by Ender's Friend at 7:29 PM on February 4, 2012

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