Squirming in my seat - uncomfortable TV recommendations?
August 4, 2007 10:57 AM   Subscribe

If I enjoy cringeworthy television such as The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Extras, what other awkward TV and films should I be watching? I'm looking for lots of faux pas and gauche characters like David Brent or Larry David.
posted by porn in the woods to Media & Arts (58 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
posted by tristeza at 10:58 AM on August 4, 2007

A lot of Christopher Guest films have that guache quality. (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, et cetera.)
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:07 AM on August 4, 2007

Saxondale with Steve Googan might the bill. Not as cringeworthy as The Office or Extras but still up there.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 11:08 AM on August 4, 2007

The original of faux pas and gauche characters: Fawlty Towers.
posted by meerkatty at 11:08 AM on August 4, 2007

er, gauche.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:09 AM on August 4, 2007

I assume you've seen Seinfeld? Never hurts to ask...
posted by mkultra at 11:12 AM on August 4, 2007

Arrested Development, Are You Being Served, In the Company of Men
posted by willnot at 11:13 AM on August 4, 2007

Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge shows might work too.

Freaks and Geeks?
posted by lemuria at 11:16 AM on August 4, 2007

Seconding Arrested Development.
posted by betafilter at 11:18 AM on August 4, 2007

(I'm sure you've already seen Borat. Sweet Jesus.)

Seconding Christopher Guest.

I consider this a partial comedy, some may beg to differ: The Celebration, a Dogme film that is possibly one of the darkest, most sadistic movies I've ever seen. Not for the squeamish. I really love it.

Or do you want straight-up, light-hearted comedy?

(On preview: Yeah, anything by Neil La Bute or Todd Solondz. Not comedies by definition...but mos def cringe-worthy. )
posted by veronica sawyer at 11:19 AM on August 4, 2007

Response by poster: British recommendations especially appreciated; there's much I don't know about UK TV.

I love Arrested Development, Freaks and Geeks, and the Guest mocumentaries. The US version of The Office is also a complete winner.
posted by porn in the woods at 11:20 AM on August 4, 2007

Check out Alan Partridge. It fits your list of criteria to a T.
posted by gfrobe at 11:23 AM on August 4, 2007

The Larry Sanders Show is very much a precursor to the shows by Gervais and Larry David. Ricky Gervais has even come right out and called Garry Shandling one of his 'comedy heroes.'*

I believe that the only dvd releases of TLSS are the entire first season and a kind of highlights collection. This is criminal. It's a first-class comedy that, like Extras and Curb and Seinfeld, features an entire ensemble of misanthropes and then gleefully puts them in uncomfortable situations.

Seconding Fawlty Towers.

*If you want to see some good squirming comedy, check out Ricky Gervais's interview with Garry Shandling, which starts here. The jury seems to be out as to whether the two were horribly mismatched or it was simply a gag. But it's one of the most uncomfortable 45 minutes I've spent on youtube.
posted by scarylarry at 11:35 AM on August 4, 2007

Flight of the Conchords isn't as cringeworthy as The Office, but certainly has its moments and is somewhat similar in its humor. The band manager Murray is as awkward as they come. Also, it has great songs.
posted by ORthey at 11:42 AM on August 4, 2007

Peep Show arguably has more cringe-inducing moments than either The Office or Curb.
posted by sharkweek at 11:43 AM on August 4, 2007

Absolutely Fabulous (BBC) is cringe-worthy but in a more direct way. Plus it's hysterical.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 11:47 AM on August 4, 2007

Larry Sanders was the first thing that came to my mind, too.

And -- and I don't know what your access to this would be like -- but The Newsroom would really fit the bill.

Nth Christopher Guest, Fawlty Towers, AbFab (to some extent)
posted by kmennie at 11:57 AM on August 4, 2007

Response by poster: Todd Solondz's Happiness is rife with the most awkward situations imaginable. Great performances all around from people like Ben Gazzara, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Dylan Baker. Highly recommended, but not one for mixed company.
posted by porn in the woods at 12:02 PM on August 4, 2007

Agreed on Alan Partridge, exactly what you want. Also check out Little Britain and League of Gentlemen.
posted by Joh at 12:13 PM on August 4, 2007

Holy shit, Happiness is the opposite of humor. Egads.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:28 PM on August 4, 2007

People have mentioned Borat, But his other character, Bruno, is possibly even more cringe-inducing. Highly reccomend Bruno's fashion interviews on HBO's Ali G show.
posted by Large Marge at 12:42 PM on August 4, 2007

Many of my favorites have already been mentioned--except for the Canadian sitcom The Newsroom, with a lead character very much like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
posted by carrienation at 12:45 PM on August 4, 2007

Really enjoyed Lisa Kudrow's "The Comeback". The series was hinged on the same watch-and-cringe aspect as The Office, but Kudrow's character remains (or becomes) much more sympathetic as the series wears on, and the way it concludes genuinely surprised me. Worth checking out!
posted by hermitosis at 12:47 PM on August 4, 2007

You would love The Comeback. It's cancelled, but available on DVD and it's right up your alley.
posted by miles1972 at 12:50 PM on August 4, 2007

People have mentioned these before, but they should be mentioned again...

* Larry Sanders was an HBO series that along with The Simpsons and Seinfeld really defined what a contemporary sitcom could be. It isn't pure discomfort, but it is maybe the best sitcom every made. Garry Shandling, the show's creator and star, was very committed to finding emotional truth, and that means the humor is often connected to cringey things. "Freaks and Geeks" creator Judd Apatow worked on the show, eventually rising to showrunner. You can torrent all the shows, or buy many of them.

* The Newsroom is a Canadian sitcom that is very much in the vein of Curb Your Enthusiasm meets Larry Sanders, though its first series predates the former. The show revolves around a non-pathetic David Brent-like character who runs a Canadian TV news program. It's very much underappreciated and very funny. Available on DVD in the US. Probably the best example of exactly what you're looking for.

* I agree re: Alan Partridge, and reccomend "The Day Today," the show on which the Partridge character began, and "BrassEye," which was a followup series created by Armando Ianucci and Chris Morris, the creators of "The Day Today." The Day Today and BrassEye might be the two funniest TV shows I've ever seen. They are not about social faux-pas, though Brasseye is very much about breaching social norms. BrassEye is on regionless DVD in the UK, so you can get it from like hmv.co.uk or any other British retailer that ships to the US. I believe that The Day Today is only on UK-regioned DVD, but it can be torrented pretty easily. I can't reccomend these two shows highly enough.
posted by YoungAmerican at 1:13 PM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Get A Life.
Family Guy.
posted by Gungho at 1:22 PM on August 4, 2007

Blackbooks or Spaced might also do the trick.
posted by Bio11 at 1:23 PM on August 4, 2007

Worst Week Of My Life. Hysterical. Quite a bit less subtle than the titles you mentioned, but there's plenty of cringe-worthy moments.
posted by philad at 1:24 PM on August 4, 2007

Sharkweek has it - if you like "The Office" (particularly the UK version) for the cringe-worthy moments, you simply must get on the "Peep Show" bandwagon. So many awkward situations that my wife simply can't bear to watch; it makes her far too tense and anxious. To give an overly broad description, imagine David Brent as a random office worker bee, saddled with crippling self-doubt and acute social anxiety. Our "hero" shares a flat with a completely bizarre, outrageously deluded "hipster," sort of a slacker version of Gareth. It's really, really funny, and there's no doubt in my mind that any serious "Office" fan would absolutely love this show.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 1:46 PM on August 4, 2007

Let me second Peep Show. A genius show that's positively painful to watch... but in a good way. Comedy lovebites, or something. I posted Bob Odenkirk's Derek and Simon to the blue earlier today. It's in the same vein. For example, one episode is about what happens after Simon takes a first date to the Holocaust Museum.
posted by Kattullus at 1:51 PM on August 4, 2007

Adding my voice to the chorus: Alan Partridge, The Day Today, Brass Eye are almost their own genre and universe in UK comedy, roughly equivalent to the Curb/Seinfeld universe. Some of the references in, esp. Brass Eye might not come over, but you'd certainly enjoy Alan Partridge.

If you've not seen it, I sometimes describe NBC's 30 Rock as a more knockabout, sillier Curb Your Enthusiasm. It may not be quite so excruciating, but it's certainly funny.
posted by caek at 1:54 PM on August 4, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions thus far! I'll be filling my Netflix queue accordingly. I see that three seasons of Peep Show are available on Usenet, so that will get me started.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:00 PM on August 4, 2007

seconding the peepshow refs..

theres also "tim and erics awsome show, great job"
which you can find on utube (its an adult swim thing, i think)

its not really in the same class as peepshow, curb, office, etc but i've laughed till i cried at some of 'tim and eric'. odenkirk is involved from time to time as well.

(its hit or miss..but the good bits are supersonic)
posted by The_Auditor at 2:17 PM on August 4, 2007

I was in your shoes a few months ago - was trying to find some cringy humor, and boy did I find it. Where? Check out BBC's "The Thick of It". Absolutely amazing.

Episodes on the YouTube: first, second, and third.
posted by ifranzen at 2:51 PM on August 4, 2007

"Fawlty Towers"

"Bringing Up Baby" (Cary Grant cringes often)

"Glenngary Glen Ross" (Not a straightforward comedy, but definitely about an office worker -- played by Jack Lemon in the movie version -- who digs himself deeper and deeper into a hole)

"Meet the Parents" (Ben Stiller -- 90 minutes of cringe). I'm not a fan of the sequel, but the original is fun. You might want to check out "Something About Mary" for another Stiller cringe-fest

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" (Larry David out-Seinfeld's Seinfeld.)

"Play it Again Sam" (Woody Allen at his absolute worst with women.) In general, I think Allen comedies are good for cringes.

"King of Comedy" (Martin Scorsese's brilliant, much maligned comedy, with DeNiro, Jerry Lewis, and Sandra Bernhard). Cringy Goodness. Also, check out Scorsese's "After Hours," a very dark comedy, but one that will make you cringe from time to time.

Nthing "Freaks and Geeks", "Flight of the Conchords", "Extras" and "Seinfeld."
posted by grumblebee at 3:05 PM on August 4, 2007

By the way, if you get tired of cathode rays, you might want to check out some Cringe Lit:

"The Extra Man" and "Wake Up, Sir," by Jonathan Ames. Ames is the heir to Salenger. But his characters are even more messed up than Holden Caulfield -- and they're older, so they have less of an excuse.

"Prep" by Curtis Sittenfeld. Speaking of H. Caulfield, I think Ms. Sittenfeld channeled him into a young girl.

"Kick Me" and "Superstud" are memoirs by Paul Feig, the creator of "Freaks and Geeks." The cover of "Kick Me" (featuring a young Fieg and his parents) is worth the price of admission alone.
posted by grumblebee at 3:14 PM on August 4, 2007

Father Ted, obviously. From the same team, many of the absurdist sketches in Big Train feature such archtypes. Black Books and the IT Crowd try too hard to get this vibe and come off feeling dated and kind of stale.

Pretty much everyone in the Charlie Brooker/Chris Morris vehicle Nathan Barley is a cringeworthy, insufferable Web2-ish hipster git. Yeah? Brilliant stuff. NB is a kind of missing link or transitionary stage between the late-90s UK humour and more recent stuff such as Mighty Boosh.
posted by meehawl at 3:14 PM on August 4, 2007

Twitch City--CBC comedy starring Don McKellar as an amoral agoraphobe who rents out his closet (as a bedroom) to Molly Parker and manipulates her into doing all his errands for him.

FUBAR--mockumentary about a pretentious young filmmaker who decides to make a movie about headbanger subculture.

Made in Canada--stars Rick Mercer as an amoral TV producer who is oblivious to social niceties. Very Office-esque. My favourite episode is the one where he secretly rents out the set for his network's beloved Anne of Green Gables-type TV show to a porn film crew.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:39 PM on August 4, 2007

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
posted by sharkfu at 4:03 PM on August 4, 2007

Thirding (?) the recommendation for 'The Comeback'. Totally cringeworthy and very funny.
posted by cosmic osmo at 4:25 PM on August 4, 2007

posted by Pinback at 4:29 PM on August 4, 2007

You'll definitely want to see Eagle vs Shark! Awkward moments abound, plus great music.
posted by dbateman at 4:36 PM on August 4, 2007

I am your opposite. I get anxious for characters easily and frequently stuff my head under pillows, ostrich-like, while watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. I have a friend who gets embarrassed for other people easily and he has trouble with this type of show as well. I'm just glad there are people who love to cringe.

It's so old and revered you probably already know if you like it or not, but I always associated this feeling with I Love Lucy. "No, Lucy, don't do it! Ricky is going to be home soon!"

That being said, Strangers with Candy.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:39 PM on August 4, 2007

Stella is totally over-the-top outrageous comedy, but has many such moments as well, including an incredible, surreal, business presentation scene.
posted by zoinks at 4:52 PM on August 4, 2007

Response by poster: "King of Comedy" (Martin Scorsese's brilliant, much maligned comedy, with DeNiro, Jerry Lewis, and Sandra Bernhard). Cringy Goodness.

Seconded. This movie flopped and was hated in the early 1980s, but it gets even better with age. If you like the stuff mentioned in my post, you must see King of Comedy. DeNiro as the hapless comic Rupert Pupkin is more cringeworthy than any Larry David moment I can think of.
posted by porn in the woods at 6:02 PM on August 4, 2007

please fpp the kaufmans !

larry sanders, yet again - on torrent.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:04 PM on August 4, 2007

Fat Actress (Nobody debases herself better than La Alley)
Kath and Kim ("Suburban nightmares living the suburban dream"):
Kim: My favourite movie's "Shallow Hal." I can relate.
Kath: Why? Because you're fat?
Kim: No, because I'm shallow. ... God, you're mean to me.
posted by rob511 at 6:11 PM on August 4, 2007

I think I'm fourthing (or fifthing??) Peep Show. I think a lot of British comedies tend to have this sort of irresistible cringeworthiness. Whereas, the only thing cringeworthy about American comedies (like According To Jim) is how terrible they are!

Still, Ricky Gervais will always be the master of the awkward moment.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:34 PM on August 4, 2007

i would argue that steve coogan might be better at making the viewer awkward (than gervais).

i say this coming off of a huge alan partridge binge, though.
posted by kendrak at 9:32 PM on August 4, 2007

American Movie.
posted by mkultra at 10:06 PM on August 4, 2007

Nthing Larry Sanders and The Newsroom - anything by Ken Finkleman is brilliantly sardonic.
posted by rmm at 11:17 PM on August 4, 2007

If you like Freaks and Geeks, you might like Judd Apatow's second show, Undeclared.

I also find Reno 911! to be chock full of faux pas and political incorrectness.
posted by bijou at 11:22 PM on August 4, 2007

Nthing Arrested Development if you haven't seen it.
posted by hannahq at 12:26 AM on August 5, 2007

Also Marion and Geoff with Rob Brydon as a taxi driver whose wife has gone off with another man and who is embarrassingly, endearingly, clueless in his monologues to camera about what has been happening in his family.

If you actually want to draw blood as you bite on the back of your hand with the excruciating pain of watching your comedy, try Nighty Night, which you'd have to invent a whole new shade of black to really describe.
posted by penguin pie at 4:10 AM on August 5, 2007


It's a web-based TV show with the actor who played 'George Michael' in Arrested Development.
posted by Lucie at 6:52 PM on August 5, 2007

Clickable links are totally overrated.
posted by Lucie at 7:09 PM on August 5, 2007

A bunch of hidden-camera shows are extremely cringe-heavy:

-World Shut Your Mouth
-Balls of Steel
-Trigger Happy TV
-Just for Laughs "gags"

This stuff is all on the YouTubes.
posted by lunchbox at 7:41 PM on August 5, 2007

« Older Help to remember story source.   |   Suggest some similar similes! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.