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LightboxSeptember 28, 2015

Television: Inside the Lightbox – Our Favourite Cult Classics From Boosh to Buffy


Inside the Lightbox is a sponsored post where we mine the extensive Lightbox catalogue for shows you might like to watch. This week, we pick our favourite cult television classics.

Don Rowe on The Mighty Boosh

Lightbox describes The Mighty Boosh as “a surreal comedy set in a zoo”, which is correct in the same sense that the Mona Lisa is a painting of a woman. A more accurate assessment of The ‘Boosh might be ‘British jazz Dali in glitter boots feat. dimethyltryptamine’.

The Mighty Boosh chronicles the life and friendship of sunshine child Vince Noir and jazz bore Howard Moon. Employed initially as zookeepers, and later as shopkeepers, the pair find themselves inevitably entwined in psychedelic scenarios of cosmic chaos.


Travelling through time, space, and the underwater dwelling of a hermaphroditic fish thing, Noir and Moon bluff their way to Hell and back again, relying occasionally on the mystic intervention of resident shaman Naboo and his familiar Bollo the gorilla.


Like any good cult show, The Mighty Boosh is pretty low rent. Shoddy set pieces and atrocious CGI abound, however they seem entirely appropriate and only contribute to the aesthetic of the show. So too do the recurring characters: anthropomorphic fruit, jazz demons, cockney geezers, a talking moon and a pot smoking gorilla populate three full seasons of the Boosh, stretching the comedy genre like a pair of red latex pants.


The show blends high fashion, punk rock, fusion jazz and sketch comedy in a ridiculous cacophony of color and kitsch best enjoyed after a fat bong of whatever’s going. My stepmum fucking hates it.

Alex Casey on Peep Show

I still remember exactly where I was when I saw the first episode of Peep Show. I had just got off a long-haul flight to London, and my friend Cleo had welcomed me with a can of Super Strongbow and this new mysterious show on DVD. As I was about to find out, not at all unlike Mark welcoming Jez home with Sara Lee and Dune on DVD.

I was supposed to explore London, get lost in the big city, find myself or some crap. Instead I sat in her lounge watching episode after episode, mouth agape at the life-ruining feat of comedy genius in front me. Just like a sausage nailed to an office door, Peep Show captures the excruciatingly mundane minutiae, and repackages it into something surreal, confusing and horrendously funny.

Mark and Jeremy, played by David Mitchell and Robert Webb, are two dwindling man-boy flatmates. Mark is a neurotic middle-management square who agonises over every daily detail from which muesli brand to choose to how to avoid been seen as a pedophile. Jeremy is the polar opposite – unemployed, stoned, and mostly making plans for tattooing his own face onto his chest.


We hear their every terrible thought as the camera takes on their point of view, which is as cathartic as it is terrifying to recognise your own deplorable internal musings. Peep Show confronts the audience with the the possibility that we might all occasionally be bad people, and invites us to delightedly wallow in this freeing revelation. We’re all terrible, and it’s all good. Have some Sara Lee – you’ve earned it.

Calum Henderson on The Office

I have watched The Office more times than any other show. Nothing else even comes close.

At the height of my Office-mania I probably spent more time speaking in a crude approximation of David Brent’s accent than I did using my own voice. I had friendships based solely on a shared obsession with the show. Whole conversations conducted in a patchwork of Brent quotes, some of them not even from the show but outtakes (“Bishop Muzorewa”), every sentence punctuated with his “in a way…” or “so…” or “yeah?”

This was over ten years ago. The intervening years have fortunately seen me stop doing the Brent voice, and unfortunately (perhaps inevitably) seen Ricky Gervais’ comedy follow the law of diminishing returns. But, unlike just about everything else I thought was amazing ten years ago, The Office still is.

With every new viewing there will always come a new favourite line, a previously unappreciated gesture or phrasing. “Not a happy home life”… Tim turning off his mic to ask Dawn out … the way Brent says “Sergio Georgini”.

To paraphrase a brilliant philosopher: a good TV show is a good TV show… forever.

José Barbosa on Buffy

A lot of TV shows get called “influential” or “iconic” nowadays, but only a few deserve the honorific. One of the few modern shows that do, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The mission statement of the show is in the title, show runner and creator Joss Whedon took the blonde damsel in distress from supernatural evil trope and upturned everything. Buffy and her cohorts fought evil every week, but also college and their own coming of age and all the horrors that can bring. It was resolutely feminist and humanist, a sort of ongoing parody of and comment on the perennial question: “Can the modern woman have it all?”


Buffy and her writers made it okay to undercut the IMMENSE DRAMA of your script with a joke, usually pointing out or commenting on the inconsistencies or ridiculousness of the script. Everyone from Supernatural to Lost to Mr Robot does this. But in Buffy the humour almost never derailed the story and even if it did it was always hilarious. At least it had a role to play in warning the human race about the world without shrimp.

Click here to see the rest of our cult classic picks on Lightbox today

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