Ever since launching into the wider public conscious as the intimidating giant Mr Gilbert in hit comedy The Inbetweeners, the television career of Shropshire’s (and one of the country’s) finest stand-up comedian Greg Davies has gone from strength to strength. With the release of the entire fourth series of BBC sitcom Cuckoo arriving on iPlayer last week, we thought it would be as good a time as ever to rank the five programmes that helped make the Welsh-born comic a household name.
5. We Are Klang (2009)
Famed for his incredible solo live performances during spectacular tours Firing Cheeseballs At A Dog, The Back of My Mum’s Head and more recently You Incredible Beast, Davies was also one part of the three-piece comedy troupe We Are Klang with Marek Larwood and Steve Hall. Back in 2009, the trio were given a platform on BBC Three with six episodes to showcase their Chortle award nominated brand of fourth-wall breaking, slightly surreal physical comedy and songs. The Bottom-esque slapstick combined with Klang’s irreverence produced some truly hilarious skits – though the over-bearing studio audience laughter often sounded obnoxiously loud and forced rather than being genuine and infectious. Although, that could just have been a barrier that the TV studio unfortunately provided.
In the show, Davies, Larwood and Hall play councillors in the fictional town of Klangbury constantly at risk of losing their jobs due to their own ineptitude. Despite a cult following, the show never really took off in the way similar style sitcoms did, such as Vic & Bob’s House of Fools and Pappy’s Badults. The high-energy anarchic performances that made their shows such a success with live audiences didn’t quite transition to the small screen with as much buzz or acclaim. With no sign of a DVD release of the show in the near future after a petition failed to garner enough votes, it seems destined to remain a cult classic forever.
4. Cuckoo (2012-present)
Quite honestly, I feel absolutely ashamed to put Robin French and Kieron Quirke’s show fourth on this list. It follows many of the conventions of what might be considered a typical BBC sitcom: there’s a middle class family of mum, dad, son and daughter, with a couple of quirky neighbours and a fish-out-of-water character to disrupt their ordinary lives. And yet, Cuckoo has a hit rate most sitcoms can only dream of with performances to match. Not least of all from Davies in what is a relatively straight role for him as the Lichfield lawyer and father-of-two, but also from Andy Samberg (yes, that Golden Globe winning Andy Samberg from Brooklyn Nine-Nine) in the first series and subsequently Taylor Lautner (yes, that Taylor Lautner from the Twilight movies) who obviously steal the limelight. But the cast could not be complete without Helen Baxendale (yes, that Helen Baxendale from Friends and Cold Feet) who plays mum Lorna – and for whom she really gets to show how supremely talented she is as a comic actor.
The main staying power of Cuckoo has been its consistency. Despite multiple cast changes, infrequent supporting characters popping in and out of the show, and an occasional threat of broad / appealing / safe [delete as applicable] comedy – that is fantastically well written and performed, though broad nonetheless – the show has never dipped in quality. Through four series, Cuckoo has been utterly delightful and its placing on this list does not do it justice; and for that I sincerely apologise! The whole box set is available to UK viewers (with a TV licence) on BBC iPlayer. This has been a public service announcement.
3. The Inbetweeners (2008-2010)
Before you leap into a flying rage and hurl abuse this way, in my defence: Davies is pretty much a peripheral character in Damon Beasley and Iain Morris’ award winning comedy series. I love this show as much as anybody else and there’s a million and one reasons why this should be first. But it comes down to the fact that two others shows are deserving of some recognition – and more to the point, they too are flippin’ brilliant.
The Inbetweeners was not Davies’ first appearance on our television screens. Despite other shows, he even had a minor role in an episode of Steve Coogan’s much underrated Saxondale. However, the former teacher’s character Mr Gilbert was often a high point in any episode he appeared in during an almost flawless series.
2. Taskmaster (2015-present)
Producing 46 episodes (including the two specials) over a three year period across six series probably sounds like the panel/quiz/gameshow/thing is being bled dry, but Dave’s original programme has delivered success hand over fist. The premise pits five comedians against each other in a variety of tasks (i.e. different parlour game style challenges) across an entire series to accrue points. Davies acts as the judge (or the titular Taskmaster) assisted by the show’s creator Alex Horne. The variety of comedians brought into the show over its duration (Frank Skinner, Romesh Ranganathan, Noel Fielding, Mel Giedroyc, Joe Lycett, Tim Key, Sally Philips, Russell Howard etc) has seen it thrive – but the bizarre tasks devised by Davies and Horne are the real genius on show.
Taskmaster fills the void left behind by Dan Patterson shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway? and the tragically short-lived improv show Fast and Loose – that also featured Greg Davies and aforementioned We Are Klang partner Marek Larwood – excluding Mock the Week, of course. Though the format largely remains the same each series putting the show at potential risk of becoming stale or repetitive, there’s enough variation of tasks and contestants to ensure the show is always refreshingly entertaining. The series has recently also been picked up by American television with Reggie Watts in Davies’ seat… let’s hope it fares better than the Atlantic transition of The Inbetweeners.
1. Man Down (2013-present)
Starring Greg Davies, written by Greg Davies (with writing credits for Stephen Morrison, Sian Harries, Andrew Collins and Richard Herring) and produced for Channel 4, Man Down is exactly the sitcom that British TV has been crying out for; and yet it is criminally underrated. For example, it rates a mere 7.6 on IMDb compared to 8.3 for The Inbetweeners and 8.8 for Taskmaster. It doesn’t take a genius to commission a sitcom by Davies about a school teacher who is awful at his job and a useless middle-aged man-child, but it takes a true comic genius to make it into something this funny. Roisin Conaty and Mike Wozniak provide the perfect foil to Davies’ hapless Dan, but casting the legend that was Rik Mayall as his dad in the first series was too a stroke of genius, before his sad and tragic death.
The programme is the perfect showcase for everything that makes Davies one of the finest comedy actors working in British television right now. Though the overall quality of the show arguably dipped in last year’s series, even the thought of more episodes to come puts a smile on my face. Nothing has yet been confirmed by Channel 4, and with Davies seemingly more and more busy these days with other shows and having recently completed his stand up tour (and Netflix special), there’s no telling if there will be any more Man Down made in the near future. If not, that would be a crying shame, but at least we’ll always have the first four series of this superb show.
Got a favourite Greg Davies show? Have we missed out your favourite? Do you disagree with our order? Let us know in the comments section below.