We'll say one thing about Ireland: for a small country, we have managed to churn out our fair share of world-class comedy. Perhaps it's our ability to laugh at ourselves that has helped on that front, or maybe it's our willingness to poke fun at every sacred cow that stands in our way. Heck, maybe it's just our natural wit (our second-best quality is modesty.)
In any case, below we've chosen five of the most exciting, enduring and downright brilliant sitcoms ever to have been screened on Irish telly.
5. HARDY BUCKS
You know you're onto a good thing when you go from a homemade web series to a movie in the space of four years. In between both, Hardy Bucks - another mockumentary about a group of shams in small-town Ireland – captured the hearts of Irish TV audiences. The reason it resonated so loudly? Presumably becuse Chris Tordoff and co. ran with the old adage 'truth is stranger than fiction', knowing full well that there is a Viper, Durkan, Buzz and Frenchtoast in nearly every town in Ireland. Their propensity to pick up on both the mundanities and peculiarities of small-town life made for essential watching. Oh, and it was also just really bloody funny.
4. SOUPY NORMAN
What do you mean, you've never seen Soupy Norman? Actually, we'd wager that not that many have. The eight-part series, first broadcast on RTE2 in 2007, has acquired a kind of cult status over the years, yet remains one of Ireland's best-kept comedic secrets. The formula was very simple: buy in a Polish soap opera and dub it with nonsensical albeit downright hilarious dialogue to make for some unexpected plot twists (and hysterically out-of-context one-liners.) On paper, it really shouldn't have worked – but it remains one of the funniest shows we've ever seen. Featuring the voices and talents of the likes of Barry Murphy, Tara Flynn and Mario Rosenstock, there is an element of the surreal to Soupy Norman - but that's exactly what makes it eternally gut-busting, no matter how many times you see it.
3. THE YOUNG OFFENDERS
There may not be a great track record of films being adapted for television, but The Young Offenders surprised everyone by not only knocking it out of the park, but arguably bettering Peter Foott's 2016 film. Following the fortunes of two tracksuit-wearing Cork teen scallywags Conor (Alex Murphy) and Jock (Chris Walley), it had plenty of laugh-out-loud moments but also – and perhaps even more importantly – real tenderness and heart, particularly when it came to handling the storyline of Jock's abusive upbringing. The good news is that it's been renewed for a second series, so you can expect to see the feens up to their old tricks before too long.
2. PATHS TO FREEDOM
Michael McElhatton and Brendan Coyle may be better known to most TV viewers as Game of Thrones' ruthless Roose Bolton and Downton Abbey's butler Mr. Bates, but in 2000 they were better known as Rats and Jeremy, respectively. Perhaps the first Irish mockumentary (or at least the first of note), Paths to Freedom followed middle-class toff Jeremy Fitzgerald and Raymond 'Rats' Doyle as they attempted to re-integrate into society after serving prison sentences. A perfectly pitched story told with just the right level of dry humour, it still stands up as an example of brilliant Irish comedy 18 years later.
1. FATHER TED
Eminently quotable, endlessly watchable, indubitably (and somewhat eerily) still as relevant today as it was in the 1990s; you don't need us to tell you how great Father Ted is. Who would have thought that a sitcom about three Catholic priests stuck on a remote island off the west coast could possibly have been THAT funny? It had razor-sharp wit, a certain degree of slapstick, and of course, superbly written (and acted) characters – but it also had that magic ingredient: the ability to generate repeat belly laughs, no matter how many times you've seen it before. Alright, it technically wasn't Irish-made, but who cares? It remains not only the best Irish sitcom ever, but one of the best of all time.