The 5 best TV romcoms to stream online

Uproariously filthy: Catastrophe has been renewed for two more series. Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan in Catastrophe
Uproariously filthy: Catastrophe has been renewed for two more series Credit: Channel 4

The romantic comedy is a genre misunderstood - overlooked and undervalued because of predictable plotting and saccharine heart-tugging. But a good romcom need never be mawkish. These series uplift, comfort, and delight in a way few dramas or thrillers ever can, and the very best ones act as a mirror, encouraging us to examine how we interact with each other, and poking fun at the daftness of our own relationships.

Who cares if we know they'll end up together at the end, if the wit is razor-sharp, the observations piercing and the verbal sparring so cynical and poetic it recalls The Taming of the Shrew?

Here are five of the very best intelligent romantic comedies, available to watch On Demand from Netflix and Amazon Instant Video now.

Gavin and Stacey (Netflix, BBC Store)

Creators: Ruth Jones and James Corden

Starring: Joanna Page, Mathew Horne, Ruth Jones, James Corden, Alison Steadman, Rob Brydon, Larry Lamb, Julia Davis

Certificate: G (on Netflix, 12/15 on DVD)

Series: 3, plus Christmas specials (2007-2010)

Ruth Jones and James Corden in Gavin and Stacey Credit: Graham Jepson

In a nutshell:You watched it on BBC Three, then on BBC One, on UK Gold, and probably on a plane too. But does it matter? Ruth Jones and James Corden's fairytale of a Barry Island babe and a Billericay boy is an unfettered joy, and merits endless rewatching. The titular couple (played by Mathew Horne and Joanna Page) were sweeties, but it was Jones and Corden's own Nessa and Smithy we were really rooting for. Gavin and Stacey proved gentle, comforting television with universal appeal never has to give up its bite.

Catastrophe (Amazon Prime)

Creators: Rob Delaney, Sharon Horgan

Starring: Rob Delaney, Sharon Horgan, Carrie Fisher, Ashley Jensen, Mark Bonnar

Certificate: 18

Series: 2

Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan in Catastrophe Credit: Channel 4

In a nutshell: It takes talent to make a classic misadventure - here, an accidental pregnancy – feel fresh, but in the hands of Sharon Horgan (responsible for half the genius of Pulling) and Rob Delaney (American stand-up and Twitter comedian), the story of a transatlantic fling gone wrong is both sparkling new and uproariously filthy. Horgan and Delaney deftly portray a believable couple in the early stages of a relationship, tackling sex, geriatric motherhood, 'pre-cancer' and a deliciously evil mother-in-law (Carrie Fisher), with caustic back-and-forths that will make you cackle with glee. This week, the show was recommissioned for two new series.

Him and Her (Netflix, BBC Store)

Creator: Stefan Golaszewski

Starring: Sarah Solemani, Russell Tovey, Kerry Howard, Joe Wilkinson

Certificate: 15

Series: 4 (2010-13)

In a nutshell:A Bafta-winning BBC Three sitcom that never made it to terrestrial, Him and Her had echoes of The Royle Family, if The Royle Family were set in a bedsit in Walthamstow and revolved around two unemployed twenty-somethings. The slobbish couple in question are Becky and Steve, winningly underplayed by Sarah Solemani and Russell Tovey. Their lazy, cider-drinking reverie is constantly interrupted by a bizarre gaggle of friends and relatives, led by Becky's horrific sister Laura (Kerry Howard). Much of the humour comes from David Brent-style awkwardnesses and unspoken truths, but when the jokes come they'll make you howl. 

Master of None (Netflix)

Creators: Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang

Starring: Aziz Ansari, Noël Wells, Eric Wareheim, Kelvin Yu, Lena Waithe

Certificate: U

Series: 1 (2015)

Eric Wareheim, Aziz Ansari and Noel Wells in Master of None  Credit: AP

In a nutshell:Romcoms are too often dismissed as "women's shows", while the few male-centred attempts commonly rely on tired stereotypes, but here's a series with a man at the fore that's both sensitive and incisive. Parks and Recreation's Aziz Ansari writes and stars as Dev, a 30-year-old Indian-American actor in New York, as he navigates relationships that feel distinctly modern, without beating you over the head with just how terribly millennial they all are. It's subtle and sarcastic, but its crucial message about the lack of diversity in the media delivers a bitterly poignant clout.

Love (Netflix)

Creators: Judd Apatow, Paul Rust, Lesley Arfin

Starring: Gillian Jacobs, Paul Rust, Claudia O’Doherty

Certificate: 15

Series: 1 (2016)

Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust in Love Credit: Suzanne Hanover/Netflix

In a nutshell: 'Love' is perhaps too broad a title for a programme about a relationship where there isn't much of it, but this made-for-Netflix series from American comedy giant Judd Apatow reaches deep as its ten episodes stretch out. As it opens, we observe the unlikely coming together of a geeky wannabe-screenwriter (Paul Rust, who also co-wrote the series) and a wild, gregarious radio producer (Girls’ Gillian Jacobs). Their jumbled see-sawing plays out entertainingly on-screen, and the flaws, frustration, and confusion of everyday relationships ring uncomfortably true.