Top 10 British Sitcoms

Despite its many faults (and I ain’t just talking about the rain), Britain has many strengths and I’ve always considered our humour to be its best (along with fish ‘n’ chips, how charitable we are, our Paralympics team and David Attenborough. Obvs). We are hilarious and nobody finds us as funny as we find ourselves. It’s not often us Brits can have a conversation without subtly (or even obviously) throwing a bit of humour in. In fact, if a conversation has continued for more than 5 minutes without anything humorous having been uttered then we start to break out in a cold sweat and somebody had better mutter something self-deprecating or joke about tits and willies before all hell breaks loose and British society implodes (this isn’t an exaggeration. Trust me).

The British Sitcom is an almost poetic portrayal of our unique humour. Yes, we love our irony and how can I put this- ‘piss-taking’, but our humour is often steeped in humanity and good old fashioned silliness. So, here is my list of my all time favourite British sitcoms. I’ve provided clips or a compilation of clips for each entry too for you to enjoy. Our favourite sitcoms are a very personal thing, so much so, I fully expect people to exclaim that they can’t believe I haven’t included this sitcom or that sitcom in my list or that I put a certain sitcom above another one, but it’s MY list and you know, you’ll just have to find a way of coping (Seriously though I would love to hear which are your favourites too). Deciding which of the plethora of excellent British sitcoms make my top ten has not been easy and I could have easily have done a top twenty.

Please be assured there is NO Mrs Brown’s Boys in this top 10.

(It is my no.11 though)*

10. Toast of London (2012-?)

There was an article written about Toast of London, entitled ‘The Funniest Sitcom That Nobody is Watching” and it is indeed strangely an undiscovered gem, so many have yet to unearth. If you want a wonderfully silly British sitcom, then here is a perfect example of one. Steven Toast is an old-fashioned, failing, middle-aged actor. It features an abundance of guest stars (John Hamm, Michael Ball, an alcoholic Peter Davison and not to mention a dodgy John Nettles) and is my most recent sitcom to feature on this list. So, if you haven’t watched it, I thoroughly recommend you correct this unfortunate error. The highlight of this show is when Toast’s world clashes with the world of the hipsters that he does his voice recordings with, so I’ve selected a clip which illustrates this nicely, with the great Clem Fandango for you.

9. The Young Ones (1982-1984)

My Mum wouldn’t let me watch The Young Ones when it was first on TV (I guess I was only 6-8 years old, but I do remember begging her to no avail once). However, she did my brother and I the Comic Relief single that they did with Cliff Richard (which is, incidentally, the best Comic Relief single to date). At 15, when I became obsessed with Bottom (the TV show starring Rik Mayall & Adrian Edmondson, not people’s posteriors) and maybe in some kind of defiance, I bought and absolutely loved the Young Ones double VHS. I loved its maniacal style and post-punk insanity that rarely made much sense. It all ended perfectly with them driving themselves off of a “Cliff”. Please excuse my Rik Mayall (I loved him) indulgence with the following clip.

8. The Royale Family (1998-2012)

Here is a sitcom that one minute will have you crying with laughter and then sobbing your heart out the next. We all remember the beautiful scene where Barbara brushes her ailing Mum’s Hair or the scene when Jim sits on the bathroom floor with Denise mid-labour, don’t we? Caroline Aherne was an extraordinary talent. She seemed to know how to make us all both laugh and cry in equal measure. The key to the Royale Family is its ordinariness and its familial charm. Here’s a clip of the perfect marital argument over the TV remote control.

7. Fawlty Towers (1975-1979)

Basil Fawlty was the perfect role for John Cleese. Nobody could’ve played the permanently disgruntled hotel manager on the brink of a breakdown as well as him. Not to mention his perfect physical comedy skills. His on-screen partnership with Prunella Scales as his wife, Sybil was outstanding. The pair seemed so utterly wrong for each other, it was a wonder what they saw in each other in the first place. This wonderfully farcical (and I usually hate farces) sitcom, always seemed very theatrical to me and it is of no surprise that it has now been turned into a stage show. Please enjoy this clip of Basil reaching the end of his tether yet again and Sybil not caring (yet again). A fine example of why Sybil Fawlty will always be my hero.

6. Blackadder (1982-1989)

This historical sitcom written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, was hugely popular and featured a magnificent cast of some of our best comedy actors. An observation of Blackadder that I’ve only noticed in reason years, is how bloody sexy Blackadder was. Who could resist the ruff-clad Blackadder or the would-be-deserter Captain Blackadder? Not I now, clearly. We all remember the devastatingly poignant final moments of the final episode. They’re etched in my mind from when I first watched it with my family at 13 years old. I can still hear the whistles and Baldrick’s last claim that he has a cunning plan. I also remember Blackadder warning Hugh Laurie not to forget his stick just before they go over the top (“No, I wouldn’t want to face a machine gun without my stick” he replied). However, I wanted to show you a pure comedy clip from Blackadder and I’m sorry (completely not sorry), but my love for Rik Mayal prevails, so here’s another clip with him in for you.

5. Father Ted (1995-1998)

“Oh, but it’s an Irish sitcom”, I hear you cry. Well, I do see your point as it stars an Irish cast, was written by two Irish writers and was filmed in Ireland, BUT it is technically a British sitcom as it was made by a British television company for a British TV channel, so it’s in my top 10, so there. The genius of this show lies in Dermot Morgan playing the straight man in his role of Father Ted Crilly. The frustrations endured by his character only highlight the daftness of all the characters that surround him; the childlike and dim (but strangely sexy) Father Dougal, the perpetually inebriated Father Jack (DRINK) and the slightly unhinged Mrs Doyle (ah g’wan Father).

4. Black Books (2000-2004)

So bookshop owner, Bernard Black spends his days drinking wine, reading books and trying to ignore people. In conclusion, he’s essentially living the life I want to live. He also has a pet Manny running around doing chores for him, which is also a life goal of mine. C’mon, we could all do with a pet Manny in our lives. Black Books is set in Bloomsbury, London and considering Black’s lack of desire for customers it is a wonder how it ever managed to stay in business. Black Books won the BAFTA for best sitcom twice and features cameos from lots of the UK’s brightest sitcom stars of the time (Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes, Nick Frost, Peter Serafinowicz, Omid Djalili, Lucy Davis, Olivia Coleman and so on). Oh and did anyone else fancy Bernard Black? Just me? And what is it with me and male sitcom actors?

3. The Office (2001-2003)

What an absolute joy watching copious amounts of funny clips from the Office was. Choosing just one one was very difficult, but an excellent reminder of how funny it was. Whatever your feelings are of Ricky Gervais, I still stand by the opinion that he and Stephen Merchant were comedy writing geniuses. I’m a fan of both the British and American versions of this sitcom, but the British version is less sentimental and essentially more difficult to watch. The cringe-factor is far higher and I think it is better for it. David Brent is also a less likeable character than Michael Scott. Here illustrates the genius of Gervais and Merchant, they even manage to make an unlikeable character such as Brent likeable (it’s ok I do realise how much I’ve contradicted myself here, but bear with). You feel so much affection for this absolute dickhead. He’s literally my favourite dickhead. I would’ve even liked him as a boss. Just think of the fun you’d have had with your colleagues, mocking him behind his back. Of course I’m not one to condone such behaviour. Ahem. So here’s Brent being an absolute twat. As per. Bless him.

2. I’m Alan Partridge (1997-2002)

Talking about loveable twats, here’s another one for you. Oh Alan with your monotone voice, late night radio show, v-neck jumpers, dated hair do, questionable TV show ideas, who’s best friend is a roadside hotel barman and with your dire social skills- I love you. Partridge’s life is so empty yet full of unfortunate events and badly handled circumstances. Much like The Office, it makes you cringe at the way Partridge tries to endure life. We need characters like Partridge to remind ourselves that we’re not doing so badly ourselves and that at the very least we would have dealt with life’s blows better than Alan would have. I thank you for this Alan. At least I’m not you. At least I don’t have “Cook Pass Babtridge” written in spray paint on the side of my car.

1.Spaced (1999-2001)

So here it is, my all time favourite British sitcom. Much like others on my list (Fawlty Towers, The Office, The Young Ones and I’m Alan Partridge), Spaced only ran for two seasons. Two faultless seasons. Spaced was written about two people and their friends in their twenties. It was on TV at a time when myself and my friends were also in our twenties. It very much felt like Simon Pegg & Jessica Stevenson (now Hynes) had watched my friends and I, and decided to write a sitcom about us. All of the characters in this sitcom are so strong, but my favourite will always be Marsha- my spirit animal. The cinematic style, heavy cultural referencing and hilarious script cemented its popularity and left diehard fans wanting more after it ended after two seasons. I still miss it.

 

The one that almost made it: The Day Today (1994)

A spoof of British news broadcasting, I think now more than ever, we need the return of the Day Today. Please Chris Morris. Please. If you loved this program, here’s a rather obvious pick, but perpetually brilliant scene with Steve Coogan.

*It’s bloody not!

60 comments

  1. Em Linthorpe · April 3

    Hi! I agree with you on most of these, apart from the first one which, yup, I’ve never heard of but will track down. My partner introduced me to both Black Books and Spaced (he watches far more TV and film than I do) and I’m really glad he did. I like the little shout out for “Bottom” too!
    What would I add to this? Probably “Extras” – I’m also a Gervais fan. “Lead Balloon” had some genius moments but overall it wasn’t as strong as most of these. And I can’t help but mention two of my teenage favourites: “Game On” and “The High Life” – low budget 90s trash comedy for the win!
    Great list! Thanks for making it! 😍😍

    Liked by 2 people

    • thebeasley · April 3

      Bottom was brilliant. That would be in my top 15 for sure and yes Extras was SO good. Probably also my top 15. I completely forgot about Lead Balloon. I only saw a few episodes and it was surprisingly really good and I always tried to watch more, but never got round to it. Maybe I’ll try to watch it again. Cheers love.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Phil Taylor · April 3

    My wife will be disappointed you left Miranda out. We live in the States but we love our British shows. Your list includes a couple I haven’t seen yet, so I’ll be looking those up. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 3

      Great- that’s so good. Apologise to your wife for me. I’m afraid I never got into Miranda. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jill Taylor · April 9

        I’m his wife…. don’t forget Derek and the Starlings and The Cafe!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · April 9

        Ooh good tips. Thank you! X

        Like

  3. Hamface · April 3

    While I agree with most of these, but not necessarily in the right order, I am going do disagree on one obvious omission, Mrs Browns boys should not even be described as sitcom, how about your top 10 list of BIGGEST PILE OF SHIT EVER, with the aforementioned Mrs browns boys filling all 10 positions. #wank #bobbins #syphillisisfunnier

    Liked by 2 people

    • thebeasley · April 3

      Haha. I totes agree Chuckles. WHO watches it? Apart from my parents that is. For as long as I live, I’ll never understand what people see in it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Em Linthorpe · April 3

        I watched it once, because my mother likes it and she was in the same room. I left the room 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · April 3

        Haha it’s definitely a generation thing.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Traci York · April 4

    SPACED! Thanks for the reminder – been meaning to share this with our kids (all teens and adult now), because they all love Simon Pegg & company too. Also adore The Young Ones, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, and Father Ted. I’ve only seen the American version of The Office, but plan to watch the original some day soon – also, only managed the first episode of Black Books (and loved it), but haven’t gotten back to it yet. Haven’t seen the others, but I may have to check them out now.

    My faves also include Red Dwarf, Coupling, Keeping Up Appearances, Ab Fab, and a special shout out to the very first (if memory serves) British Sitcom I ever watched – The Benny Hill Show! *grin*

    Liked by 3 people

    • thebeasley · April 4

      Brilliant- I’m so glad you love so many of our shows. I’ve never been sure of how well our programmes translate across the pond. The British Office is a masterpiece- I hope you enjoy it. Ah yes Ab Fab- also one of my favourites. That one would definitely go in my top 20. Haha Benny Hill, I think he ended up more successful in the US than the UK. Though he was quite popular here too. Cheers love x

      Liked by 1 person

    • josypheen · April 10

      I agree with so many of your extra picks!!
      Red Dwarf and Coupling are both simply brilliant!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Em Linthorpe · April 10

      Red Dwarf is amazing!! Funnily enough my OH is watching through Coupling at the moment, on Netflix I think.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Number 6, 7 and 8 are all favourites of mine and there are indeed a few on your lost that would not be on mine. I much prefer British comedy from the 1970s, ’80’s and ’90s (now I’m showing my age) and do often say ‘they don’t make them like that anymore.” Shows including Hi-De-Hi, Keeping Up Apperances, Dinnerladies, and Are You Being Serviced? are but a few favourites of mine. Thank goodness for reruns. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 4

      Ah yes 6, 7 & 8 are absolute classics. It’s been wonderful revisiting them as I wrote this piece. Another 70s sitcom that I love and would go in my top 20 is the Good Life. I loved that. I also used to love Hi-De-Hi, I used to do a mean Gladys Pugh impression! Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

      • We’ll have to have a Gladys Pugh impression challenge. I once did a voiceover of her for a show. Took a long time to do because I always ended up laughing so much. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · April 5

        Haha that’s brilliant!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Circle of Daydreams · April 9

    Love 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7! I’ve never seen I’m Alan Partridge or Spaced – yikes! I’m a big fan of Brit TV all ’round. Not a sitcom, but I really love Would I Lie To You, and pretty much anything with David Mitchell in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 9

      I LOVE David Mitchell. He’s a very funny man. I think you’ll love 1 & 2 if you love other British Sitcoms. Cheers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Circle of Daydreams · April 9

        I definitely have to try them!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Monster Mermaid · April 9

    ..but but but..The League of Gentlemen!!…thats my favourite…still, love most of these too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 9

      I never got into it! Maybe I should try again. Cheers x

      Liked by 1 person

      • Monster Mermaid · April 9

        It gets a bit dark but I’m in awe at the detail they went to with the characters, the sets and everything..I’ve watched it a few times and still use some of the lines 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · April 9

        I really enjoy Inside No.9, so maybe I really should give LoG another go. They’re very clever writers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Monster Mermaid · April 9

        I haven’t given that a go yet…I was afraid I’d be disappointed…so I will try it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · April 9

        It can be quite dark too! X

        Liked by 1 person

  8. noellekelly · April 9

    My all-time favourite is Gavin and Stacey, but I do have a soft spot for Father Ted

    Liked by 1 person

  9. josypheen · April 10

    I live around the corner from the house in spaced. 🙂 It is SUCH a nice place to live.

    I would add Coupling (because it’s so funny and clever), Red Dwarf and the In betweeners.
    Oh! and now Noelle mentioned Father Ted, you also need the Vicar of Dibley!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 10

      OHMYGOD! You live near the Spaced house?! I’m literally star struck just talking to you now. AMAZING. 100% yes to Inbetweeners. It’s so brilliantly silly. It almost made my top ten, so it’s definitely my no.12. Man it was so hard narrowing it down to just 10. So many brilliant British Sitcoms out there. Cheers x

      Liked by 1 person

      • josypheen · April 10

        I know! Cool eh!?

        It was possible to rent it when we first moved in…but I didn’t see the rental sign out for a while, so maybe someone lives there long term now. 🙂

        Like

  10. Denzil · April 10

    Only seen two of these (Blackadder and Fawlty), but then British Sitcoms have never been my cup of tea. Interesting read though!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ritu · April 15

    One other one I loved from growing up, totally un-PC but Mind Your Language!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 15

      Hahaha. I don’t think I ever watched it, but it’s amazing what they got away with back then, isn’t it?! X

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ritu · April 15

        It was hilarious, about an English class full of foreigners! Totally stereotyped characters but too funny!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · April 15

        Brilliant x

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Gay Stepdad · April 15

    Oh, that Royle family clip. I am literally wetting myself!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Debbie H · April 15

    Despite living in Australia we have most of these shows over here! I loved watching the Young Ones, Fauly Towers, Blackadder, Black Books. Ab Fab was a fave, are you being served and the good life have been mentioned too. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ruth Daly · April 15

    I’ve lived away from the UK for such a long time that I don’t even recognize some of these! LOVE that clip from The Office – one of my favourites.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 16

      That the Office clip is perfection. Some marvellous comedy acting going on there by all. Thanks Ruth.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. D. Parker · April 15

    Laughing is my favourite pastime, I’m kind of into extreme laughing which has caused some injuries, but worth it. I blame British comedy for most of my laugh lines (again, worth it). As a Canadian our sense of humour is similar to UK stuff and now I have a cunning plan to watch Blackadder between Easter activities, and have the theme song it my head.
    Dropped by from Suzie’s #SocialSaturday on #BigUpYourBlog but always, always glad to be here. Off to share.
    Hope this weekend treats you kindly.
    P.S. Did you leave this link and many many others at my blog party (ongoing) https://yadadarcyyada.com/2017/04/06/the-wonder-of-you/ Please do! 🙂 xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 16

      Yay! Enjoy your Blackadder session. And thank you so much- I left the link xx

      Like

  16. alehouseaggie · April 21

    As an American I gotta say I would laugh my butt off to Benny Hill, Are You Being Served, and Keeping Up Appearances. They were great shows.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · April 21

      So pleasing to hear there’s some Brit shows that translate across the pond!

      Liked by 1 person

      • alehouseaggie · April 21

        Oh yes there are! British mysteries, especially. I love love you guys crime dramas!

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · April 21

        Excellent. Am just about to watch Broadchurch right now. If you haven’t seen it, that’s one to definitely check out x

        Liked by 1 person

      • alehouseaggie · April 21

        Oh man! That is one I couldn’t get into! Oops….Have you seen Paranoid?

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · April 21

        Ooh no I haven’t. It looks like it’s got a good cast though. Have you tried Line of Duty, The Fall or Luther?

        Liked by 1 person

      • alehouseaggie · April 21

        You had me at Luther!!!!! I love Edris Elba!!!!! Sexy!!! Waiting for season 5 of that! I haven’t seen Line Of Duty yet but I couldn’t get into the Fall. Paranoid is very very good!

        Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley · April 21

        I’ll check out Paranoid. Line of Duty is v good. Gets better with each season and yes Idris Elba is a mighty fine man.

        Liked by 1 person

      • alehouseaggie · April 21

        I am watching Shetland now. It is very good too.

        Like

  17. mysticalchaffinch · 27 Days Ago

    Enjoyed this read. A nice honest review.

    Father Ted, Black Books, Monty Python and the Flying Circus, The Mighty Boosh, to name some of my favourites.

    All those above, add to those Reeves & Mortimer, Tommy Cooper, Spike Milligan are all big influences of mine. And they never age how old some of them are!

    I’ve just decided to start a blog with my own comedy writing. It’s something I have been toying with for a while. if you have a spare couple of minutes feel free to pop over!

    Thanks for the read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · 26 Days Ago

      Big fan of both Monty Python & Reeves & Mortimer. Thanks- I’ll check it out.

      Like

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