9 min read
With a huge selection of Best British Sitcoms past and present, we select our top-10 some of which are without doubt some of the very best of all time.
The UK has long been known as one of the biggest distribution channels of comedy.
With a keen focus on anxiety and cold awkward situations, many British comedy shows are incredibly different to the US, which focuses on a high comedy value (awkwardly inserted laughs) through family or housemates’ situations full of foolish characters (Friends, Everyone Loves Raymond, Golden Girls). Very few comedies make the cut across the Atlantic, either US hits working here in the UK (ok maybe Friends!) but the same goes for the UK hits working well in the US (ok, again maybe The Office!).
We have explored the comedy world for the best British sitcoms of all time. Our unique British humour is renowned and never gets old, Faulty Towers, The Office, and the great British sitting-room favourite Royal Family.
If you love comedy don’t miss some of the UK’s best comedians performing on Blackpool Grand’s stage.
Best British Sitcoms Of All Time
Here we list our choice of top 10 best British sitcoms of all time – have you seen all these? try Britbox or Netflix to catch up?
Keeping Up Appearances (1990-1995)
Patricia Patricia Routledge became the instant UK hit in the 1990s series Keeping Up Appearances playing Hyacinth ‘Bucket’ (said Bouquet!). Bucket was an unendurable, middle-class woman with illusions of grandeur. The series was to highlight and laugh in the face of the class warfare system.
Candlelight dinner parties, hounding the local Vicar and becoming the constant corrector of her best friend next door. Her literal appearance could send people scattering in all directions. What she would do at all costs however is hide her unspeakable lower-class family who repeatedly turned up to embarrass her on every occasion.
Gavin & Stacey (2007-2019)
Renowned for its integration of English and Welsh culture as its so-called stars Gavin (Matthew Horne) and Stacey (Joanna Page) work out their relationship.
Gavin & Stacey is a British comedy television show written by James Corden and Ruth Jones about two families: one in Billericay (Essex) one in Barry (South Wales).
Gavin & Stacey was directed by Christine Gernon who had previously directed other popular BBC sitcoms such as One Foot in the Grave. Acclaimed as both a hit and a breakthrough show for the BBC, it was the most nominated show in the 2007 British Comedy Awards. It won several awards, including the British Academy Television Awards (BAFTAs) Audience Award, and the British Comedy Awards Best TV Comedy Award, both in 2008. In 2019, Gavin & Stacey was named the 17th greatest British sitcom in a poll by Radio Times.
Corden and Jones wrote a Christmas Day 2019 special for BBC One. With 18.49 million viewers, the broadcast in the United Kingdom was the most-viewed non-sporting event in a decade and the most-watched comedy in 17 years.
Mr Bean (1990-1995)
It Mr Bean a sitcom created by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis, and starring Atkinson as the main character.
Based on a character developed by Atkinson while he was studying for his master’s degree at Oxford University. Mr Bean, described by Atkinson as “a child in a grown man’s body”, attempts to solve various problems often causing disruption.
The series was viewed by 18.74 million viewers for the episode “The Trouble with Mr Bean” and has received a number of international awards. The series was sold to over 245 territories worldwide and has inspired an animated spin-off and two theatrical feature-length films along with Atkinson reprising his role as Mr Bean for a performance at the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, television commercials and several sketches for Comic Relief.
Outnumbered (UK) (2007-2016)
Outnumbered stars Claire Skinner and Hugh Dennis as a mother and father who are outnumbered by their three children (played by Tyger Drew-Honey, Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez).
There were five series, which aired on BBC One from 2007 to 2014.
Outnumbered has received critical acclaim for its semi-improvisational scripting and realistic portrayal of children and family life. The series has won a number of awards from the Comedy.co.uk awards, the Royal Television Society, the British Comedy Awards and the Broadcasting Press Guild.
Only Fools And Horses (1981-2003)
One of the Best British Sitcoms of all time Only Fools and Horses created and written by John Sullivan is legendary and has crossed generations.
Set in Peckham (SE London), starring David Jason as ambitious market trader Derek “Del Boy” Trotter and Nicholas Lyndhurst as Rodney Trotter, his younger brother, alongside a great supporting cast. The series follows the Trotters’ highs and lows in everyday life, in particular their attempts to make money.
The 1996 episode “Time on Our Hands” (originally billed as the last episode) holds the record for the highest UK audience for a sitcom, attracting an incredible 24.3 million viewers. In a 2001 Channel 4 poll Del Boy was ranked fourth on their list of the 100 Greatest TV Characters.
The Office (2001-2003)
The Office is a British television mockumentary sitcom first broadcast in the UK on BBC Two in July 2001. Created, written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the programme follows the day-to-day lives of office employees in the Slough branch of the fictional Wernham Hogg paper company. Gervais also stars in the series, playing David Brent.
It has since become one of the most successful of all British comedy exports. The show centres on themes of social clumsiness, the trivialities of human behaviour, self-importance and conceit, frustration, desperation and fame.
Are You Being Served? (1972-1985)
Few sitcoms are so packed with as many innuendos and laughs as Are You Being Served? This entertaining satire of British class rivalry and fusty 70s department stores could not have been better written.
Employees of Grace Brothers department store will not go down without a fight, whatever the challenge from above. If not trying to get one over on the bosses, it was the customers or the other concessions.
This show will go on forever and be a textbook of great comedy.
Fawlty Towers (1975-1979)
Fawlty Towers wrote by John Cleese and Connie Booth, was first broadcast on BBC2 in 1975/79. The show was ranked first on a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute and, in 2019, it was named the ‘greatest ever British TV sitcom’ (Radio Times).
Fawlty Towers, a fictitious hotel in seaside Torquay. Centred on the jumpy, impolite, and put-upon owner Basil Fawlty (Cleese), his bossy wife Sybil (Prunella Scales), the rational chambermaid Polly (Booth), often peacemaker, and the doomed and English-challenged Spanish waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs).
The show’s concept came from Cleese after staying at Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay in 1970 (along with the rest of the Monty Python troupe), where he encountered the eccentric hotel owner Donald Sinclair. Pompous and snooty, Sinclair treated guests as though they were a burden to the running of the hotel. Sinclair was the inspiration for Cleese’s character Fawlty.
1980, Cleese received the BAFTA for Best Entertainment Performance and, in a 2001 poll conducted by Channel 4, Basil Fawlty was ranked second on their list of the 100 Greatest TV Characters.
The Royle Family (1998-2012)
The Royle Family ran for three series from 1998 to 2000, and specials from 2006–2012. Centred on the lives of a TV-obsessed Manchester family, the Royles, consist of family Jim Royle (Ricky Tomlinson), his wife Barbara (Sue Johnston), their daughter Denise (Caroline Aherne), their son Antony (Ralf Little) and Denise’s fiancé (later husband) David (Craig Cash).
Nearly all the episodes take place in the Royles’ living room, Aherne and Cash co-wrote every episode, along with Henry Normal (series one), Carmel Morgan (series two), and Phil Mealey (five Christmas specials). A sixth special episode was set to be written, but Aherne sadly passed away on 2 July 2016, ending the broadcast.
The series has also won several BAFTA awards.
The Inbetweeners (2008-2010)
The Inbetweeners a teen sitcom, which in the beginning aired on E4 (2008 until 2010), written/created by Damon Beesley and Iain Morris. Following the catastrophes of suburban teen Will McKenzie (Simon Bird) and his friends Simon Cooper (Joe Thomas), Neil Sutherland (Blake Harrison) and Jay Cartwright (James Buckley) at the fictitious Rudge Park Comprehensive.
Nominated for Best Situation Comedy at BAFTA twice (2009 and 2010). At the British Academy Television Awards 2010, it won the Audience Award, the only category voted for by the public. British Comedy Awards (2011), the programme also won the award for Outstanding Contribution to British Comedy.
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