Top 10 Best British Sitcoms
British sitcoms are a dying breed. There are so few new ones around now that here in Britain, we rely very much on TV stations like GOLD (Go On Laugh Daily), Dave, Dave+1, e4 and the likes to repeat our favourite sitcoms from other decades.
This list is not 'My' Top 10 British Sitcoms - it is an official Top 10 and part of a bigger picture - a Top 100 British Sitcoms which was compiled in 2004.
Now, there are some sitcoms post-2004 which are not in the list which is a shame - I can think of Gavin and Stacey (2007) which is not there but no matter; we all know how good it was and if there is a 2013 list, it would be in it.
So without further ado - here are the Top 10 British Sitcoms - enjoy!
10. One Foot In The Grave
Star of this sitcom, Richard Wilson plays grumpy pensioner Victor Meldrew who lives in the suburbs with his wife Margaret. Victor is a difficult man to please both at home and elsewhere and his famous catchphrase "I don't believe it" is still murmured by people, even today.
Victor does not put up with any nonsense and is not much of a people pleaser, finding that society is somewhat different and more difficult once you hit a certain age.
Writer David Renwick is more famous as a writer on the Two Ronnies but does an outstanding job with One Foot In The Grave, mixing comedy with irony and pathos in equal measure and trusting in the amazing acting and comedy talents of his main leads, Richard Wilson, Annette Crosbie and Angus Deayton.
9. The Good Life
Created in 1975 and written by Bob Larbey and John Esmonde, The Good Life starts on the day of Tom Good's 40th birthday with him making the life-changing decision to give up his unsatisfying job and become self-sufficient.
The show was written for Richard Briers who played Tom Good and he was joined by Felicity Kendal as his wife, Barbara and by Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington as long-suffering good friends and neighbours, Margot and Jerry Leadbetter.
The Good Life works so well because the whole story line was such a new idea. Nobody had considered reaching the Big 40 and going self-sufficient before and Tom and Barbara were middle-class people with no background in farming or horticulture; why wouldn't it be a funny show.
It only ran for 3 years but was one of the most successful comedies of the 70s with great performances from Briers and Keith in particular, able assisted by Kendal and Eddington.
Its mixture of suburban social climbing, Jerry and Margot and anti-establishment, Tom and Barbara really worked as a sitcom and kept millions of Brits watching week after week.
8. Open All Hours
I have already covered Open All Hours at some length in another hub (I know, I know shameless self-publicity) so I will keep it brief here.
David Jason and Ronnie Barker on screen together - two kings of comedy timing and character acting. A sitcom made in heaven!
It could not possibly fail and it didn't.
Ronnie Barker is still revered, even in the 2000s as one of Britain's finest comedic actors.
Porridge is perhaps one of his outstanding sitcoms where he plays habitual criminal, Norman Stanley Fletcher as a prisoner with a dry sense of humour and the wisdom of a long-time nark.
Richard Beckinsale is his partner 'in crime' for the first two series until his untimely death from a heart attack left Barker to carry the show alone with some special guest appearances giving the show an edge over others on TV at the same time.
Written by long-time sitcom comedy writers, Ian Le Frenais and Dick Clement, Porridge was a tour de force in comedic terms - great scripts, with some ad libs as well by Barker and some great comedy acting. The lesser characters in Porridge also gave it a strong ensemble feel to it and this made it even more enjoyable.
6. Yes, Minister
Paul Eddington came off a successful sitcom, The Good Life, and soon found himself as the star of a very different sort of comedy in Yes, Minister.
Yes, Minister was a political comedy at its height when Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister. It was said to be one of her favourite shows - she never missed it in fact; thoroughly enjoying the political shenanigans of its lead character, Minister for Administrative Affairs, Jim Hacker.
Jim Hacker, it turns out is not the brightest man in Whitehall but he is certainly aware of how to play the game when it comes to getting his face on TV or getting his ministerial department good publicity in often dire situations.
Written by Jeremy Lynn and Antony Jay as a satirical comedy, it ticked all of the boxes for its fantastic scripts and its depiction of the civil servants in charge of Whitehall - it clearly suggested that most of the time these unseen civil servants are the ones running the country, not the politicians on the news.
Great performances from the late Nigel Hawthorne and Paul Eddington made the show what it was and it reappeared as Yes, Prime Minister with Jim Hacker finally getting the top job!
5. Fawlty Towers
A show which needs little introduction or description from me because it is so loved in other parts of the world, Fawlty Towers gave us a slice of the British tourist industry - bed and breakfast in Torquay, Devon overseen by possibly Britain's most unhappy couple, Basil and Sybil Fawlty.
Almost every episode of this world class sitcom served to show Basil's unhappiness with life, other people and his situation.
John Cleese is incredible as the rude, over-bearing Basil and is served well by an amazing cast including Prunella Scales as the nasal-toned Sybil, Connie Booth as maid Polly and of course Andrew Sachs as Spanish waiter, Manuel.
If you haven't seen it - why not? Go and find it on You Tube! It is very funny.
4. Dad's Army
It is no surprise to find Dad's Army so high up the rankings in this list considering its incredible success at the time it was on TV.
What is truly amazing is its subject matter - it is all about the Second World War and one might think that by 1968, Britain had had enough of World War Two but no so. Dad's Army's magic ingredient was that it told the tale of the 'dad's army', the Home Guard, stationed in Britain during the war. This domestic story line gave us the wartime experience from a completely different angle and seemed to resonate with British viewers.
Staring Arthur Lowe as Captain Mainwaring and Jonn Le Mesurier as Sergeant Wilson it showed us a rather motley crew of locla volunteers doing their bit for king and country at home.
Written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft based on their own experiences, it really was very funny every week and for the most part the actors were 'older' with only Ian Lavender who played Pike being a younger recruit.
The thing that was so great about Dad's Army were its mixture of characters; there was the local baker, undertaker, bank manager, cooks and labourers. They even had a bit of a local small time crook on the books so this added some darker storylines.
Captain Mainwaring is a pompous man very much in charge of this group but they are not a group in which he takes great pride.
Its theme tune sung by wartime singer and comedian, Bud Flanagan is almost as famous as the show - "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mister Hitler?"
#4 - Dad's Army - well deserved.
3. The Vicar of Dibley
Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer wrote The Vicar of Dibley for comedienne, Dawn French and she did not let them down, playing the roly-poly female vicar, Geraldine Granger for laughs first and foremost.
Dawn French has the most amazing comic timing and you rarely watch an episode of this sitcom without laughing out loud several times.
Other actors should also get a mention for their ability to 'play off' Dawn French or even set her up if it's required.
Her church verger, Alice Springs Horton is very ditzy but played brilliantly by Emma Chambers who was honoured for the role with a number of awards.
The village of Dibley is tiny but seems to have a glut of odd ball characters - a woman who puts the strangest ingredients in her 'unique' cooking. A man who says "No, no.no,no,no,no.....yes" a lot. And my favourite character, Owen, the local farmer who is a very down to earth man with absolutely no social skills or conversational boundaries.
The Vicar of Dibley cannot really fail with Richard Curtis writing its scripts - he had huge success with Not The Nine O'Clock News and has gone on to be very successful as both a writer and director of movies with Four Weddings and A Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually and The Boat That Rocked.
Dawn French has shown her acting skills in other shows and on the stage both with partner Jennifer Saunders of Absolutely Fabulous fame and as a solo performer. Her turn as a rather weird inhabitant of Psychoville have gotten excellent reviews.
The Vicar of Dibley won BAFTA awards for both French and Chambers and also won 2 International Emmys. It has also had some great co-stars in the show including prima ballerina D'Arcy Bussell, singer, Kylie Minogue and actor Johnny Depp (who is said to be a big fan of British sitcoms).
Blackadder is one of the more clever sitcoms because its writers, Richard Curtis and Ben Elton kept in fresh by reinventing the main character ever series by placing him in a different century.
He started as a rather wimpish royal prince in the middle ages (in the only unsuccessful series of Blackadder) but then reappeared as a rather abrasive, rakish Elizabethan and then as a Georgian butler and finally as an officer during the First World War.
All wonderfully played by Rowan Atkinson and ably assisted by co-stars Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and Tony Robinson (as his funny little underling, Baldrick).
1. Only Fools and Horses
A British sitcom which has never really crossed over to the USA sits at #1 in this list of Top 10 British Sitcoms but don't let that put you off.
There never were a more appealing family on TV than the Trotters.
Delboy Trotter, local market-trader always looking out for the next get rich quick scheme and his younger brother, Rodney always the brunt of Del Boy's jokes and schemes.
Uncle Albert also shares their Peckham high rise flat. He's a salty old mariner full of tales of being sunk during WW2.
It is worth watching for all of the other characters as well - Trigger, possibly Britain's least intelligent man, Boycey and Marlene, local businessman and his broad Cockney missus who likes to flirt with Del Boy, Mike, the landlord of their local pub, The Nag's Head and Denzil, lorry driver and 'go to' transport guy for the Trotters.
Only Fools and Horses is about family and friends first and foremost but writer John Sullivan is always able to put a comic spin on all situations and Only Fools and Horses deserves its place at #1 of this list of Top 10 British Sitcoms because it is laugh out loud funny every time you see it - even when you know what is coming.
The video included is well worth the short detour it will take you to watch it - outs a whole new angle on the meaning 'the dynamic duo'.
I hope you have enjoyed this rundown of the Top 10 British sitcoms and enjoyed some of the videos and photos included.
I never need an excuse to watch sitcoms and these are 10 of the best!
Many thanks for reading.
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