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Top 10 Best British Sitcoms

Updated on May 2, 2016

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.

Barbara and Tom Good in their garden
Barbara and Tom Good in their garden

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.

Ronnie Barker and David Jason - two heavyweights of British comedy during the last 4 decades.
Ronnie Barker and David Jason - two heavyweights of British comedy during the last 4 decades.

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.

Norman Stanley Fletcher and Lennie Godber (Ronnie Barker and the late Richard Beckinsale)
Norman Stanley Fletcher and Lennie Godber (Ronnie Barker and the late Richard Beckinsale)

7.Porridge

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.

It is one of the few sitcoms to survive with good audience numbers both in the 1960s and the 1970s. It was first shown in 1968 and lasted for 9 years, the final episode being shown in 1977.

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).

Source

2. Blackadder

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.

Top 10 British Sitcoms Comments

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    • vickiholder profile image

      Vicki Holder 2 years ago from The beautiful Ouachita Mtns. in Arkansas

      A few of these are new to me and I look forward to watching them (provided I can find them here). Another one that I love that did not make the list is Doc Martin. Martin Clunes is absolutely hilarious. I have watched all six seasons so far and look forward to getting season seven. I know they are in the process of filming so hopefully we will have it by early next year.

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      One Foot In The Grave is how my hubby and me got talking for the first time - we both loved it and were talking about it on our way to work (he used to pass my flat on his way) and so it holds a special place in my heart.

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 4 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Great choices, I love britcoms... One Foot in the Grave was such a good one

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Mel, thanks so much for your comment - nice to meet a fellow 'My Family' fan - I just love Robert Lindsay and Zoe Wanamaker, they have a really good on-screen chemistry. Rumour has it that the show is soon going to be cancelled - I hope not, it still makes me laugh.

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 4 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      I am a huge fan of Fawlty Towers - my parents love this show, and it was one of the few they enjoyed watching together. Another great show is My Family - can't get enough of that one.

      Great list! Voted up and interesting :)

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Rob, many thanks for your comment. I didn't pick these top 10; they are the official top 10, picked in 2004 but Last of the Summer Wine is certainly a surprise omission.

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      A lot of great shows here, Jools. It's hard to argue with any of them because they are all so good. "Fawlty Towers", "Blackadder", "The Good Life" and "Yes Minister" are some of my favorites.

      Personally, I'd have included "Last of the Summer Wine" (the longest running sitcom ever) and "As Time Goes By", but the ones you chose are terrific.

      Good list,

      Rob

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      'Britcoms' - excellent new word Steve, quick...patent it! Ta for the comment.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England

      Basil Fawlty: Don't be alarmed, it's only my wife laughing. Sounds like somebody machine-gunning a seal.

      An excellent collection of classic Britcoms Jools, oh look I just invented a word - Britcom. :)

      My favourite is still Fawlty Towers, Blackadder up second.

      Voted Up, Awesome and Funny.

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Bruce - Thanks for your comment. Vicar of Dibley is well worth checking out on You Tube. Richard Curtis has Dawn French (brilliant comedienne) at his disposal in the show and it is full of zany characters and great scripts.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

      Hey Jools....a very impressive hub and I loved that I was able to sample some of these shows. I have only heard of 3 of these shows....The Blackadder, Fawlty Towers and Dad's Army. I did notice that Richard Curtis was a part of The Vicar of Dibley....so I now have a strong interest in watching some of the episodes....as I have enjoyed Curtis and his movies. Voted up, useful and very informative.

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Lesley, many thanks for your comment - Yup, GOLD is a bit of a 'go to' channel in our house as well :o) I do like a good laugh!

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Jools, I can honestly say these are my top 10 sitcoms! they don't make them like this anymore - thank goodness for 'Gold'!!!

      Great article and voted up

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      DzyMsLizzy - thanks for the comment and I live your hub name:o) Bit shocked that Benny didn't make the top 10 but I think it's cos his show was a sketch show so didn't fit the criteria. Isn't it great watching a sitcom with others? Sharing a laugh is special.

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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      point2make, many thanks for your comment - I should say 'ditto' really because I rather like USA comedies as well :o)

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Justsilvie, many thanks for your comment - you will find loads of full episodes of British sitcoms on You Tube (usually in 3 parts) or some hubbers have mentioned Netflix.

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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Nell, Ta! for your comment . I'm with you on that one - I think the USA are miles ahead of us with current sitcoms, our current ones are, by and large, pap!

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Jasmine - this is the official top 10, they're not my picks :o)....niow if it had been a top 20.....they would both have made it! Many thanks for your comment.

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      Jasmine JellyBaby 4 years ago

      You forgot "Keeping up Appearances & Are you being Served?" Great list though. Miss these types of comedy where they actually made you have stomach cramps from laughing.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Oh, my mom and I used to enjoy "Fawlty Towers," and our other favorite was, "Are You Being Served?" Mom may have been familiar with some of the others, but as I was already out on my own, we didn't often get to watch shows together.

      This is a great list--I must look up the rest. (And one must not forget naughty boy "Benny Hill," either... ;-) )

      Voted up, interesting and shared.

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 4 years ago

      This is an excellent list. I have watched and enjoyed several of the choices. British comedies are a special lot and have caused a great deal of laughter "across the pond". Great hub. voted up.

    • profile image

      Justsilvie 4 years ago

      Great Hub! I really Miss British Sitcoms, the BBC (the American Version Sucks) and the East Enders!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Being a brit I love all these! lol! fools and horses was my favourite and still is though, I hate the newer type of sitcom, they are completely useless, this is why your choice is still up there and being watched by millions of people, bring back the old type comedies! lol! voted up and shared! nell

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      unknown spy - such a shame that a lot of people outside of the UK have not seen many of these sitcoms; Fawlty Towers seems pretty well known but not the others. I think this hub will suffer for being a bit 'too' British :o(

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      wow you have a lot of very interesting list here. never seen any one of these shows thought.glad you post it.

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Mary, glad you liked this and I hope you get to see a few more British sitcoms. We are really lucky in the UK that our satellite and cable TV services have a few dedicated comedy channels and we get to see a good mixture of British and US comedy.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      IMHO many of our best sitcoms are based on British comedies. I can only hope the continue ad infinitum...good choice of comedies here. Unfortuately the only one I've heard of is Fawlty Towers...makes me want more!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      SusieHQ, Thanks for your comment. I wasn't surprised to find any of these in the top 10. I agree with you though, Only Fools and Horses, One Foot, Fawlty and Dibley would all be happy viewing in this house :o)

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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Daisy, thanks for your comment. Fawlty Towers is very, very funny and does still make us laugh out loud even though we have seen them more than once - it's like you're anticipating the jokes, daft really but Basil Fawlty is hilarious.

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      teaches12345, thanks for your comment. Are You Being Served was very popular back in the day, a really good laugh :o)

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Mhatter99, thanks for your comment.

    • Jools99 profile image
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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Paula, Many thanks for your comment; we are sitcom fantatics in this house and as well as British ones, we watch a lot of American ones too - our personal favourites (US comedies) are Cheers, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, Two Broke Girls, Frasier, Whitney and Big Bang Theory. From the sixties I used to watch I Love Lucy and Phil Silvers Show. I would happily watch comedy all day, I love it.

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Jools,

      Great list of some of the all time British classics in my view. Know them all and my favourites are Only Fool's, One Foot, Faulty Towers and Vicar of Dibley. Oh the memories! Agree there are many other worthy contenders but a good list and range all the same!! voted up and more!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Julie,

      Thanks for publishing this fun article. I haven't seen all of the British sitcoms you've mentioned, but I have seen some of them.

      My favorite is your #5, Fawlty Towers. This show is laugh-out-loud hysterically funny. I've seen every episode more than once, via Netflix.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I have briefly seen Fawlty Towers on the BBC channel. I have not heard of the others. I love watching Are You Being Served when it airs and the humor is really good. Poor Richard! Great coverage and very interesting. I will have to look at the guide to see which ones I can catch.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing this information and reviews.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Jools...Obviously, I can't claim to have seen any of these sitcoms, nor am I familiar with the actors. What I can say is that British humor is the BEST. What few we've had the opportunity to have aired here, have been hilarious and kept me in stitches. It's obvious you watched all of them...and have your favorites.........Maybe this is a silly question...but can you get many of our sitcoms or programs in general? It's sad what little knowledge I have on this. Help me out here, Jools!! UP+++

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