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UK Classic Situation Comedies of the 1970s

Updated on July 13, 2011

British Television

Over the years British television has entertained us with some great situation comedies. It has also at times embarrassed and bored us whilst we were left wondering just what was supposed to be funny about some particular scripts.

On the whole though the great British Situation Comedy has left us with some fine programmes which are often still shown on a regular basis. So this hub will celebrate the Good, skip over the Bad and perhaps ignore the Ugly side of British Comedy.

Humour of course is a strange thing and what makes one person roll about in the agony of hysterical laughter could leave someone else cold and stony faced. With that in mind her are some of my favourites.

Classic Porridge


Mr McKay, Norman Stanley Fletcher and young Godber.
Mr McKay, Norman Stanley Fletcher and young Godber.
The Goods and the Leadbetters
The Goods and the Leadbetters
A desperate Reggie Perrin
A desperate Reggie Perrin
Power to the People with Citizen Smith
Power to the People with Citizen Smith
Rigsby with Miss Jones and Phillip
Rigsby with Miss Jones and Phillip
Basil and Sybil Fawlty with Polly and Manuel
Basil and Sybil Fawlty with Polly and Manuel

The Good Life

The Fall and Rise of Reggie Perrin

Citizen Smith

Rising Damp




When Porridge hit our television screens many thought it could not be a success. Set in a fictitious British prison that was grey, old fashioned and full of problems it was certainly different.

In its day, Porrdige only ran from 1974 until 1977. It was made up up off half hour shows which had no commercial break as it was a BBC series. With comedian Ronnie Barker as the likable old, lag(crook), a young Richard Beckinsale as Lennie Godber, new to prison life and Fulton McKay as the tough talking, Scottish, prison guard the casting was perfect.

The series soon became essential viewing and always had funny plots and scripts. The prisoners inevitably won the day but it never felt as if the Bad Guys were winning over the Good. Despite its setting Porridge was always family entertainment and had some extra special episodes.

The cast at times included Peter Vaughn, David Jason, Sam Kelly, Patricia Brake and Maurice Denham. Porridge has been re-run so many times I almost know the lines word for word but still find them amusing.

Porridge was followed by a series called Going Straigh,t which was to be about Norman and Lennie's exploits when they were released and were trying not to re-offend. Although the public did not fall for this series as much as Porridge it was well received by the critics. However the sad death of young Richard Beckinsale sealed the fate of Going Straight.


The good life was all about a couple trying to become self sufficient whilst living in middle class suburbia. When Tom Good hits the big 4 0 he decides he is going to leave the rat race behind. He and his wife plough there large garden and set about growing crops and keeping livestock. Of course it is the setting as well as the characters that make for fun here. With a snobby next door neighbour called Margot life is never going to be easy. Still Margot and her husband Jerry are really friends of the Goods and despite the strain in their friendship help them often and in more ways than one.

The series ran, on the BBC again, from 1975 till 1978. At the time I was just married and everything about the Good Life appealed to my sense of humour. The characters of Tom and Barbara Good were the type that I would have aspired to be back then and the gentle humour was consistently good.

The main cast included Richard Briers as Tom Good, Felicity Kendal as Barbara Good, Penelope Keith as Margot Leadbetter and the late Paul Eddington as her long suffering husband Jerry. Still shown in 2009 the situations and fashions may have dated somewhat but the humour is still good.


Leonard Rossiter starred as Reggie Perrin in this slightly off the wall comedy. Not to every-one's taste, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin was right up my street, as they say. After Reggie becomes tired of his life he fakes his own death in an attempt to start again. With weird and wacky characters the humour is a mixture of the silly and the sublime. Shown originally between 1976 and 1979 it soon became popular viewing.

The show is currently been shown, but as a remade version with Martin Clunes in the role of Reggie. The plots have been altered a little to fit into today's lifestyle. It has only been on our screens a few weeks but looks promising. However it will be hard to beat the original Reggie Perrin which was so much of its day.


Wolfie played by by Robert Lindsay is a rebel. A rebel without a clue. His familiar shout of Power To The People was both relevant and desperate. As a bit of a hippy Wolfie was both charming, attractive and at times stupid. However for me this series was always worth watching. It is not one though stands the test of time well and is only shown these days occasionally. It was originally aired between 1977 and 1980.


One of the few good comedy shows of the day that was shown on Commercial television. Rising Damp featured Leonard Rossiter again, but this time as a miserly landlord. He rented rooms in his damp, large, old house overcharging and generally being a nuisance to his tenants. With Richard Beckinsale as Alan, Francis-De-La-Tour as Miss Jones and Don Warrington as a black student who claims to be the son of an African Chief they were an unlikely set of characters but perfect for comedy.

Originally shown between 1974 and 1978 in the end the winning formula became a little stale. In the beginning though it was as fresh as the characters. Available on DVD and still re shown on digital television it is dated but still funny these days.


Fawlty Towers only consisted of 12 episodes but it has been popular worldwide and still receives huge viewing audiences. Just why is hard to decide. I guess it is a mixture of cast, characters and scripts. With John Cleese in the lead role of Basil Fawlty the slightly unhinged hotel owner. His wife Sybil Fawlty in the show is played by Prunella Scales but John Cleese's wife at the time also starred in Fawlty Towers. She was Connie Booth and played the chirpy Polly who helped around the hotel. Leonard Sachs as the Spanish waiter who had a poor command of English, Manuel, was so often the butt of the joke.

This multi award winning series was initially shown on BBC2 in England at a time when not all Television sets were able to show BBC2 programmes. Because of this it was a while before I saw Fawlty Towers but I soon became a fan. Although the series was first aired in 1975 it is as fresh today as ever.


There were many other comedy series that were shown in the 1970s that were funny. However some of these were only funny for a very limited time. With time some of these now seem to be very dated, racist, sexist or more. Open All Hours is one that for me falls into this category.

So for my favourite situation comedies I have chosen ones that are still funny. If you had never watched any of the above before I would defy you to watch them and not laugh. Of course as I said at the start humour is very personal. That said though the humour of the above classics shines through for all to see.


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    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      I LOVED Fawlty Towers! I enjoy the British sense of humor!


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