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Top 10 Classic British Sitcoms


Script written by Sean Harris Keep calm and carry on the comedy. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 greatest classic British sitcoms! For this list, we’ve gathered the finest, funniest, most iconic and most important British sitcoms. As this is a countdown of the classics, to be in contention the show must have started before the year 2000. For a look at celebrated recent sitcoms, be sure to check out our video counting down the greatest modern shows, and if cult comedy is more your thing then we’ve got you covered with another clip as well. Special thanks to our user Kieran Atkins for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Classic British Sitcoms


Keep calm and carry on the comedy. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 greatest classic British sitcoms!

For this list, we’ve gathered the finest, funniest, most iconic and most important British sitcoms. As this is a countdown of the classics, to be in contention the show must have started before the year 2000. For a look at celebrated recent sitcoms, be sure to check out our video counting down the greatest modern shows, and if cult comedy is more your thing then we’ve got you covered with another clip as well.

#10: “Are You Being Served?” (1972-85)

We start stacked with sexual innuendo, for a double helping of double entendre. Throughout the ‘70s and early ‘80s “Are you Being Served?” had audiences bent double with its risqué word play and comic misdirection. Taking place in the clothing section of a fictional department store, each half-hour episode offered an abundance of inside leg gags and not so well veiled references to Mrs Slocombe’s ‘pet cat’ – which seemed to get itself into all manner of situations. True, the ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ approach is out of sync with today’s society, and the social stereotypes have dated, but “Are You Being Served?” remains a favourite with fans and critics. So much so, a one-off reboot aired in 2016.

#9: “Bottom” (1991-95)

Following on from earlier success with “The Young Ones”, “Bottom” is the squalid, anarchic brainchild of Ade Edmondson and Rick Mayall. The pair wrote and starred in the series, which centres around Richie Richard and Eddie Hitler, dysfunctional flatmates living on the dole in West London. Mostly set inside their paltry and dangerously unsanitary city home, show storylines centre on drinking heavily, fighting fiercely, and hatching unconventional plans to try and find someone willing to have sex with them. It’s crude, often controversial, and the complete opposite to ‘clean cut’. Plus, the show’s title is the most blatant bum gag going. What more could you want?

#8: “Steptoe and Son” (1962-74)

The earliest aired of today’s entries, “Steptoe and Son” was a front-runner for sitcom writers. As one of the first shows to cast actors over straight-up comedians, with Wilfrid Bramble and Harry H. Corbett starring in title roles, it saw a generation clash between elderly Albert Steptoe and his middle-aged son, whose social aspirations are wildly out of tune with his father’s. Despite ongoing rumours of on-set tensions, “Steptoe” was watched by 28 million at its peak, with moving storylines which offered much more than the expected gag reel. In 1964, it was even rescheduled so as not to be broadcast on election night. Prime Minister Howard Wilson feared that the polls would be empty if “Steptoe” was on.

#7: “Yes Minister” (1980-84)

Of all Britain’s institutions, its government perhaps most frequently falls within the comic’s firing line. Political satire is a staple of UK TV, and “Yes Minister” gets our vote as the finest parliamentary jaunt on the box. The series follows the rise (and occasional falls) of the right honourable Jim Hacker MP, a hapless incumbent at the fictional Department of Administrative Affairs. Hacker’s hopeless attempts to get his policies noticed contribute to what seems a floundering career in public office, until a surprising promotion lands him in the big seat for a two-series sequel. “Yes Prime Minister” ran from ’86 to ’88, as Hacker causes havoc from inside Number 10.

#6: “Dad’s Army” (1968-77)

From the first line of its iconic theme tune to its many classic catchphrases, “Dad’s Army” is etched into British pop culture. Written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft and set in the fictional town of Walmington-on-Sea, the show chronicles the comings and goings of a Home Guard platoon during World War Two. A cast of classic characters includes Privates Pike, Godfrey, Walker and Frazer, as well as Sergeant Wilson and Lance Corporal Jones, who all do their best to give the enemy ‘what for’ under the patriotic but imperfect leadership of Arthur Lowe’s Captain Mainwaring. It’s war, just not as we would normally know it.

#5: “Only Fools and Horses” (1981-2003)

To south east London next, and a family business destined for the big time – or so Del Boy believes, at least. “Only Fools” sees David Jason’s Del pair with little brother Rodney to make a questionable living on the streets of Peckham. The Trotters will try their hand at anything if it seems a money-maker, but their ‘Independent Traders’ firm has yet to expand from out the back of beat up three-wheeler. Not-so-ably assisted by Grandad, and Uncle Albert in later series’, their drive rarely waivers but success almost never comes their way. Still, millions tuned in on a weekly basis, crossing their fingers that one day it would.

#4: “Father Ted” (1995-98)

The links between comedy and the clergy may not be immediately obvious, but some of TV’s funniest shows take place in and around the holy house of God. We might have listed “The Vicar of Dibley” here, a biblical triumph in its own right, but we’ve saved our sermon for “Father Ted”. A predominantly Irish arrangement, it first aired on Channel 4 in 1995 before running for three series, with a Christmas Special to boot. Set on Craggy Island, the fictional place of exile for three not-so-saintly priests, the sublime and ridiculous storylines see titular Ted deal with daily life in the parish alongside Fathers Jack and Dougal. It’s the answer to all your sitcom prayers.


#3: “Porridge” (1974-77)

As one half of “The Two Ronnies”, Ronnie Barker was already a household name when he debuted as Norman Stanley Fletcher. But his stretch inside HMP Slade remains one of the comic’s most memorable roles. “Porridge” was the result of another initiative, “Seven of One”, which saw Barker star in seven separate sitcom pilots, including an early version of “Open All Hours”. While finding a funny side to prison life proved difficult at first, writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais soon realised that ‘small victories’ were key. Essentially, “Porridge” is Fletcher beating the system over and over again, and audiences loved his anti-establishment ways.


#2: “Fawlty Towers” (1975-79)

With only 12 episodes ever made, “Fawlty Towers” is the shortest-running of today’s top ten. But size really isn’t everything. The hotel-based hilarity was created by John Cleese and Connie Booth, who were married at the time of the first series and both had starring roles. Cleese’s Basil Fawlty is head hotelier, attempting to run a hospitable residence but consistently blowing his top whenever problems arise. Booth plays Polly, a hotel assistant and voice of reason within the chaos, while Prunella Scales stars as Sybil, Basil’s long-suffering wife, and Andrew Sachs is Manuel, a Spanish waiter forever lost in translation. From hotel inspections to hygiene restrictions, Basil’s business is a shambles, but it makes for five star TV.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Hancock’s Half Hour” (1956-60)

“One Foot in the Grave” (1990-2000)

“‘Allo ‘Allo!” (1982-92)


#1: “Blackadder” (1983-89)

A sitcom spanning almost 500 years of history, “Blackadder” takes today’s crown. From the Middle Ages to Elizabethan England, the Regency period and World War One – not to mention a lengthy series of specials, one-off clips and standalone sketches – no era is safe from Edmund Blackadder and his band of the merriest of men. Rowan Atkinson’s antihero raised the bar for sitcoms throughout the ‘80s, consistently bucking the trend with his delightfully deadpan delivery. But, as with most great comic characters, he has a human side too, and despite all the gags, usually at the expense of Baldrick, the finale to “Goes Forth” remains one of the most moving moments in British TV history. Blackadder, we salute you.
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