My Top Ten Favourite British Sitcoms

The following is a guest post.

When Melissa asked if someone would like to write a guest post about his or her top ten British sit-coms (or Britcoms) I jumped at the chance. I love British comedy and I happen to think that we’ve created some raucously witty and clever TV programmes over the years. I’ve always personally thought that the best sitcoms are the ones with a simple premise and basic humour that feature people going about their every day lives.

Due to their success, many of our Britcoms have been taken over to the US and for reasons I’ve never been able to understand – perhaps down to differences in humour – have been completely remade and rarely resemble the programme they once were.

I’m sure they are fab in their own right but after watching The Office over here, there was no way I could embrace the US version. Could you imagine the production of an English version of Friends or Frasier? It just wouldn’t work for me.

Without further ado, I am going to introduce you to my Top 10 Britcoms. There may be a few controversial omissions like The Good Life, Fawlty Towers & Only Fools and Horses but I have thought long and hard about this, and here we have the definitive list of my personal favourites.

10. Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em

Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em was first broadcast in 1973 and ran for three series, ending in 1978. The series followed accident-prone Frank Spencer and his wife Betty and every episode was carnage, chaos and ended in disaster.  The programme coined the phrase “Ooh Betty” and the character of Frank Spencer has been one that impressionists have mimicked time and time again. I wasn’t born until 1979 so this had finished by the time arrived however I grew up watching re-runs on the BBC and some of the clips still bring tears to my eyes.

 

9. Coupling

The sitcom Coupling ran from 2000-2004 and centres around the dating adventures of six mid-30s friends. It’s been often compared to shows like Friends although I think the humour is very different.  For me, my favourite character was Jeff, and whilst I still enjoyed the programme, after he’d left it wasn’t quite the same.

 

8. Phoenix Nights

Peter Kay is one of the few comedians that makes me cry laughing and his observational sitcom about The Phoenix Club, a northern working men’s club had me in stitches. It was first broadcast in 2001 and the writing is absolutely fabulous. The characters are real and all the actors give great performances. Anyone who has ever been anywhere near a working men’s club will be able to relate to this!

 

7. Keeping Up Appearances 

First broadcast in 1990, this is a sitcom that portrays the social hierarchy or British society, Keeping Up Appearances features uber-snob Hyacinth Bucket (which if you’ve watched it, you’ll know this is pronounced “Bouquet…”, her long-suffering husband Richard and the trials and tribulations of her working-class family. The humour is dry and there’s an element of slapstick comedy. The character of Hyacinth, with her withering looks and snipe, is totally believable; I’ve known a few similar characters in my time!

 

6. The Inbetweeners

You’ll either love or hate The Inbetweeners, a British sitcom that has aired for three series since 2008.  The programme centres on the lives of four teenage boys and as you might expect is very adolescent and juvenile, but also very very funny. If you are offended by the use of expletives, derogatory terms and sexual innuendo then it’s probably not for you, however I think it captures those awkward late teenage years perfectly and reminds me what they were like!

 

5. ‘Allo ‘Allo 

Set in a café in Nazi-occupied France during World War II – it doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs does it? However this BBC sitcom broadcast from 1982 to 1992 is slapstick comedy at it’s best – full of innuendo. How I used to laugh at the Englishman disguised as a gendarme with his famous greeting “Good Moaning” and his many hilarious mispronunciations and I still use Michelle’s “listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once” regularly!

 

4. The Office

The Office is a British sitcom that has been exported all over the world. The UK version was first broadcast in 2001 and was a mock fly-on-the-wall documentary set around the day-to-day lives of the office employees of a fictitious company – the Wernham Hogg Paper Company. I don’t think there’s a single person who has spent time working in an office environment that cannot relate to this programme. There many character types I recognised and many episodes had me cringing behind a cushion.  It was completely accurate in depicting office life for many of us!

 

3. Outnumbered 

Outnumbered has been airing since 2007 and at the time of writing this, is still a current programme. The sitcom focuses on the family life of Brockmans who consist of a father and mother who are outnumbered (and outsmarted) by their three children. As a parent of small children I can feel the pain. The pain of when they outsmart you, pick up on your little white lies and generally run circles around you!  What I like most about Outnumbered is the semi-improvisational scripting which makes the characters that the child actors play seem more realistic and believable. 

 

2. The Royle Family

First broadcast on the TV in 1998, since 2000 The Royle Family has only produced seasonal specials.   The programme takes place almost exclusively in the Royle family’s living room, in front of the TV. I think everybody can relate on some level to the characters in the Royle family – we all know someone like Denise or Jim and we can all sympathise with long-suffering Barbara.

 

1. Gavin and Stacey

Gavin and Stacey, a sitcom about the long-distance relationship of Gavin (from Billercay, Essex) and Stacey (from Barry Island, Wales) ran from 2007 to 2010.  You can’t help but love all the characters in Gavin & Stacey – from the hapless Uncle Bryn to hilarious next-door neighbour Doris – they’ve all got some redeeming or endearing features and are totally loveable!

 

So tell me, what do you think of my list and which favourite Britcoms would you put in your Top Ten?

Joanna is a mother of two unruly but cute children and wife to one wonderful husband. Living in the countryside with eight cats, two dogs, two in-laws and countless bird-nut-pinching squirrels. She has a wide range of interests from genealogy to fashion to interior design to history to celeb gossip meaning absolutely anything can and will appear on her blog http://athomewithmrsm.blogspot.com/

Comments

  1. says

    This is a great list, but I would have been torn about omitting Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, and The Young Ones. Maybe my list would have been the Lucky 13 Favourite Britcoms.

  2. Joanne Bagley says

    I love “Outnumbered” but you have missed most of my real favorites. “Keeping Up Appearances” is okay. But, if I go with shows that have affected me the most – at the top of the list is “As Time Goes By”. The characters and dialog have become part of my life and many of my friends. I would also add “Butterflies” and “A Fine Romance” all connected by either Judi Dench or Geoffrey Palmer. “The Vicar of Dibley”, “Open All Hours” etc. Perhaps I am a lot older than you and that might make a difference in our viewing opinions. Can’t wait until I can watch current “Outnumbered” shows.

  3. Melissa says

    Joanne, are you in the U.S.? That can make a difference too because all those shows you mentioned appeared on PBS and they only get certain shows.

  4. Martha says

    I too love The Vicar of Dibley. Dawn French is a genius (plus Geri married Harry Kennedy played by Richard Armitage) I do agree with you on your choices. :)

  5. Juliane says

    I LOVE “Outnumbered”! That’s my favourite of the ones on your list (though I’ve only seen a few of them since I’m in the US :( ). One that I love (so much so that I bought the UK version of the DVDs) was “My Family”. That may be my favourite modern Britcom. As for older Britcoms, it’s a dead heat between “Fawlty Towers” and “Are You Being Served”.

  6. Lisa says

    LOVE The Inbetweeners,Friday Night Dinner, Outnumbered, The Vicar of Dibley, Come Fly with Me. LOVE ALL BRITISH COMEDY SHOWS, wish BBC AMERICA would air more British comedy shows

  7. Joan says

    Truth be told, I’m afraid I only agreed with a couple of your choices. However, I did agree more with eenayray. I loved The Young Ones, Blackadder, The Vicar of Dibley, Fawlty Towers, Dinnerladies, Are You Being Served, AbFab and others. Too bad BBCAmerica has ZERO on their channel. They just don’t bother anymore.

  8. Melissa says

    Hi Joanna,

    First let me say thank you for this post. Second, I really like your list and many of your choices would be on my list as well. However, my list would probably replace Coupling and Keeping Up Appearances with Only Fools and Horses and the Vicar of Dibley. I would find place for Miranda in that list as well. Maybe take out the Inbetweeners. While I think it’s funny that school boy humour gets old pretty quickly. I love that you included the Royle Family. It’s one of my all-time faves too and almost unknown here in the States.

    Nice job on your list!

    Melissa

  9. says

    While I enjoy many of these shows, I have to say that my to favorite are Vicar of Dibley and Miranda. Both Dawn French and Miranda Hart are brilliant. I also really liked Lenny Henry in Chef.

  10. Britannia1 says

    Coupling is the only one I would agree with. What about Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister? Fawlty Towers? Vicar of Dibley? Ab Fab?

  11. CCW says

    Love Gavin and Stacey. Vicar of Dibley, a classic. Ever Decreasing Circles with Richard Briers and Penelope Wilton, hilarious. Dinner Ladies.

  12. says

    It was really tough to limit my choices to just ten for this blog post, I had a short list of about twenty but I will admit I have never been a Blackadder fan, although my husband is.

  13. says

    Hi Joanne, I don’t know how old you are – I am 33. My original shortlist did include The Vicar of Dibley but I just couldn’t fit them all in!

  14. says

    I knew leaving Only Fools and Horses out would be a bit controversial but I’ve never really liked it that much. I think because in the UK it’s seriously overplayed on TV and I’ve become bored of it!

  15. says

    Hi Juliane. I also like Modern Family, well I liked the first few series with all the original family members in it but then it kind of went off the boil for me, which is why I didn’t include it in this list.

  16. says

    Thanks for your comment on my post Melanie. Ive struggled to get along with Miranda, I don’t know why. I actually like Miranda Hart and I love her in Call the Midwife but the Miranda sitcom doesn’t really do it for me. I do agree that The Vicar of Dibley is fab though!

  17. says

    Yay for someone else who likes Coupling! As I’ve mentioned in other comments just now, The Vicar of Dibley was so close to making the list but I’m not really a Fawlty Towers fan. I very nearly included Ab Fab because I loved it in the early 90s but didn’t enjoy the newer episodes at all which is why I ended up leaving it off my list.

  18. says

    Two people have mentioned Dinner Ladies now so I guess I need to get watching it and see if I like it. Ahh Ever Decreasing Circles – haven’t seen that in decades!

  19. says

    Hi Scott, I’m afraid not. It didn’t even make my shortlist actually – probably would have been on my husbands though if I’d asked him to do the same!

  20. says

    Hi Scott, I’m afraid not. It didn’t even make my shortlist actually – probably would have been on my husbands though if I’d asked him to do the same!

  21. says

    Hi Melissa,

    Thanks for publishing this post! I’ve taken the time to respond to all the comments left by your readers.

    By asking me to choose just ten AND put them in order, well you really set me a challenge and I knew not everyone would agree with the startling omissions of The Vicar of Dibley, Fawlty Tours, Ab Fab and Only Fools!

    I know The Inbetweeners isn’t everybody’s cup of tea but I have a very juvenile sense of humour and find it so funny. (Probably won’t find it so funny when I have a teenage boy of my own!). It’s a real shame that the Royle Family isn’t so well-known in the US, it’s such a good programme. I loved it so much I bought them all on DVD!

    Thanks again!

    Joanna

  22. CCW says

    Hi Joanne,

    As Time Goes by and a Fine Romance are fabulous. I’ve watched the episodes over and over again on DVD. And Vicar of Dibley, well Geraldine is truly “Divine”.

  23. says

    I like your choices. Some I haven’t seen as most of the Britcoms I see are on PBS stations here in the US. Sometimes I get clued in on others when I buy the DVDs. My faves are ‘Allo ‘Allo, Last of the Summer Wine, Father Ted, Open All Hours, Are You Being Served and its sequel Are You Being Served Again (To the Manor Born?), Dad’s Army, and I’ve recently discovered Mrs. Brown’s Boys (youtube only). Blackadder gets honorable mention. Just discovered your blog and am enjoying it.

  24. Nancy Kelley says

    Are You Being Served is still one of my favorites, though others are making their way into the list. Keeping Up Appearances was always hilarious, in a “Can you believe she’d actually DO that?” kind of way.

  25. Moriah says

    I already loved Coupling and The Office but this article made me fall in love with Gavin and Stacey. I watched the entire series in under a week! I couldn’t get enough!

  26. Melissa says

    I just read this post, so I’m late to the party…but, I have to say that I love, love, love Gavin and Stacy! My absolute number one show U.S. or British. I’m also an Inbetweeners fan.

  27. Lynn says

    One foot in the grave and Father Ted need to be on those lists…as well as Miranda and Mrs. Brown’s Boys…

  28. Kenneth Barr says

    Judging from the list, the poster is somewhat younger than me. Also, it helps if you have a PBS station that shows more than KUA and ATGB. I also lived in England for a time so I know some of the ones that never came over here. For me, 10 isn’t enough.. I would add “Dad’s Army,” the entire “Blackadder” series, “Fawlty Towers,” “The Good Life” (“Good Neighbors” in the USA), “To The Manor Born,” “The Bounder” (Peter Bowles & Isla Blair) and “Yes, Minister/Prime Minister,” which featured the absolutely classic British upper class snob character, Sir Humphrey Appleby. A special mention for “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” which was a sketch comedy program, not a Brit-com. This list is by no means complete, there are so many more but I have to go to work.

  29. Melissa says


    That’s right – your opinion is influenced by your age and your gender too frankly. I lived in England, and Only Fools and Horses is my fave but it was not shown in the U.S. at all (perhaps the odd PBS station, but I doubt it.)

  30. Kimberly says

    What a tough list to undertake- I really like most of the one’s you listed, but there is one I wish had made your list…”The IT Crowd”. By far…that show is one of the funniest, side-splitting and entertaining to come out of Great Britain.

  31. Shetyl Hart says

    Waiting for God also makes my list. I don’t even watch BBC America anymore. I have no idea when they decided that Top Gear and Dr. Who were the only shows needed to fill a schedule. I loved all the comedies, plus shows like Monarch of the Glen, Hamish,Hetty Wainwright, Midsomer Murders, etc. Perhaps they need a BBC America II for grownups.

  32. ken & lynne perkins says

    Very true here in America that we only get PBS & BBC America. So our choices are very limited. Age does play a huge role in the choices. One foot in the grave, only fools and horses, fawlty towers, are all classics! Now we have, downton, upstairs downstairs, orphan black, Mr. Selfridge,Doc Martin ripper street, and some other masterpiece ones. You’ve got me missing Wiltshire now! Living in Illinois for the last 10 years…not liking being me stuck here! Lynne

  33. Yigithan says

    Well, FRESH MEAT would be the number one, for me. And then… Second would be… HEBBURN, absolutely. Third is HOPE SPRINGS, Fourth would be MISFITS (well, not a sit-com but, you know…) and I quite like Hustle and This is England but they are also not a sit-com. :))

  34. jane says

    Are you kidding, I don’t agree with 9 of your choices. What about Are You Being Served, Waiting for God,,Only Fools and Horses, Fawlty Towers how can you not include that, best of all times.
    Maybe you are not old enough to know about these treasures.
    One Foot in the Grave was a riot….To the Manor Born, again terrific. Ballykissangel, that was a comedy…
    Doc Martin, very funny.

  35. reinald says

    what about coming of age, bad education and my favourite two pints of lager ?
    great top 10 though ;-)

  36. Juanita Stephens says

    I also am in the US and some of the shows mentioned are on Netflix, and of course PBS. I wish we had a British TV Station here.

  37. Derek says

    The rise and fall of Regie Perrin
    Porridge
    The likly lads
    One foot in the Grave
    The Young Ones
    Man About the House
    Open All Hours
    To many to think of