There is simply no denying that we Brits are a funny bunch. As a result, our comedy scene has been thriving for decades, with British humour at the forefront of TV both at home and internationally. But which UK sitcom deserves the title of being the best of all time?
An expert panel has carefully curated a list of the 20 best British sitcoms for Radio Times magazine, naming none other than 70s classic Fawlty Towers as the number one choice.
The BBC series, which ran for just two seasons of six episodes each in 1975 and 1979, beat the likes of Father Ted, Blackadder, Absolutely Fabulous, I’m Alan Partridge and Only Fools and Horses to the number one spot.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, Fawlty Towers was based on the hilarious ups and downs of life in a sub-par hotel in Torquay and led by John Cleese who wrote and starred in it as the highly-strung protagonist, Basil Fawlty.
Speaking to the publication, Connie Booth, who was the show’s co-writer and played the role of waitress Polly, said: ‘Fawlty Towers succeeds, I think, because it allows infantile rage and aggression a field day in a buttoned down, well-mannered English society. It’s unique in being a farce, with all the plot surprises and precision that the style requires. And it doesn’t hurt that the star of the show is a six-foot-five comic genius. If he was shorter I can’t imagine how it would have worked.’
Similarly, Cleese added: ‘I was very lucky to be working at the BBC when decisions were taken by people who had actually made programmes.’
The long list was voted for by 42 comedy experts, including lauded writers Mathews, Linehan and Richard Curtis, as well Barry Cryer and Alison Graham.
The top 20 British sitcoms of all time
- Fawlty Towers (1975-9, BBC Two)
- Father Ted (1995-8, Channel 4)
- I’m Alan Partridge (1997-2002, BBC Two)
- Blackadder (1983-9, BBC One)
- Dad’s Army (1968-77, BBC One)
- Only Fools and Horses (1981-2003, BBC One)
- Porridge (1973-8, BBC One)
- The Royle Family (1998-2012, BBC One)
- Absolutely Fabulous (1992-2012, BBC Two)
- Dinnerladies (1998-2000, BBC One)
- The Thick of It (2005-12, BBC Four and Two)
- The Office (2001-3, BBC Two)
- Peep Show (2003-15, Channel 4)
- The Vicar of Dibley (1994-2007, BBC One)
- The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976-9, BBC One)
- The Young Ones (1982-4, BBC Two)
- Gavin & Stacey (2007-10, BBC Three and One)
- The Good Life (1975-8, BBC One)
- Detectorists (2014-17, BBC Four)
- Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (1973-4, BBC One)