One of the charming things about shows from the 70s is that the sets and production look like they were made with a $20 budget. And when I say that, I say it with affection. There’s a cozy quiet to them, which let’s you focus on the characters and comedy.
To the Manor BornA lot of British sitcoms are about class but none more explicitly than this one. Throw in a will-they-or-won’t-they? Between the great Penelope Keith (The Good Life) and always debonair Peter Bowles (The Irish R.M.), and it’s hard to mess this one up.
Fawlty TowersBasil Fawlty is without a doubt the most irredeemable stomp character ever. There is not one second of any episode in which he is remotely nice or warm. But he is one thing: hilarious.
PorridgeRonnie Barker’s world-weary cynicism mixed in with his affection for young Godbar (Richard Beckinsale, who tragically died young at 31) is our magic. And another spot of genius is have the yin-yang of two security guards, one a hard-ass and the other a softie, to have Barker play against.
The 80s (and 90s, really) were a bit barren for comedy at the BBC, at least what I’ve seen so far. To be honest I originally wanted this to be the best 5 of each decade, but simply couldn’t think of 5 I love from the 80s.
Only Fools and HorsesThe Greatest of All Freaking Time. Period.
BlackadderA remarkable show that spent every minute of it’s run being incredibly funny & snarky and then in the last minute pulled the rug out from under all of us, leaving us gasping in wonder.
Yes, MinisterA brilliant, if not terrifying, behind the curtain look at how the sausage gets made. But unlike Veep’s brilliant nastiness, this shows more of a gentle hand from those who know how things actually get done (or, more importantly, don’t) leading those who enter the arena with a charming, if useless, idealism.
The Vicar of Dibley
The King (or should I say Queen) of the era’s warm, cozy embraceable sitcoms. Every character is funny, but what else would you expect from the British National Treasure that is Richard Curtis?
The Royle FamilyThe second this first aired, every single tv writer in England surely thought “a show about a regular lazy-ass broke family lounging around watching tv? WHY THE HELL DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT??”
The Alan Partridge ShowAnother British protagonist who is extremely unlikable and doesn’t have a single kind moment in the whole run, yet we love it because he’s just too damn funny.
People like to claim the 1970s was the “Golden Age” of the BBC, but the fact is the 21st century is stuffed to the gills with great sitcoms. I had more trouble paring these down than any other decade.
Gavin & StaceyHard to imagine a single show having a mix of so much heart and so many funny characters. While the the two leads play it mostly straight, the supporting cast is an all-star team. And of course it delivered to us another British Treasure in James Corden (who also wrote it, along with co-star Ruth Jones.)
The InbetweenersSince this hysterical raunchiest came out, seemingly countless shows have tried to imitate it, all failing miserably. These four are The Beatles of their genre to everybody else’s Herman Hermits.
A horrifying answer to the question, “what if we could hear what someone’s really thinking?” And when one of them is a George Costanza and the other bit of a psychopath, the comedy simply does not stop.
The Wrong Man(s)A comedy spoof of every spy/thriller movie ever made, but essentially boils down to we love it for pretty much one thing: James Corden being James Corden.
Moone BoyA big warm-hearted hug of a sitcom from late-80s Ireland, what draws us in is Chris O’Dowd because one thing we all as human beings have all agreed on is that we all love Chris O’Dowd. But what keeps us is the main character, a kid so naturally funny I dread the day he pull a Theo Huxtable and realizes he’s on camera and has to be an ACT-OR.
I first noticed Darren Boyd in the great Whites, thinking “wow, this guy was made to play John Cleese (which it turns out he did). That led me to this show in which not only is he great, but also a lunatic Richard Lindsay and a genuinely funny, asshole little kid.