Monday, August 27th, 2012

10 British Comedies You Should Be Glad You've Never Seen

I'm not sure the US has ever been more enthusiastic about British comedy than it is right now. Thanks to Veep and to Hulu’s uncensored screening of The Thick of it, excitement about Armando Iannucci has reached near-Olympic levels. And just last week, HBO announced a remake of award-winning BBC sitcom Getting On, a bleak take on nursing in an underfunded hospital.

Judging by shows like these as well critical faves like The Office and cult sitcoms from Peep Show to The IT Crowd, it must seem that all UK comedy shares a certain aesthetic. It's painfully-observed, harshly-lit, darkly funny, and of course, full of swears.

But not all of our sitcoms are the same. They rarely get exported, but many of our most popular comedies are inexplicably popular, laugh-track-filled, seemingly dashed-off efforts that would be pulled at the pilot stage (if not sooner) across the pond. You may think America has churned out some trash, but at least it was given a budget, a team of writers, and an attempt to look glossy. The worst British sitcoms appear to have culled their best material from vaudeville (take their jokes… please). And audiences are expected to sit through all this without the reprieve of an ad break, in most cases.

Here, in no particular order, are ten British sitcoms to cherish… never having watched:

My Family (2000-2011)

My Family shot Kris Marshall to semi-fame (a little part in Love Actually and a seemingly life-long contract to advertise British Telecom) and turned Zoe Wanamaker and Robert Lindsay from classically trained, award-winning actors into "that stupid couple off the telly". Before it was pulled from our screens last year, the two leads publicly admitted to hating most of the scripts, with Lindsay telling The Sunday Times: “Out of 100 episodes, maybe we've done ten that you can say are really good shows." Sadly, that’s still an incredibly generous assessment.

Last Of The Summer Wine (1973-2010)

This probably says more about Britain than any quirky opening ceremony or obsession with tea leaves: a program about a trio of old men and the plans and pranks they dreamt up ran for 31 seasons over 37 years, until it was finally put out of its misery. It turned the tiny Yorkshire village of Holmfirth into a tourist destination, a scruffy senior called Compo into a cultural sensation, and spun off prequels, stage adaptations, and novelizations, not letting even lead actor’s deaths stop the wheels of production. It's the longest-running sitcom in the world, and the one I'd most recommend switching on if you're having trouble sleeping.

Birds Of A Feather (1989-1998)

A show centred around two working class sisters in their forties who move in together after their no-good husbands go to jail, every episode saw them think up new family-friendly ways to call their sexually liberated neighbor a slut while she berated them for being stupid and fat, respectively, a laugh track roared, and Gloria Steinem wept. Sometimes other stuff happened, but it was all so clichéd and horrible it can only have put viewers off ever visiting Essex, where the show was set. (An impulse that’s well founded, I know from bitter experience.)

On The Buses (1969-1972)

Rejected by the BBC but adored by viewers, On The Buses was a euphemism-packed (that's what she said) Carry On-style "romp" set in the glamorous world of a bus depot. Confronting the important social issues of the era, from the class system to racial integration (there was a black character nicknamed “Chalky”; problem solved), the show was most concerned with demonstrating how difficult it is when work gets in the way of being a middle-aged lech. In case you’re wondering, yes, the fan club is open to international members. (Fnar.)

My Hero (2000-2006)

Father Ted alum Ardal O'Hanlon trashed the goodwill he’d built up with TV critics by starring as the sexily-named Thermoman in this lamentable show that’s not entirely dissimilar to The Greatest American Hero. Believe it or not, as many as eight million people watched at its peak, obviously keen to see a superhero who wasn’t debonair or in possession of any awe-inspiring tech but did have an alter-ego named George and a creepy talking baby so horribly CGI-ed it could have helmed its own horror franchise.

One Foot in the Grave (1990-2000)

If you ever hear a British man referred to as a "Victor Meldrew" (and if you visit our fair isle, it's just a matter of time, such was the cultural impact of OFITG), this show is why. Meldrew’s our George Costanza, only older, far less funny, and with about a tenth of the charm. "Enjoyed" by a third of the population in the early '90s, the program’s only attempt at humor was an exasperated geriatric shrieking, "I don't believe it!" at farcical set pieces (like finding a dead cat in the freezer, as you do) while his wife rolled her eyes and waited for the sweet release of death.

George and Mildred (1976-1979)

After the local council buys their urban home, our titular heroes move to the suburbs, where they’re forced to face up to the problems in their relationship. Tired of bouncing along in the sidecar of George’s motorbike, Mildred is desperate for exotic travel and new experiences, while her husband longs to maintain the status quo. For some reason, Mildred finds his grumpy demeanor, regressive attitudes and beige cardigans a turn-on and makes constant attempts to sex him up, which is a subversion of a tired TV trope, if not something anyone necessarily wanted to watch.

Two Pints of Lager And A Packet of Crisps (2001-2011)

Lucy Punch had a lucky escape when she was dumped from this execrable (and excrement-obsessed) so-called comedy after its original, unaired pilot. Based on the revolutionary concept of a group of straight, white twenty-somethings hanging out and occasionally having sex with each other, Two Pints was notable for embracing Britain’s proud binge-drinking culture… and little else. Toward the end of its run, even the writers had stopped caring, and opened the season eight finale to a public vote.

'Allo 'Allo! (1982-1992)

Possibly educational, undeniably implausible, and in the grand tradition of British wartime sitcoms (cf: Dad’s Army, It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Blackadder Goes Forth), 'Allo 'Allo might not have been on screen my entire childhood, but it certainly felt like it was. Set in a café in Nazi-occupied France (naturally), the show found its humor (and I use the term loosely) in plotlines like a missing painting named The Fallen Madonna With The Big Boobies, exaggeratedly terrible accents (“Are we a-loon? I wish to tick with you"), and a saucy waitress’ copious references to German sausage. Mon Dieu.

Are You Being Served? (1972-1985)

Focusing on the staff of fictional London department store Grace Brothers, Served is still remembered fondly by 1970s nostalgia addicts and people who find nothing funnier than an older woman with garish hair and a posh voice making constant reference to her “pussy”. (She meant her cat, you pervs. Probably.) Meanwhile, John Inman played an offensively stereotypical gay man, mannequins malfunctioned, and sexual innuendoes abounded. An American remake was pulled from screens after just a few episodes, which was really for the best.

Diane Shipley is a freelance writer who lives and watches TV in England (unfortunately). She's also contributed to The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, xoJane, and some other places.

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  • http://twitter.com/thismyshow jeremy wein

    I SUPER disagree with Served being on this list.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      I knew someone would! But really, it's painful to watch.

      • daemonsquire

        I super disagree, too, but only because it's the only one of these shows I've ever seen–and every minute watched has been supremely disagreeable. Some deep-pocketed Served fanatic must be bank-rolling it's interminable run on our local public station, along with Keeping Up Appearances.

        I'm kinda glad my browser is misbehaving and won't load any of the video clips above: I trust your taste in awful (despite Appearances' absence from the list…).

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Cash/723890175 Dan Cash

          Anyone involved with Keeping Up Appearances deserves to have acid thrown in their face. For comedic effect, obviously.

        • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

          I seriously considered adding Appearances (whoa, have gone all italic, help) but that seemed to be pretty well-known in the US. For shame.

          • http://www.smittenbybritain.com/ SmittenbyBritain

            Actually, Are You Being Served runs on PBS and has done for years so many Americans have seen it and love it, much to my chagrin.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Cash/723890175 Dan Cash

        But when Mrs Slocum says anything to do with her pussy it's HILARIOUS because she's talking about her cat but 'pussy' can be a euphemism for a ladygarden! It's comedy gold I tells ya! & when Mr Humphries says "I'm free!" it's so funny because his character is actually a homosexual! And it's always funny to laugh at the gays.

        • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

          Ah, yes. Now I'm convinced.

        • John Davison

          Dan I can't work out whether this is irony or you are mad. Please clarify.

          • http://www.thekillingallotments.wordpress.com Fantastic Dan

            (Don't tell anyone but it's a crappy old show that's so old and creaky.
            It depends on outmoded tropes, casual sexism and agism for its biggest punchlines. Probably some racism in there too, just to cover all the bases.)

      • http://www.facebook.com/simon13 Simon Cheng

        I agree with served being on this list. You're not alone.

  • GuyAskingQuestion

    The Mighty Boosh seems to have a cult following here in the US. What is the general British opinion of it? Do they mostly enjoy it or is it one of those shows like "Two Pints of Lager…" that no one really likes?

    • Victor

      Some don't care for it of course, because it's an odd show, but yeah, cult following over here too.

    • Victor

      Some don't care for it of course, because it's an odd show, but yeah, cult following over here too.

    • 1ipstick

      "It's for wacky students" is the general consensus.

  • GuyAskingQuestion

    The Mighty Boosh seems to have a cult following here in the US. What is the general British opinion of it? Do they mostly enjoy it or is it one of those shows like "Two Pints of Lager…" that no one really likes?

  • Victor

    Most of these, yes, but 'One Foot In The Grave'? Are you mental? It's a stone cold classic. As a Brit, I'm shocked to see it anywhere near a list that includes such crap as 'My Family' and 'My Hero'. I know it's all opinin, but no! NO!! Genuinely baffled at its inclusion.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      Well, I *am* mental, but I stand by my selection.

  • Victor

    Most of these, yes, but 'One Foot In The Grave'? Are you mental? It's a stone cold classic. As a Brit, I'm shocked to see it anywhere near a list that includes such crap as 'My Family' and 'My Hero'. I know it's all opinin, but no! NO!! Genuinely baffled at its inclusion.

  • frank beans

    "…not entirely dissimilar to The Greatest American Hero. Believe it or not…"

    I see what you did there.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      Thank you!

  • plt214@gmail.com

    I agree with Victor – it is insane to have included "One Foot in the Grave" on this list. Based on the statement that 'the program’s only attempt at humor was an exasperated geriatric shrieking, "I don't believe it!.."', I find it hard to believe that the author has really watched the show.
    For one thing, Victor Meldrew only said his so-called catchphrase a handful of times, and only once in the first season. For another, in one of his "Father Ted" DVD commentares geat comedy mind Graham Linehan discusses how many people's shallow take on "One Foot in the Grave" – e.g. focusing on the catchphrase – blinded them to how fundamentally subversive a comedy it was.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      Unfortunately, my grandad had it on many times when I visited, and I was consistently baffled at what he was laughing at. I agree it pushed the envelope, but I thought it was filled with very obvious farce and that Meldrew's rage was used instead of actual jokes. Agree to disagree?

      • plt214@nyu.edu

        I agree to nothing. "One Foot in the Grave"'s inclusion on this list is obscene.

        • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

          So I need to run all future opinions by you to check for obscenity? Noted.

          • verox

            You are such an interminably boring person.

      • Eddy Egginton

        meldrews rage was the joke as well as some of the sublimely surreal situations he found himself in i agree with on the buses though total tripe bad acting missed lines everything wrong about the comedy of the time

  • http://twitter.com/Dachelle Dachelle

    At least half this list has aired on KERA (Dallas PBS affiliate) here in the U.S. Are You Being Served? has aired continuously on the station for 20+ years.

    I agree that My Hero was terrible, though.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      If the US would only let me in, I'd be a far better fact-checker.

  • http://twitter.com/BeefcakeFactory Matthew Lawrence

    At least three of these–One Foot In The Grave, Last of the Summer Wine, and Are You Being Served?–aired on my local PBS channel for years and years, and might still. I wouldn't know because I haven't been able to watch my local PBS channel since the digital switchover… (AYBS? is the best, though; or second best–the sequel series from later where they all inherited a hotel together is actually funnier, in some ways.)

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      Ah, OK. But still, not on a major network, and I feel like a minority would have watched… or should have.

  • dntsqzthchrmn

    Plus if you haven't ever seen 'One Foot' you won't get quite as much of the Father Ted episode where they oh somebody already pointed this out.

  • http://twitter.com/srdailey Sean Dailey

    You mention Peep Show. How big is That Mitchell and Webb Look over there? Everyone in the States who's seen it that I've talked too loves it. That's Numberwang!

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      That was very popular too, I believe.

  • http://twitter.com/brelience Bryan

    There are far worse sitcoms. There are only 2 ITV sitcoms which broadcasts the worst of the worst.
    Sticking to shows that make a second series (British television rarely pulls a show, though they may be rescheduled).

    Bottle Boys http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0086674/
    Set in a milk delivery depot the show had as many stereotypes as a half hour could hold.

    Hardware http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0358319/
    Martin Freeman and Peter Serafinowicz would rather forget this. Note that it was post Office.

    Up the Elephant and Round the Castle http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0085105/
    Jim Davidson's only sitcom.

    Channel 4 have recently championing their comedy but there's quite a few they'd like to forget, such as Dressing for Breakfast http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0108753/.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      You're right, there may well be worse shows — anything with Jim Davidson surely has to qualify! But this was just ten of the worst (in my opinion) not the ten worst of all time, as ordained by the comedy gods.

      • http://twitter.com/brelience Bryan

        To your credit you did pick long running shows. I can't believe My Hero lasted so long.The Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy (1998) the worst ever sitcom was Bottle Boys. You'd have are hard job finding anyone that can remember it.

        • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

          No, it seems to have been wiped from our collective conscience, which is for the best, by the sound of things.

  • Ben

    Last Of the Summer Wine became slightly ridiculous in its later years but started out as some truly brilliant Pinter-esque dialogue-driven playlets. And One Foot In The Grave is one of the most superbly nuanced series, with genuine pathos and drama along with the comedy. But Ricky Gervais didn't react at the wobbly camera so its clearly moot I guess.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      You say Pinter-esque, I say boring…

      One Foot complete with Ricky Gervais' reactions to camera might almost be worth watching (though I'm more of a Friends, Seinfeld, Parks & Rec fan myself).

  • Jake

    "You may think America has churned out some trash, but at least it was
    given a budget, a team of writers, and an attempt to look glossy."

    This is strange reasoning. You're saying you can excuse a bad US sitcom because it looks nice and has had money put into it? I don't disagree with most of the choices here but were you aware that My Family was meant to be a US style family sitcom even going as far as to have an experienced US writer brought in?

    And really, One Foot in the Grave? One of the most deliciously black humoured sitcoms disguised as a cosy studio based sitcom? Seems like the point was completely lost on you, maybe it needed some reaction shots or people talking to camera to spell out what was happening.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      "You're saying you can excuse a bad US sitcom because it looks nice and has had money put into it? "

      I'm saying US bad is still better than UK bad.

      "were you aware that My Family was meant to be a US style family sitcom
      even going as far as to have an experienced US writer brought in?"

      I wasn't. But something clearly got lost in translation (money, maybe?)

      And are you really suggesting One Foot was too *subtle*? I get that it was black humour, I just didn't find it delicious (more bilious).

      • Jake

        You keep pointing to budgets as if they were the deciding factor behind what makes a show work or not. As if a big injection of cash is what's needed to bring the funny.

        And no, I'm not suggesting One Foot was subtle at all, that was one of its greatest strengths. The joke about One Foot was mostly from Meldrews impotent righteous anger. As the series progressed, Meldrew was fleshed out as a character with hints given about his past that helped explain why he was such a misanthrope. As far as sitcom characterisation goes, Victor Meldrew was one of the most compelling, nuanced and eminently watchable.

        • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

          I don't think cash makes for humour, but it does buy time and resources to make a more quality product, in many cases.

          • Jake

            It buys better production values not better writing.

          • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

            I like better production values. And if you have more money to offer writers, there's at least the chance of employing more experienced (funny) ones.

          • Muscatred

            Diane, 2nd post (sorry). The problem with the american system is that more money means more writers and more suits. You end up getting shows written by committee which pander to the lowest common denominator and refuse to take risks. Most British Comedies are written by one or two people (my family being the exception that proves the rule) given an opportunity to try something and see if it sticks. Sometimes they'll flop but sometimes they'll hit gold. Regardless of the results they are, in my opinion, almost always more interesting than the bland,carbon copy shows that the american system pushes out.

  • http://twitter.com/ladyfriend ladyfriend

    No 'Green Wing' or 'Campus?' Both have their moments but both have insufferable recurring characters that jump the shark in the pilot.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      Green Wing has Tamsin Grieg and Stephen Mangan, though, and I love them. Campus seems to have been wiped from my memory — sounds like it's for the best.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Cash/723890175 Dan Cash

        Green Wing, every episode was based on the following format:
        Trundle trundle trundle… *HILARIOUS* trundle trundle trundle… And repeat.

  • http://boingboing.net/ Rob Beschizza

    I was nodding along until "One Foot." Frankly, its inclusion on this list makes me wonder if Allo Allo might actually be good.

    Haha, just kidding. It's awful.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      It's SO awful. "Big boobies"! Tsk.

  • PhoenixBird50

    This article was much funnier than ANY of these rubbishy 'comedies'! Thanks for the laugh. :)

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      I don't belie… Oh, wait, thank you!

  • Stepharoonie

    I love Last of the Summer Wine AND Are You Being Served?!

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      Well, to each their own, right?

  • ManfredYon

    I won't defend One Foot any more, because people have here.
    But it shows how anglo-centric Australia still is, when we have ALL of these shows here.
    May I suggest, on the Pint of Lager genre, Coming of Age. They really emphasis the coming…

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      Yes, my friend de-recommended that one! I hadn't even heard of it, thankfully.

      • http://twitter.com/brelience Bryan

        You dodged a bullet – Coming of Age was set to be 2 Pints second coming. Thankfully, because the cast were teenagers it was always set to have a short shelf life.

  • Lucy Harrison

    Might be a good idea if this Shipley woman is prevented from ever trying to arrange words on any subject ever again – unless it's of the 'two pints please milkman' variety, which she could probably just about manage.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      So… you loved it? And you still have a milkman?!

    • http://twitter.com/MallyMon Marilyn Shipley

      And yet, she's being published all over the place at the moment….while you – aren't.

      • http://twitter.com/MallyMon Marilyn Shipley

        (no relation)

  • GiovanniSorta

    No Bread? A comedy centred entirely cheeky scouser benefit cheats with giant mobile phones & an old woman who shouts "TART" a lot. Let's not forget the "classic" Carla Lane tedialogue.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      I loved Bread! But I was a child, and I'm aware it probably doesn't hold up now. Nice use of "tedialogue".

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Cash/723890175 Dan Cash

    I'm fortunate enough to live in the UK so I can tell you with some authority that any and all of these 'comedies' are aired an nauseum on BBC sunday afternoons or various "Classic Comedy" channels. On The Buses should be a document of national shame and humiliation regarding Britain in the 70's. The aesthetically challenging protagonists pointing their sexism at every 'dollybird' who happens to come into their field of vision was upsetting then and has no place in society now. But they still repeat it. (FYI, the chubby dark haired one, Mr Reg Varney, was the first person to use an ATM in the UK, so if anyone asks, now you know.)
    And as for Two Pints of Larger, it's like watching a disabled woman in her seventies fall and hurt herself rather badly. It's not in the least bit funny, in fact right minded people find it rather upsetting but you know some people will laugh, some people will laugh at anything. Whenever I hear people say it's among their favourite comedies (and some people really do) I know we are NOT going to get along.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      Yes, I guess these things are good litmus tests for relationships. Has anyone ever explained why Reg Varney's character was still living with his ma and acting like an adolescent in his early 50s?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Cash/723890175 Dan Cash

        After the war, what with the housing shortage it was quite common for unmarried adults to stay with their parents until late in life or they found a partner. Casual sexism and racism, general acceptance of domestic violence, Oedipal reciprocal relationships, (older male role models having been killed in hostilities, women seeing their sons as heads of household…) and male bonding activities meant that men didn't have to mature as we would expect them to today.

        • JesusShakespeare

          Because people today mature so very quickly… (but your point is taken).

  • 1ipstick

    Fiercely disagree with One Foot in the Grave. Everything else though… *shudder*. There's currently a nice run on Friday evenings of In with the Flynns, Miranda, and Mrs Brown's Boys. I would actually watch a double bill of Big Bang Theory over those :(

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      Ha! Yes, I don't like Big Bang at all, but it's definitely better than all of those. Somebody up there really likes Will Mellor, eh?

      • http://twitter.com/brelience Bryan

        Will Mellor has had a charmed career.
        What's truly shameful is that Mrs Brown's Boys won a BAFTA.

  • 1ipstick

    For some reason, when you mention British comedy, there are loads of Americans that will instantly start gushing about Coupling. It doesn't belong on this list, but I always found it very odd that it was one of the few that had 'made it' over here.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      Yes, I've heard a lot of Americans say they love it. I think it was always promoted as Friends-ish, though I'm not sure how good a comparison that is.

  • http://twitter.com/redheadedgolem R.H. Golem

    It seems the Brits are embarassed by AYBS, but Americans love it. It's a throwback to the 'anything for a big laugh' era – and not the least bit pretentious. We had a visitor from Glasgow a few years ago that was shocked we would even consider watching it or 'Keeping Up Appearances'.

    I'm surprised to see 'One Foot in the Grave', but I must admit to trying to watch the complete series once, and abandoning the effort due to lack of genuine laughs.

    'My Hero' and 'My Family' were both terrible. I've always assumed 'My Hero' aired in the U.S. only to appease the demand for more 'Father Ted'.

    It should probably be mentioned that at least four of these were re-made as American sitcoms – one of which ran for four seasons.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      Ooh, which one was that? I can't keep up with all the remakes of US shows, but few of them seem to last long (so naturally, most Brits thought The Office remake was unnecessary and wouldn't be popular. Oops.)

      Yes, I can't imagine why anyone would watch KUA either, I have to say, but I've heard from a lot of Americans that they like it. I think a lot of the affection is due to it being different and thus more escapist, maybe?

  • http://www.facebook.com/luke.p.smith.7 Luke Punk Smith

    How can One Foot in The Grave, Are You Being Served, Two Pints and Allo Allo be considered among the worst? That's criminal. One Foot In The Grave especially is fantastic. And because American shows have a budget, does that make them less crap? How I Met Your Mother, for example, is one of the worst shows ever made.

    • http://blog.dianeshipley.com diane shipley

      Well, I'm with you on the latter, although I'd watch it over any of the shows above in a heartbeat.

  • WellIlikedit

    I disagree with Ello Ello being on this list. The
    “Are we a-loon? I wish to tick with you" line was spoken by a English spy who could speak French properly, even the other characters couldn't understand him. So whoever wrote this list hasn't watched this show or even done enough research

    • JesusShakespeare

      "Couldn't speak French properly" I think you mean. But mostly I agree with you. For precisely this very trick they did of conveying language via music hall accents.

  • Code

    This is easily the worst list that has been posted on the internet, anywhere, ever, in the history of internet lists.

  • http://twitter.com/fisforphantom f

    i watched Are You Being Served EVERY NIGHT on PBS when I was a kid! Loved it, but most of the jokes went over my head, I never figured out John Inman's character was gay, and when I was 15 I learned the show had been off the air for 20 years. Still was fun seeing Mrs. Slocum's hair be a different color each episode, though.

  • http://twitter.com/JMCanuck Jim

    You mustn't forget the ep of "Father Ted" where Ted and Dougall meet the Richard Wilson, the "One Foot…" lead, whom they refer to as the actor who played the lead in "that show on the telly", on a tour in Ireland and spend most of the episode trying to trick him into saying "I don't beLEEEEve it."

    It was all very meta and still not particularly funny.

  • HardAsIs

    Diane: I would watch every episode of all of these other sitcoms if it meant Are you being served? never existed. My Hero was a knife in my heart after Father Ted, so you know how seriously I mean that.

    Im a American kid whose parents loved British comedy and I was raised on it. I liked a lot of it (including, actually, one foot in the grave), but they LOVED My Family, My Hero and Summer Wine (which i had no idea had that kind of run). I still can't watch them.

  • HardAsIs

    To be fair to my parents, they also hated and despised are you being served. So there's that.

  • HardAsIs

    Ugh, not sure what happened to my last post, which was much longer.

    The gist was I would watch My Hero on a loop (even after Ardal broke my heart) if it meant Are You Being Served was never on this earth. My parents raised me on British comedy, and they loved Summer Wine, My Hero, and My Family (which I haaaaated). But they also got me into the good stuff, which is for another list.

    Count me in with the people who like One Foot, too. It seems out of place on the list, or at least the least cliched.

    • HardAsIs

      And now I've double, nay, triple posted. Like a jerk.

  • Hellmark

    There are definitely a few on here I disagree with, namely 'Allo 'Allo and Are You Being Served. My Hero definitely sucked though. I really wanted to like it, because O'Hanlon was great on Father Ted.

  • TooSoonTwo

    Another point against 'Allo 'Allo — as if it needs it — was that it stole shamelessly from Secret Army, a well-researched and often heartbreaking drama set in occupied France, and premiered while Secret Army was still on the air. If you need a metric for the tastelessness, picture Hogan's Heroes set in a death camp. Delightful.

  • Muscatred

    Every single one of these comedies had their merits (except 2 pints perhaps (i wasn't a fan)). The point is that you've chosen 10 comedies you didn't like when you were child, not 10 comedies that have obvious faults (apart from 2 pints, i really didn't like that show). Allo allo and are you being served are classic British farces. Last of the summer wine had characters that millions of people aged with. OFING gave a voice to a generation often overlooked by the media. Just because you don't like them, doesn't mean they were bad (except for 2 pints, that was just terrible).

  • mjz9022

    I've never seen so many comments on an article on this website.

  • Colin

    Little Britain was far worse than some of these. It was just the same lame jokes over and over.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Keith-Nield/100000337597061 Keith Nield

    I don't really agree with some on the list, One Foot in the Grave for instance, Allo Allo had its moments but it did drag on and Are You Being Served was a product of it's time and as such was really quite good. Notable omissions, personally I cannot stand Only Fools and Horses, but I know that it's very popular, I'd also plump for Absolutely Fabulous and Steptoe and Son, but again, they have classic status. So I'd nominate Never the Twain, Nearest and Dearest and Love thy Neighbour as particularly awful.

  • BritComFan

    Perhaps it's a generational thing. Certainly one must understand the British sense of humor to get the full gist of the BritComs as we're fond of calling them. Being a Dallas resident at the onset the BritVasion, I've seen more than my fair share through our PBS affiliate KERA – 40 years worth now. Many were abyssmal others. I found many of the older shows the funniest and the newer and younger casts less so, not unlike Saturday Night Live.

  • Maggie

    I so disagree with many on your list! When watching television, most people want escapism…for many this is through something that is totally nonsense! "Are You Being Served" is so very realistice of the retail industry, it goes beyond funny. Shows like "My Hero" and "Last of the Summer Wine" are pure escape. I only wish that the US would produce these type shows instead of those that promote other vile things like violence!

  • Silas

    We all have different tastes, thank goodness. But your personal dislike of a particular comedy or type of humour doesn't mean that a programme should never be seen. Judging by the huge viewing public of virtually all the programmes you've included in your list, I'd say that you are in the minority. I also believe you haven't much of an idea as to what British comedy is all about.

  • Janey E.

    Diane Shipley should go back to the US and watch American shite. She's got no idea.

  • MagikGimp

    The problem with this list is that you've chosen to make it 10 long, the unarbitrary value of 10 (commonly) disguising the fact that in my opinion it would have been better were it slightly shorter. While the majority should certainly be consigned to the dustbin of memory if you've ever had the misfortune to watch them, I wouldn't consider them all terrible. I won't go into detail on my personal choices but some started out fairly good and rapidly went downhill (My Family), at least two are fondly remembered so something must have been done right (OFinG, 'Allo 'Allo!, AYBS?, LotSW possibly) but On the Buses I whole heartedly agree is a depressingly miserable, dull, ugly, depraved, sexist, incredibly dated, 10-bus pileup of a programme even if it does have a famous catchphrase.

    The more you think about it though, there have been an awful lot of sitcoms made in this fair country of ours so perhaps a list of 10 isn't too long after all. There must be other examples more obscure, simply unacceptable these days or just lost in the mists of time to replace some on the list and it would be interesting to chase them out of their dismal depths, if only to hurriedly drop them back from whence they came for evermore.

  • CharlesR57

    I disagree entirely.
    If you don't like these shows maybe you don't understand Brit humour.

    I love most of these shows, they have a dry wit, and are free from cursing and sex.
    Nice clean humour.
    Just everyday life.

  • adrian

    "Two nations divided by a common language", as the saying goes! Several of these are solid classics… key to understanding what British sitcoms are all about. With some of them the crime was that they went on too long… the first series of Birds of a Feather was sharp and gritty, and Allo Allo was such a great concept. Last of the Summer Wine is something I find cringe-making, but I don't like Gilbert & Sullivan either, and they occupy similar (and undeniably important) positions in the British psyche). You're right about 2 Pints of Lager and My Hero, though.

    As wonderful as the Office and The Thick of It are, they're not typical of British sitcom (although the Office taps into the Fawlty/Partridge idea). Come back when you've watched every episode of Rising Damp, Porridge and the Likely Lads!

  • Magnus Thunderson

    'Allo 'Allo! does not belong on this list it 21 on the most popular list of British sitcoms which is impressive as it almost never been aired in the USA but on places like amazon it rated 5 stars

  • John Davison

    I super disagree with Father Ted being on the list. The last episode was notably duff but a lot of them were brilliant. But Americans probably wouldn't get it because their comedy tends to be gag based rather than character based.

  • kathryn

    Diane Shipley—oh, you either haven't a clue about British humour, or you are far too sophisticated and strive to rise above it.
    Could be your age though, as the simplicity of good, solid, down-to-earth humour as we once knew it has to all intents and purposes left the planet.
    Or, as may be the case, you are a colonial.
    I have lived in US for over 20 years and the sense of humour is certainly, to be polite, different.
    How can you not have loved Birds of a Feather, and, in it's time, On the Buses.

  • kathryn

    addendum: How can anyone states that Last of the Summer Wine was anything but superbly simplistic, with, believe it or not, real characters, and some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. I suppose I am biased having been born and bred in West Yorkshire. Old people can be funny too.
    I am surprised you haven't listed Steptoe and Son also…………but considering the abysmal attempt at an American version, say no more. Nod's as good as a wink.
    Bet you don't rate Monty Python very highly either.
    Ah, well, your loss.

  • Matthew Mackinder

    Do I agree with your list? No. Does that matter? Oddly enough…no. So looks like neither of us have changed one another's lives. In other words ,people need to not shit on her list or try and change her opinion cause at the end of the day it's (ready?) ….wait for it….a bloody list.

  • Higgs Boatswain

    Diane Shipley is of course perfectly free to fuck off back to the land that produces such gems as 'Community' and 'How I Met Your Mother.'

    If you don't understand 'Last of the Summer Wine,' you don't belong here. That is officially my immigration policy. If you can watch the geriatric adventures of Cleggy and Compo without breaking even a smile, you should be deported or executed or both because there is no trace of Britishness in your barren dried-up old soul.