Top Ten British Comedy series

6 08 2011

Having just had a trip down memory lane at Digitized Graffiti, I felt an urge to reminisce about British comedy series.

Comedy has been a strong theme for British television series, and thank goodness they have moved on from painfully predictable sexual innuendo (Benny Hill Show, Carry On Movies, St Trinian’s) and racism (Love They Neighbour) as the sources of humour.

Here are some of my favourites.

1. The Good Life

I loved the alternative lifestyle of Tom and Barbara, who set up a sustainable farm in their backyard in the middle of a high-class London neighbourhood, much to the distress of their neighbours and friends, the posh Jerry and Margo. Good natured humour in the clash of lifestyles.

2. The Goodies

Originally targeted at adults, this is a great bizarre show for children with lots of slapstick humour. Bill Oddie, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor were the Goodies, an unemployed troupe hiring themselves out for any jobs. They travelled on a three-seater bicycle. A giant kitten, a Yorkshire-based martial arts group “Ecky-Thump” taking over the world, the British Olympic team in the Arctic Circle Olympics (they melted the arctic ice sheet with spotlights – before their time), the Bun-fight at the OK Tea Rooms. Physical gags abound. This link is to the theme song, there are lots of episodes on Youtube.

3. Monty Python’s Flying Circus

You either like Monty Python or you don’t. Either way, it was a ground-breaking series in many ways – the use of animation, the comments on society, the musical humour and the very abstract humour (the fish-slapping dance). Launched a number of movies and a number of careers.

4. Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy

Not as good as the books but so much better than the movie. It would be hard to translate Douglas Adams’ witty prose onto a screen but this is cleverly done with graphics and voice-overs so that the essential parts of the plot are not lost. Except that Trillian is blond on the TV series and brunette in the books.

5. Blackadder

All five series and the specials, but particularly the second. If you haven’t seen Blackadder, you are missing out. I can’t speak highly enough about it.

6. The Young Ones

Four poverty-stricken students sharing a house-sit : Rik Mayall as Cliff Richard fan and would-be anarchist Rick, Adrian Admondson as medical student and violent punk Vyvyan, Nigel Planer as mild hippie Neil, and Christopher Ryan as Italian lothario Mike. Cameo appearances by Alexei Sayle as the landlord Jerzei Balowski. Guest appearances by some of Britain’s most prominent comedians, and musical interludes by bands from the 1980s.

7. Absolutely Fabulous

Absolutely fabulous! I loved this show so much I can almost quote most of the scenes. Patsy was glamorous, but Edina had so much more fun. And Saffy was the perfect “straight-woman”. If only there were more.

8. Red Dwarf

Dave Lister, the last human known alive, Arnold Rimmer, a hologram of his former room-mate and so-cool Cat, a hip humanoid that evolved from Lister’s former cat’s kittens, are trapped on the Red Dwarf spaceship, roaming the universe with the aid and abetting of the ship-board computer, Holly. (Holly becomes Kryten in series three). What the smeg?

9. Keeping Up Appearances

With the inimitable and determinedly upwardly-mobile Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet!) and her long-suffering husband, neighbours and various lower-class relatives. I once travelled down the Nile on a boat with a woman exactly like Hyacinth. Hysterical on television, nightmare in real life.

10. The IT Crowd

Two nerds, one goth and a failed corporate executive live in the bowels of the corporate headquarters, the IT section, at the beck and call of the sleazy erratic boss and other more important sections of the corporation.

11. Black Books

Three misfits (always misfits!) trying to make a go of a book shop and its neighbouring bric-a-brac shop. Alcoholic and and belligerent bookshop owner Bernard Black (Dylan Moran), his much-abused assistant Manny Bianco (Bill Bailey) and neighbouring shop owner Fran Katzenjammer (Tamsin Greig).

12. The Vicar of Dibley

Dawn French is the first female vicar assigned to a parish in a remote town of bizarre and somewhat interbred characters. She keeps her sanity and woos passing men.

13. Mr Bean.

Beloved of small children, this mime-based comedy offering from Rowan Atkinson translated to the Big Screen and an international audience. My children insisted I had to put this one in the list. I vastly prefer the series over the cartoon.

14. Fawlty Towers

Starring John Cleese of Monty Python fame, Connie Booth, Prumnella Scales and Andrew Sachs. Socially inept and acciednt-prone Basil Fawlty and his long suffering wife run a bed and breakfast hotel where victims – sorry guests – are subjected the Basil’s strange personality and misunderstandings. If you love Monty Python you will already know this one!

***

Notable Absence: Yes, The Goon Show. I am too young to know this one!!! But I am told it was a classic and completely changed comedy.

OK – there’s my list. I don’t claim it is exhaustive, I’m sure there are many more I have left out. And yes, I did notice that my “top ten list” blew out to fourteen and a notable mention.

Which ones are your favourites?

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4 responses

7 08 2011
Quora

What are the best comedies in the history of television?…

Thrilled to see some British comedies in there –  so many of these lists are all US and often the shows haven’t made it to Australia.  My list of favourite British comedies ie here:https://mudmap.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/top-ten-british-comedy-series/

29 08 2011
Colm Hogan

Great List! Thanks for the shout out!

7 10 2011
thebozzman

Here you go. My top ten in no particular order:

Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, Father Ted, Peep Show, The Young Ones, I.T. Crowd, Monty Python, Red Dwarf, Pheonix Nights, League of Gentleman

If you’re a big fan of British comedy, try your hand at the quiz on my blog post: http://thebozzman.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/british-tv-comedy-gold-quiz-round/

8 10 2011
Mudmap

thanks – couple of those I am not familiar with (Pheonix Nights, League of Gentlemen – maybe they haven’t come to Australia yet?) but completely agree with the rest!

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