Here's a list of my top 5 favorite British comedy shows from the 1960s to the 1990s. I still watch these, as they are timeless: as good today as they were when they were first aired. If you haven't seen these, you are in for a treat. Watch them with friends and family. You will laugh your heads off!
5. Morecambe & Wise
"Bring me sunshine, in your smile, bring me laughter, all the while..."
Morecambe & Wise was one of my favorite and funniest comedy shows. It aired on British telly from 1961 to 1983. They aired for 19 series and a total of 169 episodes.
Eric Morecambe played the fool to Ernie Wise. The way they often mocked their guest stars became legendary. The Morecambe & Wise Christmas Shows were a welcome treat on Christmas Day in the UK, along with the Queen's Speech. Each of their Christmas specials had over twenty million viewers. Their final piece of work for television, a 90 minute comedy thriller called Night Train To Murder, was aired on January 3, 1985.
If you have not seen this zany duo in action before, then find some clips on YouTube. I'm sure you'll love it and watch it with all your friends and family for hours of endless laughter.
4. Steptoe & Son (USA version created as Sanford and Son)
Steptoe & Sonwere"Rag& Bone" men (meaning "scrap merchants"), which was a common sight in the UK many moonsago. They went around with their horse and cart and collected scrap for resale and recycling.
Characters Albert Steptoe (played by Wilfred Brambell - best known in the USA for his role in the Beatles film "Help") and his son Harold (played by Harry H. Corbett) were an amazingly funny team. The show ran for 4 series on the BBC from 1962 to 1965 and another further series from 1970 to 1974. There is rumour that politicians delayed the voting deadline (if it happened to be on the same evening as a new episode) so that people could watch this show first and then vote; that's how popular it was.
Basically, Harold goes out and "does the business" while Albert stays at home and doesn't do much of anything. Harold really wants to go off and live his own life, but Albert always manages to block his ambitions.
Because the show was so popular, it was cloned into a USA version as Sanford & Son.
3. Fawlty Towers
Fawlty Towers was inspired by a very rude hotel manager that John Cleese met while filming with the Monty Python team. The sitcom had 2 series with 6 episodes each for a total of 12 episodes, and aired from 1975-1979. The show is endlessly watchable, over and over, and should go over well when viewing with a group of people. The setting is a pretty ordinary looking 'hotel', where Fawlty is always trying to add a touch of class to everything he does. With disastrous results!
Fawlty's antics include trying to hide a rat from a hygiene inspector, keeping a dead customer hidden and pretending that his wife Sybil is ill to a group of friends on their anniversary, when in fact she left him.
The most likeable character is Manuel the waiter, played by Andrew Sachs. Manuel is more than just a foreign idiot; he was innocent and always trying his best to please his boss. Somehow he always ended up being pushed around by Basil on a frequent basis.
2. Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python's Flying Circus was a sketch show starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones. It featured animations created by Terry Gilliam. There were 4 series with a total of 46 episodes, which aired from 1969-1974 on BBC1.
The show was unique in many ways, and seemed a bit haphazard, with many sketches abandoned before reaching a satisfying conclusion.
It included some of the best moments of British TV comedy - the 'Dead Parrot' sketch, the 'Nudge, nudge' sketch, the Lumberjack song, the Ministry of Silly Walks, etc.
After the last television series finished, the Monty Python team made some very funny films (The Life Of Brian, The Meaning Of Life, etc.).
1. Grace and Favour (also known as Are You Being Served, Again)
No matter what anyone else says, this is my all-time favorite British TV comedy show. I watch an episode every week, just because I never grow tired of the funny characters; it's like having a second eccentric family in your living room. Even true Brits may not be aware that this show was a continuation of the wildly popular Are You Being Served, which had a long run from 1972-1985. Grace and Favour ran for 2 series with 6 episodes each for a total of 12 episodes, aired from 1992-1993.
In Grace and Favour, the department store head, Young Mr Grace, has died while scuba diving in the Caribbean. He's left all of his money to a charity for 'fallen' women, so the Grace Brothers store has to close down because of lack of funds.
The staff find out that Young Mr Grace had used the staff pension fund money to buy a rundown country house, Millstone Manor. Mrs Slocombe (Mollie Sugden), Mr Humphries (John Inman), Miss Brahms (Wendy Richard), Captain Peacock (Frank Thornton) and Mr Rumbold (Nicholas Smith) visit the manor house and decide to open it as a hotel.
Getting a new hotel up and running proves to be much more difficult than the ex-shopworkers expected. Not to mention, learning to milk the cow to get fresh milk, or plant potatoes with a smoke spewing tracker, or the farmer's daughter wanting to sleep with gay Mr Humphries to stay warm, or Mrs Slocombe always trying to find her pussy (cat).
They are helped (or hindered) by the caretaker and farmer, Maurice Moulterd (Billy Burden) and his daughter Mavis (Fleur Bennett).
There are so many good classic British TV comedy shows that I really should mention a few others that I've really enjoyed while growing up in England. Here are a few, in no particular order.
- The Benny Hill Show
- On the Buses
- Dad's Army
- The Two Ronnies
- Carry On Laughing
- Only Fools and Horses
So, what is your favorite classic British TV comedy show? Have you watched any or all of the shows mentioned in this article? Do you still watch them? Share a few stories and laughs.