This is a summary of some of the many great British comedy television programmes from the same era as Fawlty Towers.

Classic British Comedy Shows

I've probably forgotten a few crackers so will add them in due course. If you would like to write a brief bit about any other shows that should be listed here, send it in and I'll put it on this page.

Situation Comedies

The number in brackets after the title of each show denotes its final placing in the great Britain's Best Sitcom travesty of 2004. Fawlty Towers was voted fifth!

Rising Damp (27 — should have been top ten)
They don't make them like this anymore. A real classic which is often repeated on TV. Leonard Rossiter played Rupert Rigsby, a tight-fisted landlord who was forever trying to get his grubby paws on Miss Jones who rented a room in his dingy block of flats. Alan (played by Richard Beckinsale), and Philip (played by Don Warrington) who was often subjected to racist slurs by Rigsby, were the other two permanent lodgers. Rising Damp Link — Very Good Site
Hi-De-Hi (40)
Not one of my favourites. Set in a fictional holiday camp called Maplins, the similarities to real British holiday camps like Butlins and Pontins were obvious. Most episodes were annoyingly punctuated by the chalet maid, who's name escapes me, announcing “I want to be a Yellowcoat”. Not the most memorable of the classic British comedies. Hi-De-Hi Link
Love Thy Neighbour (68)
This would never make it onto our screens today due to the dialogue which was definitely not politically correct. It featured a black couple living next door to a white couple and the white male was a bit colour-prejudiced to say the least. To be fair, the black gentleman gave as good as he got but, although you are never likely to see it repeated on the box, it is interesting to note how times and attitudes have changed. Love Thy Neighbour Link
Last of the Summer Wine… (14)
…followed the “adventures” of three gents from different social backgrounds who—strangely—hung around together in a small town in t’North of England. Compo (the tramp) spent his time leching after Nora Batty in her wrinkled stockings. I could never understand why this series lasted so long. Last of the Summer Wine Link — Very Good Site
Are You Being Served? (20)
Grace Bros was a quintessential English department store complete with camp gents’ outfitter played by John Inman. Every gents tailoring department had to have at least one camp member of staff and preferably two. Oooh, suits you, Sir. Also starred Mollie Sugden, and Wendy Richards who went on to play Pauline Fowler in Eastenders. We never did get to see Mrs Slocombe’s infamous pussy—thank God! ;-) Hasn’t stood the test of time the way that some other classic British comedy has—the show not Mrs Slocombe’s pussy. Are You Being Served Link — Very Good Site
Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em (22)
Superb stuff, good clean fun, one of my favourite classic British comedy and a must see when it is repeated. Michael Crawford was brilliant as Frank Spencer, getting laughs from a mere facial expression or subtle body language. Most of the episodes featured this simpleton with a heart of gold stumbling from one mishap into another, often oblivious to the chaos developing all around him and his long-suffering wife Betty, played by Michele Dotrice.
One of my favourite comedy scenes is Frank careering wildly out of a roller skating rink followed by some frighteningly funny stunts (done by Michael) including hurtling on roller skates under a moving lorry. Some Mothers Link — Very comprehensive and detailed site.
Porridge (7)/Going Straight
Another good un. Ronnie Barker played “habitual criminal” Norman Stanley Fletcher serving time along with cellmate Lenny Godber played by Richard Beckinsale. Lovable rogue Fletcher spent his days bending every rule in a battle of wits with the “screws” P.O. Mackay and Mr Barraclough. A half-decent feature film was made and a follow-up series named Going Straight followed Fletch's fortunes after release from Slade Prison but it was never as successful as the original series. Porridge Link
Citizen Smith (57)
Wolfie Smith played by Robert Lindsay was the leader of the Tooting Popular Front in this political-themed comedy series. The fact that the Tooting Popular Front only consisted of Wolfie and a couple of his co-layabouts meant that the planned Revolution never got off the ground. Radical lefty Smith's catchphrase was “Power to the people”. I was a bit young when this series was shown so didn't really understand it. Citizen Smith Link
Open All Hours (8)
Another popular series starring Ronnie Barker and also a youngish David Jason playing shopkeeper and assistant in a neighbourhood corner shop in a grim Northern town. A cash register with a tendency to try and take the fingers off anyone using it and trying to get laughs at the expense of people with speech impediments were the “highlights” of Open All Hours. It's Grim Up North. It was in this series. Open All Hours Link
Only Fools and Horses (1)
Up there with Fawlty Towers and a select few others, Only Fools and Horses is a British institution and eternally popular. The adventures of Del Boy Trotter and his brother Rodney in their ultimately futile quests to beat the system and make a fast buck have made some of the biggest audiences on British television for comedy shows. David Jason as Del Boy and Nicholas Lindhurst as plonker Rodney have given us some truly great moments as two shining diamonds in the black economy. The chandelier scene, Del Boy falling through an open bar top and the Batman and Robin scene from an Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special were just some of many, many classic moments in British comedy. Only Fools and Horses Link — Good Site
The Likely Lads (23) and its sequel Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads
The eponymous Likely Lads were Terry Collier (played by James Bolam), and Bob Ferris (Rodney Bewes); two working-class young men from Tyneside in the North-East of England. The Likely Lads and its sequel Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads was a cracking programme with a great theme tune and one of my all time favourite comedies from the seventies. Booze, birds and following the fortunes of Newcastle United FC were the three pastimes of these two young lads living in an era when life seemed a lot simpler and probably was. Well worth watching if you can catch the occasional repeats, although unfortunately a lot of the master copies of episodes are lost. And if you ever want to know Bob Ferris's middle name, his full name is Robert Andrew Scarborough Ferris! Likely Lads Link
The Good Life (9)
A popular sitcom based around two neighbouring couples somewhere in suburban middle-England. Not one of my favourites and I don't think I have ever watched more than ten minutes of it. Unlikely to have appealed to fans of real classics like the Likely Lads or Only Fools and Horses. Shown under the title Good Neighbors when it was shown in the USA. Good Life Link
Robin's Nest (85)
The Robin's Nest of the title referred to a small café/restaurant owned by Robin played by Richard O'Sullivan. Robin's Nest was one of two spin-offs from Man About The House, the other being George and Mildred. Robin's Nest ran for six series. Robin's Nest Link

Sketch Shows

Benny Hill
Poor Benny disappeared from our screens when the political correctness movement grew in the mid 1980s. A lot of Benny Hill sketches involved him chasing women in skimpy clothes—most of them cliches like nympho nurses etc. Benny Hill Link
Dick Emery
I’m not sure what the people responsible for commissioning shows on TV nowadays would make of Dick Emery, because a lot of his characters were brilliantly camp, but he is another great favourite of mine. What comes as a surprise to most people is just how long the Dick Emery Show ran for — eighteen years. His character Hettie was brilliant to watch as she foisted herself on yet another unwilling man (anything in trousers did the trick) and asking them her catchphrase “Are you married?” In one episode she even tried breaking in to a prison after hearing that some of the men inside hadn't seen a woman for years! Dick Emery was a great comic actor and all of his many guises were played to perfection. A feature film based on the show was also made with Dick cleverly managing to work all of the well-known characters (played by himself) from the series into the plot, an unusual technique that worked surprisingly well. Top drawer British comedy. Dick Emery Link
Morecambe and Wise
Slightly poorer relations (IMHO) to the best comedy duo which was the Two Ronnies. You will occasionally get a Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special repeated at Christmas (funnily enough). Morecambe and Wise Link
Two Ronnies
The Two Ronnies was, like (Eric) Morecambe and (Ernie) Wise, more of a sketch show with Ronnie Corbett (the other being Ronnie Barker of course) doing his popular bit at the end from his chair. Most people were in agreement that the Two Ronnies were superior to Eric and Ernie with the Two Ronnies’ clever sketches played to perfection. Ronnie Barker truly was one of the all time greats of British comedy. Whether it was comedy acting in Porridge, or alongside his partner Ronnie Corbett in famous sketches like the well-known “four candles or fork handles”, you knew you were watching a master at work. Did you know the original script for the Fork Handles sketch sold for £48,500 in late 2007? Two Ronnies Link
Back to the top