It has been a while since I have posted on here. Now I am a bit less busy than I was so I think it is high time for a bit of blogging.
I may (or perhaps may not) have mentioned on this blog last summer that there was a film crew on my university campus, filming a new sitcom called… Campus. Anyway, after months of waiting, Campus has finally arrived on the small screen. You can see the first two episodes on 4oD here. Since I walked through a few scenes during filming, there is a chance that I may feature in an episode. Please let me know if you spot me!
I have to admit, since I came up with the idea for this list, I have been torn as to which order my top two British sitcoms would be in. Whilst it was very close, I have finally made up my mind.
Number two – Blackadder
As a series, Blackadder is set across six centuries of British History. The first series depicts the end of the Middle Ages, the fourth (and final) series depicts the trenches of the First World War. Along the way we get the chance to visit a number of other notable periods in history, including the Elizabethan era and the Regency period. Despite the vast timescale over which this sitcom is set, the two central characters (Edmund Blackadder and Baldrick) remain the same. As the series progress, these two characters represent the descendants of the ones that have gone before. In each series, Edmond Blackadder is a member of the ruling class and associates himself with some very notable figures in British history. From the second series onwards (which is when I started watching), his sole focus is to improve his own lot in life. To do this he will use any means, no matter how deceitful or cowardly. Baldrick on the other hand is Blackadder’s servant. Whilst Blackadder is clever and cunning, Baldrick is incredibly stupid (the roles are somewhat reversed in the first series). Also accompanying Blackadder in each series is an aristocrat whose pomposity far outweighs their intelligence.
I think perhaps that of all the British sitcoms on this list, Blackadder is the one that would get onto most other people’s top ten list. The reason for this is that unlike many of the sitcoms I have listed, Blackadder has an almost universal appeal. The star of the show is of course Blackadder himself and it is from him that most of the laughs (usually via some desperate attempt to gain riches or avoid death) come. A wealth of remarkable supporting characters including Queen Elizabeth I, Melchett and Lord Flashheart make this a truly complete comedy package.
You can buy all four series of Blackadder here.
At number three is a cult comedy that I have loved since I was about twelve years old.
Number three – Red Dwarf
Red Dwarf is set on a mining spaceship in deep space 3,000,000 years in the future. The main character is Dave Lister who, due to a radiation accident on board the spaceship (from which he was protected), is the last remaining human in the universe. Accompanying Lister is a bunch of eccentric misfits. Arnold Rimmer was responsible for the radiation accident that killed the rest of the crew; including himself. Rimmer was resurrected as a hologram by the ship’s onboard computer (Holly) to keep Lister sane. This is despite the fact both men despise each other. Cat is a humanoid that, over 3,ooo,ooo years, has evolved from the cat that Listed illegally stowed onto the spaceship. Kryten is a mechanoid who is rescued by the crew in Series Two from a crashed spaceship upon which he served. Finally is Kristine Kochanski, a navigation officer originally killed in the radiation accident who was found in an alternative dimension in Series Seven.
Like all good comedies, Red Dwarf is all about the main characters and the relationships between them. What really makes Red Dwarf stand out from other British comedies however, are the unique situations in which the crew often find themselves. The science fiction setting (which is taken very seriously by the show) allows Red Dwarf to explore such themes as time travel, artificial realities and parallel universes. Perhaps the only real criticism that I can level at Red Dwarf are the inconsistencies between series, with the Eighth Series perhaps not as funny as the rest. I am pleased to hear that recently, another series (the first full series since the Eighth Series in 1999) has recently been announced for 2012.
You can buy all eight series of Red Dwarf here.
Straight in at number four is the oldest entry in my list.
Number four – Fawlty Towers
Inspired by an incredibly rude hotel owner, the main character is Basil Fawlty. Basil is a snob, regarding himself to belong to the upper class of British society. Thus, whilst he pampers to the every whim of the hotels more discernible guests, he is very rude to just about everyone else. Sybil Fawlty is Basil’s wife. Being the only person Basil is afraid of, it is often up to her to keep him under control. In stark contrast to her husband, Sybil is good at dealing with customers and at making sure things get done around the hotel. The other two main characters are Polly the maid and Manual the waiter (from Barcelona!).
First made over 35 years ago, Fawlty Towers is the oldest sitcom on my list. It is also the shortest, lasting just 12 episodes (six hours). Sure, it has aged and of course, I wish there had been more of it. However, despite its age and brevity, Fawlty Towers remains a classic to this day. Most importantly, it is still as funny as it ever was. I have perhaps watched each episode more times than any other sitcom. That has got to say something.
You can buy both series of Fawlty Towers here.
Now we are into the top half of my list. At number five is a the programme voted Britain’s Best Sitcom in 2004.
Number five – Only Fools and Horses
Only Fools and Horses follows the ups and (more often) downs of two brothers living on a council flat in London. Del Boy is the older of the two brothers. He is a quick-witted market trader who is always living on the edge of the law. Despite his frequent excursions into petty crime, Del’s underdog status makes him a likeable character. Rodney is the younger of the two brothers and was raised by Del from an early age. Due to his lack of common sense and naivety, Rodney often finds himself drawn into Del’s many ill-fated schemes. During the first four series, Del and Rodney were joined by Grandad. The actor playing Grandad however died during the filming of the fourth series. From then onwards, Uncle Albert accompanied the two brothers.
Whilst Only Fools and Horses started off slowly, latter series achieved very high ratings, peaking at 24.3 million viewers (over one-third of the UK population). The show’s popularity is reflected in it being voted as Britain’s Best Sitcom. It also features what is often regarded as one of the funniest moments on British TV (below). If all that wasn’t enough, Only Fools and Horses is credited for making popular a number of words. These include cushty, lovely jubbly (both are expressions of approval) and plonker (a light-hearted insult meaning wally).
You can buy all seven series of Only Fools and Horses here.