8 of the Funniest BBC Comedies of All Time [Stuff to Watch]

Tim Brookes 11-06-2012

bbc comediesBritish comedy is typified by dry wit, slapstick visuals and strong comic actors. BBC comedy should, in theory, take the best of what is already a strong bunch and highlight the very best – and that’s what I’ve tried to do here.


I can’t help but apply a personal spin to these articles, and these are the shows I personally remember splitting my sides while I was growing up. Comedy doesn’t always age particularly gracefully, but all of these shows can still have me in fits of laughter to this day.


Lord Blackadder first graced screens in 1983 and soon became a hit comedy with a twist. The show eventually enjoyed four series, each set in a different period of history. Rowan Atkinson takes on the lead role of Blackadder, a scheming and sharp-witted prince determined to take the crown.

Locations include 1485 at the end of the middle ages, the late 1500s during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (affectionately known as “Queenie”), a period known as the Regency around 1800 and during the First World War in 1917 on the western front. While historical accuracy The 8 Best Fact-Checking Sites for Finding Unbiased Truth This is the age of misinformation and fake news. Here are the best unbiased fact-checking sites so that you can find the truth. Read More wasn’t the show’s key aim, it still did a good job of delivering jokes that would make your history teacher laugh.

Red Dwarf

Craig Charles, a man who became synonymous with battling robots, Coronation Street and class A drug use enjoyed his first real success as a comedy actor with Red Dwarf, a 1988 BBC sci-fi Reliable Wikipedia Alternatives to Search Accurate Information Even though Wikipedia is a good resource, it's not the best that the internet has to offer. You could be getting better results on different websites. Let's check some alternatives to Wikipedia. Read More misadventure initially set aboard the giant “Red Dwarf” mining spacecraft.

The show was a hit, ran for a total of 9 series and has recently been rebooted by commercial outlet UKTV for another full series after 13 years off the air. In a lesson in how not to spin-off a localised version of a classic, Universal produced a US version of the show in the early 90s with disastrous consequences.


Fawlty Towers

It may comes as a surprise that Fawlty Towers, being one of the most celebrated sitcoms the BBC has ever produced, only ever enjoyed two series of six episodes each. There’s actually a very good reason for this, and that’s because each episode took John Cleese (Basil) and Connie Booth (Polly) six weeks to write.

The finished product is highly demonstrative of this fact, with Basil becoming entwined in an elaborate mouse trap of a plot each week, producing some of Cleese’s finest performances 8 of the Best Monty Python's Flying Circus Sketches [Stuff to Watch] Very few other comedy troupes have broken as much new ground as Monty Python did when they were first broadcast on the BBC in 1969. Not only was the humour fresh, well-delivered and very, very... Read More on film.

One Foot In The Grave

Starring Richard Wilson in his most celebrated role as miserable old fart Victor Meldrew, One Foot In The Grave is one of those “when the penny drops” comedies that builds for much of each episode before the explosive – and hilarious – finale takes place.

It’s Victor’s rants and misfortune that provide the real punchlines, along with believable performances from his wife (Annette Crosby) and a neighbour who avoids him at all cost (Angus Deayton) . The American sitcom Cosby (starring Bill Cosby) was loosely based on the One Foot In The Grave premise.


The first two series of the show are one YouTube, you can watch the first here and the second here.

The Office

The Office was Ricky Gervais’ first big success in his role as David Brent, a clueless regional manager for paper merchants Wernham Hogg. The series was created, written and directed by Gervais and Steven Merchant and ran for a total of two top-notch series totalling 14 episodes.


Unlike Red Dwarf, The Office has enjoyed a very successful US spin-off starring Steve Carrel. It’s an entirely different show compared with the original, and that’s probably what makes it so good. There are also French, German, French Canadian, Chilean, Israeli and Swedish versions.

The Thick Of It

Political comedies often rely on the understanding of the audience, and while The Thick Of It is very clever in its own satirical way, it doesn’t require an intricate knowledge of the British political system in order to be enjoyed.


The show’s plot and style bares a striking resemblance to real-life political fumbles and gaffes, with clueless MPs and tyrannical decision makers creating some real foot-in-mouth moments. A joint effort between BBC Films and the UK Film Council 80 Fascinating Historical British WWII Propaganda Films [Stuff to Watch] Recently the British Council, an organization that focuses on educational and cultural importance, released a bounty of historical films produced during the Second World War for viewing online. These reels were produced to counter Nazi... Read More resulted in spin-off film In The Loop being released in 2009.

Only Fools and Horses

Only Fools And Horses holds the sitcom record for the highest number of viewers in any one episode at 24.3 million viewers in 1996. That’s over a third of the entire British population! Starring David Jason (Del Boy) and Nicholas Lyndhurst (Rodney) as brothers, the show follows the pair’s attempts to get rich quick from their Peckham flat.

It’s been hard to avoid the impact Del and Rodney have had on British culture, from the iconic yellow three wheeler (a Reliant Regal) to the cockney catchphrases and slang still used by children in schools up and down the country today.

I’m Alan Partridge

Feeding off the earlier success of The Day Today, a spoof BBC news program that I don’t have room to feature here, Steve Coogan took his Alan Partridge character to the next cringe-worthy level over two series of I’m Alan Partridge.

To briefly set the scene: imagine a greying middle-aged conservative micro-celebrity with an ego the size of BBC Television Centre ambling through life from one faux-pas to the next and you’re roughly there.

If you’re interested in watching some of these shows then you might want to consider subscribing to the BBC’s paid iPlayer service which is currently available in: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Australia and Canada.

Visit: BBC Worldwide iPlayer Home

Of course, if you live in the UK (and pay the licence fee) you can watch BBC iPlayer for free How To Watch TV On The Web With BBC iPlayer [Mainly UK Only] The Internet is becoming an increasingly important source for content of all media. There are legal and not-so-legal ways of listening to music, watching television and movies, playing games, and obtaining software. All via a... Read More .


This list has been kept rather orthodox and I’ve stuck to the mainstays. However if you’re willing to delve a little deeper into the BBC’s back catalogue then you’ll find shows like Nighty Night, Monkey Dust and Time Trumpet amongst classics like Are You Being Served? and Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em. If you’ve enjoyed this list then don’t forget to add your favourite BBC comedies to the comments, below.

Related topics: BBC, Television.

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  1. James Sleigh
    July 12, 2016 at 12:22 am

    I'd say that "Yes Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister" are perfect comedies. "Good Neighbours" is remarkable too and very funny as is "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin." And let's not forget "Steptoe and Son".

    I am very attached to "Vital Spark" which is a wee gem of a series. I used to work for BBC TV drama dept and appreciate the care time and money they lavish on getting things just right.

    J F Sleigh.

  2. Roonie
    May 16, 2015 at 7:25 am

    It Crowd, Coupling and Goodness Gracious me are missing

  3. Carlps
    March 3, 2015 at 12:27 am

    Dave Allen.........Open All Hours.....The Two Ronnies.....Classics...........Completely scrub off Harry Worth and Mike and Bernie ( NOT )

  4. Steve Burstein
    February 14, 2015 at 4:51 am

    I heartily recommend that you check out Tony Hancock (HANCOCK'S HALF HOUR)and STEPTOE AND SON(The series that Sanford and Son is based on), and then TILL DEATH US DO PART(The original version of All in the Family. Hancock and Steptoe are brilliant observational comedies by Galton and Simpson. Till Death's Alf Garnett is not unlike Python's "Gumby".

  5. Digoz
    February 3, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    I know im a little late but tell me how Coupling missed a mention there its by far the best ever ive seen from the Britz

  6. macwitty
    September 27, 2012 at 6:26 am

    Not to forget "To The Manor Born" with Penelope Keith

  7. Nicholas Henson
    June 17, 2012 at 1:27 am

    as Robin replied I'm surprised that a single mom can make $9107 in 1 month on the internet. did you look at this web page makecash16com

  8. blueonblue
    June 16, 2012 at 3:03 am

    how could you forget the following in the top 10

    Monty Python
    Keeping Up Appearances
    and are you being served is one of the Funniest shows ever.

    We don't get alot of BBC comedies here in the states, but these are funny as hell and yes I agree with you about Red Dwarf.

    Some that weren't funny--my hero and the cook--Lenny something and ABFAB! AWFUL!

  9. Jack Jenkins
    June 15, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Good list there! I'm Alan Partridge and Red Dwarf are both debatable in my opinion, but they are two classics that I know people do like,

    Nice to see The Thick of It getting in on the list!

  10. Marc
    June 15, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    If by Comedy you mean something that makes you laugh out load and try to remember it so you can tell your friends, something that you can watch clips over and over on YouTube and find it hilarious each time then I strongly recommend QI or Quite Interesting with Stephen Fry.

    Case in point I just spend over 30 minutes on YouTube watching clips to pick one out, but they are all good.

    Here's a starting point:

  11. Hasitha Chaturanga
    June 15, 2012 at 2:43 am


  12. dasfunk
    June 15, 2012 at 2:35 am

    I guess I'm in the extreme minority - I thought The Kumars at Number 42 was quite clever. Perhaps because the guy who lives across the street from me is the spitting image of the character Ashwin Kumar (the father). Naturally, he doesn't see any resemblance. Some of the guests stars seemed completely thrown by the gimmick, but Donny Osmond, of all people, was very much "in" on it, and much funnier than I ever would have imagined Donny Osmond could be.

  13. Victor Ong
    June 13, 2012 at 1:48 am

    You totally forgot the geekiest comedy ever: The I.T. crowd.

    • Tim Brookes
      June 13, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      It's good, I watch it, I admit it slipped my mind. While it's pretty geeky it does gloss over a lot of the tech stuff for RTFM jokes and social awkwardness references at times though.

  14. Timothy Sexton
    June 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Heou ve got the most annoying British actor of the decade, Gervais on here but no League of Gentlemen? That one fact disqualifies the entirety of the article. Go sell some pegs, Dave, because if you think Ricky Gervais is funnier than the Gents, you are in serious trouble. At least you had the good sense to include Alan Partridge. That still excuse you, however. Death by mao mao!!

    • Tim Brookes
      June 13, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      Trust me, there are so many comedies I'd like to have put down but you'd still be reading the list now if that was the case. League of Gentlemen is indeed funny, though I imagine for many it won't be laugh-out-loud funny like say Fawlty Towers.

      Also Gervais is hilarious, and I maintain that. His funniest work is his podcast, ideally season 1 & 2.

      • Timothy Sexton
        June 13, 2012 at 10:49 pm

        I do hope you realize my tone was meant to be tongue in cheek. Although my contention was serious. As a writer who actually received deaths threats for my Yahoo article suggesting the Star Wars prequels are better than the original trilogy I know what it's like to be sandbagged my crazies. Your classy reply indicates that you have dealt with enough of those types to recognize when someone is being playful. I do enjoy Gervais in small doses, but I honestly can't stand to sit through an entire episode. And anyone who doesn' tlaugh out loud at Papa Lazrou deserves my place in te stomach of a sarlaac.

  15. Cory Gordinier
    June 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    I'd say there's an argument for:
    A Bit of Fry and Laurie


    Top Gear. Maybe not *technically* a comedy, but pretty bloody comedic.

    • Tim Brookes
      June 13, 2012 at 10:43 pm

      Yeah Top Gear could probably be included on this list, though I'm sure it will fit in to another must-watch list somewhere! It is after all the BBC's most popular program.

  16. michel
    June 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    The Mighty Boosh.

  17. sickkid1972
    June 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    What? No mention of 'Porridge'?! Shome mishtake shurely?

  18. Eric Oudin
    June 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    'Yes, Minister', 'Yes, Prime Minister' and, in my opinion, the best of all 'Coupling'

  19. Mark O'Neill
    June 12, 2012 at 7:38 am

    Blackadder and Fawlty Towers is definitely the best of the lot, but as some of the others have said, let's not forget The Young Ones. Also, "Bottom" with Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson for those who like their comedy a bit more edgy and rude. ;-)

    I am also a huge fan of "Allo! Allo!" ("Listen very carefullee, I shall say this only wance"). Here in Germany, Fawlty Towers' "Don't Mention The War" scene is actually extremely popular (ironically) but I have never been able to get the Germans to laugh at Allo! Allo! Go figure.

    Last Of The Summer Wine is total crap (in my opinion) and Only Fools is totally over-rated.

    If you want some Scottish comedy, I highly recommend "Still Game". It captures Glasgow life perfectly and is absolutely wonderful. Also watch any of the material by Morecombe and Wise. Eric Morecombe was a comic genius and passed away too soon.

  20. Vipul Jain
    June 12, 2012 at 3:54 am

    Its bad that you missed The Inbetweeners.
    Its worse that you missed Coupling.
    And its the worst that you forgot The IT Crowd man.. :D

    As in ur list all fine but i personally never liked Fawlty Towers.. :/

    • Mark O'Neill
      June 12, 2012 at 7:39 am

      IT Crowd is not a BBC comedy. It was made by Channel 4.

      • Pete
        June 12, 2012 at 9:34 am

        And The Inbetweeners was also made by C4

        Fawtly Towers was also perfection, the IT Crowd just wasn't funny,

        I can't forgive the poster for not mentioning the Young Ones though, were you even around in the 80's?

        • Mark O'Neill
          June 12, 2012 at 9:39 am

          Well come on, Tim is never going to please everyone. Every person has their own unique tastes when it comes to comedy, and if every single comedy was mentioned, it would be a top 80 list or top 800 list. He just has to exercise his own judgement and narrow it down to a small list.

          The Young Ones was very funny but I know people who don't find it funny in the slightest. So everyone is different.

        • Vipul Jain
          June 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm

          Oh, i really believed till now that The IT Crowd was a BBC show.
          Anyhow Coupling sure is a BBC, and i agree with Mark on the point that any list about anything will always miss out someone's favorite.. :D

        • Tim Brookes
          June 13, 2012 at 10:45 pm

          Haha thanks Mark. The main issue is most of the comedies people are mentioning I watch and love! But yeah, it would be an incredibly long list if I had free reign...

  21. Beatle4
    June 12, 2012 at 3:37 am

    I was a bit surprised that "Last Of The Summer Wine" was not included in the list (maybe you should have made a top 25 list). Some of the stunts and situations by the characters on that show had me busting a gut everytime I watched it, especially if it involved Compo (played by the late Bill Owen)

    • Tim Brookes
      June 13, 2012 at 10:47 pm

      It's undeniably classic, but I know a lot of people who either never "got" it or just didn't find it funny in the slightest. It is a different breed of comedy, and by that I mean it's the sort of comedy that they just don't really make any more.

      Thanks for reminding me though, I remember Sunday evenings as a child punctuated by the Last of the Summer wine theme tune...

  22. john b
    June 12, 2012 at 3:23 am

    Granted...there really are so many choosing 8 is borderline impossible.
    but i'd have to include some like . Rising Damp, The Young Ones, Are you Being served and a more recent offering The It Crowd...

  23. General Melchett
    June 12, 2012 at 2:29 am

    Not even a mention of Monty Python's Flying Circus! Not exactly a sitcom, which I suspect is what you had in mind, but well worth a mention...

    In concurrance with the above, I'd also go for Yes Minister over The Thick of It. And The New Statesman - with Rik Mayall as Alan B'Stard - is worth the BBC licence fee just on its own!

    And what about the Young Ones?!! Essential viewing for anyone who wants to be a REAL student, surely?!

    Then there's Father Ted - Imagine three distinctly mediocre, but very different, Catholic priests sharing a parochial house on a God-forsaken island that the rest of Ireland has almost forgotten, and you'd be part-way there - but you'll still be amazed, to be sure...

    Oh, and Jeeves and Wooster (Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie - yes, the chap you Americans know as 'House'). Absolutely spiffing, old fruit!

    Those of a certain age (i.e. getting on a bit) might well appreciate Dad's Army. A million times better than Sergeant Bilko...
    Mind you, I'm only 33 (and not military) and I think it's great, so give it a try!

    I could go on - and I'm sure the author of this highly worthy article could have too! Seriously, give a few of these a try - There's so much more to comedy than bloody Friends and How I Met Your poxy Mother!

    p.s. Anything with Ronnie Barker in it's brilliant too.

    • Mark O'Neill
      June 12, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Definitely Yes Minister (and its sequel, Yes Prime Minister). The New Statesman was OK, not Mayall's finest performance, but not his worst either.

      With Jeeves and Wooster, I just want to pull my toe nails out if I have to watch that. I like Fry and Laurie but J&W is just.....uuurgh! Same with Dad's Army. It isn't funny in the slightest. BBC just uses it for filler material if they have to waste a half hour here or there.

      Father Ted isn't BBC made - it was made by Channel 4. Saying that, some parts are funny and some parts not. The jokes are rather hit and miss.

    • Allan
      June 12, 2012 at 6:42 pm

      The New Statesman was ITV not BBC.

  24. Eric Longman
    June 12, 2012 at 2:10 am

    One of my favorites: "The Young Ones" It was absolutely stupid and completely hilarious; ran for two seasons in the early 80's

    • spazzactin
      June 29, 2012 at 4:25 am

      Check it out.... I love the One Young Ones. Nobody, and I mean nobody has a clue about this show. You rock dude!!!!!

    • spazzactin
      June 29, 2012 at 4:26 am

      oooops i meant "the young ones"

  25. astrogirl
    June 12, 2012 at 2:09 am

    Awesome list! I'd also add Black Books, Spaced and Ab Fab.

    • Moody
      June 12, 2012 at 2:50 am

      Thanks, Astrogirl! Three must-list greats!

    • Mark O'Neill
      June 12, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Absolutely Fabulous is one of those shows that drives me to drink. Maybe I just have an aversion to Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders.

      I tried watching Black Books not so long ago and just couldn't get into it. I like Bill Bailey but this show just didn't appeal to me.

    • Allan
      June 12, 2012 at 6:42 pm

      Black Books and Spaced were Channel 4 not BBC.

      • astrogirl
        June 12, 2012 at 9:59 pm

        Oh, oops! I should have checked that first. Most british comedy aired on the same station here in Australia, so I tend to lump them all into the same one. :)

    • Tim Brookes
      June 13, 2012 at 10:49 pm

      Spaced is bloody brilliant and one of my all-time favourites! Thanks for the reminder. If you have the DVD and turn the alternate subtitles on it tells you which movie is being referenced in the current scene. Practically every single scene has at least one reference to a famous movie, try it!

  26. Bruce Epper
    June 12, 2012 at 1:59 am

    At least you did mention Are You Being Served? in your conclusions, but you still completely missed Keeping up Appearances.

    • Steph
      June 12, 2012 at 2:30 am

      I couldn't agree more. I love Keeping Up Appearances!

    • Tim Brookes
      June 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm

      Ah I've never been a massive fan of Mrs Bucket, but I must say it is a classic so thanks for pointing it out.

    • blueonblue
      June 16, 2012 at 3:10 am

      I love keeping up appearances here in the states, and agree Monty Python should have been included, and if that is the case, then Benny Hill needs to be added. I never got into Allo Allo, Yes Minster, Last of the Summer wine or Vicar of Dibley and AbFAb made me gag. Some of the shows you guys mention I have never heard of here in the US. We don't get a lot of your older comedies.

      But everyone has forgotten one of the FUNNIEST of all time. It starred one of the characters from Red Dwarf--BRITTAS EMPIRE! MY all time favorite Britcom!

  27. Tim Childers
    June 12, 2012 at 1:14 am

    Great list, but you totally missed Yes, Minister. Definitely one of the funniest comedies of all time!