Ganymede & Titan

Sit-com Shortlist

Auntie Beeb has announced the interim results of its Britain's Best Sitcom vote. Phase One is over, and a shortlist of fifty shows has been made. These will be counted down in a three-hour special on BBC TWO on Saturday, January 10th, which will be hosted by Jonathan Ross. Then, the top ten programmes will each be given their own little documentary, and the public will use this to decide on their vote for the best sit-com of all time.

You know the deal. It's like Great Britons and The Big Read. But with sit-coms. It's either a fascinating and memory-jogging televisual debate, or an excuse to fill up a load of Saturday nights with rather cheap telly. You can guarantee that there'll be something annoying said about every programme featurred, and one of the celebrity documentarians is David pissing Dickinson.

The Top 50 list is not yet on BBCi, for some reason, so here it is:

My Family? Fuck off. If you're after more Dwarfy connections, we could mention that Chris Barrie has been in Blackadder and The Young Ones (as has Norman Lovett), Robert Llewellyn was in an episode of Bottom, and Ab Fab's Jane Horrocks played Nirvana Crane in Holoship. And I'm sure there's a shitload more connections, feel free to point them out below. Quite why Waiting For God has got it's own entry is beyond me; it's just a Series I episode.

It was fairly inevitable, and rather pleasing, that Red Dwarf has made it to the Top 50, but don't hold out much hope of it being in the Top Ten. It's rather a culty show, after all, and I can't see the type of people who vote on these types of things choosing it over Only Fools and Horses, Fawlty Towers, Dad's Army, Blackadder and, sigh, The Office. Although, riddle me this... The last two episodes of The Office were watched by 6.5 million people and 5.5 million people respectively. However, both Series VII and VIII of Red Dwarf kicked off with over eight million viewers, despite being on the supposed minority channel BBC TWO, and without a quarter of the advertising and hype given to The Office. YOU CAN'T ARGUE WITH FACTS.


No New Statesman? Whoops Apocalypse? Hot Metal?

Still, generally the best 50 have made it through.

However, KYTV is more of a sitcom than The League of Gentlemen, and that wasn't even eligible for nomination for no given reason, even though it's clearly amazing and clearly a sitcom.

Posted by Darrell Jones at December 30, 2003 09:08 PM

Oh, and Happy Families, the unbelievably perfect and stunning Ben Elton masterpiece which guest-starred both Chris Barrie and Norman Lovett, not to mention the series 2 budget going to make some sitcom about gnomes or something.

Posted by Darrell Jones at December 30, 2003 09:09 PM

Nice to see Brittas in the top 50.

Posted by Darrell Jones at December 30, 2003 09:16 PM

Based on that list, ideally I'd like the following to happen:

1) One Foot in the Grave
2) Blackadder
3) Fawlty Towers
4) Father Ted
5) Only Fools and Horses
6) Red Dwarf
7) Men Behaving Badly
8) The Brittas Empire
9) The Young Ones
10) The League of Gentlemen

I'll stop posting now, because (a) I'm flood-posting here, and (b) I only put Dwarf at 6...

Posted by Darrell Jones at December 30, 2003 09:21 PM

That's a damn good list, actually. The only ones I'd disagree with are LOG (I enjoy it, but it's not in the same league as the others), and OFAH (which isn't fair, as I've hardly watched any episodes).

I'd probably go with Bottom and Yes Minister to replace them. But I haven't got a particuarly wide knowledge of sitcoms, so it's really just what I know I like, rather than what's great.

Posted by John Hoare at December 31, 2003 07:04 AM

Colin's Sandwich isn't there, but that's not surprising, seeing as it's one of the great forgotten sitcoms.

Posted by Tanya Jones at December 31, 2003 10:52 AM

That's one hell of a top 50..Apart from a few, I have enjoyed watching them over the years..I'm not keen on LOG nor AbFab but really liked waiting for God...The only one I really detest is
Goodnight Sweetheart,There was something about that, that made me want to Puke,In my view the Most contrived pile of garbage ever to get shown..I'm delighted Reggie Perrin made it along with Dwarf and Brittas..My own top ten would be:
Red Dwarf
Reggie Perrin
One Foot in the Grave
Father Ted
The Young Ones
Fawlty Towers
Dads Army
But maybe not in that order.

Posted by Cpt-D at December 31, 2003 11:00 AM

OFAH shouldn't win as its the most over rated programme ever

Posted by Drzymala at December 31, 2003 11:47 AM

Surely, That's a matter of opinion...With voting from the Radio Times, Phone and Internet Voting, I would hope we get a more varied cross section of votes than in most polls...

Posted by Cpt-D at December 31, 2003 01:43 PM

I chose LoG as a space-filler as there were only 9 on the list that grabbed me. Also because LoG series 3 contains some of the best comedy I've ever seen. It's not a sitcom, though.

I'd love to see Colin's Sandwich, as I think Mel Smith is *fantastic*. It's one of those 'try to get hold of when I've managed to get everything on my wants list' shows.

Oh, and John - I demand you watch series 2-4 of Only Fools! You won't regret it!

Posted by Darrell Jones at December 31, 2003 08:02 PM

I meant series 2, 3 and 4, in case that looked like 'series 2, episode 4'.

Posted by Darrell Jones at December 31, 2003 08:49 PM

Cpt-D, I never said it wasn't a matter of opinion, so whats your point?

Posted by Drzymala at January 1, 2004 10:28 AM

THANK GOD! One of my other favourite sitcoms hasnt been forgotten. 2.4 Children was excellent. The BBC have forgotten this sitcom completley! My Family has taken over, and it is great, but id love to see some repeats of 2.4 Children on BBC One. Its so sad that the father 'Ben' played by Gary Olsen died in 2001.
All of my top ten are in the top 50! Yey!

Posted by Thomas A Evans at January 1, 2004 12:26 PM

Can you actually see Red Dwarf making the final 10 of this?

With the celeb speaker going on about the show and why they like it etc. I just can't see it. Frustrating I can imagine having some complete moron insist why "The Office" is worthy of being classed the greatest sit-com ever.

Posted by TBA at January 1, 2004 02:17 PM

Fawlty Towers will win methinks

Posted by Drzymala at January 1, 2004 03:36 PM

I hope Fawlty doesn't win. Don't get me wrong, it's an excellent show, but I'd like to see something else get a bit of recognition.

Posted by Austin Ross at January 1, 2004 05:22 PM

Well, it'll be OFAH then I reckon

Posted by Drzymala at January 1, 2004 08:41 PM

I would love to see red dwarf in the top 10 with someone like Terry Pratchett doing the case for it. You can see it happening.

Posted by Cappsy at January 1, 2004 10:33 PM

Dwarf won't make the Top 10. I think we can rest assured of that. I doubt it'll make the Top 20 - if it does, that's some cause for celebration. Same for Brittas.

And yes, I'll try and catch some early OFAH when it's next repeated.

Posted by John Hoare at January 2, 2004 01:02 AM

I wouldn't be surprised if Red Dwarf does surprisingly well - if only for the reason that it has a fanbase that is more likely to vote in these kinds of polls. Like B&S winning the Brit award or Brunel coming second in Great Britons.

Posted by Simon at January 2, 2004 04:26 AM

Brunel has a determined fanbase?

MR Hoare I realise you may like Brittas but surely your not putting in anywhere near RD or indeed several others in terms of class?

Posted by TBA at January 2, 2004 12:25 PM

True enough, Simon; I hadn't thought of it like that. But I'd probably best not get my hopes up, or it'll come in at 50.

TBA: I would, actually. I think Brittas is severely underrated; it's a wonderful series in so many ways. I've not had the money to buy the DVDs yet, but what I've seen of the first series was brilliant; and the series only goes uphill from there, for the next few series at least. It was one of the few series I made sure I watched every episode of when it was on.

And whilst being daring isn't particuarly a pre-requisite for a good comedy series, there's no doubt that it's great fun when a series does is so - and Brittas was always far more daring than Dwarf when it came to subject matter. The stuff they got away with on a primetime BBC1 sitcom is amazing, really. Both it and Dwarf are as funny as each other, and distinctive in their own ways.

When I get the time, I must write more for the Brittas section of G&T...

Posted by John Hoare at January 2, 2004 02:46 PM

Brittas *is* genuinely edgy for a prime time BBC1 sitcom - if you ignore the last two series, it's very hard not to like a single minute of it. I recently devoured the series 2 DVD in one sitting - it's just hypnotic in the way that only truly *great* shows are. Even the weaker episodes aren't things you can turn off halfway through, they're just compulsive.

I'd happily try and contribute something for your Brittas section, but I only have copies of the first two series and a couple of random runts from later on as reference, so I can't see what I would do. I'd love to write an evaluation of last two series but I'd need a complete Brittas collection before putting pen to paper. Otherwise it would feel a bit deceptive and uninformed.

Posted by Darrell Jones at January 2, 2004 07:06 PM

"Brunel has a determined fanbase?"

Yes - my Dad being one of them. There were several campaigns going on to get him in the Great Britons top 10, then another one when it came to the final vote, which is why he almost won. If you saw the Clarkson documentary, his was quite a good example of the fanatacism of his advocates. It might be to do with the general underrating of engineering by the media - they concentrate far more on arts and science - so there's perhaps a general feeling that Brunel is (or was) underrated. They've only named one university after him!

Posted by Simon at January 2, 2004 11:58 PM

This website is really rather good. JUst don't tell Symes I said that ok.

Seriously though it's rather great having people who actually have both an opinion and knowledge.

I'm not sure I'd rate Brittas THAT highly but given the strength of it's defence I'll definetely be reconsidering it.

The Brunel comment also very informative. Shame gibbering idjuts like me go and ruin such intellectual exchanges really ennit.

Posted by SpaceBeatnik at January 3, 2004 10:30 AM

> This website is really rather good. JUst don't tell Symes I said that ok.

But you are a friend of the website!

Posted by Ian Symes at January 3, 2004 03:15 PM

FACT: The character of Del in the Portugese remake of Only Fools and Horses was renamed Quim.

That is not a joke.

Posted by Darrell Jones at January 4, 2004 12:43 AM

Another Dwarfy connection is that Norman Lovett was in an episode of "Keeping Up Appearances".

Posted by Jessica Malcolm at January 4, 2004 11:15 AM

Yet another connection - 2.4 Children, The Thin Blue Line and The Vicar of Dibley had music by Howard Goodall.

Posted by Darrell Jones at January 4, 2004 06:58 PM

... and Blackadder of course. Whoopsie.

Posted by Darrell Jones at January 4, 2004 07:11 PM

Well, back to the subject at hand... how many of those Top 50 have, not only an official website, but dozens (hundreds?) of unofficial fansites?
Certainly I'd be VERY surprised if Red Dwarf won (wouldn't we all?), but not at all to see it in the Top 10 - definitely Top 20 without a doubt. From looking at the list I can't see 20 BETTER sitcoms, or ones likely to get enough votes from a limited fanbase.

So, my Top 10, in no particular order...

Ab Fab (even tho' it's shite)
Dad's Army
Father Ted
The League of Gentlemen
The Office
Only Fools & Horses
Phoenix Nights
Red Dwarf
Young Ones

Posted by Sparky at January 5, 2004 11:05 PM

The Office?! You SICK person.

Posted by Darrell Jones at January 6, 2004 12:42 AM

I predict the following will be the top 10: (note prediction not opinion)

Dad's Army
Fawlty Towers
I'm Alan Partridge
The Likely Lads
The Office
Only Fools and Horses
Steptoe and Son
Open All Hours

That said, I think only OFAH, The Office (sorry), Dad's Army and Fawlty Towers are absolute dead certs. There's definitely a chance RD could get in the top 10.

Posted by Simon at January 6, 2004 04:54 AM

Porridge is a dead cert for Top 10 if we're playing it like that. So is Blackadder and Hancock.

Men Behaving Badly won a poll very similar to this in 1994, which, although MBB is a superb show (I've been watching it all week in fact), seemed a bit fixed. The Pythons did a scathing parody of this in a sketch on Python Night in 1999 - "and now, a list of programmes made *before* John Birt became Director-General of the BBC..."

Posted by Darrell Jones at January 6, 2004 01:08 PM

My appologies to anyone who may have taken offence at my 'Opinion' post as I was sort of thinking out loud rather than aiming it at anyone in particular, and obviously a 'Poll' is nothing more than a collective series of individual opinions.....

Posted by Cpt-D at January 6, 2004 04:21 PM

Ooh look I'm signed in as Drzymala.

How quaint.

I expect The Office will win, though it probably isn't my first choice (but a very close second, third, fourth or fifth).


Posted by Drzymala at January 6, 2004 07:35 PM

I must say I'm very disappointed that 'Bless This House', 'Mind Your Language' and 'Love Thy Neighbour' didn't make the list...

Posted by Sparky at January 6, 2004 10:54 PM

And who the hell voted for 'Last of the Summer Wine'? The only people that watch that are coffin dodgers who are way too confused to know how to vote in one of these poll thingies...

P.S. Apologies to anyone reading this who may have actually voted for LOTSW. ;)

Posted by Sparky at January 6, 2004 10:57 PM

"Bless This House" is NOT in there! :(( I LOVE to watch "Bless This House".

Why is "I'm Alan Partridge" in the top fifty? On UK-TV in about the middle of 2001, there was a top 50 comedy moments show, where the whole episode of each show was shown (not just the funny moment in each episode). In the top 50 comedy moments show, there were FOUR episodes of "I'm Alan Partridge", and EVERY one was SHIT. It was not funny and I couldn't follow the story. In the top 50 comedy show, the number one and number two places were both "Only Fools And Horses" episodes. In the top 50 comedy show, the "funniest" moment was the bit in "Only Fools And Horses" where they drop the big chandelier on the floor. Just about every other joke in my favourite British comedy shows are funnier than that one.

My top ten (in no particular order because I can't decide which one is better than the other):

- Bottom
- Bread
- Are You Being Served?
- The Brittas Empire
- Hi-De-Hi!
- It Ain't Half Hot Mum
- Keeping Up Appearances
- Red Dwarf
- Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
- The Young Ones

My other favourites out of that top 50 list are (in no particular order):

- Absolutely Fabulous
- Gimme Gimme Gimme
- Dad's Army
- Fawlty Towers
- Last Of The Summer Wine
- Open All Hours

The other British comedies which I like but which aren't in the top 50 list are:

- The Goodies
- A Prince Among Men (I only like it because it stars Chris Barrie)
- Mr. Bean
- Maid Marian And Her Merry Men
- Filthy, Rich And Catflap (I know that Chris Barrie is in one episode)
- The High Life
- Clarence
- Hale And Pace
- How To Be A Little S*d
- The Kenny Everett Television Show
- The Baldy Man
- Canned Carrott

Posted by Jessica Malcolm at January 7, 2004 12:37 PM

'The Goodies' is the largest oversight, really. Jane Root really hates it for some reason (perhaps because she's a horsey cunt, actually), therefore it has been excluded from even the top 100 list, just in case it ended up doing really well and getting to the top 10.

Without The Goodies there would have been no Young Ones, never mind the rest.

Apparently Jack Dee's doing the case for Fawlty Towers, by the way. There's a photo of him in the Radio Times leaning on an inaccurate recreation of the reception set.

Posted by Darrell Jones at January 7, 2004 05:32 PM

The Goodies is a sketch show, surely? This is a list of sit-coms. Same with Hale and Pace, Kenny Everett, Canned Carrott, et al.

Posted by Ian Symes at January 7, 2004 08:11 PM

The Goodies is a sitcom!!

Posted by Darrell Jones at January 7, 2004 09:47 PM

My ignorance, there.

Posted by Ian Symes at January 7, 2004 09:50 PM

47? Fuck off.

Still, Craig Charles and Robert Llewellyn are interviewees, and they did inexplicably dwell on the latter's cameo in the Bottom piece.

Posted by Darrell Jones at January 10, 2004 09:40 PM

If As Time Goes By is better than The Young Ones then the world has collapsed.

Meanwhile, hopes high for RD!

Posted by Darrell Jones at January 10, 2004 10:18 PM

Dwarf has beaten The Office. And My Family as well.

There's something to be happy about!

Posted by Darrell Jones at January 10, 2004 10:34 PM


Posted by Darrell Jones at January 10, 2004 10:57 PM

Not too shabby, is it? A great shame about Brittas, though; it *deserves* to be in the Top 10, but I'd hoped it'd at least be in the Top 30.

The Top 10 itself is interesting, and not as predictable as it could be. I'm just about to start my article...

Posted by John Hoare at January 11, 2004 12:02 AM

6 of my 10 predictions proved correct. I don't think anyone would have guessed the Vicar of Dibley, though. And it's a shame Father Ted just missed out on the top 10.

Posted by Simon at January 11, 2004 12:12 AM

I'm just glad it wasn't 100% predictable, to be honest - it could well have been. I agree about Father Ted, though; I definitely would have backed that otherwise.

OFITG is there - that'll please Darrell. And Open All Hours is there - that'll please Tanya. I'm very pleased about Yes Minister making it; I've half a mind to vote for that, even though the entire idea is POINTLESS.

Posted by John Hoare at January 11, 2004 12:16 AM

"Without The Goodies there would have been no Young Ones"

This is probably true, but you should all watch The Monkees anyway. They subverted the sitcom format way before anybody else (as far as I know) and were very funny as well.

I'm really pleased (and quite surprised) that RD's in the top 20. Says a lot about the loyalty of us fans, which is marvellous.

Posted by clem at January 11, 2004 10:08 PM

I wasn't talking about subverting the sitcom format as much as that many Goodies episodes ('Earthanasia' is a good example) are practical blueprints for The Young Ones. They're even directed similarly.

The Monkees is great though, yes.

Posted by Darrell Jones at January 11, 2004 11:51 PM

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