The 20 Best British Sitcoms Of All Time | Screen Rant

The U.K. has long been a major comedy factory. The focus on the discomfort and unpleasant situations and characters is a distant stretch from the typically American focus on light-hearted comedy full of lovably stupid characters. While a lot of British shows get North American remakes, they very rarely work.

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The U.K.’s brand of humor never gets old, especially for North American audiences who love watching the British deliver the laughs right where it counts – deep in the belly. But which ones have proven to be the best? While there have been several hit shows that fans love to come back to over and over, there have only been a few that have made a significant impact on the world and the television industry overall.

Updated on January 24th, 2022 by Kayleigh Banks: With many fans waiting for the next installment of Derry Girls and Ghosts to be released sometime this year (pending no delays), there are many people who are desperately searching for another sitcom to watch.

While the U.S. is known to produce some of the best and most mainstream comedies, such as Ted Lasso and Friends, they haven’t been able to replicate the formula of what makes the U.K. ones so successful. Therefore, it’s not surprising that fans look to some of the best British sitcoms since they have proven to be the quite memorable and offer something fresh and new.

Described as a female Inbetweeners, Jessica Knappett’s Drifters was one sitcom that came as a breath of fresh air for viewers as it was full of wild storylines and relatable situations. Following the lives of Meg, Bunny, and Laura, many of the episodes see the three women try to adjust to their new lives after they have just graduated from university.

While it might not be for everyone since it’s full of crass and bawdy humor, there are others who may enjoy the awkward situations these complex characters get themselves into as they try to make an honest living.

Peter Kay has been known to produce and write many cult comedies, but one that proved to be an instant hit with fans was Car Share. Similar to James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke, the show follows two colleagues, Kayleigh and John, who carpool to and from work every day while discussing their favorite songs and all the drama they witness during the day.

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While it is a relatively short sitcom, Kayleigh and John do end up in plenty of humorous situations (with one episode involving them accidentally kidnapping a monkey). What makes the show even more unique is that some of the scenes are improvised by the actors, which means that they just have to be on their toes at all times (and, in turn, showing everyone what great chemistry they have).

Never has there yet to be another sitcom that was as family orientated or relatable as Benidorm. Starring the likes of Inside No.9’s Steve Pemberton, comedian Johnny Vegas, and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’s Tim Healy, the show follows the lives of several holiday residents, who visit the Solana hotel in Benidorm every summer to take advantage of the all-inclusive resort.

While it’s grounded a lot more in reality as the plots aren’t too far-fetched, there is still quite a lot to enjoy. Whether it’s because of the Garvey’s family dynamic, the sarcastic and witty one-liners, or the array of live entertainment at Neptune’s bar, Benidorm has provided fans with many laughs and memories that they would forever treasure.

It might have only been on for two years, but the BBC’s Bad Education did have a huge impact on the viewers as it did eventually go on to have a movie of its own. Starring Jack Whitehall as Alfie Wickers, the show followed his character, who turns out to be a secondary school teacher that is in way over his head.

Not only is he a terrible history teacher but he can’t seem to get his class under control as every episode sees new problems/shenanigans appear. However, while this would sound terrible if it was real life, it does make some compelling drama. The writers might rely on a lot of sophomoric humor, but the actors use it well as it helps them capture the immaturity of the characters and their impulsivity.

Nicholas Lyndhurst had already become a British icon by playing Rodney Trotter in Only Fools and Horses, but another show of his fans particularly loved was Goodnight Sweetheart. Lyndhurst played a TV repairman from London that discovers he is able to travel back to the 1940s, where the country is in the midst of war.

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While the time-traveling aspect certainly proved to be a unique storyline, especially since it hadn’t been seen before in a sitcom, it was the characters that won everyone over. From the strong and outspoken Phoebe and Yvonne, the lovable but naive Reg, to the hilarious Ron, the viewers loved watching these relationships grow and the shenanigans that Gary (Lyndhurst) got up to in both time periods.

Few sitcoms are so loaded with laughs as Are You Being Served? This hilarious lampoon of British class warfare and stuffy 1970s department stores couldn’t have been timed better. The Rolling Stones were burning up the charts, Britain was undergoing a major political transformation, and the old ways seemed ready to go quietly into the night.

The staff of Grace Brothers wasn’t about to go down without a fight, however. They spent just as much time ripping on each other as they did ripping off their customers, to hilarious effect. The physical comedy and hilarious sexual double entendres are the stuff of comic legend, even to this day.

John Cleese broke away from his Monty Python crew to head up this funny comedy about an obnoxious hotel owner and his overbearing wife as they tried to run an establishment while dealing with colorful guests and ridiculous situations. Fawlty Towers never once took itself seriously, instead going straight for the funnybone.

Cleese’s deadpan delivery and quick-witted acting chops honed by years as a Python alum made him a natural fit for the show. It has since gone on to become one of the highest-rated British sitcoms ever made, if not the most acclaimed.

Patricia Routledge knocked comedy out of the park with this 1990s gem where she played Hyacinth Bucket, an insufferable and middle-class woman with delusions of elitism. The show wasted no opportunity to poke fun at Britain’s class warfare system, which by then was quickly on its way out the door.

She frequently pronounced her last name “Bouquet” to hide the original pronunciation while serving lavish tea and dinner parties for guests who would give their right arm not to be there. As she tried to keep up appearances, she was forced to deal with her trashy lower-class family who frequently showed up to embarrass her at every opportunity.

Long before Gordon Ramsay made a name for himself as the world’s most hot-tempered chef, comedian Lenny Henry beat him to the punch as Gareth Blackstock, the owner of the posh eatery Le Chateau Anglais. Gareth’s stubborn perfectionism and obsession to be the best at his craft led to hilarious run-ins with the law, health inspectors, and bill collectors.

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Henry’s ability to showcase anger, dry sarcasm, and cruelty in such a hilarious fashion made him an instant hit with audiences. It’s too bad the show didn’t last longer than three seasons, because Chef! just happened to be one of the freshest U.K. comedies ever to have bounced out of the lift.

It wouldn’t be British comedy without Rowan Atkinson’s hilarious and most infamous creation – Mr. Bean. This bumbling weirdo found himself getting into one bizarre situation after another, to the delight of audiences around the world.

In fact, the show was so popular that it spawned numerous specials and a full-length Hollywood movie. Plus, the infamous Christmas episode is considered a must-watch during the holidays, if for no other reason than that timeless turkey scene.

Starring Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston, The Royle Family centers on a Manchester-based family as they, effectively, watch television and do very little else. The series was highly regarded for its parody-style portrayal of working-class families at the end of the 20th century.

Almost all of the humor comes from their derivative, confrontational, controversial, and uncomfortable conversational style, mixed with the overwhelming laziness of Tomlinson in the starring role. It’s a shame the show hasn’t been regularly broadcast for twenty years.

Friday Night Dinner is currently experiencing a huge boom of fame over in the U.K as its humble, ordinary characters have become cultural icons.

It follows a Jewish family as they try to get through their special family Friday night dinner without any mishaps and, of course, encounter various mishaps every single time, most often coming from their neighbor Jim. From the great sibling dynamic to the unique storylines, there is plenty to enjoy.

Ricky Gervais’ second attempt at a sitcom came a few years after The Office reached its conclusion. Thanks to the overwhelming success of his previous endeavor, he and Stephen Merchant were able to attract an unfathomably impressive list of Hollywood guest stars to what is, at its core, a humble British sitcom.

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This included everyone from Ben Stiller to Daniel Radcliffe, each playing a fictionalized version of themselves to incredible comedic poise. The show is memorable for an episode where musician/actor David Bowie plays himself to hilarious effect.

The stars of The IT Crowd (Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade, and Katherine Parkinson) were a humble team working in IT support, with support coming from the hilarious Matt Berry and Noel Fielding.

While it was set most prominently in a basement, The IT Crowd often delved into the surreal. Parodic versions of Elton John and even the presence of what is implied to be a real vampire turned this show into something way beyond a sitcom.

One of the most unique sitcoms stars famed comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb as Mark and Jeremy, a pair of rather unsuccessful, uninspired late twenty-somethings living in a flat together. The twist is that everything is filmed from the first-person perspective of the two characters.

This means the audience sees what they see what they experience. Inner monologues help sell the comedy, putting the viewers right in the middle of whatever horrendously uncomfortable situation they’ve landed themselves in.

Known for being one of the rudest shows ever to make it to TV, The Inbetweeners was a hit amongst teens when it first aired. It has since found fame in the US (not through its disastrous remake) and managed to spawn two feature-length films.

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Whether it’s the awkward intelligence of Will, the impossible stupidity of Neil, the pathologically lying Jay, or the seemingly normal yet also incredibly strange Simon, there is a character in there for everyone to relate to.

Known for its merging of Welsh and English cultures as its titular stars Gavin (Matthew Horne) and Stacey (Joanna Page) try and figure out how to have a long-distance relationship after having started to date only over the phone.

In the U.S., it is mostly known for giving James Corden a start in the comedy world when he co-wrote and co-starred in the show with the incomprehensibly funny Ruth Jones. The list of brilliant moments and laugh-out-loud characters is quite literally too long.

Handing the reins of a show over to two very young children as they semi-improvise their way through half an hour of television seems like a recipe for disaster. Luckily, with Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez in the driver’s seat for this show, it was in a safe as a pair of hands.

For children that young to have a grasp so strong on what is and isn’t funny is seriously impressive. Obviously, the show was a ticking time bomb that was basically trying to get as much done as possible before the kids aged. The most recent Christmas special had to move the humor back to the parents, Pete and Sue, as the children (now both adults) don’t have the same laugh-out-loud presence on screen. In its prime, however, Outnumbered was just about as funny as TV can get.

Only Fools And Horses still manages to hold up better than it ever should have. Despite being almost forty years old, the laughs haven’t stopped. The hilarious Trotters and their get-rich-quick schemes put them in a wide array of hilarious situations that have brought laughs for decades.

It might scale up the cockney element of Del Boy to the highest degree possible and turn Rodney into a walking parody of stupidity, but it’s just perfect. Try watching the scene where Del Boy falls backward into the bar without bursting out laughing.

It might have been overshadowed in the US by its much longer, much more detailed counterpart, but The Office remains the funniest by a long shot. The inimitable way David Brent is able to conjure up laughs with a single glance; every single thing Gareth ever said; the normalcy of Tim as he tries to get on with life while surrounded by these eccentric people. It’s just perfect.

Gervais might have been unable to recreate the glory of the show without Merchant by his side when he made Life On The Road, but the original show remains totally immortal. It also brought Ricky Gervais into the North American public consciousness, where he continues to shake up the foundations of the Hollywood establishment.

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