British comedy has been influencing US culture (and the Entertainment world!) for decades. The British Music Hall gave birth to American Vaudeville. Monty Python inspired the gang at Saturday Night Live. Several UK TV and radio programs have been redone American-style (All In the Family and Three's Company are among the most notable). Growing up in the United States, I was exposed to the world of the BBC Comedy through what they would show on PBS. And there were several favorites! So, it is time I leave this question up to my readers. And what better month to do it in than the month where Hollywood is a-buzz with Awards fever?
Below, in alphabetical order, are the nominees for:
THE BEST BRITISH SITCOM OF ALL-TIME
This iconic "Britcom" follows the adventures of two daffy women as they enjoy life's excesses and believe they truly are, well, you can guess by the title. Played to over-the-top perfection by Jennifer Saunders (who co-created the series) and Joanna Lumley, Edina and Patsy are two of the most outlandish female characters that have ever been seen on television. The characters have been a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
ARE YOU BEING SERVED?
Who knew Nazis, the French resistance and British soldiers could make for a great comedy? This series took comedy to a new (and very controversial) level focusing on a harried Parisian cafe owner as he aides the French resistance to Nazi-occupied France. The show was condemned by many who lived through WWII as making light of a terrifying situation but those condemnations never stopped the fans from adoring it.
ARE YOU BEING SERVED?
The world of the department store and its clerks was made devilishly funny in this iconic series from the 1970's and early 1980's. Who could possibly forget Mrs. Slocombe and her cat (you know what she called it!)? Or Captain Peacock and his pompous, lascivious ways? And, of course, everyone remembers Mr. Humphries and his trilling "I'm Free!" in his own special way.
Rowan Atkinson is one of the most popular comedians in Britain thanks to shows like Mr. Bean and this one. As Edmund Blackadder, Atkinson was ideal in his period settings (be it Medieval England, the Elizabethan Age, the 19th Century royals or a WWI bunker) and was even more hilarious surrounded by crazies and idiots (among whom included Miranda Richardson and Hugh Laurie before they became famous for more dramatic roles).
This show starred the late Dermot Morgan in the title role as an Irish priest who as been exiled by the Bishop to a small island with two other priests: one is an old drunk and the other is a complete moron. The short-lived series has risen in popularity, especially since Morgan's death in 1998, and even has its own annual fan convention: Ted Fest.
Monty Python alum John Cleese is masterful as the frazzled and conniving innkeeper Basil Fawlty. Whether he was aiding a charming jewel thief or making fun of some visiting Germans (below), Cleese's Basil was always in top form and who could help but love him? The show (which only lasted about 4 years) is one of the most popular "Britcoms" of all-time with major fanbases in both America and England.
Before Steve Carell's Michael Scott and the gang at Dunder-Mifflin were making America laugh, there was Ricky Gervais' David Brent and his cohorts at the Werham Hogg Paper Company giving mockumentary a new style. Gervais (who co-created the show and is executive producer of the US version) brought his brand of comedy to the forefront and has now become an Emmy-winning and often controversial (see his recent Golden Globes performance) funnyman.
ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES
ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES
This extremely popular series follows south Londoners Del Boy and his brother, Rodney, as they are constantly trying to make a buck. The show is one of the most beloved comedies, especially in the UK where it constantly tops BBC polls as the "Best British Comedy."
Space plus comedy equals many entertained nerds. The cult series follows the antics of the ship, the Red Dwarf, whose entire crew (save one) was killed in radiation explosion. Like any other space/sci-fi related shows (i.e. Star Trek), Red Dwarf has a very expansive and very devout following (I'm not kidding, they make Trekkies look normal!).
Following the antics of the cunning government worker Sir Humphrey (brilliantly played by the late Sir Nigel Hawthorne) as he works for a bumbling Cabinet official, this show was a great favorite because of its wit and humor in portraying the British political system. Humphrey was so good that his bumbling official became the country's PM forcing a name change from Yes, Minister to Yes, Prime Minister.
There you have it: the 10 nominees for THE BEST BRITISH SITCOM OF ALL-TIME. The poll will appear in the sidebar on the blog and you will be able to vote for your favorite. The winner will be announced towards the end of the month. Stay tuned the rest of this month as I will give my predictions for the 2011 Academy Awards.
Special note of thanks to the BBC and their allowing several video clips of these classic sitcoms onto YouTube.