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Fawlty Towers named as best British sitcom

Andrew Sachs as Manuel (Left) and John Cleese as Basil in BBC’s Fawlty Towers. (PA/BBC)
Andrew Sachs as Manuel (Left) and John Cleese as Basil in BBC’s Fawlty Towers. (PA/BBC)

Fawlty Towers has been named as the greatest British sitcom of all time, with credit going to a “six–foot-five comic genius”.

The list of the 20 best British sitcoms has been compiled by a panel of television experts for Radio Times magazine.

John Cleese has been credited with channelling his rage as the highly-strung Basil Fawlty, proprietor of a sub-par Torquay hotel, which made the series a hit.

Fawlty Towers came top of the list ahead of other series including Father Ted, Blackadder, I’m Alan Partridge and Only Fools And Horses.

The BBC series ran for just two series of six episodes each in the 1970s.

Speaking to the Radio Times, co-writer and co-star of Connie Booth said: “Fawlty Towers succeeds, I think, because it allows infantile rage and aggression a field day in a buttoned down, well-mannered English society.

“It’s unique in being a farce, with all the plot surprises and precision that the style requires. And it doesn’t hurt that the star of the show is a six–foot-five comic genius. If he was shorter I can’t imagine how it would have worked.”

Cleese added: “I was very lucky to be working at the BBC when decisions were taken by people who had actually made programmes.

SHOWBIZ Comedy 1
David Brent played by Ricky Gervais in The Office, which came 12th in the list (BBC/PA)

“What a cast. I’m proud we are up there with Porridge and Only Fools and Ab Fab and Blackadder and The Office and Reggie Perrin and The Thick of It.”

Channel 4 sitcom Father Ted, penned by Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan, came second in the list. I’m Alan Partridge came third, and Blackadder came fourth.

Highly-rated comedies Only Fools And Horses and The Office came in sixth and 12th respectively.

Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst) and Del Boy (David Jason) in Only Fools And Horses, which was named sixth best sitcom (PA)

The list was voted for by 42 comedy expert including lauded writers Mathews, Linehan and Richard Curtis, as well Barry Cryer and Alison Graham.

Graham said: “When we find a comedy that does make us laugh, that brings a quick hit of joy into our lives, and we treasure it for ever.

“In our memories, great comedies are pearls that become more burnished and beautiful through the years. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.”

The list of best British sitcoms:  

  1. Fawlty Towers, 1975—9, BBC Two
  2. Father Ted, 1995—8, C4
  3. I’m Alan Partridge, 1997—2002, BBC Two
  4. Blackadder, 1983—9, BBC One
  5. Dad’s Army, 1968—77, BBC One
  6. Only Fools and Horses, 1981—2003, BBC One
  7. Porridge, 1973—8, BBC One
  8. The Royle Family, 1998—2012, BBC One
  9. Absolutely Fabulous, 1992—2012, BBC Two, BBC One
  10. Dinnerladies, 1998—2000, BBC One
  11. The Thick of It, 2005—12 BBC Four, BBC Two
  12. The Office, 2001—3, BBC Two, BBC One
  13. Peep Show, 2003—15, C4
  14. The Vicar of Dibley, 1994—2007, BBC One
  15. The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, 1976—9, BBC One
  16. The Young Ones, 1982—4, BBC Two
  17. Gavin & Stacey, 2007—10, BBC Three, BBC One
  18. The Good Life, 1975—8, BBC One
  19. Detectorists, 2014—17, BBC Four
  20. Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, 1973—74, BBC One

See the full feature in the new issue of Radio Times, on sale today.

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