Great UK Comedies for Americans

by grendelkhan | created - 13 Dec 2011 | updated - 05 Jan 2012 | Public

Excellent UK tv comedies that American audiences will love.

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1. Fawlty Towers (1975–1979)

TV-PG | 30 min | Comedy

Hotel owner Basil Fawlty's incompetence, short fuse, and arrogance form a combination that ensures accidents and trouble are never far away.

Stars: John Cleese, Prunella Scales, Andrew Sachs, Connie Booth

Votes: 70,015

Probably the greatest UK tv comedy, with John Cleese as the perpetually angry and put upon Basil Fawlty. Brilliant writing and wonderful supporting cast. The German episode alone makes it a classic.

2. Are You Being Served? (1972–1985)

TV-PG | 28 min | Comedy

The misadventures of the staff of a retail floor of a major department store.

Stars: Mollie Sugden, John Inman, Frank Thornton, Wendy Richard

Votes: 5,653

A favorite of PBS stations everywhere. The jokes are endlessly recycled and it is hardly politically correct, but the cast is outstanding and the characters fun.

3. The Black Adder (1982–1983)

TV-PG | 195 min | Comedy

In the Middle Ages, Prince Edmund the Black Adder constantly schemes and endeavors to seize the crown from his father and brother.

Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Brian Blessed, Elspet Gray, Tim McInnerny

Votes: 30,202

The weaker of the four series, but it gets better as it goes along. Brian Blessed is especially loud here.

4. Black-Adder II (1986)

TV-PG | 176 min | Comedy

In the Tudor court of Elizabeth I, Lord Edmund Blackadder strives to win Her Majesty's favour while attempting to avoid a grisly fate should he offend her.

Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson

Votes: 35,417

Probably the best of the 4 series. Stephen Fry and Miranda Richardson enhance the cast and Ben Elton helps push Richard Curtis into much richer comedy territory.

5. Black Adder the Third (1987)

TV-PG | 180 min | Comedy

In the Regency era, Mr E. Blackadder serves as butler to the foppish numskull Prince George amidst the fads and crazes of the time.

Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Hugh Laurie, Helen Atkinson Wood

Votes: 34,021

Hugh Laurie adds a new dimension as a rather dim Prince Regent. Stephen Fry and Miranda Richardson only manage guest appearances here, but make the most of them.

6. Blackadder Goes Forth (1989)

TV-PG | 175 min | Comedy, War

Stuck in the middle of World War I, Captain Edmund Blackadder does his best to escape the banality of the war.

Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie

Votes: 39,615

This one is a bit more serious, given the WW I setting. The laughs still come and Stephen Fry is back in a regular role. The ending is very poignant.

7. Yes Minister (1980–1984)

TV-PG | 60 min | Comedy

The Right Honorable James Hacker has landed the plum job of Cabinet Minister to the Department of Administration. At last he is in a position of power and can carry out some long-needed reforms - or so he thinks.

Stars: Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne, Derek Fowlds, Diana Hoddinott

Votes: 9,367

The ministerial will meets the administrative won't! Excellent political comedy, with brilliant wordplay from Anthony Jay and Johnathan Lynn, plus outstanding performances from Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne, and Derek Fowlds.

8. Yes, Prime Minister (1986–1987)

TV-PG | 30 min | Comedy

James Hacker was propelled along the corridors of power to the very pinnacle of politics - No. 10.

Stars: Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne, Derek Fowlds, Diana Hoddinott

Votes: 6,907

Jim Hacker bumbles his way into Number 10, thanks to Sir Humphrey's scheming. This one ups the stakes a bit, with international crises, as well as domestic politics. Hacker gets to win more here and even sides with Sir Humphrey on a couple of occasions. Things run their course a bit quicker here.

9. The Vicar of Dibley (1994–2007)

60 min | Comedy

A boisterous female minister comes to serve in an eccentricly conservative small town's church.

Stars: Dawn French, James Fleet, Trevor Peacock, Gary Waldhorn

Votes: 9,345

Delightfully oddball cast and a nice bit of heart make for a winning combination. Dawn French gets to shine on her own.

10. The Young Ones (1982–1984)

410 min | Comedy

The crazy and sometimes surreal comedic adventures of four very different students in Thatcher's Britain.

Stars: Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson, Nigel Planer, Christopher Ryan

Votes: 11,541

Not for the easily offended, but wonderfully anarchic. This groundbreaking series was a two-fingered salute to Thatcher's Britain. Showcase for the alternative comedy world.

11. Red Dwarf (1988– )

TV-14 | 30 min | Comedy, Sci-Fi

The adventures of the last human alive and his friends, stranded three million years into deep space on the mining ship Red Dwarf.

Stars: Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn

Votes: 29,111

The show that proved sci-fi could be funny (though Douglas Adams paved the way), as well as thought provoking. It has decidedly different periods, with early seasons more joke driven, while later ones explored more sci-fi concepts. A nice mix of verbal and visual humor. Later series vary in quality, though every season has memorable episodes.

12. Good Neighbors (1975–1978)

28 min | Comedy

The perils of "escaping the rat race" and dropping out of society - to start a farm in Surbiton (and to drive Margo nuts).

Stars: Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith, Paul Eddington

Votes: 2,124

Titled The Good Life in the UK, a charming tale of a couple that decides to be self sufficient, to the horror of their class conscious neighbor. Carried well by the outstanding cast. A favorite of Queen Elizabeth.

13. To the Manor Born (1979–1981)

Not Rated | 30 min | Comedy, Romance

Audrey fforbes-Hamilton is sad when her husband dies but is shocked when she realises that she has to leave Grantleigh Manor where her family has lived forever. The new owner is Richard De ... See full summary »

Stars: Penelope Keith, Peter Bowles, Angela Thorne, Daphne Heard

Votes: 1,403

Penelope Keith gets her own series, as the economically fallen but always aristocratic Audrey fforbes Hamilton. A delightful romance slowly builds across the series, with the eternal snob Audrey made likeable by Keith's wonderful performance. Peter Bowles holds his own as the nouveau riche object of Audrey's attention.

14. Keeping Up Appearances (1990–1995)

TV-PG | 60 min | Comedy

A snobbish housewife is determined to climb the social ladder, in spite of her family's working class connections and the constant chagrin of her long suffering husband.

Stars: Patricia Routledge, Clive Swift, Geoffrey Hughes, Judy Cornwell

Votes: 11,397

Patricia Rutledge is the ultimate social climber. This is the perfect revenge upon every ettiquette guide ever created.

15. Bless Me Father (1978–1981)

30 min | Comedy

"Bless Me Father" is a 21-episode British sitcom that ran from 1978 to 1981. A gentle and impish look at Catholic life in post-war suburban Britain, the series follows the adventures and ... See full summary »

Stars: Arthur Lowe, Daniel Abineri, Gabrielle Daye, Patrick McAlinney

Votes: 119

Not quite as rollicking, but it has some great character moments. Well acted by all involved.

16. Rising Damp (1974–1978)

30 min | Comedy

Popular sitcom set in a seedy bedsit lorded over by the mean, vain, boastful, cowardly and racist landlord Rigsby. In each episode, his conceits are debunked by his long suffering tenants.

Stars: Leonard Rossiter, Don Warrington, Frances de la Tour, Richard Beckinsale

Votes: 1,759

Leonard Rossiter is the ever disapproving landlord Rigsby, who also is ever lusting after Miss Jones. Don Warrick and Richard Beckinsale (father of Kate) are the two students who are usually at the receiving end of Rigsby's disapproval.

17. 'Allo 'Allo! (1982–1992)

45 min | Comedy, War

In WW2 France, Rene Artois runs a small café where Resistance fighters, Gestapo men, German Army officers and escaped Allied POWs interact daily, ignorant of one another's true identity or presence, exasperating Rene.

Stars: Gorden Kaye, Carmen Silvera, Vicki Michelle, Richard Marner

Votes: 20,805

Listen to me very carefully, I shall say this only once..... Hilarious farce by the creators of Are You Being Served? The jokes are repetitive, but the characters are fun and the situations absurd. Probably should have ended a series or two sooner than it did.

18. Waiting for God (1990–1994)

30 min | Comedy

When Tom Ballard moves to Bayview Retirement Vilage, he meets Diana Trent, a feisty old woman who complains about everything and wants nothing more than just to die. Much to the dislike of ... See full summary »

Stars: Graham Crowden, Stephanie Cole, Daniel Hill, Janine Duvitski

Votes: 1,287

Excellent series, featuring Stephanie Cole and Graham Crowden as residents in a retirement home. Very sharp tongued, but also with an odd, but sweet romance. Definitely strikes a blow at ageism and corporate greed.

19. As Time Goes By (1992–2005)

TV-PG | 60 min | Comedy, Romance

The Korean War and a long lost letter separate the lives of young lovers Jean and Lionel, whose paths cross again by happenstance.

Stars: Judi Dench, Geoffrey Palmer, Moira Brooker, Philip Bretherton

Votes: 3,101

Wonderful romantic comedy about two lovers seperated by the Korean War, who meet again in their autumn years. Unparalleled acting by Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer and a great romance. Frank Middlemass steals every scen he's in as Rocky, Lionel Hardcastle's (Palmer) free spirited father.

20. Absolutely Fabulous (1992–2012)

TV-14 | 45 min | Comedy

The wild misadventures of Edina Monsoon and her best friend Patsy Stone, who live in a near-constant haze of drugged, drunken selfishness.

Stars: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, June Whitfield

Votes: 15,761

Jennifer Saunders' solo series, alongside Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, and Jane Horrocks. Delightfully unlikeable Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone create chaos wherever they go, while always staying fabulous.

21. The Thin Blue Line (1995–1996)

41 min | Comedy, Crime

Various mishaps at a police station in an English town. The main character is the anachronistic, yet charming and funny Inspector Fowler. CID foil to Fowler, Inspector Grim is a bumbling, seething idiot.

Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Mina Anwar, James Dreyfus, Serena Evans

Votes: 4,994

Rowan Atkinson stars in this updating of Dad's Army, where he leads a rather dim group of uniformed police constables (apart from WPC Habib). David Haig is the even dimmer head of CID (the detectives). Loads of fun.

22. Father Ted (1995–1998)

TV-14 | 25 min | Comedy

Crazy sitcom about 3 priests and their housekeeper who live on Craggy Island, not the peaceful and quiet part of Ireland it seems!

Stars: Dermot Morgan, Ardal O'Hanlon, Frank Kelly, Pauline McLynn

Votes: 30,484

Anarchic fun on Craggy Island, a place of exile for three priests, off the coast of Ireland. Brilliantly funny.

23. Black Books (2000–2004)

TV-PG | 25 min | Comedy

Bernard Black runs a book shop, though his customer service skills leave something to be desired. He hires Manny as an employee. Fran runs the shop next door. Between the three of them many adventures ensue.

Stars: Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Tamsin Greig, Paul Beech

Votes: 46,373

Dylan Moran, Tamsin Greig, and Bill Bailey star in this tale of a bookshop owner who is the worst person to be in a service industry. Excellent cast and writing.

24. The IT Crowd (2006–2013)

TV-14 | 25 min | Comedy

The comedic adventures of a rag-tag group of technical support workers at a large corporation.

Stars: Chris O'Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson, Matt Berry

Votes: 107,942

From Graham Linehan comes this workplace comedy. featuring Chris O'Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson and Matt Berry; it sends up corporate environments, geek culture, movies, and more.

25. Spaced (1999–2001)

TV-14 | 25 min | Action, Comedy

Friends Tim and Daisy, 20-something North Londoners with uncertain futures, must pretend to be a couple to live in the only apartment they can afford.

Stars: Jessica Hynes, Simon Pegg, Julia Deakin, Nick Frost

Votes: 44,122

From the people who gave us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this tale of roommates and their friends and extended family delights. There are pop culture references galore and brilliant fun.

26. Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge (1994–1995)

TV-14 | 45 min | Comedy, Talk-Show

A mock of a TV show where the host is rude to many of his guests.

Stars: Steve Coogan, Rebecca Front, Patrick Marber, Steve Brown

Votes: 4,660

Ahaaaaaaaa! Brilliant send-up of entertainment talk shows, with the world's most inept host. Each show is worse than the last (Alan's talk show, that is), with a huge blowout in the finale.

27. I'm Alan Partridge (1997–2002)

TV-MA | 29 min | Comedy

Alan Partridge a failed television presenter whose previous exploits had featured in the chat-show parody Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, and who is now presenting a programed on local radio in Norwich.

Stars: Steve Coogan, Phil Cornwell, Simon Greenall, Felicity Montagu

Votes: 15,219

Alan Partridge is back, reduced to Radio Norwich and living in a travel hotel. He tries to crawl his way back to the BBC. Very dark, but very fun as well.

28. Saxondale (2006–2007)

30 min | Comedy

Tommy Saxondale is an ex-roadie with anger management issues and his own pest control business in Stevenage. Having survived a hostile divorce, Tommy now lives with his girlfriend Magz. ... See full summary »

Stars: Steve Coogan, James Bachman, Rasmus Hardiker, Ruth Jones

Votes: 2,394

Steve Coogan is Tommy Saxondale, a man who never quite left the 70s. He was a roadie for several rock n roll bands, but now runs a pest control service, while trying to hang onto the cool of his youth. Another great cast and a brilliant character from Coogan.

29. Doc Martin (2004– )

TV-MA | 46 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

The trials and tribulations of Dr. Martin Ellingham, a socially challenged doctor who moves from London to the picturesque village of Port Wenn in Cornwall.

Stars: Martin Clunes, Caroline Catz, Ian McNeice, Joe Absolom

Votes: 8,945

A mixture of comedy and drama, set in a Cornish coastal village. Martin Clunes is a rather anti-social doctor, surrounded by eccentric villagers; however, he quickly falls deeply in love with school teacher Louisa. Very funny, with equal dramatic moments and one of the odder romances on television, on any side of the ocean.

30. Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969–1974)

TV-14 | 30 min | Comedy

The original surreal sketch comedy showcase for the Monty Python troupe.

Stars: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle

Votes: 52,889

The legendary sketch comedy show. Not for everyone, but still one of the funniest creations ever, with both brilliant satire and total absurdity. The fourth series is the weakest of the lot, but has a few moments.

31. A Bit of Fry and Laurie (1987–1995)

TV-PG | 30 min | Comedy

Comedy sketches written and performed by renowned duo Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.

Stars: Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Deborah Norton, Geoffrey McGivern

Votes: 7,957

Lots of wordplay and silliness from Stephen Fry (Wilde) and Hugh Laurie (House). Like any sketch show, some elements are better than others.

32. French and Saunders (1987– )

TV-PG | 30 min | Comedy

This BBC comedy skit show is the brainchild of longtime comedy duo Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. Each episode would feature satire on British life, television, and parodies on big box ... See full summary »

Stars: Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Simon Brint, Rowland Rivron

Votes: 2,388

Sketch show featuring the first ladies of British alternative comedy. Lots of movie and tv parodies, somewhat hit and miss.

33. Little Britain (2003–2006)

TV-MA | 29 min | Comedy

Matt Lucas and David Walliams, the creators of this character-comedy sketch show, delight in all that is mad, bad, quirky and generally bonkers about the people and places of Britain.

Stars: Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Tom Baker, Paul Putner

Votes: 18,474

Sketch comedy show with David Walliams and Matt Lucas, with Tom Baker (Dr Who) providing narrations. Recurring sketches involving the "only gay in the village", a deceptively able disabed man, the aid to the prime minister, a decidedly masculine "lady," an unpleasant and dim young woman, and the diminuitive version of Dennis Waterman.

34. Jeeves and Wooster (1990–1993)

TV-PG | 55 min | Comedy

Bertram Wooster, a well-intentioned, wealthy layabout, has a habit of getting himself into trouble and it's up to his brilliant valet, Jeeves, to get him out.

Stars: Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Robert Daws, Richard Dixon

Votes: 10,073

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie star in this excellent adaptation of the stories of PG Wodehouse. A case of perfect casting and excellent writing.

35. Are You Being Served? Again! (1992–1993)

TV-PG | 26 min | Comedy

The staff of the defunct Grace Brothers department store reunite to run a rural hotel.

Stars: Mollie Sugden, John Inman, Frank Thornton, Wendy Richard

Votes: 945

Known as Grace and Favor in the UK, this series reunites the staff of Grace Brothers Department Store in their retirement. Mr. Grace has past on, leaving a rather run down manor house as the key element of the staff's pension fun. It's nice to see everyone back and the comedy is good, even if the dynamic is a bit different. New additions include the farmer Mr Multurd, his daughter and the cook Mavis, and Miss Jessica Lovelock, the former nurse and companion to Mr. Grace.