Friday 23 May 2008

Top 5 British Sitcoms (Eighties)

The Eighties saw a transition from the long running traditional sitcoms of the previous decade into new and more radical forms. Overall there were less quality shows but the ones I enjoyed were absolute gems that pushed sitcom and television comedy into new territory. Oh, and yes I know I haven't included "Only Fools and Horses" it's not an oversight.

1. Blackadder (1983-1987)
4 Series written by Richard Curtis, Rowan Atkinson & Ben Elton
Tough choice between this and "The Young Ones", but Blackadder just shades it by pushing the boundary of mainstream comedy whilst staying within the basic structure of traditional sitcom. The changes in period kept it fresh through four series and various one-offs. I remember being on a school field trip when the first series was shown and the whole year cramming into the common room to watch that week's episode. At the time I thought it lost something after the first series, being constrained in budget and location for the second series onward, but watching now it's the later shows that have all the jokes in and a more cunning Blackadder is always great to watch.

2. The Young Ones (1982-1984)
2 Series written by Rik Mayall, Lise Mayer & Ben Elton
"The Young Ones" probably had more influence on television comedy than any other show. Originally aired in the four years I was at secondary school it blew my preconceptions about humour out of the window. This was punk rock comedy, anarchic and on the edge. Something I could laugh about with my mates that my parents would never understand.

3. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (1981)
1 Series written by Douglas Adams & John Lloyd
One series, six episodes. Not much to compete with but this was a pivotal show for me. It was my introduction to Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker's series and led on to reading all his books and picking up many more formats (the radio shows, the LP, the books, the book narration, the film - got the lot). Much like the first series of Blackadder the budget for Hitchhiker's probably blew their chances of making any further shows. Whilst it does show it's age watching now, there's still something fantastic about what they achieved. In particular the Peter Jones narrated Guide sequences which were so good they pretty much recreated them for the recent motion picture version.

4. Yes Minister/Yes Prime-Minister (1980-1988)
5 Series written by Antony Jay & Jonathon Lynn
All a bit stuffy and grown up for me on first viewing, I gradually came round to appreciating it as a cutting and accurate portrayal of political life. As the Thatcher era began to show signs of cracking, and I went from school kid to student to employee, political humour became something worth watching. A sign I was growing up maybe ... or just pretending to.

5. Terry and June (1979-1987)
9 Series written by John Kane & others
Odd in some ways that during a period when I was discovering new exciting and rebellious shows like "The Young Ones" and "Blackadder" that I would still retain a fondness for a show many critics decried as the "epitome of the bland middle-class sitcom". Seeing that at the time I was living a very middle-class life in Surrey maybe it's no surprise I still like it. In my head Terry & June is a 70's sitcom but when I came to check my facts I was surprised to find it was mainly shown in the 80's. Not only that it almost outlasted all my other selections and according to Wikipedia "received viewing figures three times those of any of the 'alternative' comedies of the era".

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