Theme Times – British Sitcoms 1970’s

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Following a Conversation Dawn of Proud Translady and l had the other day l have decided to dedicate British and American Sitcoms 1970’s Part 1 and 2 to her in celebration to our growing up years across the pond today and tomorrow.

A British sitcom or a Britcom is a situation comedy programme produced for British television. Although styles of sitcom have changed over the years they tend to be based on a family, workplace or other institution, where the same group of contrasting characters is brought together in each episode. British sitcoms are typically produced in one or more series of six episodes. Most such series are conceived and developed by one or two writers.

The majority of British sitcoms are 30 minutes long and are recorded on studio sets in a multiple-camera setup. A subset of British comedy consciously avoids traditional situation comedy themes and storylines to branch out into more unusual topics or narrative methods. Blackadder (1983–1989) and Yes Minister (1980–1988, 2013) moved what is often a domestic or workplace genre into the corridors of power. A later development was the mockumentary in such series as The Office (2001–2003).

The 1970s

The 1970s is often regarded as the golden era of British sitcom. Well-remembered series include John Cleese and Connie Booth’s farcical Fawlty Towers (1975, 1979), John Esmonde and Bob Larbey’s self-sufficiency comedy The Good Life (1975–78). Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (1973–74), a sequel to the earlier show, surpassed the original, while the same writers (Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais) provided Ronnie Barker with his most successful sitcom vehicle, Porridge (1974–77). Barker also starred (along with David Jason) in the very popular Open All Hours (1973, 1976–85), written by Roy Clarke. Clarke’s long-running Last of the Summer Wine began in 1973 and ended in 2010, becoming the world’s longest running sitcom.

The commercial station ITV had popular successes with Rising Damp (1974–78, sometimes called the best of all ITV sitcoms), Man About the House (1973–76) and George and Mildred (1976–79). Rising Damp’s star, Leonard Rossiter, also played the lead role in the BBC’s highly popular The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976–79). The decline in cinema attendance in this period meant that many of these series were turned into cinema films; the first film version of On the Buses (1969–73) was the biggest hit at the British box office in 1971. According to Jeff Evans, On the Buses is a “cheerfully vulgar comedy” in which “leering and innuendo dominate.”Some of the network’s other ratings successes from this era are now ‘politically incorrect’ too. Series such as Love Thy Neighbour (1972–76) and Mind Your Language (1977–79, 1986), which attempted to find humour in racial or ethnic conflict and misunderstandings, were increasingly criticised over time.

Increasing relaxation in regard to the discussion of sex meant farce became a familiar form in the 1970s used in series like Up Pompeii! (1969–70, 1975, 1991), and Are You Being Served? (1972, 1973–85).



I spent the most part of the 1970’s in Australia and grew up with Australian, British and American sitcoms – l was never much taken with the Australian sitcoms and really only truly remember The Paul Hogan Show and when l returned to England in 1977, admittedly l was not taken with the British sitcoms that my parents seemingly rolled around the floor in laughter with?? Some were ok, most in my eyes were not – l had more of a fondness for American sitcoms which in my eyes were at least funny.

In truth , l was so unimpressed with British sitcoms in general that the only time l actually genuinely started to appreciate British filmography was with Trainspotting in 1996 and The Full Monty the following year. British sitcoms in my eyes did that MUCH damage to me!

But that’s me and despite everything l have said, here are 10 of the ones l remember the most 1970 – 1979 – were you a fan, are you still a fan, or were the 70’s for you just as dire as they were for me?


1 – 1973 – 1977 – Porridge

`Porridge’ is a sitcom about the inmates of HM Prison Slade, where habitual criminal Norman Stanley Fletcher finds himself engaged in all manner of scrapes with the warders and his fellow prisoners while serving a five-year term for burglary.

2 – 1975 – 1979 – Fawlty Towers

Basil Fawlty is an inept and slightly out-of-his-head English hotel manager, who is tortured by `that annoying section of the general public who insist on staying at hotels’. Fawlty is constantly berated by his wife, and his efforts are continually hampered by their Spanish waiter, Manuel.

3 – 1968 – 1977 – Dad’s Army

In World War II, with a German invasion looming, the defence of Walmington-on-Sea rests in the hands of the local bank manager and a motley collection of volunteers in the Home Guard unit. Despite being woefully ill-equipped, the rag-tag crew is ready to take on invading troops from across the Channel.

4 – 1972 – 1985 – Are You Being Served?

This comedy series, which follows the exploits of employees at London’s Grace Brothers department store, is full of sexual innuendo, slapstick, visual gags and double entendres. Much of the show’s humor parodies Britain’s class system, with the characters rarely calling their co-workers by their given names. Many of the show’s characters are based on stereotypes, including the effeminate Mr. Humphries and the rich-but-stingy store owner.

5 – 1976 – 1979 – The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin

Sick of his marriage, his family and the daily grind of his job, Reginald Perrin comes up with the only logical solution for such a deep midlife crisis: He fakes his own death. After various attempts at creating a new life, Reginald adopts a disguise and returns to his old life to find that nothing much has changed. He even re-marries his wife, Elizabeth, after wooing her at his funeral, and he gets a job at his former company, where he manages his own memorial fund. Eventually Reginald tires of being someone else and reveals his true self. The much-loved sitcom, based on a novel by David Nobbs, starred Leonard Rossiter in the title role and aired for three series beginning in 1976.

6 – 1973 – 2010 – Last of the Summer Wine

Unencumbered by wives, jobs or any other responsibilities, three senior citizens who’ve never really grown up explore their world in the Yorkshire Dales. They spend their days speculating about their fellow townsfolk and thinking up adventures not usually favoured by the elderly.

7 – 1973 – 1978 – Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em

This popular BBC sitcom, written by Raymond Allen and starring Michael Crawford and Michele Dotrice, was first broadcast in 1973 and, despite encompassing just 22 episodes over three series, left an indelible mark in British sitcom annals. It’s the story of Frank Spencer, a well-meaning yet accident-prone chap who tries his best – and often fails – to please everyone he encounters. His wife, long-suffering Betty, loves Frank very much and dutifully deals with the constant anxiety his behaviour creates for her. The show became known for its various catchphrases – “Ooh Betty” being a prominent one – as well as Crawford’s physical brand of comedy that included spectacular stunts.

8 – 1975 – 1978 – The Good Life

A milestone birthday convinces Tom Good to make a change. He talks his wife, Barbara, into giving up the so-called rat race and joining him in a life of simplicity and self-sufficiency. They convert their suburban home into a farm, planting crops in the back garden and bringing in pigs and chickens (including a rooster they name Lenin). The new use of their property comes as something of a shock to their very proper neighbours, Margo and Jerry Leadbetter. A social climber of the first order, Margo can’t bear having chickens roaming the back garden. She’ll have to put up with it, though, since Tom, despite his desire for self-sufficiency, can’t bring himself to kill the chickens.

9 – 1974 – 1978 – Rising Damp

Rigsby convinces his new tenant, a pious Welsh student, that Philip is in need of spiritual guidance, but it’s Rigsby who sees the light.

10 – 1973 – 1976 – Man About the House

The trials and tribulations created by one man and two women flat-sharing in the 70s. After a particularly wild party, flatmates Chrissy and Jo find Robin asleep in their bath and decide to let him move in with them when he has nowhere else to go.


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13 thoughts on “Theme Times – British Sitcoms 1970’s

  1. I ADORED Fawlty Towers..have the entire set on dvd as a matter of fact. I need to replace them soon as several are getting too scratched up to watch………reginald perrin, I thought anyway, was funny. and are you being served constantly made me snort with laughter. never heard of the others.

    1. Hey Suze – wow, everyone loved Basil Fawlty and l just could never really grasp the humour of the series – it might also be because l struggle with ‘spoof comedies’ and l think in a certain way FT was kind of spoof humour.

  2. Fawlty Towers and Dad’s Army and Man about the house I’ve seen also but don’t remember them very well.

    Thank you Rory 😀 for the deadacation of this post 1 and 2 it’s warmed my heart and put a smile on my face 😀.


  3. I keep looking for shows for my mum to watch especially British ones since she American accent harder to follow.

    Fawlty Towers is a family favourite .

    I will try the rest too.

    My mum is a huge fan of the 80s show Murder She Wrote starring Angela Lansbury. But it has been taken off Youtube these daysI would like to find a comparable show for her on youtube.
    Can you help?

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