Theme Times – British Sitcoms 1980’s

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1980’s Sitcoms Part 2

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).


1980’s Sitcoms Part 2

1 – Only Fools and Horses – 1981 – 2003

Derek “Del Boy” Trotter is a fast-talking market trader living in South London with his younger brother, Rodney. In order to try to get rich, the brothers dabble in black market trading through an unregistered company they own, Trotters Independent Trading Co. But many of their deals end up backfiring on them.

2 – The Young Ones – 1982 – 1984

Comedy series following the surreal lives and adventures of four social inadequate students.

3 – Blackadder– 1983 – 1989

The first in a four-series run of historical comedies written by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis, `Black Adder’ tells a revisionist tale of events at the end of the British Middle Ages. After a triumphant King Richard III emerges from the Battle of Bosworth Field, only to be accidentally assassinated by Edmund Plantagenet (a snivelling, dim-witted Atkinson), the king’s nephew, the Duke of York, takes the throne and is crowned Richard IV. A startling coincidence, however, is the fact that Edmund is the son of the new king, although he’s barely acknowledged by his own father. Edmund, in concert with pathetic sidekick Lord Percy and disgusting manservant Baldrick, attempts to overhaul his image – he takes on the title `The Black Adder’ – and plot ways to gain more power.

4 – ‘Allo ‘Allo!– 1982 – 1992

A French café owner tries to ride out World War II. Caught between the Gestapo and the Resistance and forced into working with both, René also struggles to hide evidence of his affairs with the waitresses from his wife, who, though she can’t carry a tune, frequently performs as a singer in the cafe.

5 – ‘Yes Minister– 1980 – 1982

When MP James Hacker’s party takes control of the government, the clueless politician finds himself serving as Minister of Administrative Affairs. His staff is of two minds about the new head – Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley is sympathetic to his new boss, but Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby tartly reminds Woolley that ministers never stay long. For the most part, Appleby opposes changes suggested by the new minister, though they occasionally work together to promote a common goal such as retaining their department. Most episodes end with one of the characters saying “Yes, Minister.”

6 – Hi-de-Hi!– 1980 – 1988

After a secret visit to the camp, Joe Maplin decides that Gladys should be put in charge of the Yellowcoats.

7 – To the Manor Born– 1979 – 2007

A woman finds out she is bankrupt after her husband dies.

8 – Ever Decreasing Circles– 1984 – 1989

Martin Bryce is happy with his life until a neighbour brings his inferiority complex out of hiding.

9 – Terry and June  1979 – 1987

British sitcom about a married couple struggling with surreal events in suburbia.

10 – Just Good Friends 1983 – 1986

Former lovers meet again years after their original romance failed and decide to let the past go and establish a friendship, despite disapproval from friends and family.

The biggest problem with the 1980’s for either the American or the British sitcoms has been trying to find quality clips and especially trailers which were not really that big a deal until the 90’s. 

Of the above ten l have displayed as being classed as the very best of a very large genre – l guess l watched perhaps 4 -5 of them. I loved the Young Ones, but my father detested it and them, so l could only watch that sparingly. Yes Minister was a favourite, to The Manor Born, Only Fools and Horses and occasionally Blackadder [when my parents allowed me to when l was living at home]  What about you, any favourites from the line up, or did you have favourites not listed here?

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28 thoughts on “Theme Times – British Sitcoms 1980’s

  1. British Sitcoms (and all sitcoms, I suppose) tend to be either very, very good or nauseatingly dreadful. You have some good one’s here. ‘The Young One’s’, ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Blackadder’ top my list. ‘Faulty Towers’ finished in 1979, I think, but it would be on my list, regardless.
    ‘To the Manor Born’ fits into the nauseating category for me (though not entirely dreadful, I suppose).
    The worst ones (mainly American) are those in which it is somehow deemed intrinsically hilarious to be black or to be gay or to talk in a squeaky voice – sometimes all 3 at once.

    1. Hey Brutus,

      You are 100% spot on, they are exactly just that – terribly good or shittily bad – and many were the latter. I think one in every twenty/twenty five made it through into something big and viral so that it was welcomed by more than a minority demograph.

      The one’s you have highlighted were indeed top faves with me, but my father just couldn’t get his head around the humour and back then he paid the TV licence so it was his final vote ha ha as was the way.

      to the Manor Born, l watched because my parents did, but after a while l stopped watching TV for a very long time, in fact the first time after the 80’s l started watching TV again was probably later 90’s.

  2. I should add that here in Oz during the 80s we had ‘Mother and Son’ in which Ruth Cracknell was brilliant and ‘Kingswood Country’ – the mere thought of which makes me inclined to vomit.

          1. I wouldn’t spoil that memory by watching ‘The Paul Hogan Show’ now, if I were you. It was fairly cringeworthy. ‘Get Smart’ was always a gem, though (sadly, we cannot claim it as Australian, of course)

            1. No, l wouldn’t want to spoil it now ha ha – yes Get Smart was a classic, l used to watch that at 6.30am every morning just prior to going to school, made my day complete 🙂

  3. I’ve never seen nor heard of any of these. Of course, I didnt watch much except MTV during the 80s. Too busy living my adventures 🙄😂
    I’m going to check out the ones you and the other guys suggested though…if I can find them🤔

        1. I guess so, strangely enough looking at the programme now, it is so anti PC isn’t it lol, l could see viewers having a heart attack watching it…. strange how the world changes.

          1. You’re so right. And yet as kids our young adults we didn’t find them objectionable at all. World and our perspectives have indeed changed a lot!!!

            1. Yes very much so … and how as the world changes and we change with it and sometimes we don’t know HOW much we have changed until we suddenly think … dang that’s not right … when did l change??

  4. Nice post Rory 😀, I seen Ever decreasing circles and To the manor born but don’t remember them very well, I also use to watch Beny Hill don’t remember the years thow it was actually on.


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