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The best British sitcom moments of all time

From Fawlty Towers to Fleabag.

The best British sitcom moments of all time
Marc Chacksfield
21 April 2022

We might be falling apart politically and we’re not that great at sports, but there’s one thing Britain knows how to do really well: sitcoms.

From Fawlty Towers to Fleabag, comedy lovers have an amazing legacy of scripted material to get stuck into. And now we’ve decided to round up the greatest in this best British sitcom moments.

If we’re totally honest, there’s so much to choose from that there are plenty of other shows we could have picked but we had to draw a line somewhere. And we have decided to choose only one moment from each show.

So, here you have it, our picks for the greatest moments in British sitcom history for you to rank. Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comment box below!

Best British sitcom moments

Best British sitcom moments

1. Only Fools And Horses - Del Boy Falls Through The Bar

Watch now on YouTube

Episode: ‘Yuppy Love’ (Series 6, Episode 1, 1989)

Written by: John Sullivan

In this classic scene, Del Boy (David Jason) tries to impress a couple of young women with his coolness but, disastrously, falls through the bar. It’s a beautiful, beautiful moment of physical comedy.

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2. Blackadder - A Bout Of ‘Insanity’

Watch now on YouTube

Episode: ‘Goodbyeee’ (Series 4, Episode 6, 1989)

Written by: Richard Curtis and Ben Elton

This scene perfectly encapsulates how this season of Blackadder dealt with difficult topics like death and war-related mental illness. Plus, it has the immortal line delivered by Rowan Atkinson: “Cluck, cluck, gibber, gibber. My old man’s a mushroom etc.”

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3. I’m Alan Partridge - “DAN! DAN! DAN!”

Watch now on YouTube

Episode: ‘Bravealan’ (Series 2, Episode 3, 2002)

Written by: Armando Iannucci, Steve Coogan and Peter Baynham

This episode from the legendary Steve Coogan show will live in the hallowed halls of British sitcom history because of Alan’s utterly deranged and maniacal screaming, before nonchalantly saying: “He’s not seen me. I’ll get him later.” Astounding.

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4. Fawlty Towers - “Don’t Mention The War!”

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Episode: ’The Germans’ (Series 1, Episode 6, 1975)

Written by: John Cleese and Connie Booth

This iconic moment perfectly sends up the British, jingoist obsession with winning the Second World War – and it’s of course remembered for John Cleese’s goose-stepping silly walk.

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5. The Office – David Brent’s Dancing

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Episode: ’Charity’ (Series 2, Episode 5, 2002)

Written by: Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant

In this episode, the overly competitive David Brent makes himself look like a total wanker – as only he can. And of course, who can forget the line, “I sort of fused ‘Flashdance’ with MC Hammer shit”?

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6. Father Ted

Watch on YouTube now

Episode: ’A Christmassy Ted’ (Christmas Special, 1996)

Written by: Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews

Again another Irish sitcom on the list made by a British company (hence its inclusion), Father Ted always ranks high in the 'best sitcoms of all time' list - and for good reason, it's a joy (as long as you can separate creator from creation)! While there are many iconic moments, for us it's the Christmas Special that does it for us, when Father Ted and his clerical colleagues are trapped in the largest lingerie department in Ireland and have to play out a hilariously over-the-top battle for survival.

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7. The Inbetweeners – Bus Wankers

Watch on YouTube

Episode: ‘A Night Out in London’ (Series 2, Episode 4, 2009)

Written by: Damon Beesley and Iain Morris

This scene made life hell for a generation of teenage school kids waiting for the bus – but it’s still absolutely hilarious.

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8. Dad’s Army - “Don’t Tell Him Pike!”

Watch now on YouTube

Episode: ’The Deadly Attachment’ (Series 6, Episode 1, 1973)

Written by: Jimmy Perry and David Croft

Old-school classic Dad’s Army produced many memorable lines, including “Don’t tell him, Pike!”, which was voted one of greatest moments of British television in a 1999 poll.

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9. Peep Show - Jez Forgets The Christmas Turkey

Watch now on YouTube

Episode: ‘Seasonal Beatings’ (Series 7, Episode 5, 2010)

Written by: Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain

Perfectly showing the bitter and hostile relationship between Mark and Jez, it’s great to see David Mitchell fly off the handle in this scene.

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10. The Vicar Of Dibley – The Puddle

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Episode: ‘Autumn’ (Series 3, Episode 1, 1999)

Written by: Paul Mayhew-Archer and Richard Curtis

What makes this moment so funny is how simple it is - and of course the look of unbridled panic on Geraldine’s (Dawn French’s) face.

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11. Royle Family - The Queen Of Sheba

Watch on BBC iPlayer

Episode: Royle Family - The Queen Of Sheba Christmas Special

Written by: Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne

The Queen Of Sheba is one of the funniest and emotional hours of TV ever made. Liz Smith as Nana is perfect, now permanently bed ridden but still has her superb wit, something which won Smith a Best TV Comedy Actress award at the NTAs and a BAFTA nomination.

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12. Black Books - The Last Supper

Watch on All 4

Episode: ’The Blackout’ (Series 1, Episode 2, 2000)

Written by: Dylan Moran and Nick Wood

Booze-loving Bernard is surely one of the greatest British sitcom characters of all time and he doesn’t disappoint in this hilarious Black Books moment, where he has something of a faux pa, going to the the toilet in a wicker chair.

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13. The Thick Of It – Quiet Batpeople

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Episode: Series 4 – Episode 2 (2012)

Written by: Simon Blackwell with Roger Drew, Dan Gaster, Sean Gray and Ian Martin

This scene sees Leader of the Opposition Nicola Murray and her advisers coming up with new political buzzwords but, hilariously, their suggestions become more and more unhinged until we’re left with the phrase that will forever be bathed in comedy greatness: quiet batpeople.

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14. Spaced - Paintball Showdown

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Episode: Season 1 Episode 4: Battles

Written by: Jessica Hynes and Simon Pegg

Spaced shouldn't just be seen as a primer for everything Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg did in Hollywood after it, but a fantastic sitcom in its own right - one that's packed with movie homages and has more than a hint of the surreal.

All of this is captured perfectly in the Paintball Showdown, where Tim (Pegg) and Mike (Nick Frost) go up against Duane Benzie (Peter Serafinowicz), the man who stole Tim's girlfriend.

Shot like an action movie where yellow paint substitutes for blood, every second of the scene is a must watch.

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15. Bottom - Chess Fight

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Episode: ‘Culture’ (Series 2, Episode 2, 1992)

Written by: Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall

It’s the pure, outrageous energy in this scene that makes it so funny – and it's probably the only time you will see Spider-Man fight a legless skeleton. An instant sitcom classic.

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16. Garth Marenghi's Darkplace - One Track Lover

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Episode: Season 1, Episode 6 - 'The Creeping Moss from the Shores of Shuggoth'

Written by: Richard Ayoade and Matthew Holness

We have tears in our eyes every time we watch this slice of utter brilliance. Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is a genius sitcom that's a parody of 80s horror TV, but the funniest moment of the whole thing is a synth song that sees Matt Berry show off his pop credentials and Richard Ayoade's Dean Learner rapping about someone being "smooth as ice". It's an absolute joy and worth a watch if you've never seen it.

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17. Derry Girls - Spice Girls

Watch on All 4 now

Episode: Season 3 Episode 2 · The Affair

Writer: Lisa McGee

Before you shout, 'Derry Girls isn't British'?! We hear you - more so than some MPs did - but we really want to praise this utterly fantastic show, so are putting it in this list as it's technically made by a British-based production company and is on a British channel.

But, of course, the show (as you can guess by its name) is distinctly Irish and beautifully so, managing to balance a backdrop of the Troubles with the trials and tribulations of growing up in '90s Northern Ireland and attending a Catholic Girls' school.

Our pick of the best moments is a very recent one. In the second episode of Season 3, the girls (and James) enter a talent show as The Spice Girls, sans Union Jack dress for obvious reasons, with hilarious results. It's one moment in an episode that showcases the very best of what Derry Girls is about: awkwardnes and laughter.

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18. Fleabag - Dinner Scene

Watch now on YouTube

Episode: Episode 1 - Season 2

Written by: Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Everything about this scene is wonderful. From the passive aggressiveness "sorry darling" from Olivia Coleman's character, the speech by the dad, to the "he's an alcoholic", "oh fun my parents are alcoholics!" bit - it's just a masterclass in dialogue and scene writing. Brilliant stuff.

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19. Detectorists - Over and Out

Watch now on iPlayer

Episode: Over and Out, Episode 3 - Season 1

Written by: Mackenzie Crook

As beautiful as it is funny, Detectorists is one of the very best sitcoms. While there's a poignancy throughout and the ending is a tearjerker, when the jokes come they are furiously funny. Our pick is the 'explosive' finale of Over And Out, an episode where Andy and Lance keep in contact with Terry over the radio. It's both sublime and ridiculous.

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20. Absolutely Fabulous – “Is It A Dwarf?”

Watch now on YouTube

Episode: ‘Panickin’’ (Series 5, Episode 3, 2003)

Written by: Jennifer Saunders with additional material by Sue Perkins

Quite frankly there are so many iconic moments in this show (including any line delivered by the unmatchable June Whitfield) but there’s something wonderfully weird about this moment starring Jane Horrocks, Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders.

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