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
1. Only Fools And Horses - Del Boy Falls Through The BarWatch 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.
2. Fawlty Towers - “Don’t Mention The War!”Watch now on YouTube
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.
3. 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.”
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Father TedWatch 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.
7. The Inbetweeners – Bus WankersWatch 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.
8. The Vicar Of Dibley – The PuddleWatch on YouTube now
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.
9. The Office – David Brent’s DancingWatch on YouTube
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”?
10. Spaced - Paintball ShowdownWatch on YouTube now
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.
11. Peep Show - Jez Forgets The Christmas TurkeyWatch 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.
12. Bottom - Chess FightWatch on YouTube
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.
13. The Thick Of It – Quiet BatpeopleWatch on YouTube
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.
14. Garth Marenghi's Darkplace - One Track LoverWatch now on YouTube
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.
15. Royle Family - The Queen Of ShebaWatch 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.
16. Black Books - The Last SupperWatch 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.
17. Derry Girls - Spice GirlsWatch 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.
18. Fleabag - Dinner SceneWatch 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.
19. Detectorists - Over and OutWatch 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.
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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