UK Dopers: What Do You Think of These BBC Comedies?

I have BBC America and am really into the comedies. I’m wondering what someone who lives in the UK and sees these series in their cultural contexts thinks about them. I know some of these are older, but it seems that we don’t get them in the U.S. for a couple of years after they’ve aired.

Very funny/well done:
Little Britain, The Catherine Tate Show, Goodness Gracious Me, League of Gentlemen, The Mighty Boosh, The Vicar of Dibley, Green Wing, Kath and Kim (from Oz, I know)

Medium funny:
Keeping Up Appearances, the Judi Dench and “Lionel” show whose title I can’t remember (Time after Time?), Father Ted, Black Books, the Alan Partridge series

Not funny:
My Hero

“Comforting” (as in, nice to watch when one is in a gentle mood):
Are You Being Served, Last of the Summer Wine, can’t remember the last title: Set at a nursing home with characters Diana, Tom, and Harvey

Of the one’s I’d regard as ‘current’:
Little Britain: Good in parts, tiresome in others, not deserving of the hype

Catherine Tate: Good in more parts, brilliant in some, but still not consistent

League of Gentlemen (I don’t think they’re doing another series, but it’s fairly recent in general): One of the very best things I’ve seen in years

Older shows:
Father Ted: Brilliant in its time, still brilliant.

Black Books: It never really was sure what it wanted to be, whether it was going to be basically a standard three-character sitcom (like Father Ted), or something weirder. This was its downfall.

Goodness Gracious Me: Still funny when I catch it on satellite. Was groundbreaking in its time, but never managed to be sidesplitting

Vicar of Dibley: Always was a safe, middle-of-the-road programme. Occassional great gags, but generally boring

Keeping Up Appearances: I’m amazed how this gets to be considered a current show by BBC America. It’s antiquated, and about as enjoyable as eating glass.

Alan Partridge: Two wonderful series, and they should have stopped there.

Time Drags On (or whatever it’s called), Summer Wine, Waiting for God - yawn yawn yawn. As enjoyable as being force-fed glass, accompanied by dry sherry and cream cakes. Intended for a different audience, I guess.

(I’ve never seen Green Wing, Kath & Kim, or The Mighty Boosh)

That last one is called Waiting for God.

I’m not British, so I’ll save my opinions until some others have responded to this thread. I’ll only add that I’ve asked Brits in their 20s and 30s about Are You Being Served. They’ve all been surprised that it’s so popular in the US since it’s so corny and was made way back in the 70s.

Incidentally, many of these started on the radio or have had radio versions made of them, including. BBC7, a digital radio station also available at] has aired many of these. I’ve heard Little Britain, Goodness Gracious Me, League of Gentleman, The Mighty Boosh, Alan Partridge, and Yes Minister. BBC7 also airs drama series, plays, and vintage radio comedy such as The Goon Show with Peter Sellers. You can also listen on demand to programs aired in the past 6 days.

Nitpick - neither Father Ted nor Black Books are BBC shows. Both made for Channel 4.

Can you tell me what the difference is? Shows are all delivered under the aegis of “BBC” here . . .

As Time Goes By

Father Ted rocks, but the others I could take or leave.

Not a TV critic - just my personal opinion. Shows listed in descending order of preference.

League of Gentlemen: Wonderful, in the best surreal British tradition. I’m surprised that it’s popular in the States, but there’s never any accounting for taste.
Keeping Up Appearances: My favourite sitcom of the group - a little unsubtle, perhaps, but plenty of inoffensive laughs.
Little Britain: Very amusing sketch show, but (a) it was much better on the radio (b) it doesn’t hold a candle to The Fast Show.
Goodness Gracious Me: Good, but could have played the political angle a little more agressively without becoming offensive.
Black Books: I liked this very much, although not as actively funny as many of the others.
Waiting For God: Always suffered from being up against One Foot In The Grave, but still reasonably intelligent and thought-provoking for a sitcom. Underrated, IMO.
Father Ted: Bit too much of a one-trick pony to get a higher rating. Some good one-liners, but a bit thin on plot.
The Vicar of Dibley: Bog-standard sitcom, few particularly good or bad features. A bit dated, even when it was first broadcast.
The Mighty Boosh: Another sketch show - competent, but not hysterically funny. Relies rather too much on bad language for my taste.
the Alan Partridge series: Too painfully accurate for me to enjoy, but I recognize it as a well-crafted piece of comedy.
Last of the Summer Wine: Excellent in its early years, but over-milked and boring in the later series. Could have been stopped without detriment after the death of John Comer, definitely should have been stopped after the death of Bill Owen.
Are You Being Served: Always amazed at how popular this is in the States. Positively antediluvian to a UK viewer; jokes, characters, stereotypes far too over-the-top to be amusing. Interesting as history, perhaps, but not as comedy.

Not familiar with:

The Catherine Tate Show
Green Wing
Kath and Kim
My Hero

Channel 4 is advertising-funded, while BBC channels in Britain don’t carry commercials. This is not to say that Channel 4 is a purely commercial network like ITV, Five etc., because it is a publicly owned corporation that is supposed to provide “innovative” programming. And its output does often feel more like BBC2 (the BBC’s less mainstream channel).

Little Britain - Funny at times, getting wearing now.
The Catherine Tate Show - Same, but hasn’t been going on as long. (this is actually pretty new - i’m surprised it’s on BBC America already.
Goodness Gracious Me - Loved it, and loved the radio version too.
League of Gentlemen - Didn’t like.
The Mighty Boosh - Haven’t seen yet.
The Vicar of Dibley - Pretty good, got incredibly preachy for the last two.
Green Wing - Liked, but not great.
Kath and Kim - Unbothered.
Keeping Up Appearances - Horrifyingly awful.
As Time Goes By - Pretty ok.
Father Ted - Very good.
Black Books - Loved it.
Alan Partridge - Didn’t like, but i’m not really a fan of cringe-making comedy.
My Hero - Not as bad as most people find it. But pretty forgetable.
Are You Being Served - Meh.
Last of the Summer Wine - Meh.
Red Dwarf - The King. All must bow down and pay tribute.

Not a Brit but lived there for ten years, actually saw lots of these shows when they originally aired…

Little Britain: First and second season great, then they changed the way it looked (video instead of film?) and it got less interesting to me. I never watch it now.
The Catherine Tate Show: good in spots but not consistently great.
Goodness Gracious Me: pretty funny. I probably like it more for the fact that it has an Asian cast and focuses on that population.
League of Gentlemen: haven’t seen it.
The Mighty Boosh: Saw it last week. I’d have to watch a little more.
The Vicar of Dibley, Green Wing, Kath and Kim: never seen these ones.

Keeping Up Appearances: oh, this show is cack. I have no idea why this and Benny Hill are so popular. Too bad they don’t dig in the vaults and put on some Freddy Starr, Goodies, or Kenny Everett. I find those comedians quintessentially British but actually amusing.
the Judi Dench and “Lionel” show whose title I can’t remember (Time after Time?): I think that’s right. It’s okay. It reminds me of “The Good Life” which was a feel-good sitcom in the 1970s.
Father Ted: pretty damn funny!
Black Books: haven’t seen it.
the Alan Partridge series: Don’t know if BBC America showed Knowing Me Knowing You, but that was mildly funny. I’m Alan Partridge is sheer genius.

With such a wealth of comedic tradition to draw from, BBC America could really do better with their choices. But I also recognize that it’s quite subjective; the shows I love a lot of my mates in the UK hate, and vice-versa.

If I was programming BBC America I’d put on:
A Bit of Fry and Laurie
The Fast Show (it was aired for a time over here - they called it “Brilliant!” This is a show that could totally grow on US viewers. It has tons of catchphrases and characters - John Actor is Monkfish!)
The Armando Iannuci Programmes
Big Train
Harry Enfield (I cannot for the life of me understand why Harry has never been on BBCA - to my knowledge, anyway. He’s the voice of the Travelocity Gnome, for fuck’s sake!)

I would never air Bo Selecta, because I actually would want people to watch my station again.

oh, Jennshark, if you really love British comedies, you can order a lot of these shows on DVD through - if you have a multiregion DVD player you can get virtually all these shows there. (A Bit of Fry and Laurie, possibly the funniest show ever, is coming to DVD in April!)

A couple of suggestions (not all BBC) that you might want to explore:

Brass Eye - probably the most controversial comedy ever shown, being a cutting satire of media sensationalism/cynicism/superficiality

Monkey Dusy - not everybody’s cup of tea, but I think it’s genius. Animated, it’s a very sinister (and surreal) nocturnal world, where media and public opinion have great power. The opening credits are worth seeing in their own right

Shameless - half-comedy, half-drama, and I think this one is on BBC America. Wonderful ensemble acting, classic storylines and scripts written with astonishing attention to detail.


Holy CRAP that’s good news! I’ve been waiting for that show to be released for decades. IMHO, it’s one of the most overlooked shows ever made. It deserves to be ranked up there with Monty Python. I managed to pick up a used copy of the VHS “Best of” tape, but it was disappointingly short.

I’m not British, but as you might guess from the name, I’m a fan of the comedies, so I’m going to go ahead and offer my opinions. If you don’t like it, well, you can just ignore them.

Little Britain: hate Hate HATE! I really don’t know what the appeal of this show is. To me, it seems like they’ve taken the absolute worst aspects of American comedy and made yet another unfunny lame sketch “comedy” show that’s more interested in creating the next catchphrase than in actually being amusing.

League of Gentlemen: Started off funny but weird, then each series tilted more and more to the “weird” side, until it just just weird and not funny at all.

The Vicar of Dibley: I liked it because Dawn French is great, but it wasn’t earthshattering.

Keeping Up Appearances: I tried several times to build an interest in this one, but kept failing. Bored me to death. Oh, ha, ha - she’s being uppity again! Tee hee!

Black Books: One of my alltime favorites. They posioned the POPE, for crying out loud. You just don’t get that in enough sitcoms these days. This and Spaced are my favorite semi-current shows.

Alan Partridge: Mildly amusing.

My Hero: Not funny. I agree.

Are You Being Served: I have a soft spot for this show, even though all the criticisms are wholly justified. This was the show that got me into Britcoms when my local PBS station used to play it every single night.

The rest I haven’t seen.

Just for the record, here’s a list of the British comedies I like enough to have the DVDs on my shelf: Black Adder, Fawlty Towers, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Office, Red Dwarf, Shaun of the Dead (doesn’t count, I know, but still damned funny), and The Young Ones.

Never would’ve guessed…

Little Britain - the most overrated and least funny show I’ve ever had the displeasure of watching. It even beat The Office for this title, which, while poor, occassionally made me laugh.

The League of Gentlemen - the best thing the BBC has done in ages, until the third series. They should have made two series and then stopped.

Alan Partridge - funny.

Father Ted - funny.

Shameless - funny.

Kath And Kim is Australian, and thankfully this kind of show only comes around about once every decade: let’s laugh at how stupid stupid people are! Hahahaha!

Fry And Laurie is great news, but where, oh where is Alexei Sayle’s Stuff?

'Scuse me, is this a cheese shop?


Well, that’s that sketch knackered then, innit?

To the theme of “The Mickey Mouse Club”:

Who’s the man who makes us laugh
By swearing on TV?

Who’s that fat bastard?

Since other non-Brits have chimed in, I just want to say that the “Jean and Lionel show” better known as “As Time Goes By” I never thought of as a Comedy or a drama, but rather a slice of life kind of show. I mean that sincerely and find it one of the most solidly written, consistently entertaining, and damn near perfect shows everr produced. I enjoy spending time with these folks and their lives. They meet everything with style and humor aware of the imperfection of life, but taking in every minute of it as best they can. As you can see, I love the show and will defend it, and it’s quality without shame.
On to others:

Limited experience: Last of the Summer Wine: Probably worse for wear due to its years and lost cast members. Though in what I assume is it’s prime, just wonderful. I’d love to move it to a small southern town in America and try it again with a different group of fogies.

Keeping Up Appearances: Except for her family (daddy in particular, but the whole lot of them) I can’t stand to be in the same house with this when it is on. I often wonder if there’s some cultural thing I’m missing, but apparently not, it is just dreadful.

Are You Being Serverd: I can’t defend it. It is cheesey, cheap, obvious, and for some reason, inexplicably funny to me on a very consistent level. Plus, in the early episodes, Miss Brahms was quite a looker.

Red Dwarf: Amazingly funny for being as cheap and limited as it is – loved the DVD’s I borrowed of it.

I keep hoping I’ll get BBC America, because in general, I find their shows better written. I wouldn’t be surprised if their “Who’s the Boss” was actually watchable.

No love for Rising Damp?

Fairly consistent. Worth it just to see Leonard Rossiter.

Also features Kate Beckinsale’s father, Richard (who died at a tragically young age - 31).

Didn’t you kill my brother?