Fawlty Towers named greatest British sitcom of all time

Father Ted, written by Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan, came second, with I’m Alan Partridge in third

Fawlty Towers has been named as the greatest British sitcom of all time, by the Radio Times.

The BBC comedy series set in a chaotic Torquay seaside hotel managed by an incompetent and highly strung hotelier played by John Cleese, finished ahead of the Channel 4 sitcom Father Ted, penned by Irish writers Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan, with I'm Alan Partridge in third on the list compiled by a panel of experts for the magazine.

Although Fawlty Towers ran for only two series and a just 12 episodes in total, it has remained popular is often re-broadcast.

Co-writer and co-star of Connie Booth, who was married to Cleese at the time,  said: "Fawlty Towers succeeds, I think, because it allows infantile rage and aggression a field day in a buttoned down, well-mannered English society.

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“It’s unique in being a farce, with all the plot surprises and precision that the style requires. And it doesn’t hurt that the star of the show is a six-foot-five comic genius. If he was shorter I can’t imagine how it would have worked.”

The one-liners from Cleese’s Basil Fawlty have gone down in comedy folklore. In one episode, a hotel guest complained that he was not satisfied, to which he replied: “Well, people like you never are, are you?”

During another, a guest asked if anywhere serves French food. Fawlty retorted: “Yes, France, I believe. They seem to like it there. And the swim would certainly sharpen your appetite. You’d better hurry, the tide leaves in six minutes.”

Cleese said he was lucky to be working at the BBC when decisions were taken by people who had actually made programmes and paid tribute to his co-stars and producer, John Howard Davies, who directed the first six episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

“I’m proud we are up there with Porridge and Only Fools and Ab Fab and Blackadder and The Office and Reggie Perrin and The Thick of It,” he told the Radio Times.

Highly-rated comedy Blackadder came in fourth, with Only Fools And Horses and The Office in sixth and 12th respectively.

The list was voted for by 42 comedy expert including lauded writers Mathews, Linehan and Richard Curtis, as well Barry Cryer and Alison Graham.

Graham said: “When we find a comedy that does make us laugh, that brings a quick hit of joy into our lives, and we treasure it for ever.

“In our memories, great comedies are pearls that become more burnished and beautiful through the years. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.”

The Radio Times best British sitcoms

  • Fawlty Towers (1975-9, BBC Two)
  • Father Ted (1995-8, Channel 4)
  • I'm Alan Partridge (1997-2002, BBC Two)
  • Blackadder (1983-9, BBC One)
  • Dad's Army (1968-77, BBC One)
  • Only Fools and Horses (1981-2003, BBC One)
  • Porridge (1973-8, BBC One)
  • The Royle Family (1998-2012, BBC One)
  • Absolutely Fabulous (1992-2012, BBC Two)
  • Dinnerladies (1998-2000, BBC One)
  • The Thick of It (2005-12, BBC Four and Two)
  • The Office (2001-3, BBC Two)
  • Peep Show (2003-15, Channel 4)
  • The Vicar of Dibley (1994-2007, BBC One)
  • The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976-9, BBC One)
  • The Young Ones (1982-4, BBC Two)
  • Gavin & Stacey (2007-10, BBC Three and One)
  • The Good Life (1975-8, BBC One)
  • Detectorists (2014-17, BBC Four)
  • Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (1973-4, BBC One)

– PA, Guardian