More on British sitcoms: Class warfare on the horizon?


Working class sitcoms vs. Blue collar comedy. Fawlty Towers vs. Father Ted. The Telegraph vs. The Guardian. No matter what side you’re on in this rather ridiculous issue, what viewers ultimately want is good comedy.

While Telegraph readers tend to lean more towards the Conservative Party and a centre-right view, the majority of the Guardian readers tend to eschew the Tory mindset and lean more towards the centre-left viewpoint of the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrats (LibDems). Even regarding television, both find themselves at somewhat opposite ends of the spectrum with respect to sitcoms and the need for some class intervention.  ***UK readers, please help me out here if I somehow did not get this entirely correct.***

Citing the likes of Fawlty Towers, Porridge and The Office,  the Telegraph’s point is:

“…making “blue-collar” comedy “a priority” also wildly overstates the significance of setting. The only meaningful yardstick by which a sitcom should be measured is whether it is funny; it’s the “com” not the “sit” that counts”.

While Downton Abbey is not a sitcom,  the Telegraph goes on to raise the flag on the absurdity of thinking that a hit program is only a hit should viewers respond to “…a fictional world that mirrors their own“.

From the Guardian‘s perspective, they start out by questioning just what the newest head of commissioning at the BBC meant by his comments by asking “…do we mean comedy by the working class, for the working class, or about the working class? The Guardian adds to their point by saying:

“…the best British sitcoms have tended to probe the deepest British anxiety: that is, class itself .”

Interesting, however, where both papers agree, as do I, that some of the greats of British comedy have had their roots in class using the likes of Good Life (Good Neighbors in the U.S.), Keeping Up Appearances, Are You Being Served and, even, Fawlty Towers as prime examples. Absolutely. But, personally, I don’t think you can set out to create a great comedy based on “class anxiety”. The idea is to create good comedy that is equal parts of both “sit” and “com” and you don’t say you need more of one over the other.

What I think Danny Cohen, the BBC commissioner that started this firestorm, meant to say was the he’d like to have another Only Fools and Horses. Wouldn’t we all?

Your thoughts?

  • D.Rollstuhl

    Oh, I like british sitcoms. Nothing beats Little Britain or Mr. Bean 🙂