The modern sitcom as we know it turns 60 next year and the BBC are set to revive a raft of their classic shows to celebrate this milestone for the comedy vehicle.
Reports suggest that the broadcaster will revive Porridge, The Good Life, Keeping Up Appearances, Up Pompeii! and Are You Being Served?. There are even rumours that Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em will come back to complete a clean sweep on shows your mum and dad had on VHS.
But if the BBC want to celebrate the sitcoms beloved of those of us not tuning in in the ’70s, they should bring back these shows, as chosen by the NME team.
A time travelling polygamist played by Rodney from Only Fools And Horses? What’s not to love! This 1990s relic saw Nicolas Lyndhurst’s hapless Gary Sparrow nipping back to an East End pub in the middle of WWII to get his end away while pretending he’d written the Beatles back catalogue. Genius. Bring it back, but with Gary transported to the 1960s to come face to face with a disgruntled Lennon & McCartney.
The Office is Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s most celebrated creation, but in a way I prefer the stinging celebrity satire of their follow-up, which ran for 13 episodes from 2005-7. At the time, it attracted a lot of attention by getting A-list stars like Kate Winslet and Ben Stiller to send themselves up, but appearances from down-on-their-luck British TV personalities such as Les Dennis and Keith Chegwin were just as memorable. If Extras came back next year, I’d like to see a similarly broad range of guest stars, with Jennifer Lawrence, Shia LaBeouf and Anthea Turner top of my wish list.
The Mighty Boosh
Did the Boosh ever officially finish? Whatever the answer is, it’s a sitcom that definitely needs reviving – we’ve not had a surreal fix of crimping, Future Sailors or Bainbridge since season three ended abruptly in 2007. In terms of a one-off comeback episode, surely there’d be fervent demand for the return of Old Gregg? He (and his mangina) did follow Vince and Howard back to Dalston after all…
Essentially a two-series warning against anyone spinning an elaborate and murderous web of lies just to try and get a shag off Angus Deayton, Julia Davies’ increasingly dark and deranged sitcom Nighty Night – in which she plays an evil, narcissistic beauty parlour manager twisting all around her to her lusty, neighbour’s-husband-grabbing ways – closed in 2005 with Davies’ Jill having won over the (albeit unconscious) object of her affections, but surely a revival would prove that you can’t suffocate, poison and drug your way to true love?
Sharon Horgan’s filthy masterpiece was axed back in 2009 and has proved to be the second biggest mistake BBC Three has made (the first: letting Stacey Dooley loose in various war-torn countries). It’s a series about three women and their disastrous lives, punctuated by the tragic men they surround themselves with. Donna (Horgan) dumps her long-term boyfriend and moves in with her two sex-mad BFFs, bracing herself for wild and drunken times ahead. What transpires is dark, cutting and hilarious, veering into taboo territory and tackling it head on with loads of jokes. Yet it only lasted a paltry two series, just 12 episodes in total. If the BBC want to celebrate the sitcom, they’d be well advised to go back in time to revive the one that got away.
Marion & Geoff
Forget the endless man-in-a-box routines and dodgy Tom Jones hook-ups. Actually, maybe don’t forget the man-in-a-box stuff – that was great – but do cast your mind back to a time when Rob Brydon delivered this excellent, touching two series show about a confidence-crushed, taxi-driving father desperately trying to keep tabs on his “little smashers”, sons Rhys and Alun, while his ex (Marion) and her new hubby (Geoff) got together and then played happy families in the distance. Heartbreaking throughout, it hit home with me – I was a teen living with my mum and I had an uneasy, infrequent relationship with my dad – in a way that no other comedy has before or since. That it arrived right when British TV had its last true comedy highpoint, standing its ground with The Office and Phoenix Nights, is a testament to its brilliance. In terms of pathos and black humour I think it’s right up there with Our Friends In The North, but also – importantly – it was frequently stomach-achingly funny. And that’s before you even get to the soundtrack (like most of Baby Cow’s productions, well-sourced Brit indie and ’80s pop looms large) and the striking format it was made in: one webcam-style camera perched on the car dashboard filmed every singe shot, and Brydon was the only physical character to ever appear onscreen. Having grown up gorging on stuff like Harry Enfield and Black Books, Marion & Geoff seemed totally groundbreaking to me back then. It still is, really.
The League Of Gentlemen
In this local show for local people, the fictional Pennines village of Royston Vasey was imagined as a seething cauldron of bitterness and perversion, patrolled by a sadistic dole officer (“okey cokey, pig in a pokey!”), a cannibalistic butcher (“I’ve just had a special delivery”), a psychotic ringmaster (“you’re my wife now!”) and a peadophile student exchange councillor (“alles klar?”). It was brilliantly savage, squirm-inducingly grotesque and an unlikely influence on the mainstream – its creators would go on to write or star in Doctor Who, Whitechapel and Mr Bean’s Holiday, as well as their own subversive series Psychoville and Inside No 9. The campaign to exhume Tubbs & Edward, Papa Lazarou and Legs Akimbo Theatre Company starts here.
Gavin & Stacey
Gavin & Stacey ended on a rather sweet note, but we feel like we’ve been robbed of the hell-raising hilarity watching the whole gang tackle parenthood. 2016 will mark 10 years since the first series debuted and quite frankly, to make up for the disastrous US remake, Us & Them, they owe us some new laughs.
Often dubbed ‘the British Friends’, this early noughties ensemble sitcom about six mates – three guys, three girls – was actually weirder and ruder, with a more gleeful love of the absurd, than its American precursor. The scripts represent an early effort from Stephen Moffat, who later wrote Doctor Who and Sherlock, while in early episodes it’s weird to see a pre-Pirates of the Caribbean Jack Davenport in a low-key TV show. But what are the characters up to now? The fourth – and final – series of Coupling dipped in quality, largely due to the absence of everyone’s favourite character, the neurotic, sex-obsessed Jeff (Richard Coyle, who got to deliver ridiculous lines like, ”You have the eyes of 10 women… not in a jar!”). Let’s get the show back on top – a prospect that Jeff would undoubtedly stretch into a double entendre.