Only fools and turkeys: were these the worst sit-coms ever?
Tonight, BBC viewers will vote to choose the nation's favourite situation comedy. Yet most examples of the genre are, as we all know, mediocre and cringe-making. In the interests of balance, we invited a selection of people to nominate their most despised sit-coms of all time
Saturday 27 March 2004
Terry and June was like the building block of bad taste, and I've never understood what the title of
Only Fools and Horses has to do with the programme. The problem with bad sitcoms is that they're just like a collection of bad adverts, none of which you want to remember.
Dame Anita Roddick Founder of the Body Shop
Terry and June was like the building block of bad taste, and I've never understood what the title of Only Fools and Horses has to do with the programme. The problem with bad sitcoms is that they're just like a collection of bad adverts, none of which you want to remember.
Sarah Beeney Property Ladder presenter
Red Dwarf because I don't get anything to do with space, it just goes right over my head all that Dr Spock type of stuff - although Craig Charles is quite funny. Last of the Summer Wine isn't any good either, not enough happens. It's not funny enough to be a sitcom - it's just a sit-programme.
Lisa Jewell Author
Birds of a Feather is awful, I hate every single character. They're just vile people with absolutely no redeeming qualities. I could go on, it's just so terrible.
Mark Borkowski Showbiz PR
The Vicar of Dibley is the most overrated programme on TV - I just don't get it. I find it bemusing that it makes it on to "best of" lists and it's a classic example of bad writing. Love Thy Neighbour was fairly racist and I didn't understand the popularity of On the Buses. In fact, there's a lot more about sitcoms that winds me up instead of making me laugh.
Peter Tatchell Gay rights activist
Are You Being Served? was the gay equivalent of the Black and White Minstrel Show only worse. Queers were caricatured in ways not far removed from Nazis' ridiculing of the Jews. John Inman's character reinforced every sad, pathetic cliché and stereotype about gay men. His limp-wristed buffoonery demoralised a whole generation of young queers and set back the cause of gay emancipation.
Andrew Neil Television presenter and newspaper publisher
Mind Your Language. It was racist, xenophobic and extremely unfunny.
Beryl Vertue Hartswood productions, makers of Men Behaving Badly
I don't like programmes that rely on crude jokes for their humour and those that aren't well written. Bo Selecta! is crude and not funny. If I don't like something, though, I just turn it off - that's how I deal with bad sitcoms.
Jon Snow Newsreader
Oh Christ, I don't even watch the good ones let alone the bad ones. I remember Are You Being Served? from when I was a kid. That was grim. It was too grisly for words. Yes, Minister was fantastic, I certainly couldn't vote that the worst.
Philip Hensher Author
That's easy. It's Last of the Summer Wine. Christ it's bad. It went on for 25 years, who watched it? Alzheimer's patients? Every week some jelly fell on somebody's head. Were the people who made it on drugs? It was terrible.
Lauren Booth Journalist
What's that one with Zoe Wanamaker and Robert Lindsay? My Family? Oh, please. No, it's the worst. The guy who plays the son is a genius though. I loved Robert Lindsay when he was Wolfie Smith. He's still my icon, I love him. And Gimme Gimme Gimme? Kathy Burke is fantastic, she should be Dame Kathy. But the unfunny stereotypes are just awful.
Jeremy Hardy Comedian
So Haunt Me - that was bad. Miriam Karlin as a Jewish ghost, George Costigan played the dad. That was bad. What's the one where people are working in a hardware shop instead of working in a café? Hardware? Dreadful. That's really bad - I'm cutting my own throat here.
Kathy Lette Author
The worst sitcom ever made is The Facts of Life. It is one of the biggest rating sitcoms in American history - and I once wrote for it. There were nine Jewish guys and me locked in the gag gulag for up to 23 hours a day. It was like being a stand up comedian - except sitting down. The jokes we wrote were fresh and funny - until they got dipped in disinfectant by the American television executives. What we ended up with was joke-sak, the joke version of musak; it just washed right over your ears.
Thomas Sutcliffe Independent TV critic
Terry and June - which really counts as a sitcom scapegoat. It's not really worse than the thousands of others that disappeared without trace - but it stands for every British sofa sitcom dependent on the stupidity of its characters to get a laugh. I'd also mention Steptoe and Son - not because it wasn't brilliant and truthful but because its basic situation was so painful it almost always left me wanting to slit my wrists - it's Waiting for Godot with a lot more junk. Best sit-trag, perhaps.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown Journalist
It Ain't Half Hot Mum. I hated that. Oh, I hated that. Everything I loath about the Empire and the adjectives they used I thought was backward. It was a ridiculous portrayal of British soldiers and the natives - who were nothing more than fan-slaves. It was just everything that was loathsome about the Empire. Quite odd, eccentric: it was none of those things.
Mark Thomas Journalist
Morris Minor's Marvellous Motors , the 1989 BBC comedy set in a garage in Normalton was truly shite. It was co-written by [comedian-musician] Tony Hawks who's band Morris Minor and the Majors got to number 4 in the charts with the "Stutter Rap". It was at the time that television was waking up to the fact that there were lots of people on the cabaret circuit who they could use. They were searching desperately for the next Young Ones, but Morris Minor wasn't it. The runner-up has to be Mind Your Language, which was truly awful.
Martin Newell Poet
Life Begins at 40 was a Seventies comedy with Derek Nimmo as an unfashionable dad - sort of sub-standard Terry and June. I was in my early 20s and wasn't very critical in those days - I used to laugh at the o'clock news I was so out of my head on pot. It didn't take much to make me laugh, but Life Begins at 40 was particularly bad.
Ben Pimlott Historian
There is such a range to choose from. Last of the Summer Wine. It has an instant turn off effect.
Stan Hey Screenwriter
Mind Your Language was awful. It was set in a language school and played every foreign stereotype to the full - it was just racist. Love Thy Neighbour was the same. That was diabolical at the time, not just because of political correctness in hindsight. It was like a cheap version of Alf Garnett but instead of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner it was Guess Who's Peering Over Your Garden Fence. This was back in the dark ages before alternative comedy - thankfully the Comedy Store changed everything.
Paul Merton Comedian
Mind Your Language was dodgy, stereotypical stuff. The set-up was a man teaching English to foreign students - there was an Italian, a Spaniard, a Mexican and an Indian, each playing national stereotypes. But I met a man in India who thought it was funny, so what we think is bad comedy can go down well elsewhere.
Linda Robson Actor, Birds of a Feather
Mind Your Language was stupid and ridiculous because of its stereotyping. It was generally pretty awful. It seems really old fashioned now, but even then it wasn't funny at all.
George Best Ex-Manchester United footballer
Are You Being Served? was just appalling. The acting was dire and every situation seemed so contrived. I don't know what the viewing figures were for it but I can't imagine very many people watched it.
Dylan Jones Editor GQ
In contrast to The Good Life, which was very entertaining, sharply written and was full of witty and insightful comments on the British class system, Keeping Up Appearances showed the ugly underbelly of British society. It wasn't funny, the characters were drawn with a very broad brush and it was ultimately quite crass.
Adrian Chiles Radio and TV journalist
My choice, The Good Life, is based on pure bitterness. I enjoyed it the first time round but I'm voting for it purely because I've made programmes for BBC2 that go out at the same time and it always beats me in the ratings.
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