Eight out of 10 comics prefer Fawlty Towers and Alan Partridge

Andrew Sachs as Manuel and John Cleese as Basil in BBC's Fawlty Towers.
Andrew Sachs as Manuel and John Cleese as Basil in BBC's Fawlty Towers.
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A PANEL of British comedians has named Fawlty Towers as the best sitcom ever, and the moment the failed TV presenter Alan Partridge meets his biggest fan, the funniest scene.

Comics including David Baddiel, Jenny Eclair and Alexei Sayle were among the 100 professionals who chose their favourite shows, one-liners, characters and actors for a new series.

Partridge, the chat show host-turned-disc jockey, created by Steve Coogan, was named most memorable comedy character, along with Patsy Stone, Joanna Lumley’s creation from Absolutely Fabulous.

The comics chose as the best one-liner the joke from Dad’s Army in which Pvt Pike is asked his name by a German prisoner, prompting the reply from Capt Mainwairing, “Don’t tell him, Pike.”

Fawlty Towers, whose last episodes were written by John Cleese in 1979, scored a third of the comedians’ votes to be named favourite sitcom, with I’m Alan Partridge and Blackadder following behind. The Office and Father Ted rounded out the top five.

The comics were polled to celebrate the launch of We Have Been Watching, a series in which comedians and comic actors including Ricky Tomlinson, Larry Lamb and Sally Phillips watch and comment on clips from classic sitcoms and sketch shows.

The series takes its title from the signature on-screen credit of producer David Croft, who co-wrote Dad’s Army, as well as Are You Being Served, Hi-di-Hi and ‘Allo ‘Allo.

Comedy critic Bruce Dessau, who compiled the survey, said: “We are well-known across the world for our ‘British sense of humour’, which is shown at its best in many of our best-loved and timeless comedy classics.

“The art of comedy is almost impossible to define, but many of these characters, lines and sitcoms are brilliant examples of the very best in the history of British TV comedy - many of which can all be enjoyed again in a fresh take on the new series We Have Been Watching, as some of the top comedy folk share their views on the funniest moments telly has to offer.”

The new list is markedly different from the one compiled by Radio Times in 2003, which named the American Phil Silvers Show, better known in Britain as Sergeant Bilko, as the best-ever comedy. The show was filmed in the 1950s but was a late-night staple on the BBC for the next three decades.

We Have Been Watching is on Gold tonight at 8pm.