Last week I was supposed to be writing an article, but I had writer’s block, and so (unusually for me) I switched on the television and flicked through channels. No fewer than four of them were showing classic comedy shows, and for about an hour I was totally engrossed in comparing them with each other. They were, in no particular order, Fawlty Towers, Friends, Frasier and Father Ted. I concluded quickly that really great comedy has an alphabetical dimension, and so if you are planning to write a new show, make sure it begins with ‘F’.
But seriously (or not), I began to wonder what it was that made these four shows so successful. Father Ted has a formula that appeals to me, of taking totally absurd propositions and playing them out as if they were potentially realistic. Fawlty Towers is really extremely clever slapstick. Friends and Frasier are comments on life, viewed with what I would call humorous affection for the central characters.
I believe that Fawlty Towers is the funniest thing ever broadcast, but all four of these shows, in different ways, reveal and explore human nature. I hope that we will be able to enjoy new comedy classics in the years ahead.