Blast from the past: an incomplete list of period sitcoms

by Ahdar | created - 27 Jun 2013 | updated - 31 Jul 2013 | Public

Oh that most elusive of television comedic ventures, the period sitcom! Whether set in the darkest of the Dark Ages or smack dab in the middle of World War II, period sitcoms are few and far between in comparison to their more serious cousin the period drama. But never fear, if one does desire to watch some good old historical hilarity there are options available for even the most couchiest of couch potatoes.

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1. M*A*S*H (1972–1983)

TV-PG | 25 min | Comedy, Drama, War

The staff of an Army hospital in the Korean War find that laughter is the best way to deal with their situation.

Stars: Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swit, Jamie Farr

Votes: 47,725

Probably the most successful period sitcom, MASH lasted for 11 series and endures as an American television classic.

2. Blackadder (1982–1983)

TV-PG | 195 min | Comedy

In the Middle Ages, Prince Edmund the Black Adder constantly schemes and endeavors to seize the crown from his father and brother.

Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Brian Blessed, Elspet Gray, Tim McInnerny

Votes: 33,330

The alternative history sitcom The Black Adder starred Rowan Atkinson as the sniveling (and fictional) Prince Emund Blackadder. While the dimwitted prince's plans always fail, his character was reworked in later seasons and became both intelligent and unscrupulous.

3. Blackadder II (1986)

TV-PG | 176 min | Comedy

In the Tudor court of Elizabeth I, Lord Edmund Blackadder strives to win Her Majesty's favour while attempting to avoid a grisly fate should he offend her.

Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson

Votes: 40,100

The second Black Adder series sees Prince Edmund's conniving descendent scheme his way into the heart of Queen Elizabeth I. He is joined by his dimwitted friends Baldrick and Percy.

4. Blackadder the Third (1987)

TV-PG | 180 min | Comedy

In the Regency era, Mr E. Blackadder serves as butler to the foppish numskull Prince George amidst the fads and crazes of the time.

Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Hugh Laurie, Helen Atkinson Wood

Votes: 38,317

The Blackadder family has come down in the world during Regency-era England. Blackadder works as butler to the moronic Prince of Wales in the third series of the popular sitcom.

5. Blackadder: The Cavalier Years (1988 TV Short)

15 min | Short, Comedy, History

Sir Edmund Blackadder must protect, and later rescue, King Charles I from the Roundheads.

Director: Mandie Fletcher | Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, Warren Clarke

Votes: 4,669

Set during the Civil War, this Blackadder special sees the erstwhile schemer attempting to keep King Charles I on the throne.

6. Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988 TV Movie)

43 min | Comedy, History

After a genial spirit shows the benevolent Ebenezer Blackadder visions of his unscrupulous ancestors, he resolves to mend his generous ways.

Director: Richard Boden | Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Fry

Votes: 11,287

Blackadder's Victorian-era incarnation is renowned for his good works. However, when the Spirit of Christmas visits him, he decided to throw caution to the wind and behave as badly as his nefarious ancestors.

7. Blackadder Goes Forth (1989)

TV-PG | 175 min | Comedy, War

Stuck in the middle of World War I, Captain Edmund Blackadder does his best to escape the banality of the war.

Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie

Votes: 45,014

Captain Blackadder tries to avoid certain death in the midst of World War I.

8. Blackadder Back & Forth (1999)

33 min | Short, Comedy, History

At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.

Director: Paul Weiland | Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie

Votes: 13,395

Blackadder time travels to prehistory, the Battle of Waterloo, Elizabethan England and Roman era Britain in this final installment of the series.

9. Happy Days (1974–1984)

TV-G | 30 min | Comedy, Family, Music

The Cunningham family live through the 1950s with help and guidance from the lovable and almost superhuman greaser, Fonzie.

Stars: Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Marion Ross, Tom Bosley

Votes: 14,748

A nostalgic look back at the 1950s, Happy Days spawned the saying "jumping the shark" as well as numerous spinoffs.

10. Laverne & Shirley (1976–1983)

TV-G | 30 min | Comedy, Family

The misadventures of two single women in the 1950s and '60s.

Stars: Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams, David L. Lander, Eddie Mekka

Votes: 5,733

Documented the life of two working girls in Milwaukee in the 1950s and 60s.

11. Joanie Loves Chachi (1982–1983)

30 min | Comedy, Romance, Music

The romantic adventures of Joanie Cunningham and Chachi Arcola as they pursue music careers in Chicago.

Stars: Scott Baio, Erin Moran, Al Molinaro, Derrel Maury

Votes: 437

Another spinoff of Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi was set in the 60s.

12. Best of the West (1981–1982)

30 min | Comedy, Western

The Wild West misadventures of a mild-mannered store owner turned town Marshal.

Stars: Joel Higgins, Carlene Watkins, Meeno Peluce, Valri Bromfield

Votes: 190

Sort-lived sitcom set in the Wild West.

13. That '70s Show (1998–2006)

TV-PG | 22 min | Comedy, Romance

A comedy revolving around a group of teenage friends, their mishaps, and their coming of age, set in 1970s Wisconsin.

Stars: Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis, Danny Masterson

Votes: 144,023

Ashton Kutcher's launching pad to fame was this sitcom set in 1970s America (obviously).

14. That '80s Show (2002)

30 min | Comedy

That '80s Show is a half-hour ensemble comedy focusing on a group of twenty-somethings finding their way through the '80s in San Diego.

Stars: Glenn Howerton, Tinsley Grimes, Chyler Leigh, Eddie Shin

Votes: 1,950

Unlike its more successful 70s counterpart, That 80s Show only lasted a few months.

15. Up the Women (2013– )

TV-PG | 174 min | Comedy

A group of Suffragists band together to spread the word; but they need to learn their own lessons first.

Stars: Jessica Hynes, Vicki Pepperdine, Emma Pierson, Judy Parfitt

Votes: 328

The comic misadventures of some very unmilitant suffragettes in Edwardian England.

16. Jeeves and Wooster (1990–1993)

TV-PG | 55 min | Comedy

Bertram Wooster, a well-intentioned, wealthy layabout, has a habit of getting himself into trouble and it's up to his brilliant valet, Jeeves, to get him out.

Stars: Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Robert Daws, Richard Dixon

Votes: 11,260

The amusing adventures of the plucky Bertie Wooster (Hugh Laurie) and his capable butler Jeeves (the very lovely Stephen Fry). Set gloriously in the 1930s with all of the decade's lovely slang courtesy of PG Wodehouse.

17. Maid Marian and Her Merry Men (1989–1994)

25 min | Adventure, Comedy, Family

The true story of Sherwood Forest is finally revealed: Robin was a cowardly tailor from Kensington, and Marian was the brains behind the Merry Men. With her ruthless band of freedom ... See full summary »

Stars: Kate Lonergan, Adam Morris, Danny John-Jules, Howard Lew Lewis

Votes: 1,097

In Middle Age-era Britain, the Merry Men follow Maid Marian rather than Robin Hood.

18. Hippies (1999)

30 min | Comedy

In 1969 London, the editor of an underground magazine and his friends get into wacky situations.

Stars: Simon Pegg, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Sally Phillips, Darren Boyd

Votes: 371

Simon Pegg starred as the editor of an underground magazine in this period sitcom set in London in 1969.

19. Dad's Army (1968–1977)

30 min | Comedy, War

A ragtag group of Home Guard volunteers prepare for an imminent German invasion during World War II.

Stars: Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Clive Dunn, John Laurie

Votes: 5,110

Local townspeople defend Britain from the Nazis (albeit bumblingly) as part of the Home Guard in World War II. Famously, the series lasted longer than the war actually did.

20. Hi-de-Hi! (1980–1988)

60 min | Comedy

Comic goings on in this series set in an English holiday camp called Maplins. The title comes from the camp's greeting, which the staff are meant to say with enthusiasm but all too often ... See full summary »

Stars: Paul Shane, Ruth Madoc, Jeffrey Holland, Felix Bowness

Votes: 1,131

A period Brticom set from 1959 to 1960 in a holiday camp in Essex.

21. You Rang, M'Lord? (1988–1993)

50 min | Comedy

Adventures and misadventures of Lord Meldrum, his family and their servants. Set in 1920's.

Stars: Paul Shane, Jeffrey Holland, Su Pollard, Donald Hewlett

Votes: 2,802

After the close of WWI, two former soldiers use their influence to secure positions as butler and footman in a wealthy London household.

22. High & Dry (1985– )

30 min | Comedy

A shady character buys a decrepit seaside pier with a view to refurbishing it.

Stars: Richard Wilson, Vivienne Martin, Bernard Cribbins, Angus Barnett

Votes: 5

Period sitcom set after World War II in an English seaside town (strangely a popular setting for period Britcoms).

23. Goodnight Sweetheart (1993–2016)

Not Rated | 30 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

British sitcom in which an unhappily married man discovers he can time travel back to 1940s war-torn London where he masquerades as an MI5 agent and part-time songwriter whilst courting the local barmaid.

Stars: Nicholas Lyndhurst, Victor McGuire, Christopher Ettridge, Elizabeth Carling

Votes: 2,162

A time traveling TV repairman spices up his life by alternating between the present day and wartorn 1940s London.

24. Oh Doctor Beeching! (1995–1997)

29 min | Comedy

The trials and tribulations of the staff at Hatley railway station, who are all wondering if Dr Beeching will close them down.

Stars: Paul Shane, Su Pollard, Jeffrey Holland, Barbara New

Votes: 386

Set in a 1960s railway station.

25. Up Pompeii! (1969–1970)

30 min | Comedy

Lurcio is a much-put-upon slave in the ancient Roman town of Pompeii. More often than not, Lurcio finds himself keeping his owner's family members apart, in order to keep them together.

Stars: Frankie Howerd, Elizabeth Larner, Kerry Gardner, Jeanne Mockford

Votes: 230

BBC comedy set in Pompeii circa 70 AD.

26. 'Allo 'Allo (1982–1992)

45 min | Comedy, History, War

In France during World War II, Rene Artois runs a small café where Resistance fighters, Gestapo men, German Army officers and escaped Allied POWs interact daily, ignorant of one another's true identity or presence, exasperating Rene.

Stars: Gorden Kaye, Carmen Silvera, Vicki Michelle, Richard Marner

Votes: 22,419

The long running series is set in World War II France.

27. Brass (1983–1990)

30 min | Comedy

This spoof of soap-operas was set around two feuding families, the wealthy Hardacres headed by the ruthless capitalist Bradley Hardacre and the poor, working-class Fairchilds headed by the stern socialist Jack Fairchild.

Stars: Timothy West, Caroline Blakiston, James Saxon, Gail Harrison

Votes: 131

28. It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974–1981)

30 min | Comedy, War

The comic adventures of a group of misfits who form an extremely bad concert party touring the hot and steamy jungles of Burma entertaining the troops during World War II.

Stars: Windsor Davies, Melvyn Hayes, Donald Hewlett, Don Estelle

Votes: 1,125

29. Get Some In! (1975–1978)

30 min | Comedy

1955 called up into R.A.F. a group of young men find it hard to cope,especially with a corporal who is unhappy and takes it out on them.

Stars: Tony Selby, Gerard Ryder, David Janson, Brian Pettifer

Votes: 179

31. Paris (1994– )

30 min | Comedy

Follows the escapades of French artist Alain Degout living in 1920s Paris, who wants to be famous, but his work gets him nowhere

Stars: Alexei Sayle, Neil Morrissey, Allan Corduner, James Dreyfus

Votes: 28

32. Ripping Yarns (1976–1979)

TV-PG | 30 min | Adventure, Comedy

Ripping Yarns is a collection of tales that make for 'ripping good' television. Michael Palin plays a different lead character in each yarn.

Stars: Michael Palin, Charles McKeown, Barbara New, David Griffin

Votes: 1,186

33. Chelmsford 123 (1988–1990)

30 min | Comedy

Sitcom set in the town of Chelmsford, but in the year AD 123. The show mainly revolves around the power struggle between the newly appointed Roman Governor of Britain, Aulus Paulinus, and the scheming local British chieftain Badvoc.

Stars: Jimmy Mulville, Rory McGrath, Philip Pope, Howard Lew Lewis

Votes: 243

34. Let Them Eat Cake (1999)

30 min | Comedy, History

It's 1782 and welcome to the fabulous Palace of Versailles, France. Outside the gates, the peasants are on the verge of revolting (already well past vile), whilst inside lives one of the ... See full summary »

Stars: Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Adrian Scarborough, Lucy Punch

Votes: 609

35. The Legend of Dick and Dom (2009– )

30 min | Comedy, Drama

Two brothers embark on a very silly journey to find a cure to the disease that is infecting Bottomworld.

Stars: Terry Jones, Richard McCourt, Dominic Wood, Steve Furst

Votes: 153

36. The Last Salute (1998– )

30 min | Comedy

The on-the-road comic adventures and the roadside dramas of a group of rival AA and RAC patrolman, each out to prove that they are the best in the business, in Britain in the 1960's.

Stars: Paul Bown, Philip Jackson, Jo Unwin, Claire Cox

Votes: 10

37. Just William (2010)

28 min | Comedy, Family

The classic stories of a trouble making little boy.

Stars: Rebecca Front, Daniel Ryan, Daniel Roche, Lily James

Votes: 135

38. Haggard (1990–1992)

30 min | Comedy

Squire Haggard, the womanising, destitute former friend of the Prince of Wales, optimistically searches for rich men "willing" to part with their money, and rich, beautiful women willing to... See full summary »

Stars: Keith Barron, Reece Dinsdale, Sam Kelly, William Simons

Votes: 48

39. Dark Ages (1999– )

30 min | Comedy

People in England are worried about the coming millennium. The year is A.D. 999.

Stars: Phill Jupitus, Alistair McGowan, Pauline McLynn, Dave Lamb

Votes: 37

40. Andy Capp (1988– )

30 min | Comedy

Andy is an out-of-work layabout who only wants to have a drink and read the racing news. This leaves his long-suffering wife Flo as the sole breadwinner.

Stars: James Bolam, Paula Tilbrook, Susan Brown, John Arthur

Votes: 34

41. Clarence (1988– )

30 min | Comedy

Clarence is a myopic delivery man who retires to the countryside, and goes from one mishap to another due to his short-sightedness

Stars: Ronnie Barker, Josephine Tewson, George Ballantine, Richard Caldicot

Votes: 154

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