They say that laughter is the best medicine, and 80s TV sported more than its share of classic comedies that neither failed to get us giggling in our youth. Sure, a lot of the comedy that no one batted an eyelid at then wouldn’t fly today, but we’d like to think it never did us any harm.
Listed alphabetically for the sake of fairness, here are our absolute favourite TV comedies from the 80s which we made sure we never missed.
14. ‘Allo ‘Allo
Listen very carefully, we shall say this only once: ‘Allo ‘Allo! is one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. And the late Gorden Kaye’s character Rene Artois, a womanising French cafe owner trying to deal with the German occupation of France during World War II, has to be one of our very favourite comedy characters.
As beloved as it was at the time, ‘Allo ‘Allo! tends to be looked down upon a bit these days, due to its brand of humour being very much on the politically incorrect side of the spectrum.
13. Beadle’s About
The longest-running hidden camera show of all time, Beadle’s About saw the late Jeremy Beadle play some imaginative, occasionally cruel, always hilarious pranks on members of the unsuspecting public.
It’s doubtful that any prime-time, family-oriented TV show would be made today based around humiliating unsuspecting members of the public, but we thought it was hilarious back in the day!
It was technically a series of four sitcoms, but whether you preferred The Black Adder, Blackadder II, Blackadder the Third or Blackadder Goes Forth it didn’t matter. The series gave us some of the biggest laughs ever, whilst also giving us a few history lessons along the way (not that it was 100% historically accurate).
Rowan Atkinson’s cynical, barb-tongued Blackadder was one of the most endearingly unpleasant characters of the era, and very far removed from Atkinson’s subsequent characters Mr. Bean and Johnny English.
11. The Cannon and Ball Show
A good old-fashioned primetime comedy variety show of the sort we just don’t see anymore, Cannon and Ball were staple viewing back in the 80s. (We’ll admit, as youngsters we sometimes got them confused with their contemporaries Little and Large.)
Sadly, this great double act was brought to a final end when Bobby Ball died in 2020, but Tommy Cannon is still in the game, with live dates lined up across the UK in 2023.
A regular fixture on our childhood TV screens, the Chuckle Brothers comprised of Paul Elliott alongside his brother Barry, who sadly passed away in 2018 at the age of 73.
One of the many shows they fronted was the extremely popular ChuckleVision, which lasted for 21 series between 1987 and 2009 and was recently voted the greatest children’s BBC show of all time.
9. Diff’rent Strokes
Continually asking the question “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”, Diff’rent Strokes was a hilarious US sitcom that starred Gary Coleman alongside Todd Bridges. The duo played Arnold and Willis Jackson, two brothers who are taken in by a rich businessman and his family, and the show never failed to make us laugh.
The show has a rather chequered history given the fates of its young stars: Coleman and Dana Plato died young, whilst Bridges fell into a life of crime. Still, it was funny at the time!
8. The Keith Harris Show
Introducing us to a cute little duck called Orville who wished he could fly “right up to the sky,” The Keith Harris Show saw the late ventriloquist presenting his own fun-filled comedy variety show between the years of 1982 and 1990.
On top of Orville, there was also Cuddles the monkey, whose temperament was nowhere as gentle as his name suggested: we all remember his catchphrase, “I hate that duck!”
7. Maid Marian and her Merry Men
Maid Marian and her Merry Men ran for 26 episodes over four series between 1989 and 1994 and was written by Blackadder star Tony Robinson, who also played the Sheriff of Nottingham in this witty and inverted take on the legend of Robin Hood.
As the presence of the Baldrick actor might suggest, this was basically a more kid-friendly version of Blackadder, but could be enjoyed by young and old alike.
6. Only Fools and Horses
Considered by many to be the greatest comedy show of the 1980s, Only Fools and Horses was at its peak watched by an incredible 24 million people and in a 2004 poll was voted Britain’s best sitcom of all time.
It may have been aimed primarily at the grown-ups in the audience, but we still loved the show just as much when we were kids.
5. Red Dwarf
First hitting screens all the way back in 1988, Red Dwarf started life as a sitcom in space, centred on the few survivors of a space ship left drifting through the universe in the distant future. As the series progressed, it became more of a full-blown, FX-driven sci-fi adventure series, but still with plenty of jokes.
Even hardcore fans of Red Dwarf may be surprised by the show’s longevity. There have been 12 seasons totalling 74 episodes, as well as a TV movie, Red Dwarf: The Promised Land, in 2020.
Voted the 13th greatest children’s TV show of all time in a poll, Rentaghost was originally broadcast between 1976 and 1984 and followed a group of ghosts who worked for a firm that would rent them out for a number of different spooky tasks.
It may have officially been a kids’ show, but Rentaghost’s madcap humour went down every bit as well with the mums and dads in the audience.
3. Spitting Image
Spitting Image, which has seen a recent TV revival, is a British comedy puppet show that was first broadcast in 1984. Its brand of satirical comedy was aimed at adults, but if you’re anything like us then you tried to sneak a watch of it as often as possible when you were growing up.
As youngsters, we might not have always got the jokes, but it was impossible not to burst out laughing just looking at those puppets.
2. Yes Minister
Spitting Image wasn’t the only 80s TV comedy hit to tackle politics. Yes Minister a satirical sitcom that ran from 1980 to 1984, and was followed by an equally hilarious sequel called Yes Prime Minister.
The show followed the political career of Jim Hacker, and we promise it was far funnier than it sounds!
1. The Young Ones
Another show that we were definitely far too young to be watching at the time, The Young Ones was a surreal, slapstick masterpiece that focused on the lives of four mismatched and extremely lazy students.
The whole cast was amazing, but The Young Ones is best remembered for introducing Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall, who later made the hilarious 90s sitcom Bottom.