The List: The top British male sitcom heroes

The unhappy couple: Sybil Fawlty (Prunella Scales) with husband Basil (John Cleese)Basil Fawlty – Fawlty Towers The irascible host of Fawlty Towers is possibly the most inhospitable hotelier of all time. Basil Fawlty existed for just 12 half-hour episodes during the 1970s, in what was not an entirely inaccurate portrayal of the warmth of British hospitality standards. Given Fawlty’s short fuse, it’s incredible that he (or John Cleese) survived the two seasons. A favourite meltdown is most definitely the “damn good thrashing” of his “vicious bastard” of a car with a tree branch.
Shanghai night field

Del Boy – Only Fools and Horses Britain’s worst entrepeneur never failed to be a lovably cheeky character. Despite a long string of dodgy dealings, he never erred into mean-spirited or malicious behaviour but remained at the mercy of his materialistic aspirations as a flag bearer for ’80s culture. A devoted head of the household – with younger half-brother “plonker” Rodney, Uncle Albert and Grandad under his careful watch – his affectations and misuse of French were nothing less than endearingly hilarious (“Mange tout, mange tout”). Best moment: trying to impress a couple of women in the pub by leaning on the bar – “play it cool” – but careering through the open hatch.

David Brent – The Office  In common with Fawlty Towers in having just 12 episodes, The Office was a short but hugely sweet experience. Brent at times was almost unwatchable due to his cringeworthy behaviour. Ricky Gervais nailed the oblivious, falsely modest middle manager who is a familiar character in most offices. He produced dazzling motivational quotes such as: “If you can keep your head when all around you have lost theirs, then you probably haven’t understood the seriousness of the situation”, and his iconic dance scene where he “sort of fused Flashdance with MC Hammer shit” remains his defining moment.

Rick – The Young Ones

More 1980s culture with a group of four unlikely housemates who reflected the anarchic rebellion against Thatcherite Britain. People’s Poet Rick was an obnoxious leftie student of Scumbag College with an inexplicable fondness for Cliff Richard and played with snotty, spotty glory by Rik Mayall. He was constantly the butt of slapstick jokes and disrespect by his flatmates, Mike, Neil and Vyvyan, the latter of whom said Rick’s name came with a silent “P”. Finest moment? His poem about Cliff: “Oh Cliff/sometimes it must be difficult not to feel as if/You really are a cliff/when fascists keep trying to push you over it.”

Edmund Blackadder – Blackadder

It is a wonder how this Machiavellian nightmare managed to engage viewers for so long and so religiously. Edmund Blackadder, who audiences followed from medieval England to the trenches of the First World War between 1983 and 1989, was wonderfully scathing, contemptuous and scheming, and a terrible bully to his lackey Baldrick (Tony Robinson). Rowan Atkinson’s rubbery features perfectly inhabited this wilycharacter. His biggest scene? Leading his men over the top to certain doom on the Western Front for the Blackadder Goes Forth finale, and reducing a nation to a quivering mess of tears in the process.

Jim Royle – The Royle Family

Far more interesting than the other Royal Family, this show which ran 1998-2000 was set mainly around the TV in the tiny living room of the Royles’ Manchester home, with patriarch Jim (Ricky Tomlinson) unlikely to move from his throne/armchair. Most of his grumpy conversation is peppered with his catchphrase “My arse!” and divulging all the details every time his visits the toilet. He also proved there was a fun side to him by busting some brilliant moves while stripping wallpaper to Mambo No.5.

Bernard Black – Black Books

It’s funny how so many favourite characters on sitcoms just hate people. In Black Books, which ran from 2000 to 2004 and was written by Dylan Moran and Father Ted creator Graham Linehan, Moran plays Bernard Black, a staunchly misanthropic, possibly alcoholic, depressive, unkempt bookstore owner who hates his customers who he refers to as “time-wasting bastards”. One has to pay him respect for his dedication to a life of sloth and misbehaviour. The wine lolly? Genius.

Officer Crabtree – ‘Allo ‘Allo

An honorary mention goes to not the British actors pretending to be French or German, but the Brit pretending to be a Brit pretending to be a Frenchman. Gorden Kaye led the 1980s show as bumbling cafe owner Rene but it’s Officer Crabtree (Arthur Bostrom) who gets a nod here, playing the British spy posing as a French policeman with the worst, or best, skill for mangling words. Marking his arrival with his signature greeting “Good moaning!”, he also had a fine ability to ramp up the show’s already loaded innuendo and risque factor. As he put it so succinctly: “My lips are soiled.”

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