The best retro comedy box sets on UK streaming

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Blackadder, Dinnerladies, Bottom.

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Brits are turning to nostalgic TV classics for comfort since the beginning of the isolation period, with retro shows seeing a huge surge in viewing, Now TV has revealed.

The streaming service says views of WW2 comedy Dad’s Army has gone up by 211% and iconic David Jason sitcom Only Fools and Horses has jumped 87%, climbing to the service’s 11th most watched show this week.

In these uncertain times it’s not surprising people are turning to their old favourites as they seek reassurance in the familiar, while the unfamiliar dominates the news.

With that in mind, we’ve trawled through the UK streaming services to choose some of the best retro shows on offer over the coming weeks.

Absolutely Fabulous (Britbox/Netflix)

Actresses (L-R) Joanna Lumley, Jennifer Saunders and Jane Horrocks in an office scene from the BBC television sitcom 'Absolutely Fabulous', March 4th 1992. (Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images)

Relive Eddie and Patsy’s most outrageous adventures, outfits and binges with Jennifer Saunder’s iconic fashion sitcom.

Blackadder (Britbox/Now TV)

Actors Tony Robinson and Rowan Atkinson in a scene from the BBC television sitcom special 'Blackadder's Christmas Carol', December 1st 1988. (Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images)

Rowan Atkinson stars as the devious Blackadder in four different time periods across four excellent series, created by Atkinson with Richard Curtis, and aided in later series by Ben Elton.

Bo Selecta! (All4/Prime Video)

Comedian Avid Merrion, star of Channel 4's Bo Selecta, impersonates Michael Jackson during the 2003 NatWest EMMA (Ethnic Multicultural Media Academy) Awards, held at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, central London. (Photo by Yui Mok - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Remember when Leigh Francis was interesting? Revisit his best sketch series yet and revel in the glorious anarchy of Avid Merrion and his rubber-masked guests including Craig David, Mel B, and Ozzy Osbourne.

Bottom (Now TV)

Comic actors Adrian Edmondson (left) and Rik Mayall watching television in scene from episode 'Contest' of the BBC television sitcom 'Bottom', June 24th 1990. (Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images)

Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson were at the peak of their powers in this nihilistic, grotty slapstick sitcom that ran for three seasons.

Brasseye (Britbox)

Back before the news became more outrageous than comedy could ever have predicted, Chris Morris’ iconic news spoof ruled the roost. Like a fine wine, it continues to get better with age.

Crapston Villas (All4)

From the people that brought us Spitting Image, this stop motion comedy was crude, lewd, and is tailor made for late night binges.

Dad’s Army (Now TV)

The cast from the BBC's hit comedy, "Dad's Army", in a scene from one of the famous episodes of the show. The cast are Arthur Lowe (foreground) and (background L-R) John Le Mesurier, Clive Dunn, James Beck, John Laurie, Ian Lavender and Arnold Ridley. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Broadcast on the BBC from 1968 to 1977, Jimmy Perry’s WW2 comedy remains the high benchmark for British sitcoms, and despite endless reruns, it remains as funny as the day it was first aired.

Desmonds (All4)

Set in a Peckham barbershop, this game-changing comedy ran for six series from 1989-1994 making it Channel 4’s longest-running sitcom.

Dinnerladies (Britbox/Netflix/Now TV)

Actresses Victoria Wood (left) and Maxine Peake in a scene from episode 'Moods' of the BBC sitcom 'Dinnerladies', July 25th 1998. (Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images)

It’s incredible to think that Victoria Wood’s sitcom only ran for 16 episodes, considering how well-loved it remains. It’s just been added to Netflix in its entirety, but you can also catch it on Britbox and Now TV too.

Father Ted (All4/Britbox)

The greatest Irish export since Guinness still elicits belly laughs on repeat viewings thanks to a series of killer comedy performances from all involved, least of all the late, great Dermot Morgan as the eponymous Father Ted Crilly.

Fawlty Towers (Now TV)

John Cleese struck comedy gold with his iconic sitcom, perhaps one of the greatest ever made, in which he wrote and starred as irascible hotelier Basil Fawlty.

French and Saunders (iPlayer/Britbox)

Comic actors Jennifer Saunders (left) and Dawn French dressed as county music singers in a sketch from the television comedy show 'French and Saunders', February 14th 1988. (Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images)

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders’ sketch show is one of the all-time greats, particularly their film and music video spoofs that remain hilarious as ever.

Game On (Now TV)

Although the series never quite recovered from the departure of lead Ben Chaplin for Hollywood, this sitcom about a trio of twenty-somethings (Samantha Janus, Matthew Cottle, and Chaplin’s replacement Neil Stuke) in a flat share is well worth revisiting.

Goodness Gracious Me (iPlayer)

Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal and Anil Gupta’s sketch show explored British Asian culture in a way never seen before on UK TV and it remains riotously entertaining and ripe for a revisit.

The Good Life (Britbox)

Portrait of actors (L-R) Felicity Kendal, Richard Briers, Paul Eddington and Penelope Keith, photographed for Radio Times in connection with the television sitcom 'The Good Life', May 30th 1978. (Photo by Chris Ridley/Radio Times/Getty Images)

Starring Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal, this classic 70s sitcom saw a a middle-aged couple adopting a self-sustainable lifestyle much to the horror of their neighbours Margot and Jerry. It’s still brilliant.

Harry Enfield & Chums/Harry Enfield Presents (Britbox)

Name a more quotable sketch show. Little Britain doesn’t count. Enfield’s peak of creativity birthed Smashie and Nicey, the Scousers, the Old Gits, Kevin and Perry, Wayne and Waynetta Slob, Tim Nice-But-Dim, and many more.

Only Fools and Horses (Now TV/Britbox)

Actors (L-R) Nicholas Lyndhurst, David Jason and Buster Merryfield in a scene from episode 'The Jolly Boys Outing' of the BBC Television sitcom 'Only Fools and Horses', June 3rd 1989. (Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images)

The British sitcom to end all British sitcoms. The adventures of Del Boy, Rodney, Granddad and later Uncle Albert, remains the most instantly recognisable show on UK TV.

Open All Hours (Now TV)

Portrait of actors (L-R) Ronnie Barker, Lynda Baron and David Jason standing in a back alley, photographed for Radio Times in connection with the television sitcom 'Open All Hours', South Yorkshire, January 30th 1981. (Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images)

David Jason’s other indelible sitcom stars Ronnie Barker as a crotchety but kind-hearted shopkeeper, and is as comforting as a warm blanket and a mug of Horlicks.

Porridge (iPlayer/Britbox/Now TV)

Old lag Fletcher (Ronnie Barker), fellow prisoner Godber (Richard Beckinsale) and prison officer Mackay (Fulton Mackay) during location shooting for the film version of their TV series "Porridge" at Chelmsford Jail, which has been empty since a fire last year. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Continuing on a Ronnie Barker tip is his prison-set sitcom created and written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. It ran for just three series, but its cultural impact continues to be felt. Spend some time in lock down locked up.

Queer As Folk (All4/Britbox)

Aidan Gillen, Craig Kelly and Charlie Hunnam star in Russell T Davies’ 1999-2000 comedy drama that broke down barriers for LGBTQ+ representation on TV forever.

The Thin Blue Line (Prime Video)

Ben Elton’s cop sitcom starred Rowan Atkinson as Inspector Fowler, a uniformed officer who often clashed with David Haig’s ambitious Detective Inspector Derek Grim. It was short lived, but has aged well.

Top of the Pops (iPlayer)

Top Of The Pops dance group Pan's People, group portrait, studio, 6th January 1976. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

BBC iPlayer has a wide selection of classic TOTP to choose from and they’ve helpfully excised all traces of Jimmy Savile, so you enjoy some classic pop and rock performances entirely unproblematically.

The Two Ronnies (Britbox)

Comedians Ronnie Corbett (left) and Ronnie Barker in a pub sketch from the television series 'The Two Ronnies', 1978. (Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images)

Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett were a match made in comedy heaven and aided by some of the greatest comedy writers in UK TV history, they crafted an indelible sketch series that is well worth repeat viewings.

The Vicar of Dibley (Netflix/Britbox/Now TV)

Dawn French’s rural sitcom written by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer about a fictional village and its newly-assigned female vicar has just been added to Netflix, praise be.

Vic Reeves Big Night Out (All4)

Vic Reeves (L), Bob Mortimer and Matt Lucas (R) at the photocall for the release of the new DVD 'Vic Reeves Big Night Out' at Too2Much Club, central London, Friday 9 September 2005. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA (Photo by Steve Parsons - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s cult show changed British comedy forever, and remains as gleefully anarchic and unmatched to this day.

Check everything new on streaming in April:

Netflix UK: April’s new releases

Everything coming to Now TV in April

Amazon Prime Video UK: The biggest April releases

Everything coming to Disney+ in April