BBC At 100, BBC Classic Comedy

BBC Classic Comedy, The Radio Years, Part 2, Radio And The Sitcom

As the BBC rushes towards it’s 100th birthday we’re looking back at some the corporation’s best comedy.  In part 1 we looked at some early radio.  In part 2 we’re looking at the birth of the humble sitcom and how some of the TV classics have also found their way on to Radio.

Traditionally radio comedy had followed the tried and tested formula of gags and a musical interlude and very successful it had been too.  In 1948 writers Frank Muir and Dennis Norden introduced us to a new Radio comedy; Take It From Here.  The show became a huge success building on the already successful formula.  However Take It From Here took a slightly different approach in that alongside the gags and musical interlude was a sitcom segment that introduced us to The Glums.




Whilst for many Take It From here was seen as the first sitcom waiting in the wings were two writers who whilst themselves didn’t have the high profile of Norden and Muir had had success with their own work.  Ray Galton and Alan Simpson wanted a radio comedy series that put the characters in a different situation each week and would last a full 30 minutes without any musical interludes.  It was a ground breaking idea that lead to the first real British sitcom Hancock’s Half Hour.




First broadcast in 1954 the show was an immediate success and made writers Galton and Simpson and star Tony Hancock household names.  So successful was the series it found it’s way onto TV by 1956 running on both TV and radio until 1959 when the radio series ended.

I Saw You On The Radio

With the success of Hancock’s Half Hour the great British sitcom had begun but it’s radio roots were never forgotten.  Some of the BBC’s most popular sitcoms were adapted for radio.  These included:

Dad’s Army




Steptoe And Son




Others included Yes Minister and Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads.

In Part 3

In the final part we look back at some of the BBC’s best on TV particularly those that made it to the VHS videos labelled BBC Classic Comedy.