Fawlty Towers and Only Fools and Horses today emerged as the clear favourites to win the title of Britain’s best ever sitcom.
The hilarious antics of Basil Fawlty, the short-tempered manager of a shambolically run hotel in Torquay, was named the favourite to win the public vote by bookmakers Ladbrokes, closely followed by the wheeler-dealer brothers from Peckham.
They will face competition from Blackadder, Dad’s Army, One Foot in the Grave, Open All Hours, Porridge, The Good Life, Yes Minister and the Vicar of Dibley in the BBC competition.
But a spokesman for Ladbrokes today dismissed their chances, insisting only Del Boy and Basil had any hope of being crowned the favourite comedy show.
He said: “It looks like a straight two horse race with Fawlty Towers battling Only Fools and Horses, no other sitcom has real chance of winning.
“Our initial view was to make Only Fools and Horses favourite but Fawlty Towers gets the nod. We question whether the gloss has come off the John Sullivan classic as the latest Christmas special is regarded as disappointing by many.”
The BBC announced its search for the best-loved comedy series had been whittled down to ten after the public voted from a selection of 50 sitcoms last night.
Presenter Jonathan Ross said: “To get to the top ten we’ve sifted through the sands of comedy to reveal ten nuggets of pure gold.”
Over the next ten weeks, ten celebrities will have one hour to give their top 20 reasons why their nominated programme is the best.
Former BBC reporter John Sergeant will be first up, making the case for Blackadder next Saturday, while Ulrika Jonsson, Jack Dee, Johnny Vaughan and Carol Vorderman will also be appearing later in the series to defend their favourites.
Jane Root, controller of BBC Two, said: “The list covers a real range of shows from different eras. It’s a credit to British comedy that the list is so strong.”
Britain’s Best Sitcom will be screened on BBC Two each Saturday at 9pm, with the winner of the vote announced live at the end of the series.