What are Brit-Coms?

Malcolm Tatum

Properly known as British situation comedies, Brit-coms include any situation comedy produced in the United Kingdom. The term is regularly utilized in the United States where various repeats of old British comedies are aired by the state level public television stations that compose the Public Broadcasting System or PBS. Brit-coms are also available around the world on several cable stations that focus on comedy, drama, and other entertainment offerings that originated in the United Kingdom.

Some Brit-coms make people laugh.
Some Brit-coms make people laugh.

For the most part, the British sit-coms aired on US public broadcasting stations are long-time favorites that are no longer in production. Along with airing the original episodes that make up each series or season of the television production, it is not unusual for semiannual fund drives to include reunion episodes of the comedies currently included in the network’s lineup. In some cases, the British entertainers who starred in one or more of the Brit-coms currently offered to viewers are invited to participate in the fund raising effort, often providing interesting tidbits about behind-the-scenes events that took place when the show was in active production.

Brit-coms are produced in the United Kingdom.
Brit-coms are produced in the United Kingdom.

For many state level public broadcasting entities, the inclusion of British comedy productions generates a significant amount of revenue. Perennially popular with viewers, it is not unusual for the state level network to create a special night that is built around the airing of several different Brit-coms, and make use of that night to draw attention to other programming offered throughout the week. From this perspective the inclusion of the British television classics serves to not only generate revenue from loyal viewers but also introduces that viewing audience to other programming fare that could possibly overlooked otherwise.

For the most part, the Brit-coms aired in the United States tend to be programs that were in production from the middle of the 20th century through the first years of the 21st century. The series feature some of the most beloved stars of British television, introducing them to new audiences years after the shows left active production. In some cases, the notoriety generated in the United States has allowed some of UK sit-com entertainers to secure lucrative work in productions based in the US, Canada, and other countries.

Typical of most Brit-coms is the unique blend of British wit coupled with the traditional conservative bearing that many people consider a hallmark of true British breeding. This combination of dry wit and formality is often loaded with double entendre, a fact that delights audiences around the world. Even shows that are decades old and obviously dated by clothing and political references of the day can still elicit laughter due to the clever use of this device in the scripting.

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