The greatest sitcom dads

Porridge. Image shows from L to R: Godber (Richard Beckinsale), Fletcher (Ronnie Barker)

A dad joke is rarely considered a good thing, and although the standard domestic sitcom is often overlooked by critics, beyond the traditional family model of the classic British comedy, great dads, or father-son/daughter relationships are everywhere. Here we raise a toast to some of the most memorable and perhaps more unconventional sitcom dads.

Norman Stanley Fletcher

Norman Stanley Fletcher is probably not the first name you'd consider when you think of the strongest father figures in sitcom. Although the rouge with the 'bad feet' we know and love as Fletcher (Ronnie Barker) did have a family on the outside (namely his wife Gloria, son Raymond (Nicholas Lyndhurst) and daughter, Ingrid (Patricia Brake), whom we occasionally saw at visiting times), it was actually within the confines of Slade prison where the strongest parental relationship blossomed: between Fletcher and the young delinquent, Lennie Godber (Richard Beckinsale) capturing audiences' hearts.

Porridge. Image shows from L to R: Ingrid Fletcher (Patricia Brake), Fletcher (Ronnie Barker). Copyright: BBC

Aside from their comedic chemistry, the pair's genuine relationship shone through, culminating in a low-key and emotional ending to Porridge where the duo parted ways as Godber's parole was granted. In the final episode of Porridge, it was revealed that Fletch was even prepared to risk his own sentence remission for his cell mate's early release.

Ben Harper

Robert Lindsay's Ben Harper, the curmudgeonly dentist of Chiswick, is almost certainly the most easily recognisable grumpy TV dad of the post-millennium sitcom. His appearance was preceded by the affable Ben Porter (Gary Olsen) of 2point4 Children fame - a nineties family sitcom that ran for a seriously impressive 56 episodes, only curtailed by the untimely death of Olsen in 2000. With a family-shaped hole in the BBC's sitcom schedule to fill, 2001 saw My Family pick up the baton and become a hit with audiences for an impressive ten years.

My Family. Image shows from L to R: Ben Harper (Robert Lindsay), Nick Harper (Kris Marshall). Copyright: DLT Entertainment Ltd., Rude Boy Productions

Although Ben liked to consider himself the man of the house, his wife, Susan (Zoë Wanamaker) was largely pulling his strings; yet it was Ben's run-ins with his idiot son, Nick, that made the sitcom famous and helped launch the career of Kris Marshall. When Marshall left due to fears he was becoming typecast as the brainless buffoon, the series survived his departure as a roster of new characters arrived, Ben becoming ever-more encircled by all manner of daft cousins, colleagues and extended family members to ramp up his annoyance. Whilst the cast changed over the years, Ben Harper's attitude never did. Regularly smashing 10 million viewers and becoming one of only twelve British sitcoms to have over one-hundred episodes to its name, My Family may not (yet) be considered a classic, but it has a legacy most sitcom stars should be seriously envious of.

Jim Royle

The Royle Family. Jim Royle (Ricky Tomlinson)

The slovenly Jim Royle (Ricky Tomlinson) could hardly be cited as a model father: rarely generous (or even kind) to his teenage son Anthony (Ralf Little), reluctant to redecorate, or even make a simple cup of tea for his family, every small household chore seemed to be a gargantuan effort. It was therefore a surprise to the nation when one Christmas Day at the Royle household Jim found himself the sole comforter of a distressed Denise (Caroline Aherne). In the midst of labour, she was having last minute nerves about her impending motherhood. In a brave moment that was played purely for pathos, it was, once again, the real-life chemistry between the pair that caused the scene to strike the most stunning tone. To the backdrop of some well-known classical pieces of music, Denise asks Jim if she'll make a good mother: "What if the baby doesn't like me? What if I don't like the baby?"

He reassures her in a reply chocked up with tears: "When your mum put you in my arms and I looked at you, Oh God... you were beautiful, and I knew then, I'd do anything for you, anything for you... and our Anthony."

In filming this scene, the entire crew were reportedly reduced to tears. A more tender father/daughter scene you will not find in British sitcom... although perhaps Frank Spencer's charming bedtime songs with his baby daughter Jessica in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em would come a close second.

Sid Abbott

Bless This House. Image shows from L to R: Sally Abbott (Sally Geeson), Mike Abbott (Robin Stewart), Sid Abbott (Sid James), Jean Abbott (Diana Coupland). Copyright: Thames Television

It was 1971, and although Sid James had himself long since become a dad, and had previously likened his real-life relationship with Tony Hancock to father and son, it took years before Sid became a father in front of the camera. Swapping his familiar on-screen roles as small-time crooks or lecherous Carry On protagonists, Bless This House saw Sid as a run-of-the-mill, easily frustrated dad with two teenage children who ran rings around him with their lofty ideals and concerns about the climate. Settling down into the role of the wannabe-laid-back dad that saw him cemented as a household name, Sid swapped James for Abbott for six series and a feature film before his untimely death put an end to the ratings-winning comedy in 1976, foreshadowing Ben Harper by three decades.

The key to the show's longevity was not just James's chemistry with his on-screen wife (Diana Coupland) and children (Robin Stewart and Sally Geeson), which were plain for all to see, but Sid's lovable nature played a significant part in supporting the show - along with his signature laugh... Yak yak yak.

William Shakespeare

Upstart Crow. Image shows from L to R: Anne Hathaway (Liza Tarbuck), Will Shakespeare (David Mitchell), Susanna (Helen Monks)

Even the Bard was a normal dad at the end of the day. Upstart Crow sees Ben Elton pitch David Mitchell's acclaimed version of the literary genius as a put-upon father who's far from immune to regular domestic trials and tribulations; most notably with Susanna, Shakespeare's (real-life) eldest daughter, reimagined as an unruly teenager, perhaps in a nod to Harry Enfield's classic sketch show characters Kevin and Perry, and performed to perfection by Helen Monks. Their father/daughter dynamic started in the off-hand manner you might expect ('I didst not ask to be brought forth into the world!') before developing into a rather tender relationship by the end of the third series, as Elton once again brought real-life historical drama and deep, hard-hitting pathos to a sitcom with the death of Shakespeare's son.

Martin Goodman

Friday Night Dinner. Martin (Paul Ritter). Copyright: Popper Pictures, Big Talk Productions

It's fair to say that Friday Night Dinner will likely be prominently remembered for Mark Heap's delightful oddball Jim Bell, with his weekly self-invites to the Goodman household becoming a popular and well-known trope of the series (he would bustle into the sitcom each week in the style of Kenneth Williams's scene-stealer, Snide, from the 1950s classic, Hancock's Half Hour). Something of a drifter, Jim would greet the increasingly weary Goodmans with a cheerful 'Hello Jackie!' before beckoning in his dog, Wilson, to essentially gate-crash the party.

However, the true backbone of the series was Paul Ritter's embarrassing dad. The catchphrases that came to define Friday Night Dinner: 'Shit on it!' and 'a lovely bit of squirrel' were the trademarks of Martin Goodman - a man who did not like wearing a shirt and was more often than not seen without it. Rarely fazed by anything, on the rare occasion something did niggle he could be found retired to his shed, perhaps clinging to his tin of expired meat. As dad to sons Jonny and Adam (Tom Rosenthal and Simon Bird), Martin was considered by the juvenile pair to be a mortifying parent: referring to their potential girlfriends as 'females' and cheerfully referring to his sons as 'bambinos', these were just some of Martin's many, many eccentricities.

Ritter's character, Martin (and the show itself), became an audience favourite, beloved by millions. Friday Night Dinner bowed out in 2020, just a year before his untimely death. Without Martin, the show simply could not have continued - nor have been half as successful as it was.


Bless This House - The Complete Series

Every last episode of the smash-hit 1970s sitcom, starring the inimitable Sid James as Sid Abbott. Sid is an office supplies salesman, who is constantly trying to bridge the generation gap and deal with his two teenage children (nevermind the wife), whilst also trying to keep his own incompetence to a minimum.

All 65 episodes from the six series of the show, plus the feature film, are included in this 12-disc box set.

First released: Sunday 21st October 2007

  • Released: Sunday 31st August 2008
  • Distributor: Network
  • Region: 2
  • Discs: 12
  • Catalogue: 7952768

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  • Distributor: Network
  • Region: 2
  • Discs: 12
  • Catalogue: 7952730

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Not in the UK?

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If you are in the North America, look out for US/Canadian flag icons on popular product listings for direct links.

If you order from a UK store, please note that the UK is in Region 2 and B, respectively, for DVDs and Blu-rays - check your player's compatibility, or look for multi-region products if you are located in another region.

If you are in Australia or New Zealand (DVD Region 4), note that almost all DVDs distributed in the UK by the BBC and 2entertain are encoded for both Region 2 and Region 4. The UK and Australasia are in the same Blu-ray region (B).

Porridge - The Complete Collection

This collection presents every episode of the classic 1970s comedy Porridge, which stars Ronnie Barker and Richard Beckinsale as prison inmates. Lennie Godber (Beckinsale) is the new kid on the block, and, luckily, tough guy Norman Stanley 'Fletch' Fletcher (Barker) is looking out for him.

All three series and the separate Christmas specials are included over 4 discs.

First released: Monday 19th October 2009

  • Released: Monday 31st October 2011
  • Distributor: 2 Entertain
  • Region: 2
  • Discs: 4
  • Catalogue: BBCDVD3568

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  • Distributor: 2 Entertain
  • Region: 2
  • Discs: 4
  • Catalogue: BBCDVD1586

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Not in the UK?

Fear not! Many items can still be ordered. Amazon in the UK delivers to many international territories, whilst their Australia, USA and Canada stores also supply many equivalent or imported items.

If you are in the North America, look out for US/Canadian flag icons on popular product listings for direct links.

If you order from a UK store, please note that the UK is in Region 2 and B, respectively, for DVDs and Blu-rays - check your player's compatibility, or look for multi-region products if you are located in another region.

If you are in Australia or New Zealand (DVD Region 4), note that almost all DVDs distributed in the UK by the BBC and 2entertain are encoded for both Region 2 and Region 4. The UK and Australasia are in the same Blu-ray region (B).

The Royle Family - The Complete Collection

Celebrate your love for one of Britain's best known TV families with this ultimate collector's edition of The Royle Family. Including every episode from every series along with all the specials to Christmas 2009, there's a real bonus for fans with the addition of the talking heads documentary, We Love The Royle Family, and the 2008 Children In Need sketch.

First released: Monday 16th August 2010

  • Released: Monday 7th October 2013
  • Distributor: ITV Studios
  • Region: 2
  • Discs: 9
  • Catalogue: 3711536043

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Not in the UK?

Fear not! Many items can still be ordered. Amazon in the UK delivers to many international territories, whilst their Australia, USA and Canada stores also supply many equivalent or imported items.

If you are in the North America, look out for US/Canadian flag icons on popular product listings for direct links.

If you order from a UK store, please note that the UK is in Region 2 and B, respectively, for DVDs and Blu-rays - check your player's compatibility, or look for multi-region products if you are located in another region.

If you are in Australia or New Zealand (DVD Region 4), note that almost all DVDs distributed in the UK by the BBC and 2entertain are encoded for both Region 2 and Region 4. The UK and Australasia are in the same Blu-ray region (B).

My Family - Complete

The complete boxed set of the BBC One comedy series My Family where put-upon dentist Ben Harper (Robert Lindsay) is long suffering husband to Susan (Zoe Wannamaker) and father to three very different and often difficult children - nice but dim Nick (Kris Marshall), shopaholic student Janey (Daniela Denby-Ashe) and prodigy Michael (Gabriel Thomson).

This monster 22-disc box set includes all 11 series and 9 Christmas specials.

First released: Monday 5th December 2011

  • Distributor: 2 Entertain
  • Region: 2
  • Discs: 22
  • Minutes: 3,596
  • Subtitles: English
  • Catalogue: 2EDVD0724

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Not in the UK?

Fear not! Many items can still be ordered. Amazon in the UK delivers to many international territories, whilst their Australia, USA and Canada stores also supply many equivalent or imported items.

If you are in the North America, look out for US/Canadian flag icons on popular product listings for direct links.

If you order from a UK store, please note that the UK is in Region 2 and B, respectively, for DVDs and Blu-rays - check your player's compatibility, or look for multi-region products if you are located in another region.

If you are in Australia or New Zealand (DVD Region 4), note that almost all DVDs distributed in the UK by the BBC and 2entertain are encoded for both Region 2 and Region 4. The UK and Australasia are in the same Blu-ray region (B).

Upstart Crow - The Complete Series 1-3 And The Christmas Specials

Based on the facts we know about William Shakespeare, Ben Elton's critically acclaimed sitcom is about the life of the world's favourite bard as it just might have been.

This box set includes the complete Series 1 to 3 and the 2017 and 2018 Christmas specials of the hit BBC Two sitcom.

First released: Monday 14th January 2019

  • Distributor: BBC
  • Region: 2 & 4
  • Discs: 4
  • Minutes: 592
  • Subtitles: English
  • Catalogue: BBCDVD4309

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Not in the UK?

Fear not! Many items can still be ordered. Amazon in the UK delivers to many international territories, whilst their Australia, USA and Canada stores also supply many equivalent or imported items.

If you are in the North America, look out for US/Canadian flag icons on popular product listings for direct links.

If you order from a UK store, please note that the UK is in Region 2 and B, respectively, for DVDs and Blu-rays - check your player's compatibility, or look for multi-region products if you are located in another region.

If you are in Australia or New Zealand (DVD Region 4), note that almost all DVDs distributed in the UK by the BBC and 2entertain are encoded for both Region 2 and Region 4. The UK and Australasia are in the same Blu-ray region (B).

Friday Night Dinner - The Complete Collection: Series 1 - 6

Includes all 37 episodes from Series 1 to 6 of the award-winning, smash hit comedy Friday Night Dinner.

Tuck into six glorious helpings of award-winning madness with the Goodmans as they get together for a Friday night dinner of food, family and major-league bickering. Of course every family has its eccentricities, it's just the Goodman family have made an art form of theirs.

Friday Night Dinner is an original series about growing up but not growing away. It marries the ground-breaking with the familiar and, best of all, it's really, really funny.

Starring: Tamsin Greig, Simon Bird, Paul Ritter, Tom Rosenthal and Mark Heap. Created by award winning producer and writer Robert Popper (Peep Show, The Inbetweeners, Look Around You).

First released: Monday 9th November 2020

  • Distributor: 2 Entertain
  • Region: 2
  • Discs: 6
  • Minutes: 864
  • Subtitles: English
  • Catalogue: 2EDVD1005

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Not in the UK?

Fear not! Many items can still be ordered. Amazon in the UK delivers to many international territories, whilst their Australia, USA and Canada stores also supply many equivalent or imported items.

If you are in the North America, look out for US/Canadian flag icons on popular product listings for direct links.

If you order from a UK store, please note that the UK is in Region 2 and B, respectively, for DVDs and Blu-rays - check your player's compatibility, or look for multi-region products if you are located in another region.

If you are in Australia or New Zealand (DVD Region 4), note that almost all DVDs distributed in the UK by the BBC and 2entertain are encoded for both Region 2 and Region 4. The UK and Australasia are in the same Blu-ray region (B).

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