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a series of television comedy programmes which are produced in Great Britain and have a distinct style of humour
The term Britcom surged into newspaper headlines on both sides of the Atlantic earlier this year, when it was announced that the BBC TV series The Office had made history by being the first British comedy programme to win a prestigious Golden Globe Award in the United States. The actor Ricky Gervais, who starred in the series as the infamous manager David Brent, also picked up the award for best comedy actor, amidst a host of US television comedy icons. Britcom was back in the news in March, with British viewers voting Only Fools and Horses the best British TV comedy ever.
with the cultural influences of Britain, and a characteristic style of humour, Britcoms can be considered a very specific type of comedy programme
Widely used in British and especially American English, the word Britcom was first coined in the late 1990s to describe a type of situation comedy (or sitcom) series with a style of humour characteristic to Britain. American situation comedy series differ from Britcoms in that they tend to run for longer, and key actors appear in a narrower range of programmes than their British counterparts. With the cultural influences of Britain, and a characteristic style of humour, Britcoms can be considered a very specific type of comedy programme, and the term Britcom is also often used uncountably to describe a comedy genre.
A number of Britcoms have gained cult following across the world and particularly in the United States, where series like Fawlty Towers and Blackadder are especially popular. The origins of Britcom go right back to the immensely popular Ealing Comedies of the 1940s and '50s, though talented writers of the last two decades such as Richard Curtis and Ben Elton have made a major contribution to the international success of British comedy and the establishment of Britcom as a concept.
The word Britcom is, of course, a blend of the words British and comedy. An analogous term coined slightly earlier is Britpop, used to refer to British pop music in the 1990s, which was influenced by the music of the 1960s, especially The Beatles, and exemplified by bands such as Blur and Oasis. The term Britart was also coined in the late 1980s to refer to the work of British modern artists such as Damien Hirst.
This article was first published on 26th March 2004.