1. Steptoe and Son
There’s a lot more to this gloomy sitcom classic than slapstick and innuendo. Harold and Albert dealt with the social issues of 1960s and ’70s London: social inequality, violence, rampant poverty, the plight of the working class. All from the squalor of a decrepit scrapyard in Shepherd’s Bush, long before it was filled with Australian pubs and mega-malls. It’s touching and often hilarious, although, looking back, ‘you dirty old man’ seems like a pretty unfortunate catchphrase for a character in a BBC TV show.
2. Only Fools and Horses
No programme says ‘Lahndahn’ quite as loudly or proudly as ‘Only Fools and Horses’. Del Boy and Rodders were our city’s staunchest ambassadors, but get ready to have your dreams shattered into a thousand tiny fragments because OFaH wasn’t filmed in Peckham at all. ‘What? In Deptford? It can’t be!’ No, not even Deptford. Bristol. A whole other city, in (gasp) the west of England. It’s okay, you’re allowed to cry. You’ll get over it eventually.
By the ’80s, British TV comedy was creaking under the weight of the surreal intellectualism of ‘Monty Python’, the political meandering of ‘Yes Minister’ and the jolly hockey sticks of ‘The Good Life’. ‘Bottom’ was the pointless antidote to all of that and consisted largely of Ade Edmondson and the now sadly departed Rik Mayall repeatedly kicking each other in the balls in a Hammersmith flat. They were the face of decrepit London life, and they were brilliant.
4. Peep Show
Mark and Jeremy, the totally un-dynamic duo at the heart of this Croydon-based sitcom, are everything Londoners don’t want to admit we are. Selfish, lazy, unsuccessful, concerned about what pressing of virgin olive oil to buy – they’re basically all of us, and that’s what’s so good about it. It’s horrible, it’s real, and it’s totally moreish. Like crack.
5. The Good Life
We’ve all had that dream of giving up the rat race and moving to the countryside to live a simpler life, raising chickens and growing euphemistically large prize vegetables. This iconic ’70s show saw Felicity Kendal and Richard Bryers make that dream a reality, but not in the countryside: no, they live the good life in the leafy environs of suburban Surbiton. Why bother with rolling hills and bucolic tranquillity when you could still be within 20 minutes’ of Waterloo?
6. Nathan Barley
Years before the term ‘hipster’ became ubiquitous, Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker shat out this razor-sharp polemic, slicing at the jugular of Shoreditch twatdom. From the Vice-like magazine Julian Barratt’s character writes for (a comparison which still gets up that organ’s collective nose) to the ‘selffacilitating media node’ of Barley himself, the satire is so close to the bone you can taste the marrow. That it failed to stem the ‘Rise of the Idiots’ just proves London is home to a lot of idiots.
7. Grange Hill
You should be really happy that Grange Hill isn’t a real school, because if you sent your kids there you’d have good reason to believe that they’d become heroin-addicts with three kids and a penchant for chucking benches in pools before they’d even started flunking their O-levels. Famous alumni include ‘English Patient’-director Anthony Minghella and a bloke who works at a rehearsal space on Denmark Street who’ll charge you double if you call him by his character name.
8. This Life
What happens if you set ‘Friends’ in London and add a whole lot more sex, drugs and backstabbing? You’d get ‘This Life’, the show that titillated ’90s Cool Britannia. Centred around a group of twentysomethings as they shakily made their way into proper adulthood from their south London townhouse, their disastrous love lives and utterly selfish antics made for compulsive viewing. We just hope at least one person out there is named Egg because of it.
Most of us don’t spend the majority of our time having torrid affairs and drinking cocktails, à la ‘This Life’, we spend it on the sofa, and that’s what happens in this classic. Whip-smart, uncomfortably relatable and never anything short of hilarious, it’s so good, you almost start to think being mates with your neighbours is a good idea.
Just like Grange Hill school, we should be extremely thankful that the London borough of Walford is fictional. Otherwise, we may all be tempted by its cheap rents and move there only to find ourselves living in the UK’s murder, divorce, and adultery capital. The amount of betrayal, death and sadness that occurs day in, day out in this long-running soap makes London seem like a modern-day Greek tragedy, with the chorus consisting of Bianca yelling ‘Rickayyyyy!’.
Take a look at London’s top ten guilty pleasures.
By Eddy Frankel and Becky Lucas