Funny Business: TV Sitcom category introduced
Although the sitcom as a genre first took shape on radio, it proved perfect for the new medium of television – giving audiences the chance to forge enduring relationships with recurring characters in hilarious situations. Week by week, the popularity of the sitcom proved vital in helping television itself connect so powerfully with the British public. So it was only fitting that sitcoms would be represented from the earliest days of the Television Awards.

Perhaps inevitably, it was Tony Hancock who received the first win, claiming the Best Light Entertainment Artist award in 1958 for his performance in Hancock’s Half Hour, widely regarded as Britain’s first TV sitcom. Then, in 1973, the sitcom was given its own category, just in time for the ‘golden age’ of Fawlty Towers, Porridge and Rising Damp.

But attitudes to comedy changed over time, and as ‘sitcom’ became seen as a potentially limiting label, the category would be rebranded as Comedy Series in 1980 as alternative comedy came into fashion – returning to Sitcom in 1999 before becoming Scripted Comedy in 2014, as it remains today.

Image: John Cleese collects a BAFTA from Morecambe and Wise for his performance in Fawlty Towers at the British Academy Film and Television Awards in 1980.

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