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The Sitcom Story

BBC1, Monday, May 12, 10.35-11.35pm

Dawn French opens this series lounging on a sofa - a piece of furniture which, as she points out, is such a staple prop in sitcoms that you might be forgiven for thinking that the name of the genre was derived from it.

Although it has its roots in radio, the situation comedy has become a form peculiar to television. Sitcoms have become standard fare in Britain and the US. Stars such as Warren Mitchell, Ronnie Barker, June Whitfield, Ben Elton and Richard Briers chat about sitcoms they have known, and French shows us favourite clips. The series reminds us that television is good at self-congratulation, but critical self-analysis is not a genre that flourishes on the box, so it is less valuable for media studies than it might otherwise have been.

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