Having read the WhatCulture article pitting American sitcom juggernauts Friends and The Big Bang Theory against each other, I wanted to do an equivalent from across the pond. It seemed right to use The Royle Family (which started in 1998) to represent England and the timeless Father Ted (which, believe it or not, ended in 1998) to face-off against each other, due to the high standard of comedy they provided. Both provided characters, storylines, catchphrases and laughs that will live long in the memory to anybody who sat down on an evening with a cup of tea to enjoy what they had to offer. I'm going to directly compare the characters, the cast of actors, the cultural impact, the laughs provided and the overall popularity of the two, in order to settle on an overall winner.
Which sitcom out of the two had the best characters? The Royle Family's characters have become pretty legendary, but the limited setting for the series (99% of it is filmed inside the Royle household) has meant that expanding the range and roster of characters isn't so easy. So, in addition to the regulars (Jim, Barbara, Denise, Dave, Antony and Nana), the writers are limited to bringing in visiting neighbours (Joe, Cheryl), family friends (Twiggy, Darren) and new partners (Emma, Saskia). Father Ted, however, is constantly roving around all of Craggy Island and the neighbouring islands, increasing the possibility of bumping in to a much larger range of weird and wonderful characters. The regular trio of priests (Ted, Dougal and Jack) are always joined by the housekeeper Mrs Doyle, and they make a wonderful quartet with a great dynamic, but the character roster stretches much further than just these four. We have the foul-mouthed Bishop Brennan, Ted's bitter rival Dick Byrne, the hyperactive Noel Furlong (portrayed by future TV royalty in Graham Norton), the unbearably boring Paul Stone, the unfortunate Larry Duff, John and Mary O'Leary (a married couple who hate each other), Tom the village idiot and many more. All things considered, the wider range of characters and the more likely possibility of encountering new characters whilst out and about gives Father Ted the win here. Winner: Father Ted.