Is the modern TV sketch show lazy in its writing? Page 2

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Aaron

  • Sunday 6th February 2011, 12:38pm
  • Royal Berkshire, England
  • 68,281 posts

Has anyone, who complains about "low production values", seen an episode of Not The Nine O'Clock News recently? Because some of it was really f**king ropey. And producers, directors, writers etc, know that they could make a varied sketch show like that again - but that they'd never get enough budget to do so without getting ripped to shit by critics.

So yeah, it really comes down to money.

Re: His Own Devices' comment about lack of satire, we've had a broadly left-leaning Labour Government for most of the last 15 years. In a media populated by equally left-leaning types, it's really no surprise that the art of satire has all but been allowed to die. People like the 10 O'Clock Live team are attempting to bring it back, but you only have to watch an episode of the show to see how much damage that deacade+'s vacuum has done to the art.

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Blenkinsop

  • Sunday 6th February 2011, 12:38pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 2,013 posts
Quote: Griff @ February 6 2011, 12:30 PM GMT

It's not necessarily less industrious writing for recurring characters. Sometimes it's done lazily where the sketches are just repeats of the original, but if you're not being lazy it's actually quite difficult - you have to keep finding ways to extend, twist and vary the original premise. (I've written different sets of recurring character sketches for The Treason Show and Teakshow and that was my experience anyway).

I would agree with that. I think that the very idea of a recurring character makes this the case, because as that character was created as a vehicle for a joke, their raison d'etre is to be just that. So naturally to extend the premise and make it (crucially) funny each time is indeed a hard one to pull off.

Two examples of this spring to mind for me. One I think is really good and the other is just sloppy, cheap and slightly shock value for shock value's sake.

I love the airmen on Armstrong & Miller. There is quite often a nice twist to the sketch and the performances and production values are excellent. However the character in Little Britain who used to end up pissing themselves on the floor was (IMO) a really lazy and cheap joke beaten to death relentlessly.

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Aaron

  • Sunday 6th February 2011, 12:41pm
  • Royal Berkshire, England
  • 68,281 posts

The other big difference of course, is that something like Not The Nine O'Clock News was primarily a satire show that used sketches as its format to attack as many parts of Government and society as possible. More recent sketch shows, such as Little Britain, are far more of character studies. Monty Python et al was barmy creativity at its most free. They're all sketch shows but coming from entirely different bases.

So, with the above comment regarding budget aside, I don't see the modern sketch show as being 'lazy' compared to those of old: they're just different beasts from the ground up.

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Tursiops

  • Sunday 6th February 2011, 1:28pm
  • Welwyn Garden City, England
  • 9,788 posts

There is no doubt that recurring sketches are hard to write well; harder I should think than one off sketches in fact. Which is why a show of one sketches should in theory be easier to maintain at a high standard, or at least should fail in more interesting ways.

By the way, on the budgetary restraint issue, does anyone else think it odd how much of Armstrong & Miller's budget is blown on the "Kill them!' type nothings, which to suck the viewer in always require a one off setting?

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sootyj

  • Sunday 6th February 2011, 1:30pm
  • England
  • 51,287 posts

There's a genius on this thread who's written a series of repeated sketches, that never tire or get old.
One of them's apparently about a superhero who has poor bowel control.

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sootyj

  • Sunday 6th February 2011, 1:38pm
  • England
  • 51,287 posts

Surely the secret of comedy is the familiar unfamiliar?

if you don't have a norm to deviate from then where is the humour?

Trick is how much normal before you deviate.

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Tursiops

  • Sunday 6th February 2011, 1:41pm
  • Welwyn Garden City, England
  • 9,788 posts

I am not too up on commedia dell'arte, but what you are describing sounds more akin to sitcom than a sketch show.

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sootyj

  • Sunday 6th February 2011, 1:47pm
  • England
  • 51,287 posts

Read an interesting article on how comedia della arte is still the template for most modern sitcoms.

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Ben

  • Sunday 6th February 2011, 2:01pm
  • England
  • 18,345 posts
Quote: bob4apples @ February 6 2011, 11:54 AM GMT

Then you must also find it odd that a critic who has never wrote or directed anything can criticise someone else's film. Or so-called screenwriting 'gurus' who write books but have never written a screenplay either.

No, I don't find that odd. What I was trying to say was that I find it strange that people think it's easy and lazy to write recurring characters. It's not. If it was we'd have plenty of characters like Ted and Ralph from The Fast Show, but sadly we do not.

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Tim Azure

  • Tuesday 8th February 2011, 9:27am
  • Kent, England
  • 2,037 posts
Quote: Ben @ February 6 2011, 2:01 PM GMT

No, I don't find that odd. What I was trying to say was that I find it strange that people think it's easy and lazy to write recurring characters. It's not. If it was we'd have plenty of characters like Ted and Ralph from The Fast Show, but sadly we do not.

It's true that some recurring characters you want to see again. Ted and Ralph from The Fast Show, yes. Melody and Keeley from Come Fly with Me, not so much...

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His Own Devices

  • Tuesday 8th February 2011, 2:17pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 126 posts

With recurring characters, it depends how they're done really. I myself think the more clever and subtle characters are, the better. For example, I'm not keen on Armstrong and Miller's RAF men or the characters in Little Britain, as I find them silly and unsubtle. I prefer Siadwell and Drunk Sloane from Naked Video and Smith and Jones's head to head sketches as I think those are good examples of what recurring characters in sketch shows should be like. I'm not keen on catchphrases either, which is probably why my favourite Harry Enfield character is Tim Nice-but-dim, who seems to be the only one without a catchphrase, and well written I also find. This is just my opinion of course, but as I say, I'm OK with certain recurring characters, but only in certain cases.

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chipolata

  • Friday 11th February 2011, 11:05am [Edited]
  • England
  • 29,528 posts
Quote: Aaron @ February 6 2011, 12:38 PM GMT

Re: His Own Devices' comment about lack of satire, we've had a broadly left-leaning Labour Government for most of the last 15 years. In a media populated by equally left-leaning types, it's really no surprise that the art of satire has all but been allowed to die.

Not true. There have been numerous attempts at satire over the last fifteen odd years. We had Armando Iannucci with the Saturday Night and Friday Night Armistice, with their Mr Tony Blair puppet. Bremmner, Bird and Fortune seemed to have a show on every week during the New Labour years, each one attacking Blair (so much so it got quite stale and repetitive). There was that Marcus Brigstocke show on BBC Four, The Late Edition. Then there was the 11 O'Clock Show with Iain Lee and Daisy Donovan - a show that regularly knocked the government and gave us Ricky Gervais and Sascha Baron Cohen. We also had the Mark Thomas Comedy Product, which was soon renamed the Mark Thomas Product on account of it not being very funny.

To top it all there was also The Thick Of It, possibly the most vicious political satire imaginable, and a naked attack upon New Labour and its style of government. Add to that the shed-load of less than flattering docu-dramas about Blair and Brown...

In other words, there was a lot of anti-Government satire during those years. Some succesful, some less so. And arguably none captured the public imagination like Spitting Image or Not The Nine O'Clock News, but not many shows have, period.

Also, the people who hated New Labour most were probably the left-leaning types in the media.

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Charlie Boy

  • Friday 11th February 2011, 4:45pm [Edited]
  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • 547 posts

Harry & Paul must have some of the laziest writers. The same sketches appearing every week.

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His Own Devices

  • Saturday 26th February 2011, 3:39pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 126 posts

The over-use of recurring characters is only half of what's wrong. The other half is that most modern sketch writers go for a sort of rude and childish sense of humour, rather than the clever, and often satirical/observant humour shows like Smith and Jones, Naked Video and even Hale and Pace used to have.

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Tim Azure

  • Sunday 27th February 2011, 7:45pm
  • Kent, England
  • 2,037 posts
Quote: His Own Devices @ February 26 2011, 3:39 PM GMT

The over-use of recurring characters is only half of what's wrong. The other half is that most modern sketch writers go for a sort of rude and childish sense of humour, rather than the clever, and often satirical/observant humour shows like Smith and Jones, Naked Video and even Hale and Pace used to have.

Naked Video, possibly. But "Smith and Jones" and "Hale and Pace" were rather substandard, and, if I recall fairly rude as well. "Big Train" was much better at observant comedy.