Overrated sitcoms? Page 16

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Tuesday 28th April 2015, 8:37pm
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I don't think the 'I don't get it' premise works when we compare recent comedies with successes of the past.

In many cases the quality simply isn't there in current material.
And many of these vehicles are targeted at societal niches these days.
Our media savvy media wonks like 'comedies' which are targeted at media savvy folk like themselves. Enter 'W1A' and 'The thick of it'.
Meanwhile the don't-offend-anyone doctrine reigns supreme, making much comedy impossible.

If I'm not mistaken, the biggest ratings for sitcom since the year 2000 were achieved by 'My family'.
A US-style vehicle created by someone who'd learned his craft in the US.
Audiences liked it (as the viewing figures prove), but the critics (who no doubt went to the same media studies courses as present day program commissioners) hated it for being mere entertainment.
In short, here was someone who'd learned from 'Frasier'; something we wanted desperately pretend had never happened.

We meanwhile indulged in ever more niche 'cool' stuff, telling ourselves that the rest of the world would realise us right in the end.
Because we invented humour. We had made 'Fawlty Towers'. Long ago.
Oddly, it hasn't quite worked out that way...

Mainstream is still deemed 'uncool' and our media wonks still chase the latest 'cool' thing. 'Cool' to them is everything.
If they ever were to meet David Bowie it would be the highlight of their lives.
Anything with a deliberate wider appeal is regarded as mundane, samey and somewhat common.

A certain provincialism is becoming apparent. Just as German TV will cater for Teutonic comedy tastes, not expecting the rest of the world to take much notice, so UK output now more and more is just meant for the UK local consumption.

Were we really expecting the rest of the world to take to 'Gavin and Stacey' or 'Miranda'? Any international ambitions have withered away.

There are signs of real desperation in resuscitating 'Open all hours'.
It's becoming apparent that there hasn't been a decent mainstream hit in sitcom for a very long time. One is beginning to panic. Reviving a format which is long dead has a feel of picking over a dead carcass...

To my mind the 1990s were the last decent decade of UK mainstream sitcom.
In effect we've missed an entire generation.

So are the recent sitcoms 'overrated' by their followers and 'overhyped' by the media? Of course.
But not this or that one. All of them.

The recent output tend to have very little heft to them and seem to consist of banter, style and production value. Oh, and a shedload of political correctness of course. (no doubt the broadcasters dream of finally making a comedy star of a gay, black, disabled transgender female with a welsh accent)

How much broadcasters understand of the mainstream these days is illustrated by 'Still open all hours' and 'Mrs Brown's boys' being meant for the wider audience. That's for us.

Until the broadcasters embrace the mainstream again, not feeling it beneath them, the UK will produce tripe which might be liked by this or that niche audience, but not the nation. And most certainly not the international mainstream.

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A Horseradish

  • Tuesday 28th April 2015, 9:30pm [Edited]
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Quote: Gussie Fink Nottle @ 28th April 2015, 8:37 PM BST

I don't think the 'I don't get it' premise works when we compare recent comedies with successes of the past.

In many cases the quality simply isn't there in current material.
And many of these vehicles are targeted at societal niches these days.
Our media savvy media wonks like 'comedies' which are targeted at media savvy folk like themselves. Enter 'W1A' and 'The thick of it'.
Meanwhile the don't-offend-anyone doctrine reigns supreme, making much comedy impossible.

If I'm not mistaken, the biggest ratings for sitcom since the year 2000 were achieved by 'My family'.
A US-style vehicle created by someone who'd learned his craft in the US.
Audiences liked it (as the viewing figures prove), but the critics (who no doubt went to the same media studies courses as present day program commissioners) hated it for being mere entertainment.
In short, here was someone who'd learned from 'Frasier'; something we wanted desperately pretend had never happened.

We meanwhile indulged in ever more niche 'cool' stuff, telling ourselves that the rest of the world would realise us right in the end.
Because we invented humour. We had made 'Fawlty Towers'. Long ago.
Oddly, it hasn't quite worked out that way...

Mainstream is still deemed 'uncool' and our media wonks still chase the latest 'cool' thing. 'Cool' to them is everything.
If they ever were to meet David Bowie it would be the highlight of their lives.
Anything with a deliberate wider appeal is regarded as mundane, samey and somewhat common.

A certain provincialism is becoming apparent. Just as German TV will cater for Teutonic comedy tastes, not expecting the rest of the world to take much notice, so UK output now more and more is just meant for the UK local consumption.

Were we really expecting the rest of the world to take to 'Gavin and Stacey' or 'Miranda'? Any international ambitions have withered away.

There are signs of real desperation in resuscitating 'Open all hours'.
It's becoming apparent that there hasn't been a decent mainstream hit in sitcom for a very long time. One is beginning to panic. Reviving a format which is long dead has a feel of picking over a dead carcass...

To my mind the 1990s were the last decent decade of UK mainstream sitcom.
In effect we've missed an entire generation.

So are the recent sitcoms 'overrated' by their followers and 'overhyped' by the media? Of course.
But not this or that one. All of them.

The recent output tend to have very little heft to them and seem to consist of banter, style and production value. Oh, and a shedload of political correctness of course. (no doubt the broadcasters dream of finally making a comedy star of a gay, black, disabled transgender female with a welsh accent)

How much broadcasters understand of the mainstream these days is illustrated by 'Still open all hours' and 'Mrs Brown's boys' being meant for the wider audience. That's for us.

Until the broadcasters embrace the mainstream again, not feeling it beneath them, the UK will produce tripe which might be liked by this or that niche audience, but not the nation. And most certainly not the international mainstream.

Another good post. I agree with what you are saying. One of my key arguments continues to be that much of the best comedy arose out of WW2 and because of it. Galton and Simpson, Milligan etc. We could always have another world war but it wouldn't be another WW2. What that war did among other things was provide realism when that is felt less acutely in peace time years and a need to escape from it because at times everything was too brutally real. That is an interesting juxtaposition for comedy. Also, there was the slow breaking down of class distinctions which led to funny scenarios.

Some might ask about the nature of "mainstream" in 2015. It is essentially organised bureaucracy of one kind or another and shopping. Many people have been dragged into that framework with barely a whimper. It doesn't matter if you are a major bigwig at the top of a huge corporation or someone who organises events at the local community hall. It is all so administrative, hence formulaic, and busy busy with little time for thought. We hear a lot about breast implants etc on the NHS. The key point is such physical things are really the first step to a future where individuality will be available via injection.

Yes, the 1990s was the last reasonable decade for British comedy but even that wasn't great. Was "Father Ted" British? I don't think so really. It's therefore surely just "One Foot in the Grave" unless someone provides a list to remind me of all the things I've forgotten. Actually I did love "The Real McCoy" so there's two. I don't think it is a coincidence that it was the decade of dwindling in other cultural areas too. Music, for example. One thing I firmly believe is that we are now in a much stronger situation in terms of radio comedy than in the period 1990-2005. It isn't a golden era but it is at least bronze and it occasionally rises to silver. And, yes, that is almost wholly down to the present BBC.

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Tuesday 28th April 2015, 10:07pm
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Quote: A Horseradish @ 28th April 2015, 9:30 PM BST

Another good post. I agree with what you are saying. One of my key arguments continues to be that much of the best comedy arose out of WW2 and because of it. Galton and Simpson, Milligan etc. We could always have another world war but it wouldn't be another WW2. What that war did among other things was provide realism when that is felt less acutely in peace time years and a need to escape from it because at times everything was too brutally real. That is an interesting juxtaposition for comedy. Also, there was the slow breaking down of class distinctions which led to funny scenarios.

Some might ask about the nature of "mainstream" in 2015. It is essentially organised bureaucracy of one kind or another and shopping. Many people have been dragged into that framework with barely a whimper. It doesn't matter if you are a major bigwig at the top of a huge corporation or someone who organises events at the local community hall. It is all so administrative, hence formulaic, and busy busy with little time for thought. We hear a lot about breast implants etc on the NHS. The key point is such physical things are really the first step to a future where individuality will be available via injection.

Yes, the 1990s was the last reasonable decade for British comedy but even that wasn't great. Was "Father Ted" British? I don't think so really. It's therefore surely just "One Foot in the Grave" unless someone provides a list to remind me of all the things I've forgotten. Actually I did love "The Real McCoy" so there's two. I don't think it is a coincidence that it was the decade of dwindling in other cultural areas too. Music, for example. One thing I strongly believe is that we are now in a much stronger situation in terms of radio comedy than in the period 1990-2005. It isn't a golden era but it is at least bronze and it occasionally rises to silver. And, yes, that is almost wholly down to the BBC.

The war certainly had a great effect on this country in terms of comedic mentality. But I'm not really sure we owe it all to the war.
I think it was simply that we continued a tradition in sitcom, fostering talent and letting it bloom. There was a fluid movement from music hall to radio television. Even as far as the 1970s Morecambe and Wise were still harking back to those roots. So were The Two Ronnies and Benny Hill.

Regarding the mainstream in 2015; it's not really that hard to find the mainstream in comedy. Even in 2015.
We're all told that society has 'atomised', etc.
But strangely we all still like 'Dad's Army', 'Only fools and horses', 'Fawlty Towers', etc.
If we're all so estranged these days, how come we all share such tastes?

And no, I don't think Britain today simply exists as a sort of glorified shopping channel. Especially not in comedy.
At ground level, humour is still as healthy as it ever was.
People still tell jokes. Wit and a taste for the surreal and ridiculous is still part of the national mentality.

As for 90s comedy:
With 'One foot in the Grave', 'Men behaving badly', 'Keeping up appearances', 'Jeeves and Wooster' and the mighty 'Red Dwarf' on the go, it's hard to see it as anything other than a fruitful decade, I should think, whether we count 'Father Ted' or not.

I'm sure others will suggest other sitcoms - and I myself am not sure about the inclusion of 'Men behaving badly', but it was a big mainstream hit.

P.S. As for individuality being available by injection. It already is, Horseradish. It's called tattooing. :) It's supposedly terribly individualistic to get a product - provided by a ready industry - in order to express one's rebellion against the system. Laughing out loud

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A Horseradish

  • Tuesday 28th April 2015, 10:25pm [Edited]
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Quote: Gussie Fink Nottle @ 28th April 2015, 10:07 PM BST

The war certainly had a great effect on this country in terms of comedic mentality. But I'm not really sure we owe it all to the war.
I think it was simply that we continued a tradition in sitcom, fostering talent and letting it bloom. There was a fluid movement from music hall to radio television. Even as far as the 1970s Morecambe and Wise were still harking back to those roots. So were The Two Ronnies and Benny Hill.

Regarding the mainstream in 2015; it's not really that hard to find the mainstream in comedy. Even in 2015.
We're all told that society has 'atomised', etc.
But strangely we all still like 'Dad's Army', 'Only fools and horses', 'Fawlty Towers', etc.
If we're all so estranged these days, how come we all share such tastes?

And no, I don't think Britain today simply exists as a sort of glorified shopping channel. Especially not in comedy.
At ground level, humour is still as healthy as it ever was.
People still tell jokes. Wit and a taste for the surreal and ridiculous is still part of the national mentality.

As for 90s comedy:
With 'One foot in the Grave', 'Men behaving badly', 'Keeping up appearances', 'Jeeves and Wooster' and the mighty 'Red Dwarf' on the go, it's hard to see it as anything other than a fruitful decade, I should think, whether we count 'Father Ted' or not.

I'm sure others will suggest other sitcoms - and I myself am not sure about the inclusion of 'Men behaving badly', but it was a big mainstream hit.

P.S. As for individuality being available by injection. It already is, Horseradish. It's called tattooing. :) It's supposedly terribly individualistic to get a product - provided by a ready industry - in order to express one's rebellion against the system. Laughing out loud

I don't have any tattoos. That is my rebellion along with not having a car, a mobile phone, a tablet, a freezer, a hair dryer, a comb, a briefcase, jewellery, a dishwasher, a bicycle, a garden hose, a house extension, holidays abroad. That sort of thing. I was thinking how "One Foot in the Grave" (8/10) as a title and even a concept was a metaphor for comedy being on the wane in the 1990s for I still think that it was fading. Arguably the same point about metaphor could be made in regard to "Keeping Up Appearances" (7) and "Men Behaving Badly" (6). What it wasn't mostly was "Absolutely Fabulous" (6).

Hah, there's another one and I am being generous with these marks. As for "Red Dwarf" (6) it was in its own world, wasn't it, while "Jeeves and Wooster" (7) was the comedy equivalent of Brit pop. It just went a bit further back. Blair was dire but Major, I think, has an awful lot to answer for. It was the era of "The (very) Thin Blue Line" although oddly enough I would be prepared to stretch that one to an 8.

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Tuesday 28th April 2015, 10:56pm
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Quote: A Horseradish @ 28th April 2015, 10:25 PM BST

I don't have any tattoos. That is my rebellion along with not having a car, a mobile phone, a tablet, a freezer, a hair dryer, a comb, a briefcase, jewellery, a dishwasher, a bicycle, a garden hose, a house extension, holidays abroad. That sort of thing. I was thinking how "One Foot in the Grave" (8/10) as a title and even a concept was a metaphor for comedy being on the wane in the 1990s. I still think that it was fading. The same point about metaphor could be made in regard to "Keeping Up Appearances" (7) and "Men Behaving Badly" (6). What it wasn't mostly was "Absolutely Fabulous" (6). Hah, there's another one and I am being generous with these marks. A for "Red Dwarf" (6) it was in its own world, wasn't it while "Jeeves and Wooster" (7) was the comedy equivalent of Brit pop. It just went a bit further back.

Hang on, 'Red Dwarf' ranks alongside 'Ab Fab' with you? Good God, man!

'Ab Fab' wasn't a comedy. It was a way of keeping Jennifer Saunders busy, which was apparently a necessity of some sort.
I regard it as effluent which only made it onto screen because one was getting concerned about needing a female comedy quota on screen about that time.

If I could I would send any relevant copies of it to the nuclear waste storage facility in Sellafield. Or else send them as fodder to a pig farm.
I know that it is deemed the source of the 'materialistic' comedy character.
But I think that is being overly generous.

'One foot in the grave' was a wonderfully nihilistic thing. But just as with Reginald Perrin nihilism is somewhat limiting in scope.

'Keeping up appearances' is one of those sitcoms of which people will claim that only their mothers like it. It is the epitome of 'uncool' comedy. But for such a humble little thing, it carried a mighty big stick. Once again an example of perfect characters.

'Men behaving badly' I think was very much of the time; lads mags and binge drinking. Successful though it was in its day, I don't think time is being kind to it.

It won't surprise you that I think that 'Jeeves and Wooster' is one of the greatest sitcoms this country has produced. I would not have thought that it was possible to make such a perfect distillation of Wodehouse. But they pulled it off to perfection. So to my mind, it's a pure 10. I honestly don't think I'm just saying this because I like it. I simply see it as a masterpiece of comic storytelling.

'Red Dwarf' meanwhile is one of the greats too. For one it is perfectly put together regarding comedic structure and it made perfect use of the wide scope the subject allowed. Like all truly classic comedies it is one where people recall a number of all-time classic scenes. The only main quibble I have is that in the later series they screwed up by failing to attribute Kotchansky a comedic type, which left her flailing as a female add-on.

Anyhow, looking at the above it's hard not to conclude that the 90s was a decade when sitcom was still alive.

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A Horseradish

  • Tuesday 28th April 2015, 11:08pm [Edited]
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Quote: Gussie Fink Nottle @ 28th April 2015, 10:56 PM BST

Hang on, 'Red Dwarf' ranks alongside 'Ab Fab' with you? Good God, man!

'Ab Fab' wasn't a comedy. It was a way of keeping Jennifer Saunders busy, which was apparently a necessity of some sort.
I regard it as effluent which only made it onto screen because one was getting concerned about needing a female comedy quota on screen about that time.

If I could I would send any relevant copies of it to the nuclear waste storage facility in Sellafield. Or else send them as fodder to a pig farm.
I know that it is deemed the source of the 'materialistic' comedy character.
But I think that is being overly generous.

'One foot in the grave' was a wonderfully nihilistic thing. But just as with Reginald Perrin nihilism is somewhat limiting in scope.

'Keeping up appearances' is one of those sitcoms of which people will claim that only their mothers like it. It is the epitome of 'uncool' comedy. But for such a humble little thing, it carried a mighty big stick. Once again an example of perfect characters.

'Men behaving badly' I think was very much of the time; lads mags and binge drinking. Successful though it was in its day, I don't think time is being kind to it.

It won't surprise you that I think that 'Jeeves and Wooster' is one of the greatest sitcoms this country has produced. I would not have thought that it was possible to make such a perfect distillation of Wodehouse. But they pulled it off to perfection. So to my mind, it's a pure 10. I honestly don't think I'm just saying this because I like it. I simply see it as a masterpiece of comic storytelling.

'Red Dwarf' meanwhile is one of the greats too. For one it is perfectly put together regarding comedic structure and it made perfect use of the wide scope the subject allowed. Like all truly classic comedies it is one where people recall a number of all-time classic scenes. The only main quibble I have is that in the later series they screwed up by failing to attribute Kotchansky a comedic type, which left her flailing as a female add-on.

Anyhow, looking at the above it's hard not to conclude that the 90s was a decade when sitcom was still alive.

I am just having a look at Aaron's lists. The launch of "Waiting For God" (5) was in 1990. "As Time Goes By" (5) started in 1992. Think of OFITG and notice the theme here. It's old. 1990 was also the first year of "Mr Bean" (8). Run out of script ideas? Go silent. 1991 is the start of "Bottom" (4) and "Brittas" (7) - fair enough but in the overall history of comedy they are at the arse end of nowhere.

1993 sees "Goodnight Sweetheart" (5) - if only we could return to the good old days so blimey there is the old thing again. Admittedly "KMKY Alan Partridge" arrives too in 1993 (8/9) but that stands out as something fairly distinct. 1994 is "Vicar of Dibley" (8/9) which is in the classic mould but there is nothing from that year to compare with it. Find me something very new from 1995-97 that was worth more than a 3 score and I will give you a medal. Admittedly "The Royle Family" (9) begins in 1998 but then we are close to the 2000s. As for "Red Dwarf", maybe I should give it another try. I don't know what it is quite. I don't quite get it but I don't loathe it. AF, yes, but it did have Lumley, of course.

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Tuesday 28th April 2015, 11:39pm [Edited]
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Quote: A Horseradish @ 28th April 2015, 11:08 PM BST

I am just having a look at Aaron's lists. The launch of "Waiting For God" (5) was in 1990. "As Time Goes By" (5) started in 1992. Think of OFITG and notice the theme here. It's old. 1990 was also the first year of "Mr Bean" (8). Run out of script ideas? Go silent. 1991 is the start of "Bottom" (4) and "Brittas" (7) - fair enough but in the overall history of comedy they are at the arse end of nowhere. 1993 sees "Goodnight Sweetheart" (5) - if only we could return to the good old days so blimey there is the old things again. Admittedly "KMKY Alan Partridge" arrives too in 1993 (8/9) but that stands out as something fairly distinct. 1994 is "Vicar of Dibley" (9) which is in the classic mould but there is nothing from that year to compare with it.

And yes, one can see a bit of a run on the grey vote with those elderly comedies. Agreed.

Ah, 'Vicar of Dibley' definitely falls into the classics. How could I miss that?
If I remember rightly, Curtis had just returned from his success with 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' and therefore could take his pick of any actors in the nation. It showed. He was the golden boy.
I think the first ten minutes or so of 'Dibley' are a textbook example of how to introduce your characters.

'Bean' is a global standout and a massive success. But I wouldn't view it as sitcom. To my mind, it's more of a sketch format.

'Bottom' I think will always be a Marmite programme. Because it heavily depends on if you like exaggerated physical humour or not. To those who draw a line at smacking people in the face with frying pans, 'Bottom' can never live up to much. But as such I think it was rather jolly in its day.

As for Alan Partridge. No, thank you. The comedy of cringe never did it for me. Neither with Coogan, nor with Gervais.
To my mind, Partridge and Brent were the ultimate examples in the movement away from comedy with likeable central characters.

I remember enjoying 'Brittas' at the time. His was a classic comedy character.
There was something about Clouseau and Dreyfuss in it. But I rather suspect that, were I to see it today, it would seem rather ropey around the edges.

Wasn't the last Blackadder also in the nineties? the first world war number?

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A Horseradish

  • Tuesday 28th April 2015, 11:46pm [Edited]
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Quote: Gussie Fink Nottle @ 28th April 2015, 11:39 PM BST

And yes, one can see a bit of a run on the grey vote with those elderly comedies. Agreed.

Ah, 'Vicar of Dibley' definitely falls into the classics. How could I miss that?
If I remember rightly, Curtiss had just returned from his success with 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' and therefore could take his pick of any actors in the nation. It showed. He was the golden boy.
I think the first ten minutes or so of 'Dibley' are a textbook example of how to introduce your characters.

'Bean' is a global standout and a massive success. But I wouldn't view it as sitcom. To my mind, it's more of a sketch format.

'Bottom' I think will always be a Marmite programme. Because it heavily depends on if you like exaggerated physical humour or not. To those who draw a line at smacking people in the face with frying pans, 'Bottom' can never live up to much. But as such I think it was rather jolly in its day.

As for Alan Partridge. No, thank you. The comedy of cringe never did it for me. Neither with Coogan, nor with Gervais.
To my mind, Partridge and Brent were the ultimate examples in the movement away from comedy with likeable central characters.

I remember enjoying 'Brittas' at the time. His was a classic comedy character.
There was something about Clouseau and Dreyfuss in it. But I rather suspect that, were I to see it today, it would seem rather ropey around the edges.

Wasn't the last Blackadder also in the nineties? the first world war number?

Possibly on Blackadder. That episode is outstanding (10) but I was more on things that started in the 90s. I do agree with much of the above. Actually I can't stand the Curtis films. I really cannot stand them. Sorry. It is therefore surprising that I like VOD so much. I did like "The Young Ones" (7/8) but I didn't like "Bottom" a lot and - this was probably the 1980s - I didn't like "The New Statesman" one jot. It is too harsh. In my opinion, Marks and Gran have done far better things. But I quite like "The Office" (7/8). It did try to be different although I feel it was hyped. As with Partridge, there is a tipping point in it between very funny and overdone. I am trying to assess these programmes from the perspective of objective overview as well as in terms of what I like and I think you are doing this too. But it is difficult to completely separate the two. Impossible - but it's still probably worth attempting.

Incidentally, Gussie, I would like you to try to define cringe in comedy. It would be interesting but it might need another thread. Surely there is cringe all over the place from "Only Fools" to "One Foot" and from "Men of the Ministry" to "Vicar". I feel I know what you mean about Partridge and Gervais but doubt I could put it into words. So is it possible to get that bit tightened up a bit definition wise?

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 12:17am
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Quote: A Horseradish @ 28th April 2015, 11:46 PM BST

Possibly on Blackadder. That episode is outstanding (10) but I was more on things that started in the 90s. I do agree with much of the above. Actually I can't stand the Curtis films. I really cannot stand them. Sorry. It is therefore surprising that I like VOD so much. I did like "The Young Ones" (7/8) but I didn't like "Bottom" a lot and - this was probably the 1980s - I didn't like "The New Statesman" one jot. It is too harsh. In my opinion, Marks and Gran have done far better things. But I quite like "The Office" (7/8). It did try to be different although I feel it was hyped. Like with Partridge, there is a tipping point in it between very funny and overdone. As with everything - and I think you are doing this too - I am trying to assess these programmes from the perspective of objective overview as well as in terms of what I like. But it is difficult to completely separate the two. Impossible but it's worth a try.

Again, 'The New Statesman' suffers from having a hateful character.
Much as these ideas may look good on the back of a beer mat, when it comes to filling several episodes with it, the idea thins out very quickly.

As for the 'Blackadder goes forth' I think it was a late nineties add-on to the series. It did seem to have a distinctly different feel to the previous helpings. Of course, the BBC like to pat themselves on the back for the end of the final episode.
It was very much what Aaron's beloved (ghastly!) 'Bluestone 42' tried to replicate in its endings. (Anything featuring soldiers must now be poignant, apparently.)

I'll be honest, I cannot detect what you find worthy in 'The office'.
I think much like you struggle with Curtis' films, I fail to find a redeeming feature in 'The office'. To me it has that fanciful 'cool' tag to it and the audience is supposed to marvel at just how abominable the boss is.
Much like reality TV, which this of course replicates, it has that spiteful quality throughout. Sitcom tends to cast a kindly eye. We get nastiness and cynicism aplenty in real life, without needing it topping up in comedy programmes.

I agree that much of Curtis movie output is schmaltzy political correctness.
But I do think he has an eye for the zeitgeist.
That said, in my view he only really hit the spot in 'Love actually'.

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 12:49am
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Quote: A Horseradish @ 28th April 2015, 11:46 PM BST

Incidentally, Gussie, I would like you to try to define cringe in comedy. It would be interesting but it might need another thread. Surely there is cringe all over the place from "Only Fools" to "One Foot" and from "Men of the Ministry" to "Vicar". I feel I know what you mean about Partridge and Gervais but doubt I could put it into words. So is it possible to get that bit tightened up a bit definition wise?

Yes, it's something hard to get a hold of. I find that too.

I see the 'comedy of cringe' where the comedic payoff is inducing discomfort, embarrassment or disdain in the audience for the actions of the main character for whom the audience do not feel any sympathy.

Now, we're all used to characters being embarrassed in comedy.
Standard fare.

But there is a difference between Mainwaring ending up in the soup, or Partridge and Brent.
One of them is the 'loveable loser', a traditional comedy character.
The other is an unlikeable t*sser.

With Partridge and Brent the audience is invited to watch an unlikeable creature and cringe at just how much of a t*sser this guy is.

There is something finger pointing and sneering about this perspective.
You are almost invited to view him from the point of a bully.

The art, as I see it, is supposed to be to create a certain verisimilitude, whereby people see some of the ghastliness performed by the character as recognisable.

It's about the closeness of the observation.
Traditional punchlines are abandoned in favour of cringeworthiness of behaviour.

The comedy lies in leading the audience to the conclusion, 'What a t*sser.'

This is not the view which traditional comedy invites the audience to take.
It is much more cynical.

I can't claim this to be a definitive explanation, but it's the best I can do at this time of night.

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 1:56am
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Quote: A Horseradish @ 28th April 2015, 10:25 PM BST

It was the era of "The (very) Thin Blue Line" although oddly enough I would be prepared to stretch that one to an 8.

Quote: A Horseradish @ 28th April 2015, 11:08 PM BST

Admittedly "The Royle Family" (9) begins in 1998 but then we are close to the 2000s.
...
AF, yes, but it did have Lumley, of course.

Missed these.

'The thin blue line' I think is underrated. It was hardly a masterpiece, but it had some lovely moments. Inspector Grimm's rants were quite priceless, especially combined with Fowler's eye rolling.
In fact Atkinson's Fowler was a good, solid comedy main man.

As for 'The Royle family', I could never find anything in it. To me it was another one of those supposedly so apt observations. 'Look, this is how people are.' So what?
There was just not enough meat in watching people watch telly, no matter how realistic.
I don't wish for 'Gogglebox'. So too do I not wish for 'The Royle family'.

And yes, I know that many a person has a thing for Joanna Lumley.
I suppose you are not alone. But 'Ab Fab' could not be saved.
If Joanna Lumley had a comedy moment it, was in real life, when she handbagged the Labour defence minister on TV and made him promise to accept the Gurkhas.
I can't help but smile at that as I type. :)

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Nick Nockerty

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 7:51am [Edited]
  • Greater Manchester, England
  • 656 posts
Quote: Gussie Fink Nottle @ 29th April 2015, 1:56 AM BST

Missed these.

'The thin blue line' I think is underrated....

As for 'The Royle family', I could never find anything in it.....

And yes, I know that many a person has a thing for Joanna Lumley....

Totally agree with you on The Thin Blue Line & The Royle Family Gussie Wussie, but the latter did have a big audience, so not my thing but not over rated. It was innovative. It was by Mrs Merton, so she'd mastered the basics of comedy and this was her cubist period, maybe. Has she done anything since The Royle Family? I would say Caroline Aherne is more a queen of comedy than Lumely, but they were both good.

"It Ain't Half Hot Mum" was well over rated - hence it doesn't get repeated. Looks more like a pantomime that a sitcom. Also "Coogan's Run" never quiet hit, yet Alan Partidge is still one of the Greats. Geek

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A Horseradish

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 11:45am [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 6,313 posts
Quote: Nick Nockerty @ 29th April 2015, 7:51 AM BST

Totally agree with you on The Thin Blue Line & The Royle Family Gussie Wussie, but the latter did have a big audience, so not my thing but not over rated. It was innovative. It was by Mrs Merton, so she'd mastered the basics of comedy and this was her cubist period, maybe. Has she done anything since The Royle Family? I would say Caroline Aherne is more a queen of comedy than Lumely, but they were both good.

"It Ain't Half Hot Mum" was well over rated - hence it doesn't get repeated. Looks more like a pantomime that a sitcom. Also "Coogan's Run" never quiet hit, yet Alan Partidge is still one of the Greats. Geek

I agree with Nick. That is, "It Ain't Half Hot Mum" was well over rated - hence it doesn't get repeated. Looks more like a pantomime that a sitcom.". I do still like it because it's Perry and Croft and I always feel warm towards them. It looks like all three of us can agree "The Thin Blue Line" is underrated.

Quote: Gussie Fink Nottle @ 29th April 2015, 12:49 AM BST

Yes, it's something hard to get a hold of. I find that too.

I see the 'comedy of cringe' where the comedic payoff is inducing discomfort, embarrassment or disdain in the audience for the actions of the main character for whom the audience do not feel any sympathy.

Now, we're all used to characters being embarrassed in comedy.
Standard fare.

But there is a difference between Mainwaring ending up in the soup, or Partridge and Brent.
One of them is the 'loveable loser', a traditional comedy character.
The other is an unlikeable t*sser.

With Partridge and Brent the audience is invited to watch an unlikeable creature and cringe at just how much of a t*sser this guy is.

There is something finger pointing and sneering about this perspective.
You are almost invited to view him from the point of a bully.

The art, as I see it, is supposed to be to create a certain verisimilitude, whereby people see some of the ghastliness performed by the character as recognisable.

It's about the closeness of the observation.
Traditional punchlines are abandoned in favour of cringeworthiness of behaviour.

The comedy lies in leading the audience to the conclusion, 'What a t*sser.'

This is not the view which traditional comedy invites the audience to take.
It is much more cynical.

I can't claim this to be a definitive explanation, but it's the best I can do at this time of night.

Thank you for being so kind as to respond to my mild challenge. You have made a far better job of it than I would have done. I wasn't clear about it. That is, of course, why I asked the question.

The "loveable loser" is a key figure in sitcom, perhaps especially in the 70s/early 80s. It is one of my favourites - possibly my favourite - because it is very human. And anyone who isn't 100% arrogance naturally identifies. Even a modern "big yourself up" culture doesn't wholly diminish its appeal although it probably does lose something with it. Very self-confident young folk may not get it.

The tosser who isn't liked often has a power role. Isn't Brent in some ways an update on Blakey?

Anyhow, I think when people work to others it is very close isn't it. The bosses can be infuriating and staff will gather round the tea point to whisper about how useless as well as terrible they tend to be. But at the end of the day - literally - they know it is those people who pay their wages. So watching a version of them on TV can be helpful. It enables them to be seen in a context where any ongoing ability to pay bills is not an issue. Laugh out loud at them from the safety of your settee. Bellow out "berk" if you want to etc. In your head if you think they can hear from their kitchens 10 miles way.

Yet also........also.........I don't think Brent is totally loathsome actually. He may have power but he really is useless. In contrast, managers in the real life workplace just seem partially awful. That's because deeper down employees reluctantly believe there must be something to them otherwise they wouldn't be where they are. And there is an element of pathos in that point. The recognising via Brent that there isn't anything at all to them. They may have pals in senior positions. It is just smoke and mirrors or a case of the Kings' New Clothes. You end up feeling almost sorry for that sort of character in a weird way. Albeit it's with a sort of grinding which means that in the morning you will seek advice for temporo mandibular syndrome and a certificate for at least one week's absence from work. Yes?

......Oh Hi Aaron. :D

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Aaron

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 11:52am
  • Royal Berkshire, England
  • 68,339 posts

It Ain't Half Hot Mum is actually never repeated because it's deemed to be racist and offensive.

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A Horseradish

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 12:24pm [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 6,313 posts
Quote: Aaron @ 29th April 2015, 11:52 AM BST

It Ain't Half Hot Mum is actually never repeated because it's deemed to be racist and offensive.

Does that mean it isn't shown anywhere? If so, I don't agree with that stance because it (i) is in broadcasting terms historical - 1970s and (b) was historical in context even in the 1970s. I doubt that it should be going out on BBC1/2 but I would have thought they could have a season on BBC4 with the umbrella heading "Different Times, Different Perspectives". If they need some Mark Lawson or Germaine Greer type plus studio guests to discuss it earnestly either side of it, so be it. It would give viewers an opportunity to make up their own minds about its comedy strengths and weaknesses.