Overrated sitcoms? Page 17

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Aaron

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 12:44pm
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Quote: A Horseradish @ 29th April 2015, 12:24 PM BST

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.

I fully agree, but: https://www.comedy.co.uk/tv/it_aint_half_hot_mum/press/

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A Horseradish

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 12:51pm [Edited]
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Quote: Gussie Fink Nottle @ 29th April 2015, 1:56 AM BST

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. :)

I could be right. I could be wrong. "Rise" by Public Image Ltd. What a great song and an even better vocal delivery. Any ways, I could be wrong. Or right. I am feeling that you switch off in some key areas - swearing in comedy and, if it isn't quite that, vulgarity. As a rule, I am with you there about 75%.

It's my starting point. Maiden aunt phrases even now run through my mind - "it just isn't necessary", "the BBC is supposed to have standards". Then I realise it is not my maiden aunt's voice but that of my Dad who is a splendid sort of fellow except that he was prevented because of ill health from doing National Service. Plus, of course, he didn't sit in a field and grow his hair long into pretty curls as he was almost 40 by the time of Woodstock. Think Des O'Connor, Ronnie Corbett, Arthur Askey, that sort of person. I'm a little honey bee. Buzz, buzz, buzz and - unquestionably - a Shuttleworth organ.

But let me not digress. Just as I would like a well written piece like "Detectorists" to be consistently gentle - and that would include less effing and blinding - that also works in totally the reverse way. Where the latter is wholly expected, ie effing this and that, it is pure joy to see that the writing is truly great. This is where we find Caroline Aherne and "The Royle Family". Great characters are so important as to be almost all-important at times. The characters are quite brilliant in that programme. And as regular listeners to my programme on BCG will know, I like the characters in "Benidorm" too.

From there I think we have a very small leap to issues about class. Some might say that the working classes were presented in a very lower middle class way in the 1970s/1980s. That Del Boy and Ted Bovis would have been more colourful with their words in real life. I know from personal experience that was - and is - not necessarily the case. There are strands within that section of the population. Types of employment vary, aspiration varies, outlooks vary, and so too do communication styles.

So I guess the question has to be whether you just cut out one particular chunk of it. Whether you say we will not have this strand on television not so much these days because people like Gussie Fink Nottle will be offended but because they will say instead that comedy isn't what it used to be. And then perhaps if we do include such programmes that they will say comedy isn't what it used to be as they know they will be howled down by a huge ugly mob if they say that actually they are offended by it. And if that is the case, would that be sad? I think it might be. But I could be wrong. Or, yes, right.

Maybe we should indeed take account of their positions more - your position Gussie - as their free speech - or yours - would have been stifled. Stifled because they/you would have had to make your/their objections known in a way that didn't unduly upset the acutely politically correct. No? So I suppose it all depends on whether you think standards should be raised - if standards exist - or that they shouldn't and when they slip alarmingly more should rise about it. And that could depend on how angry people want to be. Anger is an energy - but it doesn't suit every chappy on the street.

Off-topic post by beaky on Wed 29th Apr 2015, 13:11

I'm still coming to terms with A Horseradish not having a comb. Are you completely bald, or do you have a mass of tangled locks?

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A Horseradish

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 1:35pm [Edited]
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Quote: Aaron @ 29th April 2015, 12:44 PM BST

I fully agree, but: https://www.comedy.co.uk/tv/it_aint_half_hot_mum/press/

Yes - it's very sad.

The BBC is not what it used to be. There are far too many over-paid do-gooders there. But it is like the EU isn't it. It is better to stick with it and try to make it work in the interests of all. It really worries me when those at the top have stances which threaten the very future of the Corporation for where would the comedy be made if it was left to the commercial sector? I say this not as any grey-hair or baldy but someone who has almost retained a full head of dark brown hair. It's a No 3 crop and may accompany me to my end. My mother is 85 and still dark although my uncle did turn silver.

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Aaron

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 1:42pm
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Well I wouldn't agree with you on the EU, but on the BBC certainly it's in a very dark position in many regards, and often seeming to defeat itself.

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A Horseradish

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 1:47pm [Edited]
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Quote: Aaron @ 29th April 2015, 1:42 PM BST

Well I wouldn't agree with you on the EU, but on the BBC certainly it's in a very dark position in many regards, and often seeming to defeat itself.

I change my mind about the EU almost every week so don't put huge emphasis on that one. It was just some sort of metaphor. But I believe strongly in the BBC. It is one of the few things in this country now that can still be saved or rescued. But it would probably require the general public going in with tanks to forcefully eject the ones at the top - it isn't all of them - who are the enemy within.

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 3:15pm
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Quote: A Horseradish @ 29th April 2015, 12:51 PM BST

So I guess the question has to be whether you just cut out one particular chunk of it. Whether you say we will not have this strand on television not so much these days because people like Gussie Fink Nottle will be offended but because they will say instead that comedy isn't what it used to be. And then perhaps if we do include such programmes that they will say comedy isn't what it used to be as they know they will be howled down by a huge ugly mob if they say that actually they are offended by it. And if that is the case, would that be sad? I think it might be. But I could be wrong. Or, yes, right.

Maybe we should indeed take account of their positions more - your position Gussie - as their free speech - or yours - would have been stifled. Stifled because they/you would have had to make your/their objections known in a way that didn't unduly upset the acutely politically correct. No? So I suppose it all depends on whether you think standards should be raised - if standards exist - or that they shouldn't and when they slip alarmingly more should rise about it. And that could depend on how angry people want to be. Anger is an energy - but it doesn't suit every chappy on the street.

Errr... hang on.

I'm not actually one who gets 'offended' by what he sees on telly, Horseradish.
Far, far from it.
That is pretty much the opposite of what Gussie Fink Nottle is about.

Yes, I have said that I find that some of the supposed subversiveness in comedy these days is simply limited to saying 'f**k' a great deal. I once again point to Messrs Inbetweeners.

That doesn't mean that I'm sitting here purse lipped and disgusted.
I just deem it intellectually bankrupt.
If you're truly a rebel against the establishment, get at them, annoy them, embarrass them. But don't just say 'f**k' a lot.

But where the swear word fits, use it. As long as it actually does something.
However, if you're using 'f**k' in every second sentence, its impact is virtually zero when it finally gets used in anger.

I would readily watch a very funny sitcom in which the main character gets himself into a spectacular, inescapable jam by the end of each episode, whereby he is only left to wail 'F**k!' at the heavens as his last word every time.
To my mind you could even call it 'F**k!'.
(should anyone pick up this idea, just send me the royalties)

I also would have liked 'Bluestone 42's squaddies to speak in some sort of realistic language. A credible patois changes a great deal the impression characters have on the audience. Language has a texture. And that texture varies according to the society.
Saying 'f**k' all the time is not actual soldiers' lingo. It merely reveals that the writers haven't a clue.

So you see, my problem with it is not 'offence'. For all I care people can smack their todgers in each other's faces on telly. As long as it gets laughs!

But vomiting, swearing and shagging are not inherently funny.
Neither are various bodily excretions.
If you want to broach that subject, fine. But do it cleverly.
I remember in Shawshank Redemption the hero crawls through a sewage pipe and it's described quite explicitly.
Am I 'offended'? Nope. It's a vary powerful scene.

So yes, I'm all for 'standards'. But it doesn't centre merely around this word or that. It means that I wish people to elevate their work, whether their subject is the gutter or high society. Show a little ambition. That's all.

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A Horseradish

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 3:21pm [Edited]
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Quote: Gussie Fink Nottle @ 29th April 2015, 3:15 PM BST

Errr... hang on.

I'm not actually one who gets 'offended' by what he sees on telly, Horseradish.
Far, far from it.
That is pretty much the opposite of what Gussie Fink Nottle is about.

Yes, I have said that I find that some of the supposed subversiveness in comedy these days is simply limited to saying 'f**k' a great deal. I once again point to Messrs Inbetweeners.

That doesn't mean that I'm sitting here purse lipped and disgusted.
I just deem it intellectually bankrupt.
If you're truly a rebel against the establishment, get at them, annoy them, embarrass them. But don't just say 'f**k' a lot.

But where the swear word fits, use it. As long as it actually does something.
However, if you're using 'f**k' in every second sentence, its impact is virtually zero when it finally gets used in anger.

I would readily watch a very funny sitcom in which the main character gets himself into a spectacular, inescapable jam by the end of each episode, whereby he is only left to wail 'F**k!' at the heavens as his last word every time.
To my mind you could even call it 'F**k!'.
(should anyone pick up this idea, just send me the royalties)

I also would have liked 'Bluestone 42's squaddies to speak in some sort of realistic language. A credible patois changes a great deal the impression characters have on the audience. Language has a texture. And that texture varies according to the society.
Saying 'f**k' all the time is not actual soldiers' lingo. It merely reveals that the writers haven't a clue.

So you see, my problem with it is not 'offence'. For all I care people can smack their todgers in each other's faces on telly. As long as it gets laughs!

But vomiting, swearing and shagging are not inherently funny.
Neither are various bodily excretions.
If you want to broach that subject, fine. But do it cleverly.
I remember in Shawshank Redemption the hero crawls through a sewage pipe and it's described quite explicitly.
Am I 'offended'? Nope. It's a vary powerful scene.

So yes, I'm all for 'standards'. But it doesn't centre merely around this word or that. It means that I wish people to elevate their work, whether their subject is the gutter or high society. Show a little ambition. That's all.

Mebbe, GFN. I read what you are saying as entirely genuine but sense there is also something of a contradiction. It isn't perhaps what should be permitted to be aired but - and this thread is about overrated sitcoms - whether there is anything particularly gritty in comedy, for want of a better phrase, you would argue has been to a high standard. I can anticipate you not answering that one directly, preferring a statement to the effect that swearing, vomiting etc aren't gritty. I'd take that on board but it wouldn't address the issue directly. And Shawshank isn't intended to be very funny.

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 3:30pm
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Quote: A Horseradish @ 29th April 2015, 11:45 AM BST

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?

Well, the 'loveable loser' is a standard comic character. You find him everywhere. In Roman farce or modern sitcom.
To pick a joint favourite, Leonard Hoffstaedter is principally a 'loveable loser'. (although he's clearly a hybrid)

But the 't*sser' as central character and the Coogan/Gervais perspective on him is new. You are invited to share in the cynicism and sneer.

It's the perspective of reality TV. It resides in the same dark recess as does the desire to see some c-list celebrity eat eyeballs in the Australian jungle.
That's not where I want to be.

--

As for Brent being Blakey. Blakey was hardly the central character of the vehicle.
And to be honest, I find 'On the buses' desperately unfunny.

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 3:45pm
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Quote: A Horseradish @ 29th April 2015, 3:21 PM BST

Mebbe, GFN. I read what you are saying as entirely genuine but sense there is also something of a contradiction. It isn't perhaps what should be permitted to be aired but - and this thread is about overrated sitcoms - whether there is anything particularly gritty in comedy, for want of a better phrase, you would argue has been to a high standard. I can anticipate you not answering that one directly, preferring a statement to the effect that swearing, vomiting etc aren't gritty. I'd take that on board but it wouldn't address the issue directly. And Shawshank isn't intended to be very funny.

I used Shawshank as an example of something having value.

Just as I said about language, everything else too is texture.
So yes, grit, smell, slime. It all adds texture.
Use it well (as in Shawshank) and sh*t can be golden. It can do something.
(In fact some might say 'Bottom' had such texture and you don't like that.)

But just have some guy in 'The inbetweeners' throw up and I'm not laughing. No matter how funny the other characters swear it is. It simply isn't. It provides nothing. It's there because its authors think it 'shocks'. Except, in 2015 throwing up doesn't shock anyone. It's just lazy.

In the 'Big Bang Theory' occasionally characters throw up. It works.
But for one, they don't show it oozing down their characters' chins and it is actually used as a part of a gag. It is not the gag in itself.

I don't mind grit and dirt and gore. I welcome it in the right place. (Where was it in 'Bluestone 42'?)
But the writers still need to add pathos or comedy.
Grit - or any other 'reality' for that matter - on its own possesses no value.

Again I come back to the obsession with observation.
Observe matters as closely as you like in your product, but there still needs to be a laugh at the end of it.

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A Horseradish

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 6:23pm [Edited]
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Quote: Gussie Fink Nottle @ 29th April 2015, 3:30 PM BST

Well, the 'loveable loser' is a standard comic character. You find him everywhere. In Roman farce or modern sitcom.
To pick a joint favourite, Leonard Hoffstaedter is principally a 'loveable loser'. (although he's clearly a hybrid)

But the 't*sser' as central character and the Coogan/Gervais perspective on him is new. You are invited to share in the cynicism and sneer.

It's the perspective of reality TV. It resides in the same dark recess as does the desire to see some c-list celebrity eat eyeballs in the Australian jungle.
That's not where I want to be.

--

As for Brent being Blakey. Blakey was hardly the central character of the vehicle.
And to be honest, I find 'On the buses' desperately unfunny.

Mildred's sister? Boycie? And Humphrey Appleby? Hamilton-Jones? Queenie in Blackadder? And CJ?

None of them are exactly loveable people.

I take the point about cynicism/sneer in the zeitgeist. It is, though, more in stand-up/panel games.

Maybe you just don't like Gervais/Coogan? :)

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Paul Wimsett

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 6:53pm [Edited]
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I wonder if trad sitcoms will remain universally popular though. Maybe things happen too slowly? Maybe it's too obvious that it happens in a studio? Maybe jokes do date?

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 8:28pm
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Quote: A Horseradish @ 29th April 2015, 6:23 PM BST

Mildred's sister? Boycie? And Humphrey Appleby? Hamilton-Jones? Queenie in Blackadder? And CJ?

None of them are exactly loveable people.

I take the point about cynicism/sneer in the zeitgeist. It is, though, more in stand-up/panel games.

Maybe you just don't like Gervais/Coogan? :)

Again, none of those characters strike me as the main character of a show.
(I can't recall Hamilton-Jones.)

But Humphrey Appleby was definitely not the 't*sser'. On that I'm quite adamant.
Appleby and Hacker played the game Niles and Frasier Crane did; namely to change their spots in order to be each other's foil.

Meanwhile, of course many comedies have villains. But they are there to act as a threat, a bully, a worry or just a plain irritant to the main comedic personnel.
None of those you list are the main man.
Unless you wish to change your mind on 'The New Statesman' and now propose it was a quality outfit.

There is a little doubt that this is a question of comedic perspective.
You are not invited in to share in David Brent's pain. Nor are you asked to feel that of Alan Partridge. The objective is never sympathy. It's disdain.
We don't like them.

We like Mainwaring. He's a pompous ass. We love seeing him fall flat on his face. But we like him nonetheless. We'd not want to see him fall into the threshing machine. But with Brent and Partridge most folks would volunteer to push.

The perspective is that of the third person. We are watching the spider under the looking glass.

In that regard, 'The office' which takes on a reality TV format, does not satirise the format, but embraces it. (i.e. come look at the morons and weirdos)

We like to see the villain in traditional comedy come unstuck, as it means the main character gets to triumph. This is not the case with Brent and Partridge.

The bully has nicked their clothes and pushed them out into the corridor.
We're all invited to go ogle them and sneer.

Not only is that the perspective. It's the joke, apparently.

One perhaps need only look at Gervais' oscar ceremony fiasco (at least I think it was the oscars) in which he succeeded in pissing everyone off with his unique 'sense of humour'. He wasn't kindly ribbing folks but simply being malicious.
I see that as rather telling.

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A Horseradish

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 8:36pm [Edited]
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Quote: Gussie Fink Nottle @ 29th April 2015, 8:28 PM BST

Again, none of those characters strike me as the main character of a show.
(I can't recall Hamilton-Jones.)

But Humphrey Appleby was definitely not the 't*sser'. On that I'm quite adamant.
Appleby and Hacker played the game Niles and Frasier Crane did; namely to change their spots in order to be each other's foil.

Meanwhile, of course many comedies have villains. But they are there to act as a threat, a bully, a worry or just a plain irritant to the main comedic personnel.
None of those you list are the main man.
Unless you wish to change your mind on 'The New Statesman' and now propose it was a quality outfit.

There is a little doubt that this is a question of comedic perspective.
You are not invited in to share in David Brent's pain. Nor are you asked to feel that of Alan Partridge. The objective is never sympathy. It's disdain.
We don't like them.

We like Mainwaring. He's a pompous ass. We love seeing him fall flat on his face. But we like him nonetheless. We'd not want to see him fall into the threshing machine. But with Brent and Partridge most folks would volunteer to push.

The perspective is that of the third person. We are watching the spider under the looking glass.

In that regard, 'The office' which takes on a reality TV format, does not satirise the format, but embraces it. (i.e. come look at the morons and weirdos)

We like to see the villain in traditional comedy come unstuck, as it means the main character gets to triumph. This is not the case with Brent and Partridge.

The bully has nicked their clothes and pushed them out into the corridor.
We're all invited to go ogle them and sneer.

Not only is that the perspective. It's the joke, apparently.

One perhaps need only look at Gervais' oscar ceremony fiasco (at least I think it was the oscars) in which he succeeded in pissing everyone off with his unique 'sense of humour'. He wasn't kindly ribbing folks but simply being malicious.
I see that as rather telling.

Apologies. I meant Sir Godrey Pitkin. Hamilton-Jones was the predecessor to Lennox-Brown in the same programme - "The Men From The Ministry". I think what you are essentially talking about is warmth and how it is best that there is at least a dose of it. I agree. But I was looking at "To Kill a Mocking Alan" earlier - a terrible title for one of the best episodes of Partridge with the maniacal fan. I did laugh out loud again on several occasions and it was the situational aspects of it. I find chaos very amusing as long as I am not involved in it. I think it is the connection between anxiety and humour.

Some of this feels very subjective to me. You could see Hattie Jacques as a bit of a monster in many roles but we sense, I think, that her heart is in the right place. But Mildred's sister is a different sort of case. The one-upmanship - "what a nice little house" - isn't hugely pleasant but she is funny as we accept she is just human. I love that episode where the new lamp moves around of its own accord.

On earlier points - essentially vulgarity - I am at ease with things being in their right place. So "The Inbetweeners" is alright to me. It is what it is - and I don't think it is terribly written. There is some pathos in the teenage thing. They get the alienation there spot on sometimes even if what it isn't is "The Wonder Years". I did like the US films which played in the past to a not dissimilar audience - "Wayne's World", "Dumb and Dumber" etc - though less so the nastier "Bueller" - because they revel in their stupidity and I can engage with them on that level. It's like a slightly grown up version of the Banana Splits who were brilliant in my opinion. I liked "The Big Breakfast" too. Especially Zig and Zag.

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Wednesday 29th April 2015, 8:40pm
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Quote: Paul Wimsett @ 29th April 2015, 6:53 PM BST

I wonder if trad sitcoms will remain universally popular though. Maybe things happen too slowly? Maybe it's too obvious that it happens in a studio? Maybe jokes do date?

I cannot see the classics falling from favour anytime soon.
It's true that modern (traditional) sitcoms are faster paced, especially the US output, but they largely take their lead from those of the past.

I'd say, as long as the humanity is appreciated in these works, they'll remain popular.

As for it being obvious that it's made in a studio; doe sit matter? Do any among us think it's really happening? So if the budget is smaller and the veil is thinner, I don't think matters.

As Aaron pointed out in another thread, Fawlty Towers literally had wobbly sets, but the writing was supreme.

If the choice is between mediocrity with flawless sets, or excellence with wobbly sets, which would you choose? So I don't think studios and sets really matter that much. The humour does. The quality of writing and performance.

Clearly some jokes date.
But most humour centres around the human condition. Men and women will remain oddly different creatures trying to get together. there will always be rich and poor, have and have nots. The world will continue to make life awkward.

I don't think anyone would suggest a comedy is dated because it contains no references to the internet or mobile phones.
Yes, certain societal attitudes change. Political correctness creeps in everywhere.
But it's hard to see how 'This time next year, Rodney, we'll be millionaires!' will stop to amuse us anytime soon.