Monday, 7 January 2008

Tate Modern

A belated Happy New Year to Conservative MP for Mid Beds Nadine Dorries, who took exception to Catherine Tate's Christmas Day sketch extravaganzer.

If I'm honest I'd have taken exception to it too, but that's because I don't really like The Catherine Tate Show (although her acting chops are to be admired when she's doing it for real), as it is I didn't watch it. Frankly there was something better on. However Nadine's problem came not so much from the medium, but the message itself. Catherine Tate swears too much.

She's not the only one complained either. OFCOM was apparently inundated with people taking exception to foul mouthed 'Nan's branding Cathy Burke a "fucking bastard".

Let's gloss over the fact tha Tate's special was shown well past the Watershed at 10.30pm, (by which time any self respecting child has long passed out in a storm of weeping, or else shot their eye out and been taken to casualty) and take this a point at a time, because it really really deserves the detail.

"Having watched endless episodes of The Vicar of Dibley, Father Ted, Blackadder, and Red Dwarf; timed my pud to coincide with the Christmas special of To the Manor Born; and been subjected to endless episodes of the forever perpetually screened teenage favourite Friends, I have reached a conclusion - that the funniest comedy is entirely void of bad language and overt sexual innuendo."

Just take that last sentance and role it around your mind. You'll enjoy the experience, I promise. I'm going to repeat it again for you now, it's just as good the second time around.

"the funniest comedy is entirely void of bad language and overt sexual

Well is it? Can we really accept that Del Boy falling through the bar is the absoloute zenith of human comic achivement? Are we going to discount everything from Mrs Slocombes Pussy to Samantha sitting on Humphrey Littletons right hand on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue?

For a start I'm not quite sure what Nadine's getting at here. Is Friends part of the problem, or an example of all that is pure and true in comedy? Is she claiming that Blackadder, The Vicar Of Dibley, Father Ted and Red Dwarf are free of smut? Because...well...they're not, are they. Not even a little bit.

Apparently great comedy has to be

"obviously written by people with great intellect, who know how to knit the laughs through a script for maximum well-timed impact".

The best example of this, according to Nadine, is Will and Grace. Will and Grace? Now I like Will and Grace, it's consistently funny it is indeed very well written with those compulsory well timed jokes mentioned above. But it's hardly smut free is it? Really? Infact, if you look through the pantheon of great American trad-sit coms: Roseanne, Cheers, Friends, Seinfeld, The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince, The Simpsons, Frasier, I Love Lucy,The Golden Girls, Taxis, Third Rock From The Sun (okay I'll stop there) Will and flippin Grace is the smuttiest of the bunch. It's a show that's built on filth from beginning to end. Has she actually listened to Jack talk? Good lord.

So why am I taking such an issue with this? I have to admit a certain amount of prejudice against anythign Tory MP's say as standard (and I suppose you can hardly expect decent arts critique from the Conservative Party, can you?). I don't even like Catherine Tate that much. But I feel duty bound to defend a comics right to utter expletives on Christmas day. It taps into a much much bigger issue going on right now. As comedy writing gets closer to the edge, pushes boundaries further and continues to reinvent itself, the backlash is getting stronger. And so sensitive is the current political climate, people are paying more attention to the complaints. They're being upheld. Look at the outgrage caused by Johnathon Ross at the TV awards.

On 9th of January this year MP's will debate an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, the best possible result is a substantial slackening of the UK's laws on blasphemy. Comedy has never been so high on the political agenda. I think what worries me most is that some of these MP's don't really seem to understand what comedy actually is.

Was Catherine being offensive? Make your own mind up...

Not that bad is it? Actually it's not that bad in quite a few's one of Tate's better efforts, and it's always nice to see Ms Burke. But the quality control issues aside, who is Nadine, or indeed any of the complainees to deny us swearing on Christmas day. In my house the swearing was uncontrollable on Christmas day! No-one was sober enough by that time of night to control it!.

Don't complain about it, revel in it. Swearing is funny, late night TV shows aren't for Children at any time of the year, parents should no what to expect from Catherine Tate of all people, and Conservative MP's are almost always, always wrong.


Peter said...

I think everything you've said there is absolutely spot on!

James said...

But I think most of the Christmas day cussing was from 8yr old Felix, no?