Monday, 17 March 2008
Thursday, 13 March 2008
Hidden at the bottom of Chortle today –and as far as we can make out unreported elsewhere on the web- is the announcement of a 9th series of My Family. Ninth? That’s…that’s….loads. That’s over taking Fools and Horses in standard episodes.
My Family baffles us. Is there anyone alive who actually rings it in the Radio Times, takes the phone off the hook, makes a nice cup of tea and settles down to half-hour of Harper family fun? Does anyone have My Family DVD marathons? It’s difficult to imagine, but somehow it’s been hogging the prime-time-limelight for the best part of a decade.
Thing is, when My Family first cropped up it wasn’t all that bad. It’s always nice to see Wolfy Smith back on the box, pre-BT Kris Marshall was a welcome addition to telly-land – we remember him getting laughs just for walking on screen in Love Actually- and the more Daniela Denby-Ashe the better as far as we’re concerned. It was a bit silly, had a classic farce-sitcom format that had been absent for a while, was reasonably well written and wiled away a half hour fairly amicably.
Eight years on and the scripts have got so hackneyed the principles are actually refusing to shoot them. This is Zoe Wanamaker talking to the Telegraph in March, 2007:
“What attracted me to the first scripts was that they had a slightly quirky, American Jewish quality to them. That's my humour. Critics absolutely hated it. The public liked it. But it's turned into a machine. Robert and I even refused at one point to do one, it was so bad. That caused a lot of problems, but we just felt it was not good enough. We had practically a football team of scriptwriters working on the last series”
But still they soldiered on, not-laughing all the way to the bank. And someone must have watched it, because here we are with a ninth successive outing. What else is there for the Harper family to do? They pole-vaulted the shark several years ago, none of the cast are really bothered anymore (Robert Lynsey and Zoe Wanamaker are established thesps, while your phone bill keeps Kris Marshall in moose for his lovely floppy fringe. Gabriel Thompson just sits there, glumly waiting for Daniel Radcliffe to be killed in a fire), it’s a flogged-out cash cow, cowering in the farmers yard waiting for the tragic inevitability/blessed relief found inside a metaphorical dog food tin.
In a move that will surprise absolutely no-one (except maybe Bruce Dessau, whose still getting his head round internet video) some clever sod has hacked the iPlayer (apparently in 12 minutes.) This will probably disappoint, or perhaps even surprise some of the TV top brass still hoping that telly won’t “do a music industy” and accidently bung out all their product for free. It really shouldn’t shock them though…Aunty Beeb herself has responded with
“This is not unusual or surprising,”
a quote which we think works best in delivered in a slightly weary and non-plussed tone.
It does beg the question: if something is utterly inevitable is it still news?
Of course the debate about whether this stuff should be freely downloadable and absent of DRM is another kettle of ethically-sourced cod all together. For the record we think the answer is…er…'sometimes'. Unless it’s something we want and can’t afford just now, in which case the answer is ‘always’.
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
‘The majority of all our ideas are male-led, single camera shows and they are usually white male-led. It is still a very white male industry and white males tend to write about their own lives.
‘Just as it is difficult for women to break through into comedy because they feel it is not their domain, I am sure it is incredibly difficult for black and Asian writers.
‘But if you have a show that speaks to them, suddenly that changes that. They then feel it is a show they can contribute to and not that they are working within this white male world.”
She cited the upcoming hip-hop sitcom Trexx and Flipside as redressing the balance a little.
In this she echoes recent comments made by Lenny Henry –whose married to the Vicar of Dibley and is most memorable recently for his starring role in Extras- complaining of mainstream broadcastings failure to integrate black people into their programming.
Do they have a point? Lumsden is certainly in a position to know. The question is more “why?” It’s not like there’s a shortage of talented black or Asian comic minds: The live circuit is thrumming with them. Reginald D Hunter sold out his entire
There’s a horrible sense that should the really talented stuff not get to the top then the Beeb will carry on commissioning any old shit just because it ticks the box. Which is the only possible reason for the continued appearance of Little Miss Jocelyn on the books.
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
There’s been an odd about-turn on ‘Allo ‘Allo…we don’t remember it being dreadfully funny on broadcast, but watching repeats over the last 5 years has forced a complete rethink: ‘Allo ‘Allo is brilliant; and now the Germans can enjoy it too…Widely reported yesterday was the acquisition of the classic sitcom by German TV station ProSiebenSat1, along with wide-ranging speculation that the German’s would (a) probably not get it, or (b) be mortally offended.
We can’t account for (a), it’ll depend entirely on how successfully the re-dubbed show will work in German, especially considering ‘Allo ‘Allo worked best when it boiled down to word-play and accent/language gags.
As for (b), we don’t recall ‘Allo ‘Allo being specifically offensive to the Germans…the German army are painted as inept buffoons who just want an easy life. As indeed are the occupied French, and the British. The majority of the German characters are actually quite likeable, Herr Flick and General Von Klinkerhoffen aside, but they themselves are very broad steretypes no different to the French Onion sellers and the cloak-and-dagger Resistance.
Still, it's difficult for us in the UK to fully appreciate the perception of the war in Germany. Seeing the Nazis as figures of fun is ingrained into our cultural memory, dating back to the war itself when Hitler and Goering would appear in the Beano as inept slapstick thickos. In Germany, where perception of the War is still wrapped in a sense of shared shame about the holocaust, programme makers have always tread carefully. "Heil Hitler"'s are still very rare on German TV, only time will tell if they still offend people when abbreviated to "kler!".
Still, it’s a nice excuse to post our all time favourite ‘All ‘Allo moment. Okay, our favourite ‘Allo ‘Allo moment not involving Vicky Michelle’s specialist film career. Ahem…
Why not enjoy it again.
Monday, 10 March 2008
Yep, check that face out. Doesn’t it make your fists clench and your eyes feel slightly itchy? Meet Bruce Dessau, king of the Non-story and current comedy Critic-in-chief for the Evening Standard. He’s also worked for the Times and the Guardian (who persuaded him to pose for a less smackworthy banner-pic) and written a series of uninspired-looking comedy biographies.
Bruce is the master of writing lots while saying little; his blogs at the Standard’s website are lessons in stating the bleeding obvious at pointless length. Currently we’re reading his stuff whenever we want to feel annoyed that someone is being paid substantially more than us for such relentless space-wasting.
Full Blog: Funny Ha-Ha or Funny Boohoo?
What Bruce actually means: “a new BBC4 drama series thinks all comedians are depressed mentalists, but these comics wot-I’ve-met prove otherwise”. Or to be even more succinct: “Are comedians depressed mentalists? Not all of them but some are”.
We say: Surely the BBC4 series isn’t making a sweeping generalisation, but making special cases out of these key examples (Frankie Howard, Tony Hancock, Hughie Green, the cast of Steptoe –surprisingly not Spike Milligan too) and talking about the relationship between knowledge of human understanding and self-awareness? It’s not about comedians being naturally morose, but about morose people who happen to also be comedians and thus make for a richer and more interesting drama.
But that’s a little too dark and complicated an idea and doesn’t give Bruce the chance to do some thinly veiled name dropping and make blindingly obvious points.
Full Blog: Two's Company
What Bruce actually means: “some people who work together also work separately, and double acts usually break up eventually”
What we say: Well done Brucie! Hold the front page and get the South Bank Show on the line…there’s a big scoop in this one.
Full Blog: iPlayer Changed My Life
What Bruce actually means: “isn’t the BBC iPlayer a brilliant idea, it’s changed everything over night and now I don’t need a video”
What we say: Jesus H Corbett Desso, we’re not sure what pulse your fingers on exactly, but it clearly died years ago. Leaving aside the fact the iPlayer launched about 3 months ago, it was hardly that big a revolution even then. Unofficially VOD has been around for years. Within hours of it going out, every episode of –say- That Mitchell and Webb Look, was available to download on torrents the world over and stream all over the place, and that’s been the case for at least 5 years. We’ll admit Veoh, Youtube and Daily Motion aren’t as crisp and efficient as the iPlayer itself, and were certainly a long way from official (Illegal downloading is wrong kids, and it funds terrorism, peadophilia and mass genocide.) It was difficult to get hold of, say, the One Show or an episode of Doctors, but the real Watercooler TV moments you’re talking about? They’ve been easy to get for donkeys yonks. We like the iPlayer as much as the next media-savvy web snob, but life changing? Welcome to the internet BD.
We could go on all day.
Oh go on, one more.
What Bruce actually means: “Doctor who likes employing comedians, and I don’t know why”
What we say: You could also say "Why is Doctor Who obsessed with Luvvie middle aged thesps (Dereck Jacobi, Simon Callow, Penelope Wilton)", or "why is Doctor Who obsessed with pretty, young actresses (Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, Carey Mulligan, Eve Myles)". They're just people who can bring different aspects to a performance. Jessica Hynes played it completely straight, Mark Gatiss is a brilliant writer for whom Doctor Who is a dream come true, Steve Pemperton excels at grotesques. These people were brought in because they’re specific abilities related well to specific roles.
Okay, Peter Kay was just trading on a famous name and the juries out on Catherine Tate –although she was an actress before her sketch show took off, and a pretty good one at that, but it hardly proves the show is “obsessed”
We’re aware this all may seem rather petty. It’s just…if you’re going to pay a journalist to write meaningless space fillers that say nothing of any importance, we’ll do it for you at half the price.