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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Thursday, November 13, 2008


I suspect that despite BBC iPlayers and much talk of multi-platforming (ugh), the following are available only to those in the UK and other European countries for now...

A new series of Jack Dee’s excellent comedy series Lead Balloon begins tonight. 10pm, BBC-2.

And a new series of the only other decent British comedy series, Outnumbered, begins on Saturday night. 9.05pm, BBC-1.

Both have been wonderful in the past - whereas every other Britcom, even today, remains firmly in the squirm-with-embarrassment-at-its-naffness category, no better than On The Buses or Terry and June. I don’t know why Americans, stereotypically so unsubtle in real life, produce comedy series galore of sharply honed wit that trust to the intelligence and quick pick-up of the viewer, while the British rarely produce anything but the mortifyingly artificial, plodding and spineless despite Brits being stereotypically gifted with wit and a mastery of understatement. But there it is.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree 'Lead balloon' is great fun. It reminds me of the pleasing; 'One Foot in the Grave' which had similar well thought out plots, though the protagonists were somewhat older.


8:24 pm  
Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

Every Bristish comedy? What about, in recent years, "The Office", "Extras", "Spaced", "Black Books", "Gavin and Stacey", "The Mighty Boosh", "The Thick of It", etc. Not exactly the same level as "Terry and June".

The US do produce many good, innovative comedies (so good was "Curb Your Enthusiasm" that Jack Dee saw fit to pay homage with a British version), but there is also a vast mass of dross from those shores that makes "On the Buses" look like Oscar Wilde.

2:55 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

OK, "every" was an exaggeration. I remembered afterwards that I had liked Green Wing, The Royle Family and most of Dinner Ladies. No-one with a life could check out every series anyway. I never watched The Mighty Boosh but the trailer looked awful, I've not heard of The Thick Of It, I can't remember which one Extras was, I thought Spaced was dire, never liked The Office, found Curb Your Enthusiasm utterly unfunny and though I wanted to like Black Books, it soon did turn into On The Buses without a bus. In my opinion. And if I exaggerated, so did your own parting shot. Not even the American comedy that is Sarah Palin can make On The Buses look like Oscar Wilde - or even Noel Coward.

5:56 pm  
Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

I am surprised that you found "Curb Your Enthusiasm" unfunny yet so enjoy the British clone. C'est La Vie. Just goes to show that comedy is an extremely personal taste.

7:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

watched the first episode of the new series of outnumbered last night, having not seen any of the first series.

The first scenes at home, before the family left to go to the wedding were almost perfection; the rest of the half hour was a good effort, but couldn't quite keep up with the standard of the first 10 minutes in my opinion.

still, the programme was a cut above the rest, so I will tune in next week....


1:28 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Dear McHenry
It seems a shame to be so grumpy about comedy.

Dear Tristan
Agreed. Normally the whole episode does take place at home, and I was disappointed that they resorted to the Disastrous Wedding format. I hope the whole series won't be leaning on these stock situations. It's the semi-improvised home life that is so individually done and so beautifully observed and acted. The children are remarkable.

3:11 pm  

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