Is The Modern Sitcom Starting To Gain the Momentum That Stand Up Has In Recent Years?
This week we’ve looked at how some of the most famous British sitcoms of all time started out. We looked at the pilot episodes and the series they originated from – Comedy Playhouse.
Before we can consider comparing comedy we have to look at the way it’s brought to us. Looking back to Comedy Playhouse, here was a show that ran for some time and was specifically commissioned to showcase potential new sitcoms. However during the series there was ONE different sitcom pilot each week. If you didn’t like it there was always somthing new next week. The critics, although the media was less global and less instant (there was no twitter etc during the 1970′s) didn’t get a chance to stick the knife in. Today there seems to be a trend to put out a whole series as a test, this gives the media and comedy fans more chance to dislike it, if in those all important first two episodes we don’t get it, we’re off to twitter and facebook to shoot it down.
Come forward fifty years after Steptoe made it’s debut on Comedy Playhouse and comedy is enjoying somthing of a resurgence in recent years, but during the last three years it seems that TV companies are falling over themselves to bring back the great British sitcom. The BBC have tried and perhaps failed with family friendly The Royal Bodyguard, but succeeded with the more edgy Mrs Brown’s Boy’s which is the funniest thing I’ve seen in years, and has been commissioned for a third series. There’s the new family friendly Dawn French offering that started on BBC2 this week “Roger and Val Have just got in”. Then Sky are recommissioning comedy drama Mount Pleasant and the Ruth Jones comedy “Stella”
So is comedy better than it was?
David Jason recently weighed into the argument saying that traditional family humour was missing from our TV screens. For his next project he’s going back to basics. He’s directing a ‘Pilot’ episode of a new traditional type comedy about a firm of bungling undertakers. It will be called “Pearly Gates” Sir David called it a return to the “old-fashioned” comedies of the 1970s and ’80s. He points out a similarity with Last of the Summer Wine, which was filmed 10 miles down the road in Holmfirth, before being cancelled two years ago. He also said in the same interview “But I think we haven’t been catering enough for families in general. And I think the BBC have taken that on board and are trying to redress the balance.”
The short answer to the question has to be NO. In years gone by we did not worry about being politically correct. We accepted humour for what it was – there to make us laugh. Writers seemed to draw upon their own experiences and new when to call it a day. This doesn’t mean that comedy today is just rubbish it’s not, there are some gems out there, Outnumbered springs to mind, but as the child stars get older will it loose it’s appeal? Viewers don’t seem to think so as upon hearing that there would be no more the call went out to keep it going. Miranda is another that’s currently very popular. It’s true to argue against me that tastes change, yes they do, and unfortunately so do the rules. I agree that however much we’d like to see another Love Thy Neighbour or Till Death Us Do Part, even if it were to happen it wouldn’t be the same you just wouldn’t get away with that now.
Whatever side of the debate you are on ask yourself this question. In the last ten years how many comedies can you remember and think they’ll still be talking about them in fifty years time? Where as Steptoe, Hancock, Monty Python, Dad’s Army, George and Mildred, On The Buses, I could go on, but I think you get which side of the debate I’m on.
Here are some clips old and new.
Today: My Family
Today: The Thick Of It
Yesterday: Yes Minister
Today: Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer (although I think we’ll be hearing from these two for a few years to come)
Yesterday: Morecambe and Wise