Friday, January 05, 2007

Flight Of Fancy

A return to the daily grind and dull overcast skies means putting not just the festivities behind us but the end of the witless television season. Worst offenders are always the “special” Christmas editions of current sitcoms and sketch shows. Bloated by an extended running time and an upped budget to turn them into an EVENT.

If they aren’t specifically festive-themed, the extra cash is usually tossed off on exotic locales to make it different by writers who seem to have forgotten that the locale the characters inhabit is as important in creating the comedy as the characters themselves.

No matter, it’s over now. Although following in the season slipstream came two event comedies that were removed just enough by being scheduled post-New Year so as not to be labelled with the trash.

First up was a new hour-long edition of The Thick of It, which I missed, but then so did Chris Langham. Apparently in his place were a couple of hapless politico fuckwits finding themselves out of their depth and getting poked by the sharp end.

With only six episodes to its name, prior to the special, The Thick of It is the best political comedy since Yes, Minister. Whereas Jim Hacker’s Minister of Administrative Affairs once had the devious Sir Humphrey Appleby outwitting him at every turn, Hugh Abbott, the witless Secretary of State for Social Affairs, has to contend with Malcolm Tucker, the Prime Minister’s monstrous enforcer, who shouts “Come the fuck in, or fuck the fuck off!” when someone knocks on his door.

According to one of the reviews Tucker had an equally terrifying sidekick in the special who threatened the naïve Oliver with: “I will remove your iPod from its tiny nano sheaf, and push it up your cock. And then I'll plug some speakers up your arse. And then I'll put it on to shuffle with my fucking fist.” Rude as fuck, certainly, but The Thick of It is richly imbued with creator Armando Ianucci‘s razor-sharp wit. It’ll be on again. Judging by the BBC digital schedules, probably in about twenty minutes from now.

The ratings winner over the Christmas period was The Vicar of Dibley. I can’t see the appeal because the idea of an obese female priest in a village of lazy stereotypes never appealed to me. The wedding finale was Dalek-themed from the advance publicity shots which, for me, would be like being presented with a big steaming turd and then having shit sprinkles put on the top.

The audience for part two exceeded part one, and I can only assume people tuned in to make sure it was the very end of the show as we were promised. If that was the case they were probably sick to their stomach by the almost immediate news that The Vicar of Dibley would be back as a skit for Comic goddamn Relief. It really is the comic equivalent of herpes. There’s no getting away from the bloody thing.

One comedy that was finally over was Green Wing, which came to an end this week. Whereas The Thick of It has been lauded with BAFTA and RTS Awards, Green Wing always seems to be overlooked come the awards ceremonies, which is utterly criminal.

Half sitcom, half sketch show, taking up an hour timeslot, Green Wing was never less than satisfyingly mental. Amongst all the inspired nuttiness, Green Wing really centred around two relationships: the love triangle between doctors Todd, McCartney, and Secretan, and the utterly dysfunctional collision of hospital consultant Alan Statham and HR administrator Joanna Clore.

And after two series their outcomes were both resolved with a two-hour finale. While Statham and Clore were taken away from the locale the characters inhabited, it still worked due to the strength of their grotesque personalities.

Statham and Clore were on the lam after the former had beaten a midget to death with a stuffed heron. The second series had ended with them in a stolen campervan, perched precariously on the edge of a cliff, and an annoyed Statham reciting his own personal alphabet:

“A is for anus. B is for bumhole. C is for cock. D is for dog’s dicks...”

Somehow they got out of their predicament and carried on their tortured journey, managing to murder a mechanic, shop assistant and policeman along the way. They also kidnapped a sheep. Short on resources Statham adapted the campervan to run on alcohol and fermented excrement whereupon it promptly blew up.

Left with the choice of giving themselves up, trying to cross the Channel and start a new life in Spain, or killing ourselves, they opted for the latter because Statham didn’t like the Spanish and Clore didn’t want to go to prison and be lady-bummed.

Their continued twisted dalliance over the series has even made some of my crash-and-burn relationships seem normal by comparison. In the end they stripped off and walked hand-in-hand into the sea. When the tide was out. Meanwhile the just-married Todd held one helium balloon too many and floated away while her ex-suitor looked up her dress. Somehow it finally all made sense.

People have rated the recently departed drama Bodies, set in a hospital’s Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department as the most disturbing portrait of the current NHS. Green Wing topped it, big time, While at the same time ably demonstrating why the UK’s traditional half-hour, laugh track laden sitcom is dead and doesn’t know it.


At 10:18 am, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

And Statham singing Lionel Richie's Hello down the phone to Boyce was also great, in a terrifyingly abnormal way... ;-)


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