Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Wings? Only the band the Beatles could have been..."

As an ex-pat Brit I try to do my bit to fly the flag for British culture. The bits that are worth flying the flag for, that is. While totally espousing and assimilating French and German culture too. Phew! And one thing I feel is worth defending is British TV comedy. There really is some classic, timeless stuff out there just waiting to be enjoyed. My current cruisade involves initiating my fellow Europeans into the joys of Alan Partridge. And I have to say they "get" him. Totally. One aquaintance quoted gleefully at me the other day from the scene where Alan is wearing unspeakable blue boxer shorts and his nether regions keep peeking out, much to the horror of Lynn, his assistant. Apparently he says to her "It's all right now Lynn, you can look - the boys are back in the barracks....." You need to have an excellent level of English to understand the gags, but for those who do, it's definately humour that crosses borders. I've just bought the entire boxed set and am loving seeing the stuff I never saw and reminding myself of the scenes I know. The favourite clip has to be the moment where he's in his caravan playing air bass to Gary Numan's "Music for chameleons". Never fails to raise a smile.

The link to music and indeed to Toffee's valiant defence of Coldplay is my current new obsession. Bear with me here because we get things a little later then you do. But I've discovered Elbow (they are on the brink, the cusp, nay the verge of becoming really big in France as opposed to Japan). If deezer plays the game, their album The seldom seen kid can be listened to here.

You'll hate me for saying this but.. (Alan Partridge Voice) "Elbow? They're only the band that Coldplay could have been...."

And the question: Favourite British comedy series - and why?

54 comments:

TracyK said...

How about the mighty Saxondale FP? My hubby loves everything Coogan does and I used to love Pauline Calf (especially in Three Fights, A Wedding and a Funeral), so we listen to audio downloads of Alan or Saxondale when we are trying to sleep. I do love the genuine affection between Tommy and Magz and could happily punch Vicki in the kisser. I'm very fond of Outnumbered lately, epsecially Karen and her odd little Christian/Satanist bits.

Frogprincess said...

Missed you around lately! Chuffed you're in de house! I loved Saxondale too. It's not such an obvious belly laugh phenomanon as Alan P. But I worked for several years as in interpreter at the Edinburgh Festival and got to know lots of stage hands, tecchies and roadies. And they ALL have stories about "when I was rigging Richie Blackmore's toms". Spot on observation. Tommy Saxondale is an amalgam of all those guys. With a penchant for kinky sex thrown in. Brilliant series. And I love Mags and Vickie (in different ways!!) too. Will have a look on Youtube for Outnumbered.

Frogprincess said...

It would seem I'm spot on with the analogy. Just been surfing the revies of the Elbow album. Alexis Petri-Dish gave it 4 stars and Jonty Rockford quips: "Over the past seven years, Elbow have been routinely regarded as a sort of credible alternative to Coldplay, the subtext of most write-ups being, "Yes, but why aren't they as huge?"

Toffee - you're gonna love 'em if you don't already...

TracyK said...

As someone mentioned when talking about Coldplay, you hear a song and it's almost an instant recognition (musically predictable, I think they said: it was a looooooong discussion!). With Elbow the lyrics are a bit sharper and I think you have to work for them a bit more.
"The man on the door has a head like Mars
Like a baby born to the doors of the bars
And surrounded by steam with his folded arms
He's got that urban genie thing going on

He's so mercifully free of the pressures of grace
Saint Peter in satin, he's like Buddha with mace"
You don't get that with Chris Martin.

Oh, and favourite comedy is probably Peep Show. I sometimes think hubby IS Mark: he knows far too much about Stalingrad...

Frogprincess said...

"It was a cold day in December
That day I do remember
there was snow
White snow"


Indeed.
Shall look out for Peep Show too!!!

TracyK said...

You have several series of joy to come then, FP. Incidentally, of no interest to anyone except you, I suspect, I have compiled a playlist on Spotify of Yazoo, Erasure, Depeche Mode (nothing past Black Celebration though) and PSBs. Hours of it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9ooYMH192E

DarceysDad said...

In recent times, it has to be Early Doors.

It has that mix of humour and pathos that Brits can be brilliant at, cf. Porridge.

But sorry, fp, can't stand Partridge.

Frogprincess said...

Hey I'll check out that Spotify list - right up my street! Just heard another great Elbows lyric:
"We kissed like we invented it"
Sigh.....
---
Darce I'm noting down all the titles of series I don't know yet - thanks for 'Early Doors'. I suspect boxed set heaven on ebay awaits....
And Porridge was textbook stuff. It doesn't get much sharper than that. RIP Richard Beckinsale - pleased his daughter is doing very well for herself. No worries about the Partridge aversion.

ToffeeBoy said...

Out of loyalty to my brother I should probably say Lead Balloon for favourite British comedy - but he'd know I was lying. The real answer has to be Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads - I've been watching repeats on one of those digital channel thingies recently and it still shines, though but pet!

ToffeeBoy said...

Early Doors is one of the funniest and (driest) comedies of recent years - good shout DsD.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ fp - I've been with Elbow since the first album although I came late to the latest - all top stuff.

ejaydee said...

Donds for Peep Show. I have to admit I'm more od a Mark, against my wishes.

Shoegazer said...

Don't want to throw Coldplay under the bus at this late stage, but Elbow have them outgunned in every department (except record & ticket sales). If you're late to the party FP try their 2nd album for a treat.

We are a little starved of Britcoms out here in the former colonies. Unless you count the never ending re-runs of Are You Being Served on public television. It seems the Yanks never grow tired of Mrs. Slocombe's pussy for some reason. We did get Gavin & Stacey, which is sweet, but not exactly hilarious. Best we've managed to get in the last few years is Michell & Webb.

Mnemonic said...

Black Books for me, probably my favourite episode being the one where Tamsin Grieg is learning to play the piano.

Peep Show was literally too close to home for me. I'd heard good things about it and came home late one night from a gig, saw it was on telly and switched on. One of them looked out of the window... and straight into my front room window. They'd filmed it in the block opposite me.

(I had noticed a flat being used for filming but assumed it was just The Bill, as they used my area a lot.)

Outnumbered was fun, too.

TracyK said...

If you like your comedy dark, you should have a look at Human Remains (Julia Davis and Rob Brydon playing a variety of seriously dysfunctional couples) or the Julia Davis Nighty Night, with the utterly amoral Jill ruining Angus Deayton, Rebecca Front and pretty much everyone's lives: one of my favourite scenes is where she rides into her husband's funeral (he's not actually dead) on a horse and then performs an an interpretive dance with Ruth Jones. It's all about Jill.

ejaydee said...

I only saw one episode of Human Remains, and remember loving it, thanks for reminding me.

Abahachi said...

I prefer Alan Partridge's early work - the original radio version of Knowing Me Knowing You. If we're including radio, then The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has to be my all-time favourite; if not, then not sure how to decide between Green Wing, Black Books, Father Ted and Drop the Dead Donkey.

sourpus said...

Cant be done. There's just too many. Here in Budapest, I have enormous collection (boom boom) of comedy from all different eras which ive been amassing. I am currently trying to get even a pitiful handful of Magyars to pay attention to The Conchords, tho I fear an uphill climb...

sourpus said...

Just for the record, comedy that DOES go down well here (although none of them have ever been screened and remain unknown by the vast majority) include Father Ted (everyone I have shown this too adores it), Eddie Izzard (curious, for such a homophobic country) and The Fast Show (parts of it anyway). Still born include Boosh and Denis Pennis - both of which I love VERY much.

sourpus said...

History lovers may also like to know that Black Adder only just arrived in Hungary (DVD only) and that Monty Python and Fawlty Towers have been on more or less permanent rotation since their respective arrival (in each case, not long after they were each originally shown in Britain). Many thing were timewarped by communism and British comedy it seems was one of those casualties also. Nothing and no one can explain for me though, the popularity of 'You rang m'Lord' here. Hungarians hold it in higher esteem than any other Perry/Croft series they have seen (although this doesnt include Dad's Army). Just goes to show I suppose how much we should never underestimate Johnny foreigner's love for our great English traditions - the class system, foxhunting, the occasional truly crap comedy show, etc.

treefrogdemon said...

Monty Python; The Goon Show. Old? Past it? naah.

Japanther said...

Donds for Peep Show - the best thing i've seen for years.

And, not sure if it's particularly funny or not, but for a more highbrow Guardian/Radio 4-friendly bit of comedy, I started watching these this week. The first two that I watched were pretty good:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjQws4ZYxZA

Blimpy said...

Uber donds for Peep Show, and Black Books, which I love dearly

Fran: "Do you know nothing about modern culture, Bernard? Beckham, Posh, Pokemon... "
Bernard: "Pacman. It's pronounced Pacman."

Manny: "Do you think I should wash my beard? "
Bernard:" I think you should, yeah. You should wash your beard, then shave it off, nail it to a Frisbee and fling it over a rainbow. "

Chris said...

Most of the best British comedies have been listed but don't forget 'Spaced', where Pegg, Frost, Stephenson and the great Mark Heap (see 'Green Wing') started out.
Curious that 'Early Doors' has a (deserved) following but no mention of 'The Royle Family', from the same writer(s)/actor(s)/location. It has to be up there with the best, along with Blackadder 2-4, Father Ted, Nighty Night and Black Books. Oh, and 'The League Of Gentlemen'. How could we forget that?

tincanman said...

@ frogprincess
Its fun watching you discover Elbow. I was exactly the same as you last year about this time. Seldom Seen Kid absolutely blew me away.

TracyK said...

Big donds for the Linehan/Matthews stuff too, Father Ted, Black Books ("We'd like to talk to you about J-HEH-sus") and The IT Crowd too. Caught the episode of the latter where Matt Berry has to say "DAMN these electric sex-pants!!!" in that fruity baritone of his. Love it when Moss is concussed and when he comes to, the Microsoft music plays. Garth Merenghi anyone? Nathan Barley? Loved the Boosh too and me and Jon would never have met if it weren't for Spaced, so that's pretty important.

CaroleBristol said...

Comedy, where to start?

I love;

Black Books, Father Ted, The IT Crowd, Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, Royle Family and Phoenix NightsI also loved a few less well known series like the wonderful I Didn't Know You Cared and A Very Peculiar Practice

CaroleBristol said...

I thought I'd post about Elbow separately.

I've tried to like them, but I don't.

To be honest, they just sound like Coldplay etc to me.

I don't like Doves either. It's all a bit overwrought and contrived to my ears.

In fact, I don't like hardly anything much from the last decade at all.

Frogprincess said...

Evening my cyber friends. I'm full of pizza and Chateau Larose somethingorother so in a very good mood (be afraid, be very afraid). Loving the fact that you all like Black Books. It's my tonsilitis on the sofa boxed set. And Menemonic - with you totally on that episode - "SPOON ME!"
---
@Toffee. I badly need to know if you have seen the likely lads film, where Bob, Thelma, Terry and Terry's Finnish girlfriend go on a caravaning week end to Seahouses. Tell me you've seen it. It's the one DVD I'd rescue from a house fire. That precious...And I have a similar accent to Terry when I talk to the family.
---
@ Frenchy - I'll check out Peep Show. I am on the sofa in front of Thalassa all about le Mont St. Michel. Great French Friday night telly...
-----
@ Shoey: You owe me a new keyboard for Mrs Slocambe's pussy
----
@ Mnemonic: Noted for Outnumbered as well!!!
----
@ Sourpus: There's a great doctorate thesis to be written on perceptions of English humour abroad. Thanks for the Hungarian point of view!!
---
@ TFD: Classics every one.
---
@ Japanther : very curious as to what British TV comedy the Japanese understand. Tell me it's not " Hi Di Hi..."
-----
@ Blimp: marvellous quotes. And I love Bernard's summer girl speech too. "She'll have friends who know how to be outside and in the autumn I'll ditch her because she's my summer girl..." Or in Mnemonic's piano episode "What did you say to her? She thinks I'm the Rennaissance!"
----
@ Chris: Love the Royle family. Didn't Gordon or Darce go to Junior School with her?
---
@ Tincanman: Donding your One Day like this from Elbow. Most Emphatically!!!!
----
@TK: Love that episode too. And Manny turns up in white apparel and a beard and they run a mile...
----
@ Carole: Not a problem that you don't like Elbow. Just mail me over your DVD collection, will you? I share your love of Yes Minister/Prime Minister and Humphry Appleby is my spiritual guru. As is Bernard Black. I'm a mix of the two. Which is a frightening thought.
----

Frogprincess said...

And Hach I need to catch up with .. "....donkey" too. Thanks for reminding me. That got cult status when it was broadcast but we didnt get it over here. Any love for Ab Fab by the way?

Abahachi said...

First couple of series of Ab Fab fantastic, and then it all got a got a bit of a self-parody.

Completely forgot the genius that was Dad's Army - superb ensemble comedy, brilliantly acted.

TatankaYotanka said...

Let's widen the 'Britishness' and catch some Kaledonian Klassiks ..

Fluff ... but I liked this pastiche sit-com so much ... I bought the DVD

The High Life

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY-Hdi9JeeY&feature=related

Does this travel? Did it pave the way for the Kumars?

Rab C Nesbitt

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFfKWJ_56_Q&feature=related

and Still Game

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4702724353871387716

ToffeeBoy said...

@ fp - I'm sure I must have seen the Likely Lads film but I can't remember anything about it - Terry's Finnish girlfriend doesn't ring a bell. I'll have to check it out - quite possibly available for £2.99 at HMV.

No donds for Lead Balloon? Do you all not know it or are you being too polite and not saying what you really think?

Frogprincess said...

@ Hach : Vots's your name boy?
- Don't tell 'im, Pike!!!
----
@ Tatanka: oh God yes. My man Rab C!
---
@Toffee I'll personally reimburse the £2.99 if you don't fall off the sofa laughing at least twice. Utterly brilliant, Pet. Don't know Lead Balloon. But will!!!!!
-----

TatankaYotanka said...

ToffeeBoy ... Lead Balloon is great ... 'cept when they foul up my Queens Park rat runs ^^

gordonimmel said...

So many questions, so little time...

@fp re Likely Lads always loved it and I remember the film especially the scene where they're playing bridge in the caravan. Terry has to go outside to relieve himself and as he does so against the side of the caravan Thelma says, with a lack of naivete which would shock most regulars 'Well, that's the first time all night I've known what he's got in his hand'.
I love all Likeley Lads progs especially the ones where they have to give a urine sample at the police station and the one where they're trying to avoid the England v Bulgaria score ('England Washed Out')

It was me that knew Caroline Aherne at school.

Also on a Manchester thing (cos that's where I grew up even if I live over the hills in West Yorkshire now) my younger brother was recently relating a story where he was thinking about an old friend of his and how back in the early nineties they were having an after hours session (it was his bar so it was allowed) with her brother's band (he was the singer) and he thought wasn't her name ---- Garvey and wasn't her brother called Guy.....?
He's now a massive Elbow fan btw and I have a couple of albums myself.
Being descended from Glasgow stock I also love 'Rab C Nesbit'. I can understand it since alot of my extended family speak like that (although some of them also speak a bit 'Bearsden' if you get my drift). I often refer to the fact that I think that frauimmel's Dad is the Austrian 'Rab C' since as I'm sure you'll know, Austrian is Germany's 'Scottish' but also he is almost incomprehensible to most of his local Karntnisch (although to save me from real trouble he's not known for hanging out in the local. he's always worked extremely hard etc.)

And final comedy donds to Monty P, Dad's Army, Blackadder, Fawlty Towers

Chris said...

TB: I hope your brother didn't see Stewart Lee's show this week. He compared it to 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'. Not very kindly. Which was a little unfair. Parts of Lead Balloon work well (especially the kids, Jack's wife, Magda and Jack's writing buddy, and possibly the bloke in the cafe) and I find CYE a little overrated.

TracyK said...

Another Lead Balloon fan here, my brightest Media year 10 kid reviewed it as his favourite TV prog of 2008, feel free to pass that on to your bro TB. My favourite is Magda too, the actress is fantastic. Ramus Hardicker makes me laugh just with his nonplussed face.

I did wonder whether anyone else was watching Stewart Lee, he and Daniel Kitson are my favourite stand-ups, and as Kitson won't do TV (you should hear the things he says about his experiences with Peter Kay on Phoenix Nights. No wonder most comedians loathe Kay), the return of Stew to the tv is an utter joy. We met him last year when he and Kevin Eldon played the Drill Hall, such a lovely man. There some excellent footage on Youtube of his William Wallace routine: I admire the way he takes every thought to its extreme conclusion, wringing every last bit of humour out of it. I used to fuggin love TMWRNJ. You want the moon on a stick...

And FP, even the Jehovah's Witness kid thought that joke was funny, so it must be good! And The High Life? "Oh dearie me!"

Frogprincess said...

Morning all, TK you've just reminded me of another Back Books favourite scene: the one where Fran gets the totally incomprehensible job and is asked to present her report "Are we, or are we not..... a Company??" Intrigued about Peter Kay. What is it about him? And that's Lead Balloon on the box set list.
-----
Gordon - I see you know your Likely Lads. The other classic moment is where Terry goes into the field for an early morning slash and gets surrrounded by cows. He calls to Bob for help and when Bob asks what the hell he's doing he replies (alltogether now, you and me in stereo) "Well I'm not picking mushrooms!"
-------
Opening up the scope a little - what about America? Top of my list is Frasier (a long way ahead of anyone else) with Seinfeld an honourable second.

ToffeeBoy said...

I'll pass on the comments about Lead Balloon - but he's almost certainly got a standing Google search set up so he'll be reading this anyway (Hi Pete!).

I did see the Stewart Lee bit and it did annoy me. I think the CYE comparisons are lazy - there are certain similarities but the main characters couldn't be more different. Larry David is deliberately antagonistic and I find many of the situations just too far fetched - I don't feel any empathy with him at all. But while Jack Dee's character is certainly childish and petty, I suspect that there's more than a bit of all of us (men, that is) in the way he behaves.

The ToffeeBoy all time American sitcoms top ten:

1. Seinfeld
2. Cheers
3. Third Rock From The Sun
4. Friends
5. Arrested Development
6. Bakersfield PD
7. 30 Rock
8. Family Ties
9. Mary Tyler Moore Show
10. Frasier

ToffeeBoy said...

@ TatankaYotanka - your rat runs are now free. Series 3 was filmed sarf of the river!

Chris said...

Never did find Seinfeld funny, and I've tried several times. It just seemed to be about watching performers who were convinced they were the funniest thing ever. Whereas Frasier made the smugness hilarious, Seinfeld seemed to celebrate it.
I'd forgotten about Bakersfield PD. It disappeared quite quickly but was great while it lasted.
When do we get to drool over the superlative South Park and Family Guy?

In all the above, no-one has mentioned The Office. It that coz we don't consider it a sitcom? Or that we remember the cringing more than the laughs?

Frogprincess said...

Interesting comment - do we all take it for granted that The Office was marvellous or is it overkill? I loved it AND Extras...

ToffeeBoy said...

I absolutely loved The Office - particularly the first series and the beautifully sentimental and thoroughly satisfying Christmas Special. The Staff Training episode is a comedy classic - no question.

I initially enjoyed Extras but as soon as he became successful the dynamics changed, and the situation went out of the comedy. The last series was self-indulgent twaddle. It seemed as if Ricky Gervais forgot what he was good at. Undoubtedly a comic genius nonetheless.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ Chris - Bakersfield PD only ran for one series (sorry, season). Cancelled due to low ratings - the public were robbed of something special ...

Chris said...

With apologies for my intermittent, random posts (a result of natural dullness and frustratingly imperfect internet connection), I now feel the need to reprise Tatanka's shout for Scottish comedy. I never liked Rab but the team that came up with 'Absolutely' contained much talent. Absolutely was a sketch show, so doesn't count, but 'Mr Don and Mr George', was born of it and was hilariously surreal. It starred Moray Hunter and Jack Docherty, ran for two seasons and has recently been released on DVD. Completely barmy but with its own rigid logic and rules. Remember the Father Ted explanation to Dougal about the difference between reality and dreams....

Chris said...

I was wrong: 'Mr Don and Mr George' actually only ran for one series (why, TB, do they still cancel great comedy just because people don't watch it?). The wiki entry summarises each episode (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Don_and_Mr._George): just read that for a flavour of the show. e.g. Episode 1 - You Can Run, But You Can't Hide.... Your Legs. Armed with a matchbox full of 34 deadly sulphur guns, Don and George set out on a deadly post-cold-war mission. To find someone to spy on.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ Chris - this is the bane of my brother's life. Before co-writing Lead Balloon he wrote two sitcoms both of which lasted one series only: All Along The Watchtower (about an early warning station in the north of Scotland that the MoD had some how forgotten to close down) and Mr Charity about the world's least charitable charity worker. Both had some potential (and received some excellent reviews) but neither were given the chance to develop.

Japanther said...

TB - BTW, one of my (and I don't really have that many) pet hates is the way that the word "season" has replaced the word "series". When did this happen?? It seems to have been by stealth.....

......I think i'm turning into my dad.....

ToffeeBoy said...

@ fp - Likely Lads film purchased - £5.00 from HMV - looking forward to watching it over the weekend.

Frogprincess said...

So glad Toffee. Look out for RSC stars in small roles - Alun Armstrong as the milkman and Judy Buxton as 'Iris' (I saw her play Juliet to Anton Lesser's Romeo - blew me away).
In fact I think I'll watch it later on....

CaroleBristol said...

I like both The Office and Extras but the excruciating aspects are just too true to life to be hilarious.

I used to know and work with someone who was very like Gareth Keenan, such a close match as to be quite scary.

Frogprincess said...

@Carole - it's well observed, isn't it? I always wonder if the stapler in the jelly gag set off a fashion. Jelly a bit thin on the ground here - thank goodness....

Frogprincess said...

Just popping in to share a tiip with you. I'm filling up the MP3 before youg out for a bike ride. I pointed out this site before but they've up-dated things a bit. There's now a playlist function and you can download people's playlists. It's legal, ad-funded downloading so no copyright issues. I've just downloaded "Caleb's" playlist and it's warming the cockles of my ears...
http://betterpropaganda.com/staff_picks.aspx