British Comedy: A Guide (Part II: The SitCom Tier 5)

This is it, bottom marks in comedy.  For the bulk of these, I’ve seen very few episodes.  You may think that’s unfair to the show, but with these, it’s got one trick in its bag and if you’re not with it, then you just can’t stand it.  As things turned out, every show that I’ve seen and haven’t liked probably fits into the incredibly classic category.  That makes sense since if I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it on PBS or have looked into it because I’d heard it was good.  So, this is populated with shows I saw on PBS and just really don’t like.

Tier Five – Flee, For Your Lives, FLEE!

Absolutely Fabulous (1992-2004)

Yeah, they’re drunk, such hijinx, oh shut up.  I actually am not familiar with the plot of the show, but I’ve seen it happening in front of me and I find it completely valueless.  Apparently, Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) is a PR agent who drinks, smokes, and does drugs.  Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) is a magazine editor who drinks, smokes, and does drugs.  They’re self obsessed.  They’re trying to stay young.  They pamper themselves.  This isn’t about people, this is about gesticulating and going far over the top.  Some people like comedies that are over the top.  Well, sometimes I do too, but they’ve got to be about something beyond…I don’t know, what is this?  The mundane world is perfectly fine and ripe with observational opportunities, but this is about fashion and PR in the most general way.  No references are made that make me laugh or even smile.  That’s probably because I’m not hip or fabulous.  Life goes ever on.

‘Allo ‘Allo (1982-92)

I’m incredibly surprised it lasted ten years.  The bloody war didn’t last that long! This show is about a French cafe owner, Rene (Gorden Kaye), who is in the middle of two wars.  One between the Nazis and the Resistance and one between his wife Edith (Carmen Silvera) and his paramour Yvette (Vicki Michelle).  The Nazis are a bunch of sweethearts, of course, except for the SS officer Herr Flick (Richard Gibson)–ha freaking ha.  Oh, and there’s the painting of the “Fallen Madonna with the big boobies” which people seem to steal from one another when they can’t think of any other plots to play with.

The show has one funny trick up it’s sleeve–when people speak French, they speak English in a French accent, when they speak English, it’s in an English accent.  When their accents don’t align, they can’t understand one another.  Pretty good.  Too bad the rest of it is full of catchphrases, zany farce, and organized stupidity.  I can’t stand this show.

As Time Goes By (1992-2005)

Here’s a show I just never got into.  Lionel (Geoffrey Palmer) and Jean (Judi Dench) were together briefly in the 1950’s.  They went their separate ways and almost 40 years later met up when Lionel was finalizing his book with the use of Jean’s secretarial agency.  Alistair (Philip Bretherton) is Lionel’s agent and he falls for Jean’s daughter Judith (Moira Brooker).  They…sit around and…talk and stuff.

Like I said, I never got into this show.  The premise was too mundane perhaps.  The characters too far outside my own sympathy.  Alistair, I remember, annoyed me a great deal.  He’s a kind of caricature business type who has virtually nothing in common with Lionel.  Maybe I just don’t get it.  That’s probably it.  Either way.  I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Keeping Up Appearances (1990-95)

That Bucket woman drives me insane!  I can’t take it.  If I’m watching this show longer than ten minutes, then I’m in a bad mood until I can cleanse my mind of its tension.  Hyacinth Bucket (Patricia Routledge) pronounces her name Bouquet–which is the worst running joke in the world.  She’s married to Richard (Clive Swift) who’s perfectly happy with the original pronunciation. He’s so hen-pecked I really can’t imagine how either of them have survived this long.  I’ll mind my fist right into your @#$%^& face!  She has two sisters: Rose (Mary Millar), a slag, and Daisy (Judy Cornwell), a waistrel married to the oaf Onslow (Geoffrey Hughes)

Last of the Summer Wine (1973-)

I feel a little stupid now that I’ve found out that the show is almost forty years old!  It’s age alone demands respect.  The show is about three men from Yorkshire who don’t act their age.  They get up to all kinds of hijinx.  Only one character, Norman Clegg (Peter Sallis), has maintained his role from the beginning.  That’s 40 years playing an old man.

My experience of the show is that of the feather-light entertainment sort. Wikipedia calls it “family-friendly.”  The situations don’t get too dirty, the language is G-rated, and the characters are completely non-threatening.  That to me, is a bit of a waste of time when you’ve got so much out there.  I’m not saying it’s all got to be Misfits (2009-), but the best comedy is human and humanity isn’t G-rated.  But if you do have the kiddos, you’ll find plenty to entertain them on this list.  Maybe that’s something worth considering.

This is my most circumspect rating of the lot.  First, it’s so long-running and I’ve seen so little of it that my opinion is of questionable value.  Second, apparently the cast has been completely reworked to have three relatively young characters as the main trio.  That’s got to alter the quality of the show.  But, whenever I watch it, I am instantly bored.  Usually it’s 10:30 pm, so that’s to be taken into account as well.

Mr. Bean (1990-95)

Nothing need be taken into account for this show.  I am pretty sure that I’ve seen every episode.  Now, I love Rowan Atkinson–no I’m not going to marry him, don’t be silly–but I hate this show.  Mr. Bean (Atkinson) is an idiot who goes around trying, failing, and then half succeeding to do things.  It can be quite frustrating.

If I was half the traditionalist I think I am, I would accept this show as a modern Buster Keaton routine and love it all the way.  I guess I’m not because this kind of physical comedy is only beneficial as an experiment.  His not talking is a consistent annoyance.  His social awkwardness is a constant annoyance.  That dumb look he’s pulling above is not charming.  It’s annoying.  Now, there’s a charm that comes across when he pulls off his little trick, whatever that happens to be, but man you’ve got to suffer to get there.  Not gonna do it.

Only Fools and Horses (1981-2003)

Apparently, people think that this show is the best sitcom ever.  Perhaps one day I’ll watch it all and come to find myself a fool, but I have no memory of this show that comes close to convincing me of this.  The show follows Del-Boy (David Jason), his younger brother Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst), and their grandfather (Lennard Pearce)/Uncle (Buster Merryfield) and the constant attempts by Del-Boy to get rich.  Apparently, along the way, things get more dramatic and…I don’t care.

This show is so dopey that unless I find myself incredibly bored and nothing to do for days and every DVD in my collection thrice seen do I track down this show.  Not to mention it’s so ludicrously expensive, Del-Boy would blush.  I’m probably wrong to feel that way considering its acclaim, but I just can’t change the impression I got when I was a teenager.  That the show had nothing going for it outside of your typical sitcom attractions.

Open All Hours (1976-85)

Here’s another one that I just never liked.  Maybe it’s the classic double act of it all that I just don’t like.  Other two-man/person shows don’t have the expected pseudo-witty repartee with gags and punch lines.  The rhythm of it all just bores me.  This show is about a shop owner, Albert (Ronnie Barker), and his assistant Granville (David Jason).  Albert is in love with the Nurse Gladys (Lynda Baron) his fiancee.  Albert’s incredibly cheap.  Granville’s put upon by Albert, his uncle/guardian.  Oh yeah, and Albert’s got a stammer.

Here’s a sitcom for you.  A situation, the shop, and a comedy duo to make the action go from one joke to the next.  It’s not really a story so much as a set up.  The downfall of many a sitcom.

Notice how all of these shows are available in Region 1 and in complete sets (except for Last of the Summer Wine).  I find that annoying, like most of these shows.

There are a couple shows I haven’t listed that, while I know about them, I haven’t seen.  The Young Ones (1982-84), The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976-79).  Perhaps, over time, I will add to the list with old and new shows.  Perhaps also, shows will move up or down the list.

About Prof. Ratigan

A semi-lawyer and amateur enthusiast.
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2 Responses to British Comedy: A Guide (Part II: The SitCom Tier 5)

  1. Pingback: British Comedy: A Guide (Part 2: The SitCom Tier 5) « Prof. Ratigan - Classic British Sitcom Videos

  2. Pingback: British Comedy: A Guide (Part 2: The SitCom Complete Guide) | Prof. Ratigan

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