Friday, 5 October 2007

TV Humour

What we learnt from last night's telly.

That Thursday night on BBC2 isn’t going to be comedy night.

First up was Vivienne Vyle a new Jennifer Saunders comedy Drama (i.e. not as funny as a sitcom) in it Saunders plays a Trisha-esque daytime TV host who could easily be the sister of Eddy in AB FAB. In fact the plot was very similar to Ab Fab in that Vivienne spends the first few minutes being horrid and over the top to her guests, then get’s involved in a fight which is followed by a brief sick bed epiphany in which she’s sets out to change and be a better person, but by the end of the show is back to her terrible old self. Like Ab Fab it’s obsessed with the media and not much else. There is a much promoted strand of psychology supplied by co writer Doctor Tanya from BBC 3’s “House of Tiny Tearaways” fame. But her input seems to be giving a clinical psychologist character random medical words to babble. In the whole half hour I didn’t laugh once.

Next up was The Peter Serafinowicz Show, a sketch show based around Serafinowicz’s considerable skills as a mimic. This was if anything even less funny. Most of the jokes seemed to be based on the viewer having to applaud the exactness of the shows parodies. Unfortunately they weren’t funny, here are the jokes: TV games shows are random and pointless, American entertainment news is vacuous and loud, shopping channels cynically sell low quality goods, TV advertising ambulances chasing lawyers are inept and dodgy. The only halfway funny was joke about a man playing a woman’s fingers like piano and they didn’t even carry that off very well.
Meanwhile on e4 “Dogface” has swapped random obscenity and cruelty for anything remotely humorous.

One thing these programmes all show us is that comedians and comedy writers watch too much TV, (daytime especially,) most comedy these days is about or reflective of the media, with a few notable exceptions Saxondale, It Crowd, Katherine Tate (largely). I know we all share TV in common but as “studio 60” shows the actual making of TV programmes isn’t necessarily interesting or funny. Saunders has made some good spoofs in the past and if done well they are enjoyable but not all the time.

The granddaddy of all this is Armando Iannucci whose entire oeuvre is based on “the media” .The “Thick of it” is nominally about government except the characters are obsessed with the news media and it’s full of knowing TV cameos etc. It’s also telling that a lot of the “jokes” in all these shows are based on the sort of TV that their middle class makers wouldn’t normally watch. In fact the fans of Jeremy Kyle show are probably watching whatever is on ITV or catching up on the soaps on digital. So as well as laughing at poor people whilst not making anyone else laugh what are they all doing? It’s not biting satire of the media because the characters are grotesques so the people they are mocking will never see themselves in these monsters, maybe it just shows that we areall vein, stupid and self obsessed, which isn’t a very cheering thought.

Rubbish Patsy and Eddy looka likes anyone?


ally. said...

happily my suspicion that saunders is horrid really were confirmed by a pals sister who knows these things.
you can just tell...

Clair said...

I've never liked French and Saunders, and I just can't understand why their stuff (beyond the Vicar of Dibley, which I really hate, but wins a cosy family audience) continues to get made - along with most comedy starring women. Little Miss Jocelyn and Tittybangbang are atrocious, though I liked Touch Me, I'm Karen Taylor.