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Monday, 2 January 2012

Christmas Comedy: Not a laughing matter.

Let’s get something straight. Comedy has gone downhill. That last sentence is hardly a surprise I know, but this Christmas showcased some of the worst comedy I think I’ve seen for years. Rumour has it that Auntie Beeb had originally planned to schedule David Jason’s new comedy The Royal Bodyguard on Christmas night, but when they discovered it would be up against a festive trip to Downton Abbey the schedulers panicked a bit and pushed it back. The truth is that even with the nation’s beloved Jason at the helm, the Royal Bodyguard should’ve never been allowed to grace our screens at all. Let alone be given such a prime time slot over the Christmas season. The whole first episode was laughable (and that’s not laughable in the comedy sense but laughable in the “dear god make it stop!” sense). The script was about as cliché as it is possible for a sitcom to be and seeing 71 year old Jason falling through ceilings and clinging on to a horse at it careened out of control was just one unbelievable parts of this dismal half hour that asked the audience to suspend reality far too much for the sake of one measly and predictable joke after another. In short I hated most everything about The Royal Bodyguard. The whole premise was flawed. Seeing David Jason prance around like an older version of Johnny English and being demeaned by such a poor script was almost too much for a huge Only Fools & Horses fan to cope with. David Jason is many things, at his age though its hard to find the slapstick “humour” that the Royal Bodyguard relied on believable. Don't get we wrong here, I wasn't expecting this to be David Jason's next big comedic success but I was stunned that such a well known and respected actor would say OK to something of this quality. It gives me little hope that the folks in the BBC comedy department know what the audience want or expect when we watch a comedy. It’s easy to pull the audience with big and likeable names attached but we want and deserve so much more than this below par, outdated and ridiculous fares of a series. Its further proof that drawing the well known faces don’t automatically transfer into unmissable television.

Another such disappointment came with the return of Absolutely Fabulous which it is fair to say never got close to living up to the words in in the tile with its two festive outings. Bringing back an old favourite has long been a Christmas tradition and this has resulted in some of the greatest sitcoms of the modern age like Only Fools & Horses and The Royle Family delivering below standard specials that only seem to sully the name of the original series. With Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne apparently  missing the script deadline for this year’s Christmas Special the Beeb called on Jennifer Saunders to resurrect her 90’s series.  When the specials (they will be another one the week of the Olympics) even the die hard Abfab fans were questioning the sense of resurrecting a series which had long been past its best but they crossed their fingers that Saunders would deliver the sort of quality that made the series such a success in the beginning. Sadly though, the specials were the disappointment fans had feared and critics had perhaps come to expect. 

The only people who seemed to relish the return of Patsy and Edina were those in the studio audience when the shows were recorded. Every other line resulted in raucous laughter from the seeming delirious studio audience who even broke into spontaneous applause when Joanna Lumley first appeared in all her Patsy get up. The truth is that the episodes never even raised a smile for me and the whole thing again served to tarnish the memory of this once great comedy series.  Everything seemed too forced and it seemed as the world had moved on without Absolutely Fabulous and it hadn’t realized. The characters had gone from recognizable people to sad characters of themselves. I spent the first painful half hour reisting the strongest urge to reach into the screen and wallop Jane Horrock’s Bubble who was the most irritating creature throughout the whole thing. The episodes seemed rushed and silly and I realized I’d only watched them because I was hoping they’d be good. Why don’t I seem to learn? I’m suckered in every Christmas and left bitterly disappointed every year. I am a realist though and I have doubt the same will happen Christmas 2012. So here's where you the reading public come in. When I start to get excited about the upcoming return of whatever series is resurrected for 2012 just remind me of the bitter disappointment I displayed in this review and the 90 minuets that would have been better spent roasting chestnuts over an open fire. Thank you.

What did you make of the BBC's Comedy output this Christmas? Let me know below or get in touch through Twitter


Daryl said...

I watched less comedy this Christmas as there wasn't as much to interest me. I enjoyed Michael McIntyre. The Bleak Old Shop Of Stuff was poor. The biggest letdown (from Channel 4) was Felix & Murdo, which I was really looking forward to and didn't make me laugh much at all.

I dislike it when comedies stop doing series and just have the occasional special. Can't there be a rule that no show will be allowed to have a Christmas special unless it's either (a) had a full series that year; or (b) the last ever episode.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with this post, comedy has gone down hill at the beeb. They need to take a leaf out of Channel 4's book, they are the only channel that makes good comedies.

Great blog btw

Ross McGovern said...

Death waits for us all like a blackwinged gull on the edge of our vision. Comedy has finally reached its zenith. Already it knows its death is inevitable, just as surely as an old man pushing his broken-down mobility scooter along the side of a deserted pedestrian precinct. There is nothing. There is only the embracing of our hopeless, joyless mouthful - we are all going to belong to some new fucking sitcom with a cheery theme tune and a bright but flawed main character. Probably played by fucking Carey fucking Mulligan in a fucking wig. The best thing you can do, for all of us, for yourself, for your children, is go into the nearest RS McColl's and punch the first person you see in the face. Now look into the mirror and ask yourself WHY.

Rachael said...

What he said.

Womble said...

I agree with Ross, I'm not entirely sure what he said but I know I agree!

Holly Smith said...

Mr McGovern speaks the truth, comedy at least from the BBC has died and this Christmas the choices offered to us represented it's chilling and hard to attend funeral. I am glad it is
over. I hope at future human funerals we never try to re-enact those times when the person was alive (or when the comedy was actually funny). This years tv guide was the equivalent of dragging the corpse from the coffin and waving its arms around for all to see.

karamina said...

I chose not to watch any of the comedy on television this Christmas. Instead I spent my time watching things that actually make me laugh on youtube. That says it all, really. Crap specials from programmes that weren't even funny in the first place are the reason I watch tv with a nerf gun in hand. There's something quite satisfying about shooting unfunny people. Not as good as punching people in the face in RS McColl, mind you. I'm going to join Mr McGovern and give it a go.

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