Wednesday, April 27, 2005


A Sense Of Humour Failure?

It's very common here in Britain to hear folks be very down on American comedy. I'd never given the matter much thought myself, but the latest American TV network ratings suggest there may be something in it. Yet, at the same time, America has produced many very funny sitcoms. I personally found 'Friends' about as funny as a hammer in the face, but it clearly enjoyed global appeal. At its best, I found 'Frasier' really funny. So why the sudden dearth?

It may be something to do with changing attitudes. Here in Blighty, after all, the old sitcom format is heading out. The most widely praised, and often widely watched, comedies are tending to move away from the sitcom style. Consider 'Little Britain' - again, deeply unfunny, but many, many people find it hilarious. How about the character-based comedy of the Alan Partridge canon? Or the dark and fantastic sitcom/sketch show/horror cinema hybrid that was the magnificent 'The League Of Gentlemen?'

I don't for a minute believe that Americans have lost the ability to laugh. The two comedies that did do well in the ratings are very funny, after all. Maybe, however, the big network format of American television stifles a certain amount of creativity. Perhaps, too, a more rigid insistence on moral values has an impact. I know that sounds dreadfully patronising, and snooty in a ghastly Euro-intellectual way, but there is a point there - could a show like 'The League Of Gentlemen', with its jokes about cannibalism, murder, kidnapping and incest, have survived Stateside? I don't think so - yet it was truly hilarious.

Maybe it's just a blip. Maybe, in no time at all, there'll be a flood of quality American sitcoms beaming to tellies all over the world. It won't be 'Joey', however.

Hilary Briss - cannibalism as (bloody hilarious) comedy

America's still producing the odd decent show, although the percentage of dross is even higher than it was before. I watched Scrubs for the first time the other day on E4 was was quietly impressed - Americans are slowly catching on to the idea of dark humour actually being amusing. I've not seen their version of The Office yet, but its a concept which makes me shudder.
Yeah, in fairness, I should have mentioned 'Scrubs' - I do enjoy it. The bloke in it wrote a film called 'Garden State.' He also directed and starred in it. I'm going to watch it later this week, and I may post a review. Apparently, the America 'The Office' is supposed to be ok. I don't think it'll ever come to Britain, though.
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