When did British comedy hit such an all time low? I am unsure of the exact moment of this decline but it has continued for several months. I feel very disappointed in the quality of recent brand new comedies on television. Now, I do not have Sky, so perhaps I am missing out on the top quality material (such as the return of The Kumars at No. 42) but I refuse to shell out a big fat subscription fee every month. Particularly as my viewing habits are actually limited to a set number of shows and channels. Back when my parents had the service, we still watched a minimum amount of material and even that was when there was something available. In most cases, even with hundreds of channels available, sometimes there was nothing worth watching and we would switch back to free-to-air terrestrial.
Before I got any further an honorary mention must go out to Citizen Khan which broadcast last August on the Beeb. The trailer was cut well but the overall comedy value was low. Extremely low. It was like being taken back to the 1970s. The world has moved on a great deal since the time before I was born! They had to bring in housewife favourite, Kris Marshall from recent BT adverts and BBC sitcom My Family as a Muslim convert just to appeal to Middle England. Proof that a Muslim comedy could not apparently perform without some kind of outside ‘established actor’ help. I did not want to watch any minute beyond the first episode, however we decided to revisit and watch the entire series. Give it a chance, was what my wife, Michelle said was the best option. We had another reason, as we had seen one the stars, Maya Sondhi (who plays daughter Shazia) perform at The Tara Arts Centre with Ali back in December 2011. The BBC have renewed Citizen Khan for a second series, which I am willing to give another chance. However, this is the exception to the rule. I am just not sure if the original Citizen Khan shorts featured in another programme, Bellamy’s People was the ideal avenue for Adil Ray’s talent and a full blown series was too much too soon.
Plebs had been heavily trailed on ITV2, so I watched first episode. However, please note I watched the first episode, several weeks after it aired on television. My wife is a big fan of Celebrity Juice and we have recently started watching The Only Way Is Essex. As these are jewels in the crown of the channel, we were bound to get a great deal of exposure to Plebs. I was extremely disappointed in the comedy. Maybe I am a little outside of the target demographic but that does not mean I am banned from watching. The plot was limited, the jokes were poor and the overall taste was extremely low. This was comedy for the brain-dead generation. I could not stomach watching another minute, so gave up. If you are going to heavily advertise a new British homegrown comedy please please ITV ensure the quality of the writing is up there with the best comedies on television. Even with guest stars such as Danny Dyer, I believed this show was flawed from the start. Transferring modern day twenty-first century life into Ancient Rome, with the ultimate of socially awkward guys outside of the in-crowd trying to meet pretty girls. Sure not much in modern day Britain has changed and most boys of a certain age, are attempting the same thing in bars, pubs and clubs in towns and cities across the country.
I did not know that Ben Elton was working on a new comedy until I read an article in The Guardian one lunchtime at the office. I was looking forward to catching The Wright Way when it finally aired. However, due to my work life balance, I am usually in bed at 9:30pm. I would record the show on my Humax PVR and catch the following evening. I did not watch any further than episode two. While I really love David Haig as an actor, I am sure even he appreciates that we have moved on from 1996. He appears to perform this new role, as Health & Safety Council Office, Gerald Wright in a carbon copy format of Inspector Grimm from The Thin Blue Line. Ben, surely you have honed your technique over seventeen years. Try new ideas, formats and even actors. Do not get me wrong, I loved The Thin Blue Line, it was my favourite comedy when aired, but that was in the previous century and we have moved on a great deal since.
Back to ITV with their late night comedy, The Job Lot. The situation here is a job centre in the Midlands. This proved for me a little funnier than the other comedies I have mentioned. Mainly for the inclusion of a larger talented group cast and the fact that in this environment you can have many different characters appear to sign on the dole. In particular I was looking forward to seeing Zahra Ahmadi, whom you may recognise as Shabnam Masood from Eastenders. However her part was relatively minor and after episode four, I gave up once again. While it began well and did have some funny moments, the comedy fell back into the comfortable rhythm of type. Routine, we all enjoy but not from comedies, particularly those that are supposed to be fresh and brand new. I enjoyed seeing Sarah Hadland step out of the shadow of Miranda Hart and perform a comedic role in her own image. She was good but it was not enough to keep me hooked. Far too quickly the characters returned to type. Look out for one of the actors from Four Lions.
People constantly ask me why I watch some much US imported television. I rest my case. I just hope this is a minor blip and better talent is in the pipeline.