Sometimes one has to express profound disappointment at the sheer waste of an opportunity to make a really informative documentary program.
Such was the case with 80 YEARS OF LAUGHING AT OURSELVES, as viewers were led on a predictable trot through some of the classic examples of so-called 'socially realistic' sitcoms from the Fifties to the present day, and solemnly told how the television series embodied different aspects of the British social experience.
All the old faves were there: HANCOCK'S HALF HOUR, STEPTOE AND SON, TILL DEATH US DO PART, THE LIVER BIRDS, TERRY AND JUNE, THE YOUNG ONES, ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE, GIMME GIMME GIMME, interspersed with a few lesser known works such as CURRY AND CHIPS or LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR.
All these works had their place in the sitcom canon, but there were other series that had equal social significance that the program conveniently omitted. What about THE GROVE FAMILY, the first true working class sitcom of the Fifties? THE RAG TRADE? MARRIAGE LINES? THE FOSTERS? MISS JONES AND SON? RISING DAMP? BRASS? And I am only citing examples from my younger television-watching days?
And what about the social content involved in such sitcoms? Did they actually reflect the realities of their contexts of production, or did they actually make them? Was Alf Garnett really just mirroring the views of a certain section of the viewership, or did he actually make them? And to what extent are the ancestors of the Garnetts still alive today, especially in light of the recent Brexit vote? History is a living continuum, not just a series of past stories; and this is especially true of the sitcom genre, where many of the themes examined in the great archive of TV land are still evident today. There are many Hancocks still alive and kicking, expressing their social ambitions in frustrated and often hundrum lives.
Yet the program predictably shied away from these issues and relied instead on a series of random reminiscences from members of the planet Celebrity, few of which had any real substance about them. The only really interesting interviewees were those who had been around at the time of the sitcoms' inception, for example veteran producer Beryl Vertue, or Dick Clement and Iain la Frenais. And why weren't Galton and Simpson interviewed (and they were NOT the first great sitcom writers, by the way - there was the conglomerate team of writers who did THE ARMY GAME for ITV between 1957 and 1961, including Sid Colin).
3 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this