Archive for the What I’m thinking Category

Turning it off and on again

Posted in What I'm thinking on June 28, 2010 by Paul Brannigan

What a weekend! I’d been counting down the days and hours on my cell wall. I never normally get too excited about a TV event but this was different. The nation is going through some dark times. We’d had a harsh budget which promises even darker times ahead and I really needed a lift.

The beer was chilled. I was restlessly trying to fill the hours. Then, finally it kicked off. And edge of the seat anticipation gave way to confusion quickly followed by a horrible sinking disappointment.

I’m not sure I can (or really should) carry this strained World Cup football metaphor on any longer for it is the IT Crowd series 4 – which finally reached our screens on Friday night.

Now who the hell am I to critique Big G? He’s a comedy genius. (Graham Linehan was also the talent behind Father Ted and Black Books) And I imagine it must be unbelievably hard to sustain such a high standard of ideas into a fourth series (we can dream). But that wasn’t the problem. It wasn’t the ideas that were wrong but the execution.

I’d read that he was looking to “develop” the characters for Series 4. Producers and actors love to see characters evolve – actors want to get their teeth into something meaty and producers can see the impact of their notes. Writer’s too must get bored and need a new challenge.

So he turned it off and on again. Series 4 ep 1 finds Roy lovelorn, Moss sensitive, Jen assertive and Douglas playing the role of straight man to his business cronies. What next? Richmond starts a family? (Actually that might be quite funny but if it wasn’t you’d get the point)

In effect Mr L tried forcing an unexpected reboot and ended up in the middle of invalid memory.

The problem is, by making these characters more rounded we’ve lost something of what made them so cartoon funny – and reduced the laughs per minute in the process.

Now, as Tess Morris so eloquently and entertainingly reminds us in her latest blog post http://tessmorris.tumblr.com/post/750799251/comedy-comeda (I get a commission on every referral) Comedy is subjective. One man’s d’oh! is another man’s oh.

But while that is true sitcoms must have some objective markers that we can measure them against – and for me one of the most obvious ways is to judge them against the rules and standards they set for themselves.

Fortunately and informatively Mr L set out his own framework for the IT Crowd on his blog – writing around the time a US pilot was being made. http://whythatsdelightful.wordpress.com/2007/10/18/notes-on-the-us-it-crowd/ It’s worth a read. (I told you about the commission right?)

For example, Seinfeld’s “No Hugging No Learning” is one of the Mr L’s cardinal rules for the show. But what was Moss doing if not metaphorically giving Roy a hug to help him say goodbye to his lost love?  (You could argue it wasn’t literally a hug but I can’t hear you so I’ll plough on regardless).

Now maybe I’m being harsh but I’m writing this from a pit of despair. I love football. I love the IT Crowd (I love parentheses). This has not been a good weekend.

Then again maybe I’m wrong, maybe last week’s episode was brilliant – crossed the line by miles – and the whole world could see it except me. Maybe I’m the Uruguayan linesman of sitcoms.

Still, I’m an optimist (I had England to win 2-0) and next week’s episode could be brilliant. Also tonight sees the start of Tom Hollander’s new comedy Rev. Steve Evets is in it and he tells me it’s very funny. I hope so. I need it.