Monday, November 06, 2006


Over on Shiny Shelf, where a couple of my friends are regular contributors, pleasure-surfing the pop culture zeitgeist, Eddie Robson has a good piece on two decent 'n' recent TV comedies, 'Extras' (BBC2) and 'Lead Balloon' (BBC4). Among other things, he notes: The argument over whether the comedy of humiliation has run its course still goes on, but it features in both of these sitcoms and whereas recent episodes of ‘Extras’ have far overstepped the cringe mark, I’ve found the style to be deftly handled in ‘Lead Balloon’. The pettiness of Jack Dee’s character, Rick Spleen, and his propensity to become obsessed with minor inconveniences, owes a substantial debt to ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’. Eddie also contends that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Marchant's traducing of BBC1 lowest-common-denominator sit coms in 'Extras' series 2 is too easy and, frankly, slickly uninformative - quite apart from being a dubious example of literati mean-spiritedness. I agree on that, though personally I've found E2 much funnier than series one. I like to think that the excesses of comedic cruelty (as with cartoon-style portrayals of violence) serve to highlight the absurdity of the real thing, rather than to endorse it. But perhaps that's wishful thinking. The fatuousness of a lot of celeb-axiomised life is certainly enough to make many of us want to pick up the cultural equivalent of a blunderbuss (Charlie Brooker or 'whitened sepulchres', anyone?). But it doesn't make it right... though in skilful hands it is likely to prove cathartically satisfying for one's noir side. The review also welcomes the BBC's policy of nurturing offbeat comedy material on their new channels, allowing the material to find the audience, rather than always requiring writers and performers to pitch big and brassy. Amen to that. Rage against the machine. Nicely, though. [Pic: Jack Dee]

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