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British Sitcom: 60 Years of Laughing at Ourselves

British Sitcom: 60 Years of Laughing at Ourselves

Mon, March 25th, 2019

Thursday 10pm – 11pm, BBC4

For six decades the BBC has brought a wide variety of Sitcoms that have defined a nation, across the network they have rebooted and enhanced classics to bring joy to the younger generations. What the BBC have also done very well is utilise this documentary as sociological comparison into the sitcom and it’s reflection of British life through the period.

The original, and essence of the British sitcom was a white British heterosexual man who met Northerners, homosexuals, women, people of different races and different classes. The change in Britain’s tolerances and culture is argued to be reflected in the way sitcoms developed and people’s attitude changed. Josh Widdicombe advises us that what Sitcoms are good at is “identifying a social movement or type and skewering it”, he is clearly taking here about Ab Fab. The rest of this programme focuses heavily on sitcoms such as Hancock’s Half Hour and others which have mocked the public’s attitude to race, gender, class and any other taboo subject. Many of us will remember these situations from The Vicar of Dibley, Till Death Us Do Part, The Young Ones etc, but the surprises comes from the late, great Spike Milligan in clips from ‘Curry and Chips’ where he plays an Asian-Irish factory worker and ‘Agony’ – probably the first sitcom ever to feature non camp gay men.

The programme meets many of the characters from these sitcoms and explains how they were created and developed and particularly how they reflected the changing attitudes in the British Society.

Some of these reflections are more apparent than others, The Vicar of Dibley was written specifically during the time that is was hotly debated whether or not a woman could be ordained and Desmond’s targeted the changes in society where multiculturalism was rife. It also shows that how no matter how much influence can be aimed at in a TV show, some issues deeply remain in society, sexism for example.

An interesting and reflective look which is captivating, thought provoking yet funny.

The programme is narrated by Rebecca Front and features a wealth of contribution from writers and actors such as James Corden, Beryl Vertue, Steve Coogan, Jack Dee, Hugh Dennis, Lee Mack and Trix Worrell.


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