Monday, 17 February 2014

Laugh a Minute

One of the things that's missing from our Television screens today is a good old fashioned situation comedy. Any glint of a funny series is missing amongst the sea of low budget formulaic reality, house, cooking, sewing and baking shows. What comedies there are tend to be crass and slapstick ("Mrs Brown's Boys") or re-commissioned well past their short sell-by date ("My Family").

Fortunately good old BBC4 is there to ride to our rescue with re-runs of classics from the Good Old Days. Having recently enjoyed the complete, sublime series of "Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads" they have followed through with the wonderful 1980's "Ever Decreasing Circles" which is just as funny and sharply observed as it ever was. Written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey ("Please Sir", "The Good Life", "Brush Strokes") it follows the adventures of tedious OCD control freak Martin (Richard Briers) and his long suffering wife Ann (Penelope Wilton ) who hankers after suave and laid back new neighbour Paul (Peter Egan). Martin is a genius invention of the writers and evokes just the right balance of dread and sympathy as he obsesses over trivia and twiddles the curly phone cord to straighten it (what's a curly phone cord, enquires my under 35 reader). It's a "Close Close" and neighbours Howard and Hilda Hughes add colour with their matching knitted sweaters.

But here's the thing. 

In the original showing, I closely identified with the Paul character and was once actually mistaken for him. Now with the lapse of 30 years, I relate much more closely to (and have been directly compared with by certain parties!) the Briers character Martin.

Now I'm dreading the next re-run of "One Foot in the Grave".

13 comments:

Mike and Ann said...

I don't believe it!!!

Z said...

Oh Lor' - no honestly, dear heart, you're the image of the gorgeous Peter Egan. I've got the boxed set, I must fish it out and watch it again. I thought it was generous of Richard Briers, as the most well-known in sit-com terms, to be the fall guy without the subtle wink to the camera. I watched him first with Prunella Scales in Marriage Lines when I was a child - and fancied Edward de Souza, their friend Miles. And Penelope Wilton too, great casting. We still call matchy husbands and wives Howard and Hilda.

I mostly listen to Radio 4 Extra in the middle of the night, there's a lot more to catch up on than R 4 itself.

There could be a bit of closet Martin in me too - my mother used to turn the phone cord every time she used it and after a while it drove me to distraction and I had to untwizzle the damn thing.

Rog said...

Mike & Ann: and you don't have a TV? I don't believe it!

Z: you are quite right about Radio 4 Extra comedies. My two favourites are Clare in the Community and Ed Reardon's Week, both of which are alive on Radio 4. I've got a vague memory of Ever Decreading Circles getting a bit Tooo dark in its later series but will be interested to see them again. Viva BBC4 snd R4!

Nota Bene said...

You're right...nothing like a good old sitcom to amuse. Have you tried Inside No 9 which had us rolling off the sofa with laughter during episode 2

Mike and Ann said...

Good point, Z. Isn't it weird that it's Howard and Hilda who have entered the language?

Rog said...

Nota - thanks. Will give it a whirl

Mike - I imagine you and Ann have been known to don a identical fairisles

Rog said...

Nota: ok I got as far as the dog killing and deleted the download!

John Greenwood said...

I love Mrs. Brown's boys! It isn't P.C.!!

Pat said...

Mrs Brown reminds me of Old Mother Riley and his so- called daughter was actually his wife.
Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Curry Queen said...

For my money, the best sitcom around at the moment is Outnumbered, but I can see that it might only chime with those of us still staggering through the child-rearing years.

Linda Ray said...

I loved this, I didn't know it was rerunning - will find it and tape it all immediately! I thought Paul was sex on legs and loved the gentle flirting with Ann.

Linda Ray said...

I loved this, I didn't know it was rerunning - will find it and tape it all immediately! I thought Paul was sex on legs and loved the gentle flirting with Ann.

mig bardsley said...

I was about to say identifying with the characters is safer for women and then I remembered Fawlty Towers. So I won't say that.
We were very sad to hear that Bob Larbey has died, recently.