Monday, September 11, 2006

Thursday night is comedy night

When I was a teenager (ok and early 20s), Thursday night was the night to sit down in front of the telly and watch the cream of BBC comedy. Blackadder, The Young Ones, The Day Today, Alan Partridge, Alas Smith and Jones, A bit of Fry and Laurie, Harry Enfield and Chums and on and on, all debuted on a Thursday night. On the whole you knew - even if you had no idea about the listings - that if you turned on BBC1 or 2 at 9pm, on a Thursday evening you'd get quality comedy.

Then in the late 90s it seemed to disappear and was replaced with hour long dramas. Sporadically the comedy seemed to return, but normally you'd get something average and something bloody awful.

But that's all over for now. This Thursday sees the launch of what I'm hoping will be two absolute corkers, on BBC2.


At 9pm there's the second series of Extras . This as you'll probably know is Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais's follow-up to the huge international award-winning behemouth that was 'The Office'.

In many ways I liked 'Extras' more than 'The Office'. Don't get me wrong I thought 'The Office' was genius, but the duo managed to pull off something that was dramatically different with 'Extras', Something that is extraordinary given the former's success.

Quieter in both tone and somehow, it's critique. They managed - with Extras - the incredible feat of it not being blown out of the water, by acclaim before it was even launched. In retrospect they played it smartly and left it on BBC2 rather than BBC1 and quite rightly, it's a classic BBC2 comedy.

As with 'The Office' the characterisation is amazingly rounded and deep. By the end of the first episode you felt you knew Andy Millman and Maggie Jacobs, but still had tons to come. They also pulled off the rare feat of introducing huge, A-List guest stars without them dominating the entire episode in which they partook, partly as they persuaded those stars to drop the act and reveal a little of the absurd, partly as the focus of the plot remained with the central characters.

I'm hoping this second series will be as great as the first. The writing team has a track record of not getting carried away and staying true to the original idea. I caught Gervais on Jonathon Ross on Friday in which he managed to shut Ross up for 5 minutes while he explained the rationale for the series. I've not been a huge fan of the off-screen Gervais, but the interview he did was extremely enouraging. Here's hoping.

However, if 'Extras' is a let down, hot on it's heals is the (well my) long-awaited television adaptation of the radio show 'That Mitchell and Webb sound'. Rather aptly entitled 'That Mitchell and Webb Look' it is the brainchild of prolific writing team David Mitchell and Robert Webb.

Mitchell and Webb are no strangers to TV. They are regular panellists on all the big headline comedy panel shows over all channels, but more importantly have already turned in 3 series of the outstanding 'Peep Show' on Channel 4. Rather cruelly it was pipped to last years Best Comedy series Bafta by the woeful third series of Little Britain. However, some consellation came in the form of Ricky Gervais's comment that it was 'the funniest programme currently on TV'.

In many ways the series could appear to be a way of cashing in. 'That Mitchell and Webb Look' is a straight-forward old-fashioned sketch show. It doesn't have the surreal quirkiness of say 'Big Train' or the utter crappiness of recent Little Miss Jocelyn. Nope it's straightforwrd sketch comedy out of the 'Not the Nine'o'clock News' or 'Alas Smith and Jones' camp. However, the two writers are extremely quick-witted off-the-wall characters and you get the distinct impression, that they could reel off a six part series in a week, such is their ability to find laughs from anywhere. I however, couldn't care less these boys are absolutely hilarious. In my house, they have the rare honour of being the only people on radio to force me to stop driving my car, because I was crying laughing at one of their sketches. The Radio 4 to BBC2 comedy show transition has a long and susccessful tradition, I'm sure this will be no exception.

8 comments:

Rev Pat Shed said...

Oh, and that's a bad miss.

Six Years Late said...

Yeeees Ted that was a bad miss, but somehow I don't think that's the only thing missing tonight...

Paul said...

There was a scene in the last series of Extras that was so poignant and touching that Nathalie and myself were nearly in tears at the end of the programme.

It was the same with the end of the Christmas edition of The Office - the scene where Dawn realises she's making a big mistake going off with her boyfriend was superb.

Six Years Late said...

The romantic dynamic between Andy and Magie is brilliantly done. They do that aching 'oh go on' type writing fantastically well.

Matt said...

Can't wait to see That Mitchell and Webb Look; being a fan of the radio series, and of Peep show, I'm sure their latest offering will be well worth watching!

Good work Auntie Beeb.

The Great Gildersleeve said...

Six,
I wanted to link to this post from my blog but it seemed to fail but the links to the articles I mentioned are working now...

Lucy said...

Have just read about 'Extras' in the Knowledge I think I'll enjoy watching it tonight.

Lucy said...

Well the Orlando sketch was very amusing!