Same old characters, same old gags? Time to move on

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NEWS that dark, alternative TV comedy shows like Psychoville and The Office are being replaced by old-fashioned slapstick sitcoms in front of live studio audiences is hardly surprising given the current financial crisis when people crave comfort viewing.

Now, some believe political correctness has killed off dark comedy by over analysing it – we mustn’t mock this or mock that.

They claim most comedy IS based on laughing at others’ misfortunes – a sort of Schadenfreude – which is healthy, acting as a vent for life’s stresses and frustrations.

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Others, though, believe the reason sitcoms have so radically changed is because of fundamental changes in our lifestyle and viewing habits.

We used to watch TV as a family so funny material had to be funny for the whole age group – from granny to grandchild. (Which isn’t easy. Anybody can be funny for teenagers – all you have to do is bung in as much sex, bodily functions and **** words per minute as possible.)

This, then, would explain why comedians like Ken Dodd, Benny Hill and Frankie Howerd (going back a bit now) were so successful in “entertaining” the whole family.

So, can we expect a return to comedies like Are You Being Served? , ’Allo ’Allo , Monty Python and  Fawlty Towers? Here I have to confess a particular soft spot for Fawlty Towers. And John Cleese playing the perfect “everyman” trying to muddle his way through, sabotage awaiting at every turn.

The episodes with the phoney Lord con man and the deceased guest particularly priceless. I also enjoyed Monty Python, but all too often it flogged the same joke to death so the comedic surprise was often lost.

So many of its sketches, too, would have been twice as funny if half as long. However, the problem with any “return” to a format is that, like Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, if the public becomes saturated with a product, they’ll buy it.

Give any new TV comedy show a long enough run (like The Two Ronnies churned out every Christmas) and it becomes an institution (with ALW, it’s when the coach parties start rolling up).

That feeds the ratings-frenzy but dampens the spirit. No, what we really need are better writers, better scripts and better sketches. TV worth watching again, then?

That’d be a laugh.

Nora Johnson’s novels, Soul Stealer & The De Clerambault Code (www.nora-johnson.com) now available at Amazon.es in paperback and eBook (€0.99. Amazon UK: £0.86). Profits to Cudeca

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