Monday, 20 August 2012

Funny Fortnight - As easy as Chelmsford 123...

At this time Channel 4, has seen fit to look back over its comedy output of the last thirty years. Which maybe right in that they will by the end of it, but some of it will be only a paper cut compared to a disection of all the rest. 

Since Thursday, the channel has been looking into its archive to find shows to be put out late at night, almost filling an awkward spot for itself regularly. We've seen the wonder of Peter  Cook at his best improvising different character in the surrounding of Clive Anderson Talks Back, also Chris Morris in the first ever edition of Brass Eye from 1997, of which originally half the material was filmed for a BBC pilot in the same year. 

This in itself has been, the channel touching first with genius or maybe get the best stuff out of the way first. Now for me, some of these shows are new to me. In having to to admit, really the first time I would have seen them would have been during Channel 4's 15th birthday celebrations in 1997, as for instance with Chelmsford 123, I would have only been 11 at that time and I would have been watching whatever BBC2 would have on at 9pm then Channel 4 would have say at 10.30pm. 

Essentially looking at Chelmsford 123 with both Jimmy Mulville and Rory McGrath aided by Howard Lee-Lewis, Phillip Pope and Neil Pearson, it does seem that Mulville's character Aulus Paulinus could have been played by Angus Deayton. Mulville does take Deayton's mannerisms and uses them into the character. But by this reflection where as the same that Mulville may have got there first with that style of delivery. Its could be said that Mulville and Deayton could have been interchangable in the TVS sitcom That's Love, but Mulville adds to the show with McGrath. Having written the series themselves, its little surprise that they would want to play the main parts themselves. Seeing things, like Horrible Histories which you could argue is for a more toned down audience, an influence is there though by using history and trying to keep as close to what it would have been but also altered for comic effect. The release on DVD of both series last year, gave the chance for the series to seen by a newer generation of fans.

The glue which holds together this huge group of performers at that time who were just getting their television breaks is Phillip Pope, both seen in Chelmsford 123 and also with Deayton, Perkins, Atkinson-Wood and Michael Fenton Stevens as well. But with also his composing of music for most comedy shows such as Spitting Image, his input into the comedy of that age is a vital one. Pope's own resume has seen him take alternative comedy, light entertainment and also most memorably in Only Fools and Horses as well. 

Looking at the upcoming schedule for the Funny Fortnight, something strikes me as odd. For all the thirty years that Channel 4 has been broadcasting for, that there is no comedy it seems before 1990 at all. Now the channel didn't suddenly start to broadcast comedy from 1990 onwards and I can see which shows around that time have been picked to reshown because of the influence of the performers. But Who Dares Wins was influencial, Friday/Saturday Live was influencial. Maybe in Friday/Saturday Live, the ground has been covered before or maybe with more to come for shows like Desmond's during the time actually around the birthay celebrations in late October/early November.  

But coming up later in the Fortnight from the Comic Strip is the excellent Bad News Tour from 1983, it was the Comic Strip which actually put into a sense of drama into comedy. They were more comedy plays then shows, which could bared out by the later film style of Comic Strips such as The Yob, A Fistful of Pesestas, Mr Jolly Lives Next Door and even Dirty Movie. There was a sense, also that in the case of Eddie Monsoon, it used television to be able to play about with. Genres could moulded as far as they could be as good as the reak documentaries which were on, it was always the twist that they could pull in people such as Tony Bastable who were well known, putting them in the middle of the show and bringing some believability to the programme even though it was comedy based.

Could it be that Channel 4 has found its funny bone again? Perhaps the people who lead the departments now, were the viewers of twenty/twenty-five years ago, the teenagers of that age. I can say that my joining with Channel 4's comedy and output will recalled in my next blogpost, of how I came to it in the mid-90's and why 1997 was a year that was important to my development of my love of comedy.

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