Robert Hampton

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15th July 2010

Laugh and the world (or at least, a studio audience) laughs with you
Posted by at 11.38pm | Television | No responses

I like sitcoms with live studio audiences. There, I said it.

In some quarters, this admission will land me with Cliff Richard fans and bus-spotters in the credibility stakes. However, I think that those who automatically dismiss studio sitcoms as a relic from the past are missing out on a treat, and I shall try to explain why.

The mainstay of television comedy, from the fuzzy black and white era right up to the late 90s, was the studio sitcom. Shows such as Hancock’s Half Hour, Dad’s Army, Fawlty Towers, The Young Ones, One Foot in the Grave and Father Ted are fondly remembered by successive generations.

The audience sitcom has gone rather out of fashion in the 21st century, however, with the arrival of the “realistic” comedy in the shape of shows like The Royle Family and (of course) The Office, with a rather more subtle style of humour than the larger-than-life characters and farcical situations favoured by most traditional sitcoms.

In Extras a key plot point was the crap sitcom When The Whistle Blows, a show whose success seems to entirely revolve around the lead character’s spouting of a lame catchphrase week in, week out. By the way, is it a coincidence that this show-within-a-show seems quite similar to Dinnerladies?

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11th December 2009

In the Cards
Posted by at 8.55pm | It's My Life | No responses

It’s that time of year again to send out the Christmas cards. If I leave it much longer I will have to use first class post (expensive!) so I need to push them out over the weekend if possible.

WHSmith had a 3 for 2 offer running this week, so I took advantage of it to get three different packs of cards for all tastes: funny but slightly offensive (what I like to call the Simon Amstell option), funny but inoffensive (Michael McIntyre), not funny at all (Mock the Week).

There is of course the eternal dilemma: what if I get a Christmas card from someone to whom I have not sent one in return? This is the sort of thing I lose sleep over! Luckily for me, most people I know take the charitable option of believing I’m a forgetful idiot instead of a lazy, uncaring one. But in case there’s any doubt, if you don’t get a card from me, it means I don’t have your address. Honest.

17th March 2009

The Famous Man Looked at the Red Cup
Posted by at 6.04pm | Television | No responses

Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle was an excellent half-hour of comedy, as Britain’s 41st best standup comic took aim, with laser-guided precision, at Chris Moyles, The Da Vinci Code, smug Radio 4 satirical shows and adults reading Harry Potter books.

I would repeat some of the jokes, but each one lasted about 5 minutes, so it would be impossible. Suffice to say its the funniest programme on the BBC so far this year and you should be watching it. If you missed it I recommend you iPlayer it at the earliest possible opportunity.

The whole show feels very BBC4-ish, and according to the Guardian only attracted 1 million viewers. However, after listening this clip from Radio 4’s Heresy — where he calls 84% of the studio audience idiots — I doubt he’s that bothered about appealing to the mainstream.

21st February 2008

Every kick of it massively mattering to someone, presumably
Posted by at 10.39pm | Television | 2 responses

Mitchell and Webb, what’s wrong with you? You’re not supposed to come up with new, entertaining ideas for the second series of a sketch show. You’re supposed to remove every entertaining nuance and reduce every character to a one-line catchphrase which you can then run into the ground until it’s not funny any more! Didn’t you see Little Britain?

Yes, That Mitchell and Webb Look is back, including this wonderful parody which sums up exactly how I feel about television’s obsession with football: