Robert Hampton

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31st December 2010

Twenty Ten – again. Again

July brought big changes to the newspaper industry, as The Times started charging for access to its web site. This was supposed to ensure a steady income stream for the newspaper, putting it on a secure financial footing for the future. However, it also resulted in the Times being completely removed from the online chatter of the blogosphere, as its news coverage and columnists were no longer accessible to the internet hoi-polloi. Still, I’m sure this decision made sense to someone somewhere.

The Supreme Court ruled that gay people facing persecution are entitled to claim asylum in the UK. I welcomed the decision, although my blog post is curiously vague about precisely why I welcomed it. Hmm…

In other gay-related news, I reviewed, with sadness, a booklet from the US Military discussing its anti-gay don’t ask, don’t tell policy.

Elsewhere, health and safety went mad as one person suggested banning rugby scrums. I felt uncomfortable on a train full of Orange Lodge marchers and I defended the traditional sitcom from an onslaught of criticism from trendy TV reviewers.

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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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19th November 2007

Laughter and Applause
Posted by at 7.44pm | Television | No responses

In the Guardian, Graham Linehan makes a persuasive case for traditional “filmed before a live studio audience” sitcoms:-

There are some actors who come alive in front of a crowd, and if you’ve cast it right, there’s an energy between cast and audience that can be exhilarating for both parties, then enjoyed by the audience at home. I’ve seen Hugh Laurie be good in a lot of things, but I’ve never seen him funnier than he was on A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Blackadder. In fact, everyone in Blackadder is working the audience mercilessly, pitching their performance to elicit the greatest number of laughs.

Comedy doesn’t need a studio audience to be funny. On the other hand, some of the best TV comedy moments have been accompanied by gales of laughter on the soundtrack: that episode of Red Dwarf where Rimmer walks in on Kryten trying to pull Lister’s underpants off; the episode of Frasier where the radio station manager thinks Frasier is gay; pretty much all of Father Ted.

I never understood why some people have a problem with a live studio audience anyway. What if they go to watch a comedy play at the theatre? Do they keep telling the rest of the audience to be quiet, because it’s ruining it?