SIX OF THE BEST #1 – BRITISH SITCOM EPISODES – by PAUL LAIGHT
My blog has a few little running series on it such as My Cinematic Romance where I list some of my favourite filmy things; also my monthly review round-up called Screenwash. Moreover, in the annals of time and space there’s my Fix Films Retrospective short film reviews plus two critical series called Under-rated Classics and 100 Not Out! The last two I need a few more entries, however, I now introduce another blog thing called Six of the Best! Basically, it’s another list but this time six of the best of “something”.
We all need a laugh in these times of global conflict so to cheer myself up I thought about some classic British situation comedies which are genuinely funny every time I watch them. We’ve produced so many amazing comedy shows over the years it’s good to look back in celebration. Obviously, there are SO many episodes to choose from but here are a mere six which make me piss myself laughing every time.
**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**
BLACKADDER GOES FORTH – “GOODBYEE”
The classic historical sitcom that went from the Dark Ages up to the horrors of World War One had so many legendary episodes brimming with cracking gags, characters and a who’s-who of comedy talent. The final episode is one of those rare programmes which makes you laugh your brain off throughout but has you in tears by the final frame. Blackadder, George and Baldrick, having attempted to avoid the “big push” finally reach the end of the line:
BOTTOM – “GAS”
“Why didn’t we just pay our gas bill?”
Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson’s juvenile-slapstick-low-life-loser-flat-share-comedy was a wonderful guilty pleasure which essentially updated their “Dangerous Brothers” persona for the 1990s. Basically, Eddie and Rich have been “borrowing” next door’s gas when they get rumbled a whole host of stupid mayhem ensues. Gas was the second ever episode and is definitely my favourite as it contains so many great lines, catchphrases and violent set-pieces. R. I. P comic genius Rik Mayall!
FAWLTY TOWERS – “COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS”
“You can see the sea. It’s over there between the land and the sky.”
Connie Booth and John Cleese’s superlative farce set in a raggedy Torquay hotel contains some of the most brilliantly complex comedy-of-error-plots I have seen. This is especially evident in this episode when the obnoxious stick-insect that is Basil Fawlty meets the hard-of-hearing-customer-from-hell Mrs Richards (Joan Sanderson). A serpentine narrative involving antique vases, secret bets, stolen money and Basil mistakenly using morons Manuel and the Major as alibis leaves you dizzy with laughter. Cleese is on especially good form as Fawlty goes on full sarcasm overdrive throughout.
I’M ALAN PARTRIDGE – “WATERSHIP ALAN”
“Earlier on I put in a pound of mashed-up Dundee cake.”
Steve Coogan’s wonderful comedy grotesque filters the embarrassing foot-in-mouth-media-enunciations of Alan Titchmarsh, Tony Blackburn and Richard Madeley; giving us one of the great comedic creations of modern times. Having been sacked by the BBC Alan found himself self-unemployed and searching for a second BBC series, all the while staying in a Travel Tavern on the outskirts of Norwich. In Watership Alan he manages to upset the Farmers Union while challenging Cliff Thorburn for a corporate video job and becoming obsessed with ‘Ladyboys’. Safe to say things don’t go to plan in a hilariously warped comedy that features Simon Pegg and genius Chris Morris.
THE OFFICE – SEASON 1 – EPISODE 4 – “TRAINING DAY”
“Sometimes the complaints will be false!”
Gervais and Merchant’s brilliant sitcom of embarrassment and character observations is built around the antics of deluded goateed manager and “King of Cringe” David Brent. In this episode Wernham Hogg invite an external contractor to deliver a customer service training session, and of course, Brent sabotages proceedings and brings the Trainer to the edge of a nervous breakdown. From the bizarre roleplay, failed stand-up gags and excruciating guitar-playing Brent uses the session to showcase his perceived ability as an entertainer. A true classic this also features Tim and Gareth doing battle over the “Chicken, Grain and Fox” riddle. Priceless!
STEPTOE AND SON – “UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS, UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS”
“You never know in this house. Some of the things he puts in them.”
This episode from the eighth and final season followed a familiar family formula of pitting Wilfred Bramble’s irascible old git Albert Steptoe against his long-suffering son, Harold. Harry H. Corbett portrayed the son with a tragic hangdog pathos and more often than not his attempts to better himself or escape the totting business are doomed by his father’s devious shenanigans. In Upstairs Downstairs, Upstairs Downstairs, Harold must tend to his father’s every whim as he is laid up with a slipped disc; obviously it’s not long before Harold is being exploited by his father. Galton and Simpson wrote some of the greatest comedies ever committed to radio and television and caught working class hardship and family rivalry perfectly with brilliant scripts full of pain, tragedy and humour.