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View Full Version : Why are ribald British comedies considered educational?


06-04-1999, 12:30 PM
Why are dirty brit sitcoms like "Are You Being Served" shown on PBS as if they are educational? Are we learning anything from jokes about Mrs. Sloacum's pussy?

Does the BBC play "Married With Children" on its educational channels?

06-04-1999, 12:37 PM
Mainly because PBS isn't necessarily educational. Many times PBS also has religious programming on Sundays, that doesn't mean this religious programming is educatioanl either. PBS is, however, in most cases interested in cultural programming. Not ture, during daytime hours they may show educational programming, but many times they also show: ballet, opera, painting and cultural comedies from across the pond. These are not meant to teach skills but rather to introduce us to other cultures.

Just because it's different than ours, doesn't make it bad, just different.

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06-04-1999, 02:08 PM
It is "Public" television...paid for by the public, and of course Grants by Hypocritcal Corporations. They feature, educational programming, cultural programming, informational programming and many foreign television shows.
The seeming increase in the bawdier Brit-coms (to coin a phrase) probably speaks more to the fact that there are virtually no more independant television stations. UPN, The WB, Fox, The ABC, CBS, NBC broadcast affiliates and cable multichannels owned by those Networks or Movie studios, and finally the highly specialized programming of true cable stations and viola! The "Avengers", "The Saint", "Benny Hill" etc. used to be on local or independant stations...now PBS is the only outlet.
On the other hand, "The Lawrence Welk Show" reruns are educational in that they show you JUST how dreadful a program it truly was. (Forgive me Gramma!)
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06-04-1999, 03:41 PM
I think PBS does a service, in a way, by showing things that might actually be funny. Our local station used to run "Blackadder" (FAR funnier than Mr. Bean) and I never missed an episode. It was nice to see dry, sarcastic, edgy humor when the U.S. was airing, say, "The Cosby Show." But I guess I never understood PBS to be strictly educational; they do a lot of art-related things as well, and Mystery! I watch it quite a bit, actually.

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"The fact that no one understands you doesn't mean that you're an artist."

06-05-1999, 12:13 AM
Are you trying to say that all of those episodes of "The Young Ones" weren't educational?!

Look: If a half-naked muscle-bound Ken doll with a magic sword that shoots death rays can qualify as "educational" because he regurgitates the occasional moral platitude, then every Britcom in existence should qualify for the Nobel Peace Prize.

-Monte

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06-05-1999, 01:06 AM
I never said I thought it was bad, in fact I watch a lot of it. I just always found it odd that these types of things were on an "educational" channel.

06-05-1999, 01:09 AM
May people feel PBS is strictly educational, when actually it's just a more rigid fomr of public access. Of course there are more strict rules (and better shows) on PBS, but if it was strictly educational then people would be less likely to donate funds. By placing more diverse programming (usually later in the evenings) they ensure they will appeal to a broader audience and generate better revenue.

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To deal with men by force is as impractical as to deal with nature by persuasion.

06-05-1999, 01:28 AM
Think of it as a unique viewpoint into the mind of another culture. You can learn a lot about other people by finding out what makes them laugh.

06-05-1999, 04:27 PM
PBS is not intended as an educational network. The idea is that it is a broadcasting network that is responsive to the "public" rather than to a corporate entity or to advertisers. But PBS does not have a mandate for any particular content. Theoretically it could be showing game shows, soap operas, and teen slasher flicks.

06-05-1999, 04:54 PM
Public B S, obviously. So it's not corporate B S.
Maybe you'll learn how to drink tea properly, with milk in it, and crumpets.

06-05-1999, 10:44 PM
The British shows are so much sharper than the US ones because of their advanced use of their language (which is, after all, theirs to begin with). Add to that the subtle cultural differences, and presto! turn on the tube and all of a sudden you're playing "hands across the water". Travel broadens the mind.

The reason that UK TV seems so good sometimes is because US TV is, in general, so wretched. (Red Dwarf and Absolutely Fabulous are totally hilarious, but the only decent US comedy anymore is animated.)

What's better ... "Doctor Who", or "Saved by the Bell: The College Years"? (Seriously now.)

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06-05-1999, 11:54 PM
Whar's better, "Doctor Who" or "The Simpsons", "Seinfeld", "Frasier", "The X-Files", "Friends", etc.? British TV comes up with one quirky, cool TV show every ten years or so. Most of the rest of the stuff they put out is crap or American....usually one or the other, since they buy only the best American products, in the same way that American TV buys only the best British products. Hell, everybody watches Murdoch TV in Britain these days anyway.....

06-05-1999, 11:57 PM
So, what American shows do they watch in Britain?

06-06-1999, 11:01 AM
For what it's worth, I think shows like "Friends" and "Seinfeld" and "Frasier" are what's wrong with American TV. Forced, self-indulgent, celebrating the venal and the selfish, never as funny as the PR people claim.
But yes, "The Simpsons" is awesome (and animated, like I said). "The X-Files" had its day to be sure, but it seems to me that show is dying fast (when they moved production to LA, that's when it started).

I'm going to cringe when someone steps up and lists the US shows shown in the UK. It's genuinely embarassing to export such crap, which people overseas take as a representation of America.

06-06-1999, 04:45 PM
Another major difference between American and British sitcoms is the number of episodes made. For example, there are about thirteen episodes of Fawlty Towers and twenty five episodes of Black Adder. There are over a hundred episodes each of Friends or Frasier. It's a lot easier to make a show funnier if you can concentrate all your humor into fewer episodes.

06-07-1999, 10:14 AM
Another major difference between American and British sitcoms is the number of episodes made. For example, there are about thirteen episodes of Fawlty Towers and twenty five episodes of Black Adder. There are over a hundred episodes each of Friends or Frasier. It's a lot easier to make a show funnier if you can concentrate all your humor into fewer episodes.

Also, many British shows only have a handful of episodes a year (RED DWARF, for instance, only has six each year). You can take your time writing the scripts.

Most U.S. TV shows also tend to run out of steam after a few years. The good plots have been used, the good writers have left, the producers are busy with other projects, etc. It's extremely difficult to remain sharp for 100 episodes in just over four years.

PBS has shows British comedy because the networks aren't interested in it. It's a combination of too few episodes, and the feeling that the British comedies aren't "right" for American audiences (TV executives have a very sterotyped image of what is "right," often bearing little relationship to what will succeed). If a British TV show is really good, U.S. TV will try to revamp it to "Americanize" it ("Fawlty Towers" is a case in point; there have been two U.S. TV versions, neither of which were worth watching).

PBS began broadcasting British TV because the shows were available and (initially at least) they were cheap. In addition, they quickly developed a small, hard-core group of fans who were willing to send money to the station. "Are You Being Served" may be crap, but it's popular crap and, like anyone else, PBS stations need money.

06-07-1999, 12:30 PM
And speaking as a part-time actor, compared to an American show at the same -- err -- intellectual level, "Are You Being Served" is infinitely superior. At least the cast of AYBS can act.

And when did American TV ever produce shows at the level of "As Time Goes By", "Waiting for God", or "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin"?

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06-07-1999, 02:06 PM
True, there is a lot of crap on British TV:
"On The Buses" was awful, as was "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum," starring that guy who later made it big as the Phantom of the Opera, and "Man About the House" was pretty bad, although at least it was more vulgar than the US version (Three's Company). And the "light entertainment" stuff like "Noel Edmond's House Party" is really beneath contempt.

But atop the dungheap are such jewels as Fawlty, Python, Perrin ("I didn't get where I am today without knowing jewels on the dungheap when I see them"), Blackadder, the Young Ones, Red Dwarf, Alexi Sayle's "Stuff", and in the realm of drama, the Brits really clean up: I, Claudius; Upstairs, Downstairs; Cracker; Brideshead, etc. I mean, can you really compare US fare like "Rich Man Poor Man" or "The Thorn Birds" to the brilliant "Prime Suspect" series? And would North American television ever in a million years green-light something so bizzarely twisted as Dennis Potter's "The Singing Detective"?

Despite some high points (Larry Sanders, for example) I think that, lowbrow crap from both sides taken into account, you have to give the Brits the laurels on this one. When they're good, they're very very good.

Leonard Rossiter is sorely missed.



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"A friend will help you move house. A best friend will help you move a body."--Alexi Sayle

06-07-1999, 04:00 PM
I mean, can you really compare US fare like "Rich Man Poor Man" or "The Thorn Birds" to the brilliant "Prime Suspect" series?

No, but, then again, you shouldn't. Those miniseries made no pretension to anything more than cheap entertainment. But, comparing apples to apples, HOMICIDE was as good as PRIME SUSPECT, as was HILL STREET BLUES and NYPD BLUE.

And would North American television ever in a million years green-light something so bizzarely twisted as Dennis Potter's "The Singing Detective"?

I don't know. They ran EERIE, INDIANA for a surprisingly long time, even though it got bad ratings. And what about PICKET FENCES? David Kelley is the best writer in TV today; and just as warped as Dennis Potter (cows giving birth to human babies, for instance?).

There are good and bad TV shows on both sides of the ocean. People tend to overrate what comes from abroad, while underating what comes from your own country.

06-07-1999, 05:37 PM
I'm going to cringe when someone steps up and lists the US shows shown in the UK. It's genuinely embarassing to export such crap, which people overseas take as a representation of America.

Baywatch, Baywatch and more Baywatch.

Hope that cringe isn't permanent...

06-07-1999, 07:17 PM
I've felt that British acting has a basically different style. Much more personal. It's as if they assemble these great actors and their characters together and come up with a vehicle to put them.

By contrast, American shows seem to be created by writers character-first. Then they find actors to play the roles.

Case in point: Seinfeld vs. Absolutely Fabulous. In Seinfeld, most of the characters are ordinary people who come to life because a good actor portrays it. But any number of good actors could have portrayed that character successfully (of course not identically). An exception is Kramer, who I would call a British style character. Extraordinary. Jerry, and the others are mostly ordinary people with unique quirks, rather than bizarre characters. On AbFab, on the other hand, the only "ordinary" character is Saphhire, who is a super-ordinary straight-woman.

Look at American sitcoms like Friends and Frasier. These characters are not clowns, they are designed for viewers to identify with as people.

On Red Dwarf or Blackadder the characters are way too demented to identify with, but you can identify with situations they get themselves in. They don't represent ourselves (as in American shows) they represent ASPECTS of ourselves.

Add a higher rudeness tolerance, and presto!

06-07-1999, 07:49 PM
Let's not forget Antiques Roadshow, a great British show that's great in the States too. Since DirecTV has started carrying BBC America, I've been very happy.

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06-07-1999, 10:11 PM
I kinda like the American version of Cracker. JMHO

06-08-1999, 01:43 AM
And when did American TV ever produce shows at the level of "As Time Goes By", "Waiting for God", or "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin"?

There are plenty of first-class U.S. programs -- things like M*A*S*H, DICK VAN DYKE, MARY TYLER MOORE, BOB NEWHART, SPORTS NIGHT, HILL STREET BLUES, HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS, and many others. English TV seems better to us because of the filtering factor: bad European entertainment is never seen in the U.S. There are plenty of excellent British shows, but I'm sure there's plenty of crap, too. We just never get to see the crap.

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06-08-1999, 08:51 AM
Axel--I think you meant Saffron, not Sapphire. Saffron Monsoon was Edina's super-straight, humorless daughter.

06-08-1999, 09:35 AM
Saffron, right. They always call her Saffy, so I just presumed, making, I suppose, "a pre out of you and me?" :)

06-08-1999, 12:48 PM
My brother gave me a book called Gorilla Monsoon, which is about somebody's world travelling adventures. I've been tempted to send it to the BBC, with a note. Something like "Eddie's the Gorilla my dreams..."

Questions:

How many AbFabs are/were made?

Are they still being made?

How does Saffy manage that shocked, yet crushed look episode after episode? "Yes, well I guess it's too late to flush her now, eh?" -Patsy's sister

06-08-1999, 07:07 PM
Only 16 episodes!? Waaa!

Thanks for the info, though. I'll be on the lookout for the special.

06-08-1999, 10:33 PM
Lest anyone claim British TV viewers are somehow inherently more tasteful than Americans, keep this in mind; America imports British shows like Monty Python, Doctor Who and Upstairs, Downstairs, Britain imports American shows like Baywatch, Dallas, and Saved by the Bell.

06-09-1999, 01:16 AM
You wouldn't think British comedy was great if you were faced with the stuff day in and day out. Only the best stuff gets exported (well, some crap sneaks in, I'm sure) and likewise with the American imports we get.

I can't thank the Yanks enough for Frasier, Mash, South Park, The Simpsons, and, I'm ashamed to admit it, Friends. British and American humour is very different, which is obvious in our programming. The TV world would be a far less interesting place if we all made the same programmes.

American humour is, from what we see over here, very wholesome. Morals are made and everyone is happy at the end (I'm excepting South Park here). our comedies have people behaving badly, smoking, getting bladdered, and taking the piss out of each other. Smashing!

I love American comedies, and think in general they're better than the ones produced here. But then again, to find the good British ones I'd have to sit through hours of drivel, and I can't be arsed. I'd rather you kept Saved by The Bell and the Cosby Show, though.

Of yeah, before I go your chat shows are the best on earth. Our attempts at emultaing them usually involve six middle aged people sitting round chatting about haemorrhoids, and the audience clapping politely.

06-09-1999, 01:18 AM
16 episodes of AbFab were made, plus the two-hour special "The Last Shout." The show is no longer in production. Everything has been shown at least once on Comedy Central. Most episodes are available on videotape.

Can't answer the last one. I always found that look tiresome.