Thursday, February 22, 2007

Not in on The Joke

First off, an apology to my friend I described as 'totally unreliable' in the previous post. She has since been in touch and has, in fact, been busy moving house. Sorry. I was just wallowing in self pity as I'd been feeling slightly unwell all evening and was contemplating yet another repair bill for my car. In the end I went out for a couple of pints and felt much better. Getting to the point of this post (finally), have you ever felt that you are not 'in' on something which everybody else seems to be? I've increasingly been getting this feeling with regard to a number of current TV series. I've watched them because everyone else seems to be raving about them, but found myself simply shrugging and saying 'yeah?' The most recent instance of this has been Life on Mars. Now, I admit that as I didn't see any of the first series, coming in at the beginning of series two might well have affected my reaction to it. However, the fact is that it just didn't do anything for me. Don't get me wrong, it is clearly a very well made and acted programme. I'm not one of those people who has the urge to denounce anything popular on TV as 'crap', unless they 'discovered' it themselves. Part of the reason for my reaction might have been that I lived through 1973 (when the programme is set), and it doesn't look much like the 1973 I remember. For one thing, the cars are all wrong. There are too many 1972-73 cars on the road in it. Just as today, our roads are clogged with cars from the 1980s and 1990s, so in the early seventies the roads were still dominated by cars from the 1950s and 1960s. Also, there are too many Fords and Austin Allegros - I seem to remember there being lots and lots of Vauxhalls and Rootes Group vehicles around.

OK, I know that it is a fairly trivial criticism, but it is symptomatic of what I feel is wrong with the programme. Of course, fans would argue that such discrepancies are further evidence that it is all a fantasy on the part of the hero who is apparently in a coma in 2007, which is fair enough. I was originally going to mention the fact that whilst the 1970s police are (correctly) shown as being violent, misogynistic bigots, there didn't seem to be any evidence of corruption. However, I've now seen episode two which does address this issue. Nevertheless, it only shows one copper as being bent, whereas, in reality, graft was pretty much endemic in the police in the early 1970s. Indeed, it was generally accepted as a normal part of policing. Ultimately, whether one likes a drama series like this is just a matter of taste, but the other two programmes which have drawn a similar response from me lately fall into that nebulous category of 'satire'. Now, as one who aspires to write vaguely satirical material for the web, I always feel as if I should be kindly disposed toward other forms of satire. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case these days. Since going digital I've tried watching the Daily Show on More 4. I just sit there blank faced. I can see where it should be funny, but it just isn't doing it for me. It all seems too obvious, no subtlety or real invention. Interestingly, I used to catch the weekly 'Global Edition' sometimes on CNN, and that did sometimes amuse me. Perhaps that's the problem - the funny bits are too thinly spread when watching the show five days a week.

The other satirical programme which left me cold was BBC 4's The Thick of It. As with Life on Mars, I was perhaps at a disadvantage as the first time I saw this was with the Christmas Special, which may not have been typical. Again, like the Daily Show, I could see where I should be laughing, but the titters just never came. The gags seemed too well telegraphed and none f the characters were sympathetic. Yes, I kept thinking to myself, we know that political spin doctors are complete arseholes, where's the real blinding insight? Like the Daily Show and Life on Mars, the production couldn't be faulted on technical grounds. It was extremely well made and the performances of the actors universally excellent. But it just didn't do it for me. Maybe I'm asking too much of TV satire. Or perhaps I've changed. I really don't know. It just seems to me that most so-called 'satire' these days keeps on flogging the same old horses (and I'm guilty as charged here, myself). I yearn for fresh targets or, at the very least, some new angles on the existing ones. I do try to do this over at The Sleaze, but I'm just a very small fish in a vast ocean. At the end of the day, it could be me who is out of step. Maybe the rest of the world is more than happy with the satire it is getting?



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