Friday, September 28, 2007

Patsy, Edina, and Basil

Brit-sitcoms. For my money, the two funniest television series ever aired were Fawlty Towers
and Absolutely Fabulous.

And it was because they were politically incorrect, ribald, raucous, and had lead characters who were bad people, with no redeeming social qualities whatsoever.

American TV tried to do a version of Towers and it died a quick and deservedly-horrible death -- they tried to give Basil Fawlty's boneheaded bigoted character a heart, and he didn't have one.

I think Roseanne Barr has the rights to do an American version of AbFab, but I can't imagine it would be a patch on the original.

Do yourself a favor: Rent these and watch them.

Cleese, and his ex-wife, Connie Booth, who quit acting and writing to become a psychotherapist, starred in and wrote Towers. There were only a dozen episodes.

Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders played Patsy and Edina, self-centered airheaded twits. The series came from a skit by French and Saunders, on an earlier series. Created and written by Saunders, AbFab is every bit as non-PC as Towers. It ran for several seasons.

You'll either love them or hate them, there doesn't seem to be any in-between ...


Michael B. said...

I dig the British comedies..Black Adder was one of my favorites....your right Steve people love them or hate them and they are definitely an acquired taste..i got hooked on them early having lived in London as a wee lad back in the day...still watch them on the various BBC telecasts...also BBC news far and away blows doors on this gibberish here in the states.

Edwin said...

Yes, Minister and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister gets my vote for funniest, closely followed by the even Blackadder series and the early Red Dwarf series.

Of course, there are so many other British comedies, fortunately most of them are out on DVD: To the manor born, 'allo, 'allo, Thin Blue Line, Mr. Bean, Manchild, Coupling, The Office (often cringeworthy).

Edwin said...

How could I forget? Chef! And some of the old ones: George and Mildred, spun off of Man about the house, the original to America's Three's Company, Some mothers do have 'em (starring Michael Crawford, which really freaked me out the first time I saw Phantom of the Opera live), Dad's Army.

Ximena said...

A lot of these can be checked out of the public library on DVD, too. Free=cheaper than a rental!

eponymous said...

One of my favorite Fawlty Towers moments... "Well, of course it's a rat. You have rats in Spain, don't you? Or did Franco have them all shot?" Or something like that... regarding Manuel's "hamster", Basil.

Early "Red Dwarf" was funny. Most of "Black Adder" was funny (Hugh Laurie, pre-"House" in two memorable (and similar) dimwit roles. Miranda Richardson as Queenie ("...those people with the funny faces and the bells." "Ah, jesters, ma'am" "No... *pause*... lepers.")

A bit more modern, I enjoyed the first season or so of "My Family" with Robert Lindsey and Zoe Wannamaker. Written by an American but aired in Britain. It just wasn't as funny after the Nick character left.

All of it far more funny than US comedies by far.

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, of course, Monty Python and Black Adder and Thin Blue Line and Are you Being Served and As Time Goes By, Wooster and Jeeves ... just to name the first few that pop into mind.

It's not that American sitcoms can't be funny -- they can, and there have been some really good ones: Murphy Brown, Seinfeld, even Two and a Half Men has some very clever writing. It's that the best of the Brit stuff allows the characters to be really wicked, and most of the American shows have to have a gleam of white amongst the black. At heart, the characters and writers say, ole Murphy or Kramer or even Charlie Harper aren't *really* bad. (My favorite characters on that show are Berta the cleaning lady, and Charlie's mother, who *are* bad to the bone.)

Whereas Patsy, Edina, Basil, Black Adder, Patricia Rutledge's Hyacinth Bucket ("Boo-kay!"), they are all without any redeeming values, and that makes them really funny.