Here's my piece from The Guardian's 'Comment is Free' on the decline of television comedy.
No laughing matter
Today's TV comedies are aggressive, heartless and cruel, and compared with sitcoms of the 70s they are certainly not funny.
The best of times is always then, but never now, critics of nostalgia like to point out. But when it comes to television comedy, there can be little doubt that the best of times really was then (the 1970s to be exact) and most certainly not now.
Too much of television comedy today is aggressive, heartless and cruel - with writers and performers believing the need to shock comes before the need to make us laugh. It was a point made most cogently by Dad's Army star Bill Pertwee, at the launch of his autobiography earlier this week.
At the time when Pertwee was appearing in Dads' Army, British television viewers were spoilt for choice when it came to well-written, well-acted and - most importantly of all - funny situation comedies. Fawlty Towers, The Good Life, Steptoe and Son, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Rising Damp and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin were all classics of their genre, programmes as entertaining to watch today as they were 30 years ago. True, there were duds around in the 1970s too, (did anyone ever raise so much as a snigger at The Liver Birds?), but overall the standard of writing, performing and production was extremely high.
I wonder how many of today's television comedies will be watched with such affection - and enjoyment - 30 years from now? With the possible exception of The Office, it's hard to think of a single comedy series that television viewers in 2036 will find as amusing as today's audiences still find repeats of Dad's Army, Fawlty Towers and The Good Life.
Most of what passes for "comedy" on television today is charmless, with aggression and four-letter words making up for the lack of inventive writing and the absence of funny, as opposed to grotesque, comic characters. The only gay in the village? An elderly woman who vomits every time the word "black" is mentioned?
Give me Captain Mainwaring or Tom and Barbara Good any day.
UPDATE: A certain 'Feline 1' left this comment on the Guardian's website. How can we tell that he/she's a fan of modern "comedy", I wonder. Could it be something to do with the charming and polite way he/she signs off?
Oh good lord - so you don't like Little Britain! May I suggest you DRY YOUR EYES.Many hundreds of thousands of other people find it hilarious.Go back to watching old VHS tapes of Dad's Army if that's what makes you happy.
Other hilarious shows of the past few years:- Vic & Bob in CATTERICK- NATHAN BARLEY.- Green Wing- The Armstrong & Millar Show- League of Gentlemen.
Now do p*ss off.