Thursday, April 20, 2017

Motorised Television Comedy

We currently have three comedies on television which use the basic format of a journey as it's set-up. The first one I enjoy is "The Trip To Spain," which is on Sky Atlantic. It has Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden as two friends who are on a trip to Spain (well, that's original, considering the thing is called 'The Trip To Spain.") Coogan is a food writer for a paper. In the first series (Incidentally, shown on BBC2) they journey around the north of England, mostly in the Lake District, and the second, they go to Italy, (also on BBC2)It intrigues me as to why the BBC didn't go with this third series. Surely it can't be due to cost. It can't be a particularly big-budget series. I was under the impression that they had some sort of production deal with Coogan's company, Baby Cow. What I love about this is the free-wheeling style (not surprising, considering it's set mainly within a car on the road.) and the way it's hard to decide whether it's 'real' or 'fiction.' What I mean is, Coogan and Bryden play themselves. Coogan has spent many years as another character, Alan Partridge, but in this he is himself. Where does the line end? It's difficult to tell. I'm interested to know how much is actually scripted and how much is improvised.

The second series is on BBC Four, although, with BBC iPlayer and 'catch-up' television, it really makes no difference which channel it's on. The show is called 'Bucket' which isn't much of a name and wouldn't draw me to it if I was unaware of it's theme, the actors in it and so on. It stars Miriam Margolyes as a 70-something woman, who goes on a journey with her daughter with who she has a strange sort of relationship. The 'bucket' refers to the bucket list of things she wants to do before she dies. She reveals as the first episode progresses that she has cancer and the daughter (played by Frog Stone, who also wrote the series. Is that a genuine name or is it a pseudonym? Just odd. Who'd call a child Frog?) It's certainly off-the-wall and worth a look, even if it's just to see the great Margolyes who is a fine character actor who doesn't seem to fit any particular mould, thankfully. Great to have something which allows an older character to be presented in a non-stereotypical way. There are only four episodes, which is a shame. I suspect the good old BBC got cold feet. They didn't want to commit to more, for whatever reason. Cost. Hardly. Not particularly big budget drama, this. No C.G.I. or expensive locations or sets. Not sure it wouldn't find an audience. If it's on BBC Four, surely it would appeal to a different sort of demographic to the one you'd have if it was shown on BBC1 or BBC2. It's certainly different and original. I'll be watching the remaining three episodes. It seems that none of the 'traditional' television channels (referring to 'live' broadcast, such as BBC, ITV etc.) don't want to take too many risks. The other platforms, i.e.. Sky, Netflix, Amazon etc etc., seem more likely to take risks with more episodes and more what I'd call contentious or dangerous material. The BBC  and ITV seem far too concerned with things being either 'non politically correct or just steering clear of anything that might be considered offensive in any way. I don't agree with upsetting anyone, either racial, religious or whatever, but if you're just going to produce things that are easy, non-demanding, you just end up with bland, flat material that has no purpose, other than being ratings fodder, which is a shame, because, in the past, the BBC, in particular, has produced shows which have been sharp, funny and extremely clever, think, 'Fawlty Towers,' Blackadder,' 'Not The Nine O'Clock News and so on. Or ITV with things such as 'Spitting Image.' 

The third series I want to mention is 'Car Share.' This is now in it's second series. It's written, as well as stars and directed, by Peter Kay. It has a very simple format, a manager of a North of England supermarket 'car-shares' with a co-worker, played by Sian Gibson, who co-writes the show. It's set almost completely within the confines of a car, driven by Kay. It must have made production of such a show extremely difficult. Having been a huge success when the first series was aired, it's great to have this second season. It was originally first only available on iPlayer but then all episodes were broadcast weekly on BBC1 and proved one of the most downloaded shows ever, apparently. This second season seems to be doing equally well. The one advantage of being able to download via catch-up and other services, is that you can have all current episodes or entire 'box-sets' of series available and you can watch when you want without having to wait for the next episode.
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