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Friday, June 30, 2017

More About Sitcoms

I'm continuing to watch 'The Good Life.' For something that is well over 40 years old, it stands up remarkably well. I'm more than certain I saw it when it was originally broadcast in 1975. It's the sort of thing I would have watched with my family. I think my mother would have loved it. I know it was on at about the same time that 'Fawlty Towers' was first shown, but she hated that. I can see why, as Basil Fawlty is actually quite an objectionable character. Loud and a real bigot. 

Regarding 'The Good Life.' What makes this show work so well isn't necessarily the central characters of Tom and Barbara Good (Richard Briars and Felicity Kendal in tip-top form) but the secondary characters, particularly the neighbours Margo and Jerry Leadbetter. They make a good contrast with the self-seficiency lifestyle of the Goods. Both are materialistic to a large degree. We see the homes; the Goods house deteriates a good deal the further the Goods get into their way of life while the Leadbetter's house appears very neat and tidy, expensive furniture and fixtures and fittings. What really rounds out the character of Margo in particular is the clever use of what I'd call 'Invisible' characters, those characters which have an 'off-stage' presence. Miss Mountshaft, the doyenne of the choral society of which Margo is a leading light. Although we never meet this woman, we get a great deal of description of what she's really like, and in particular, during the episode where Margo is rehearing 'The Messiah' and turns up on the Good's doorstep in a long white shift dress which she wants Barbara to take up for her and she says that Miss Mountshaft had one set of measurements, her own, so we get the idea that she must be a very large lady. The very name Miss Mountshaft is likely to get a couple of laughs as it's definitely got the potential to raise a titter or two as it's got a sort of double entendre sound to it.

Another sitcom which has an 'invisible character' is 'Keeping Up Appearances.' The Buckets have a son whom we never see, but who has a habit of telephoning and always wants something from his mother or father, usually money. This son, Sheridan, is supposed to be at University (how old is he? If Richard is retired, how old were they when he was born. If he's at university he must be in his 20's. From what we discover, he comes over as incredibly camp. Is he gay? Does Hyacinth realise? Does his father? Again, like Miss Mountshaft, this invisible character helps to round out the characters of Hyacinth and Richard.

In 'One Foot In The Grave' we hear about the Meldrew's son, who died at an early age. Although not actually an invisible character, mention of this deceased child helps to give us more information about the back story of the Meldrew's. Although Victor is generally a somewhat irritating and annoying character, giving the background of their child does give them a bit more believability and makes Victor a good deal more three-dimensional and less of a comudgeon.
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