The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Miranda

Astonishing. The BBC are broadcasting a sitcom on one of their terrestrial channels. Just when you thought they’d given up on the genre entirely. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but sadly, not by much. BBC 1 hasn’t had a sitcom since, well, I can’t remember, it was a fair few months ago. And when was the last studio-audience show on BBC 2? Of course, the BBC still does make a few sitcoms, almost as an obligation or as niche programming – created to win awards and get reviews in The Guardian, or to fulfil BBC 3’s remit to show programmes that none but the most slack-jawed of teenagers would ever desire to watch (such is their underestimation of the intelligence of their audience – they assume all under-25s are happy-slapping shelf-stackers, not university students).

Anyway, these bitter rantings of a failed wannabe are merely a preamble, a preamble set in the past tense of How Things Used To Be, because things have changed. BBC 2 are currently showing a sitcom which is actually rather funny. Okay, it’s not up there with The Big Bang Theory or even How I Met Your Mother, but it has jokes, it has funny characters, it has comedy arising from situation. It’s called Miranda. Originally I was lukewarm towards it, not being a fan of Miranda Hart, but consider me converted.

Read a review somewhere that described the show as ‘self-consciously’ retro; aside from the fact that a show can’t be ‘self-conscious’ - that’s the reviewer imposing their emotional reaction upon it – I don’t think it's ‘retro’ at all. A studio audience, two or three sets and five minutes of location filming; that’s the format of the genre. Even asides to camera, or waving to camera at the end, isn’t ‘retro’. Traditional, yes, but traditional because it works.

5 comments:

  1. "...a show can't be self-conscious" - Freed from your word limit, would you care to explain?

    And traditional styling is one thing, but I hardly think it's wrong to describe "You Have Been Watching" as "retro". Unimaginative maybe, but not wrong. Utilising a trope specifically associated with an extinct but fondly remembered sub-genre? Surely that's precisely what the term means?

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  2. A show being 'self-conscious'; a television show isn't conscious so it can hardly be self-conscious. Maybe I'm nitpicking but it bugs me when people describe a TV show, book or film as 'lazy' or 'indulgent' when they are describing non-sentient objects. You might as well say an armchair was 'jealous' or 'greedy'.

    I'd say 'retro' is when something is done solely to pastiche the past; to remind you of something you've seen before. I don't think Miranda is trying to do that - any more than asides to camera are pastiching Up Pompeii - but it might - even 'self-conciously' - be signalling intent to be continuing a tradition.

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  3. But I'd argue that as a show - or any collaborative art work - is a product of interacting consciuousness, it essentially has one of its own. What we're really talking about is the collective consciousness of those involved in making it. Just as when a work is "lazy", we mean that it is the product of laziness.

    If a show is made in such a way that, as well as its fictional plot, it includes Brechtian (ugh!) elements of showcraft, then I think "self-conscious" is as good a way to desribe that as any.

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