Television Comedy Reviews

Television Comedy Reviews by Joshua Gaskell

The League of Gentlemen, Anniversary Specials

By Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, and Reece Shearsmith
BBC Studios for BBC Two
Monday, 18th–Wednesday, 20th December 2017

Royston Vasey is to be wiped off the face of the earth by boundary changes: ‘The county are moving the boundary line to exclude Royston Vasey. It’ll bring down crime statistics, unemployment, missing persons.’ Meanwhile, the locals are getting on with their lives: Pop is back from the dead, Mickey and Ross are helping Pauline with her dementia, and Mike wants Geoff to kill his fat wife, without drawing attention to himself.

The proposed boundary changes pit the authorities against Edward and Tubbs Tattsyrup, who are now running their shop from a condemned block of council flats. The cast can’t help having a bit of Brexit fun with these two: ‘This is a local shop for local people. It’s time we took back control.’ But this is forgivable in a series that remains full of un-PC filth and laughs out loud. Such as Geoff trying to settle on a modus operandi:

‘Excuse me. Would this kill a fat woman tonight?’

Or Mickey, on the ‘complex’ relationship between Ross and Pauline:

‘’E bummed her.’

Though actually, many of the relationships in The League of Gentlemen are complex, and this shouldn’t be overlooked on account of the filth. Because there are also moments of real pathos, like the dialogue between Charlie, his ex (Stella), his new boyfriend (Gordon), and Stella’s new man (Scott). The four direct their fears and desires at the waiter in an Italian restaurant:

CHARLIE: She’s deflecting, Luigi.
STELLA: Can he not allow me to be happy, Luigi?
CHARLIE: I never stopped loving her, Luigi.
STELLA: I only want to have fun, Luigi.
CHARLIE: Gordon never listens to me, Luigi.
STELLA: Scott’s got a temper on him, Luigi.
CHARLIE: He’s put so much weight on, Luigi.
GORDON: I’ve got a slow metabolism, Luigi.
SCOTT: We’re going now, Luigi.
STELLA: Don’t let him take me, Luigi.
SCOTT: She can have hers in a doggy bag, Luigi.
GORDON: I’m just a mouth to him, Luigi.
CHARLIE: I pretend it’s Stella, Luigi.
STELLA: I lie to the doctors, Luigi.
SCOTT: My mother died young, Luigi.
CHARLIE: I’m more lonely when I’m with him, Luigi.
GORDON: I’ve confused love with food, Luigi.
STELLA: I’m just so frightened, Luigi.
SCOTT: She can’t make me hard, Luigi.
GORDON: Help us, Luigi.
STELLA: What do we do, Luigi?
CHARLIE: How do we choose, Luigi?

I think this is a stunning piece of writing, and an example of full-blooded comedy having more virtue as drama than does most comedy drama. It also, to my mind, justifies the lack of political correctness: when the creators of Royston Vasey laugh at its inhabitants – the crime statistics, unemployment, and missing persons – the laughter is not merely cruel.

Luigi, Charlie, Stella, Scott, and Gordon


Curb Your Enthusiasm, S09E01

By Larry David
Sunday, 1st October 2017

Larry David is in the shower, singing ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ from Mary Poppins. Has he changed? No. His supercalifragilistic mood lasts all of half a minute; until, that is, he tries to get some shower gel out of a container with one of those pump-action nozzles. At this point the more familiar sound of a Micalizzi refrain begins, Larry shouts ‘Fuck!’, and the scene comes to resemble the one in Season Seven when he couldn’t get into the vacuum-packed plastic packaging. LD is back!

In the first few scenes some of the things that happen to Larry seem like they could be there simply to set up jokes; but we know from experience that most will turn out to be strands of a tightly plaited plot: on the way in to see his agent, Jeff (Jeff Garlin), he doesn’t hold the door open for a mannish-looking woman (‘I was just trying not to offend you and yet I wound up offending you, which is quite ironic’); he presents Jeff with the final script of his new Broadway show (Fatwa! The Musical), about which Jeff’s wife Susie (Susie Essman) is very negative; and his personal assistant has missed two days of work due to constipation, so he wants to fire her. The semi-improvised performances are a little stilted, but it has been six years since Season Eight.

‘Type + distance = no door-hold’

The plait tightens. The mannish-looking woman (Julie Goldman), who it transpires is Jeff’s hairdresser, is getting married to the feminine-looking Numa (Nasim Pedrad), but insisting on being the ‘bride’ – Larry sticks his oar in (‘You’re a groom’), eliciting from Numa a neat summary of the governing Identitätsphilosophie: ‘How is it appropriate for you to have an opinion about this?’ Jeff tells Larry that he must go on Jimmy Kimmel to promote Fatwa! And Larry decides to foist his useless assistant on to Susie.

This was all trundling along well enough, but I was wondering whether my tastes had moved on or whether a new season after all this time could ever be quite as good. Oh me of little faith. I’d forgotten just how satisfying the Curb plait-plot is when it interweaves into sight. I won’t try to do it all justice – and most people will see it coming before I did – but, in brief, Larry goes on Kimmel, mocks the ayatollah…

Now there’s only one ayatollah, and they all seem to have the same name. And they all seem to spell it the same way. And you never know, if you look at the history of ayatollahs… it all seems like one person. They all look exactly the same, and their names are Khomeini, Khomeeni, Khomani…

…and then, the following day, he sees the ayatollah on the TV news, issuing a fatwa against him.

Very bad man!

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