MIRANDA HART and the 321 Conundrum.

By on 9 July, 2013

321 - On Challenge TV - TOMORROW'S NEWS - The Latest Entertainment News Today!

I am guessing that most TV execs are around my age – late thirties, early forties, so like me, they were children in the 70s and 80s and as we all do, view the past with rose-coloured specs; where the weather was nicer, Tizer tasted like nothing else on earth, you could still buy penny sweets, and TV programmes were better. So, of course, what better than to create a revival of the sort of comedy shows we chuckled along to when we were kids, when the world was a more innocent place (or at least we thought)? But are the hazy, golden memories of youth actually ruining British comedy? Quite frankly comedy wasn’t better in the 80s, because one of the biggest problems with comedy is that it is quite often only funny when it relates to the world around us, and what is topical.

321‘ used to be a big Saturday night TV event, with viewing figures Simon Cowell could only dream of (this was when there was only four channels), and I can remember sitting watching it as a young child laughing at the various comedians they would have on it each week, thinking Duncan Norvelle pretending to be a homosexual man was highly funny; and some long-forgotten stand-up telling jokes about his unattractive wife would tickle our funny bones and entertain us all. Would any of us find this funny now? No. I have recently sat through repeats of ‘321‘ on Challenge on a Saturday afternoon and the running joke in my household is ‘that was so funny I almost laughed.’

Morecambe and Wise - TOMORROW'S NEWS - The Latest Entertainment News Today!

I lay the sole blame of this nostalgia-fest on Miranda Hart. She is the same age as me and grew up watching the true greats like Tommy Cooper and Morecamble and Wise, and so when the time came for her to write her own sitcom, she borrowed heavily from that era. The funniest thing about her show, for me, are the comic asides, which she has ripped off from Eric Morecambe (something she admits to freely). Miranda’s show is a huge success, so of course – as is the norm in the media – a bandwagon is created and swiftly jumped upon. In a couple of years, we have been given ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys‘, ‘Citizen Khan‘, ‘The Wright Way‘, ‘Vicious‘ and now ‘Count Arthur Strong‘. All of these sitcoms could have quite easily slotted into the TV schedule in 1982 and no one would have noticed the difference. But are they really funny or relevant to the world we live in now?
Mrs Brown's Boys - BBC - TV Comedy - TOMORROW'S NEWS - The Latest Entertainment News Today!

Mrs Brown’s Boys‘ is humorous, but the acting is appalling when compared to something like the (truly) revolutionary ‘The Office‘, in which the acting was so subtle and nuanced that the characters became like real people that we knew, and the often cringe-worthy scenarios were ones we were all so familiar with. ‘Citizen Khan‘ and ‘The Wright Way‘ were just so awful that I haven’t words to describe them, except ‘what were you thinking Ben Elton?’ ‘Vicious‘ had its moments, but I think that was less down to the writing and more to do with the delivery from two of our finest actors in Sir Derek Jacobi and Sir Ian McKellen. Last night saw the debut of ‘Count Arthur Strong‘ – BBC2’s latest sitcom, about a bumbling, retired thespian and the situations he gets into through his appalling memory and the mistakes this causes him to make. I confess I did find it very funny, but I suspect that was down to it being co-written by Graham Linehan.

There was no ‘golden age’ of comedy. The same as there was no golden age of music. You only have to watch the repeats of ‘Top of the Pops‘ from 1978 on BBC4 to see that the charts back then were 90% dross and 10% magic. But of course, seeing as I was only seven in 1978, I remember is as being all John Travolta, The Boomtown Rats and Boney M. I’ve chosen to forget Racey and Andrew Gold and Legs & Co doing the same dance to every record. If watching ‘321‘ on a boring Saturday afternoon has done anything for me, it’s proved to me that my memories are as cloudy and distorted about my past, as old people who claim that life in the 1950s was much better than it is now; when in truth, for many people, it was blighted by poor housing, poverty and bigotry. Just because ‘Miranda‘ is like an amalgam of all the good bits of the rubbish comedy shows we watched as children, please stop making a whole genre out of it.


This is the Twenty First Century and we need to look forward. Just remember that the teenagers of today will one day be the forty year olds of 2035 who will look back and think that ‘The Only Way is Essex‘ was somehow entertaining.


About Karen Mason

Karen Mason is a London-based writer. She has published fifteen historical fiction novels and is currently working on her sixteenth. She is also an avid movie goer, with a particular preference for gritty British cinema and a weakness for Jason Statham films! Her music tastes stretch from Muse to the Cinematic Orchestra and she loves discovering new acts.

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