Friday, 24 April 2009

Top 5 Sitcoms of All Time

My favourite sitcoms of all time.

1. Blackadder (1983-1987)
Blackadder rode the crest of the Eighties alternative comedy wave. It took the anarchic style of new young comedians and turned it into something acceptable for mainstream telly. Blackadder also reinvented itself every series. I remember being initially disappointed with the change in emphasis (Blackadder now the cunning lead instead of the abject failure seen in the first series) but with hindsight the second and third series were the show's creative peak. Glorious stuff.

2. Dad's Army (1968-1977)
In my Seventies top five I suggested this might be my all time favourite and it's pretty close. Ask me next week and I might have changed my mind but this is as close to perfect as comedy gets. A show I grew up with and still enjoy today.

3. Father Ted (1995-1998)
The last great sitcom? I recently watched all three series again (thanks to the joy of Virgin Media's TV choice) and it's timeless humour still capable of making me laugh out loud. Highlights include Father Jack's apparent death after drinking a bottle of floor polish, the "Flight into Terror" and the pastiche of "Speed 2" featuring Father Dougal on a milk float.

4. Porridge (1973-1977)
This is all about a consummate performance from Ronnie Barker. A true comedy legend and this is his masterpiece. Some lovely moments from the other characters of course including the wonderfully understated role provided by Richard Beckinsale as Lenny Godber.

5. The Young Ones (1982-1984)
The first sitcom I felt was aimed at me and people of my age. I was fourteen when it started and it changed the way I thought about so many things. Before The Young Ones I was happy to watch the same shows as my Mum & Dad (hence my love of Dads Army and Terry & June). After The Young Ones everything changed.

If you missed them here's the rest of my comedy Top Fives.

Top 5 British Sitcoms of the Seventies

Top 5 British Sitcoms of the Eighties

Top 5 British Sitcoms of the Nineties

Top 5 British Sitcoms of the 21st century (so far)

Top 5 US Sitcoms


Friday, 17 April 2009

Top 5 U.S. Sitcoms

I kind of abandoned the sitcom top fives sometime last year and figured it was time I finished them off. This week it's my top five American comedies. Looking down the list sentimentality seems to have won over outright laughs. There are some contenders that might be considered funnier ("Frasier" was a near miss) but these are shows I watched a lot when they first hit the UK. Next week I'll reveal my all time top five sitcoms.

1. Cheers (1982-1993)
11 Series created by James Burrows, Glen Charles & Les Charles
This is the sitcom I would most like to live for real. There's something appealing about a bar "where everybody knows your name", where you can sit in the same spot every night and where the barman pours your drink before you've reached the stool. Norm and Cliff are both great characters, people that anyone who's been a regular at a local pub will recognise, and along with Carla and Coach they formed the heart and soul of the show. Friday nights watching Cheers on Channel Four was something I vividly remember from my pre-pub early teens. Great theme tune too.

2. The Simpsons (1989-present)
20 Series and counting created by Matt Groening
I might like the idea of living at "Cheers" but I'm more than a little concerned I'm turning into Homer. Does it count as a sitcom? I think it has all the components to qualify. Maybe it has an unfair advantage over live action (a massive cast of characters, never having to replace a lead actor and never having to worry about budget) but what really matters is that after twenty years it's still very funny.

3. Taxi (1978-1982)
5 Series created by James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels & David Davis
My memory suggests this was on BBC quite late (for an 11 year old anyway) which might have something to do with the impression it made on me. Judd Hirsch as Alex was the dramatic core of the show. Some quite down beat topics were covered and, whilst being extremely pessimistic about his own life, Alex was usually the guy who saved the day. I've not seen much of his other work but I'm pretty sure Latka was the highpoint of Andy Kaufman's career. Christopher Lloyd was also excellent as 60's drop out Jim Ignatowski. Another good theme tune too.

4. Roseanne (1988-1997)
9 Series created by Matt Williams
White trash TV. A forerunner to a more recent US favourite "My Name Is Earl". Roseanne was loud, domineering and blunt but carried it off with a certain charm. My favourite character is probably Daughter Darlene who came to the fore as the series developed becoming the perfect sarcastic foil for her mother.

5. Bewitched (1964-1972)
8 Series created by Sol Saks
This was re-run at the 5:00 tea time slot when I was still at school. A romantic comedy with a twist. Obviously I had a bit of a thing for the lovely Elizabeth Montgomery. I think it might be the nose thing.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Top 5 Incidents with my Glasses at Gigs

OK. Something a little different this week. I hope this might act as a useful reminder to myself that a) I am stupid, b) Beer only serves to make me more stupid and c) I should NEVER wear my glasses down the front at a gig - it's only going to end one way. I guess anyone who knows me has a pretty good idea where this is heading. These are in chronological order.

5. Pendragon at The Marquee (Late 80's)
I was a big fan of prog rock at the time and a regular at The Marquee when it was based in Charing Cross Road. It was a popular venue for the new wave of prog bands that continued to eek out an existence in the shadow of the mini-revival boom that had been stoked by Marillion. For all their faults you could rely on a prog band for a good bit of pogo-ing down the front. It was in the midst of one of these nights that my specs came off. This was the first time it had happened and I remember shouting "No! My Glasses!" as they tumbled in slow motion through the air. Amazingly the people nearest to me heard and we were able to create a small pocket of space in the surrounding chaos. There on the floor, almost lit from above like some holy grail, were my specs. I scooped them up, stuck them in my pocket and we all carried on bouncing. Huzzah!

4. The Georgia Satellites at The Town & Country Club (Early 90's)
I was being careful. I'd learnt my lesson. I stayed further back and avoided the tempting crush down the front. Nodding my head to the music what could go wrong. Then the music got to me and my head nodding became more rigorous. One big flick and - ping! - glasses gone. I turned around to find where they'd fallen and saw the bloke behind me holding them in his hand. Gratefully retrieved my specs and shuffled off quietly to the bar.

3. The Phantoms at The Fighting Cocks, Kingston (12th May 2004)
Watching some mates play what may have been their first proper pub gig I was somehow goaded into making things a bit more lively. Following my last incident I'd purchased one of those spongy straps to keep my specs on at gigs and for a while they did the trick. They did make me look a bit spoddy though, so by the early 2000's I was wearing them less. This was just a pub gig anyway so I wasn't expecting to get involved. In the midst of a jumping frenzy I "sensibly" decided to tuck my glasses out of harms way by placing them just behind one of the front monitors. Perfect. All went well until the gig finished. I'm chatting with a mate and one of the guitarists comes over to say hello. As he stepped off stage there was a crack under his foot and my glasses were no more.

2. Detroit Cobras at ULU (8th September 2004)
Note the date. A mere four months after my previous incident. New specs in place. This was a cracking gig. I was well sozzled by the time the Cobras hit the stage and there was no way I could resist the lure of their blend of classic soul and garage rock. Mid-pogo my glasses did that familiar mid air somersault off my nose and disappeared into the dark below. Unlike the Pendragon gig I couldn't find them. They had completely vanished from view. Enjoying the rest of the gig I had a minor epiphany - realising that if I'm moshing about down the front I didn't actually need to be wearing my specs at all. When the bands had finished I had a root about to see if I could locate my specs and found just one single lens. It was heavily scratched and not much use but I took it home as a reminder that I needed to be more careful in future.

1. Dananananayroyd at Hoxton Bar & Grill (2nd April 2009)
This was a fun evening of beer and hijinks, missed last trains, an overnight stay in that there London and getting trapped in a corridor the following morning. Five years on and it looked like I'd got the message. I took a hard case to most gigs and stuck my specs away if I felt the urge to mosh. The specs I'd got after the Cobras gig were still going. They were a great pair of glasses, the coolest I'd ever owned, but were a little bent out of shape from the normal rigours of family life. That's no excuse though. I should have taken them off before the music took control. We'd had a fair bit to drink and not very much to eat. We'd come up straight from work and I'd forgotten to bring my case. The music started, the crowd went wild, I couldn't resist. Thirty seconds in and - spoing! Another pair of glasses hit the deck and disappear for ever. Another brilliant gig means I'm having too much fun to care. Again one of my mates went in search of my ruined glasses and amazingly found them amongst the dust and detritous at the front of the stage. They weren't in good shape.

This doesn't read too well for me does it. Over twenty five years attending gigs and I still haven't learnt my lesson. I'm over forty now, a father of two, I really should know better. Despite that, these were all great nights out. Maybe I just have to accept that this is inevitable. I also know that I should try contact lenses. I have had a couple of aborted attempts but it's the whole sticking your finger in your eye thing. Its just unnatural.

The shattered remains of my lovely OWP spectacles.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Top 5 Muppets

I can remember the first time I ever saw the Muppets. A boring evening at one of my Uncles was transformed by an explosion of colour and a show that seemed to be "The Good Old Days" for kids. I was clearly drawn to the under-dog characters. The great Gonzo being fired from a cannon and ignored by everyone, Fozzie's jokes failing miserably to raise a laugh and Beaker's realisation of impending doom from the inevitable explosion he was about to face. Maybe I feel some empathy with these characters but then I also found Waldorf and Statler's acerbic wit just as funny. Animal? He's just cool.

1. Gonzo

2. Waldorf and Statler

3. Animal

4. Beaker

5. Fozzie Bear