Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Top 200 Sitcom Characters of All-Time: 198

The second instalment of the ongoing series that we’ve been writing on our phone while stuck in various waiting rooms then several weeks later trying to decipher the autocorrected text subseqyuently generated .

Today’s mystery phrase: “Full on Below ski mode”.

198 Alain Degout (Paris)


Imagine if Alexei Sayle, in full on maniacal Belovski mode rather than the beardily erudite Question Time particpant mode of today, were a struggling artist loitering around Rue de la Skidpan in turn of the century Paris? Because that's kind of where the premise begins and ends in this single series offering from Linehan and Matthews, dipping their respective toes into the sitcom writing pool for the first time, following their work on the criminally ignored sketch show All New Alexei Sayle Show.

Despite suffering from largely terrible reviews at the time, when viewed as a ironic punk cover version of an unmade Blackadder Five this is actually a thunderingly enjoyable gem. It packs all the verve and energy you’d expect from full-pomp Sayle, still standing on the tail end of his imperial phase, includes a guest cast way better than the budget should allow – including Eleanor Bron and (as above) Windsor Davies, plus Neil Morrissey as a winsome foppish combination of Tony from Men Behaving Badly and a latter day Lord Percy. It probably wasn’t helped by arriving in a C4 Friday night schedule otherwise dominated by meticulously engineered US imports – the long-running Friends/Roseanne/Cheers axis – where a variety of homegrown comedy efforts were left looking unfashionable. Some unfairly so – Craig Ferguson appearing opposite Peter Cook in My Dead Dad, for example – some thoroughly deserving of scorn – Captain Butler, we’re looking at you.

But, back to Paris. No wonder a still-good NME seemed to act as sole champion of the show at the time of broadcast. Sadly, chances to reevaluate the critical kicking the series received have been almost entirely absent since first broadcast, with (as far as we're aware) a dawn-skirting 4Later repeat run as being the only chance to reappraise the show without hunting barely seeded torrents. Or, happily, YouTube.


BONUS FOOTNOTE FEATURE: The Bottom 200 Sitcom Characters of All-Time

200. The Baby from My Hero

199. Captain Butler from Captain Butler

198. David Baddiel from Baddiel’s Syndrome


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Broken TV’s Top 200 Sitcom Characters of All-Time–Part One: 200-199

Hey gang! After spending way too long doing other stuff how about we pour some petrol in this baby and crank it up one last time? Metaphorical baby. Not a real one. That would be wrong. We know that now.

What with the BBC putting on a landmark sitcom season, only to go and invalidate the whole thing by having Mrs Browns Boys as part of it, it looks like it's up to us to do things properly. Having an entire season marking 60 years since Hancock’s Half Hour showed how practically perfect a British sitcom could be, then rebooting several series that failed utterly to learn from it. The clots.

So, Delivering our own sense of Quality First, we're about to compile a list of the best sitcom characters of all time. How many? 200 should do it. Basically enough to get us through to Christmas. Though we’re not saying which Christmas, given the frequency of our blog posts over the last half-decade. So it might be ages until we reveal that John Inman’s titular character from Take A Letter Mr Jones makes the top ten. Or not.

Here goes. Starting with…


200 Alex Picton-Dinch (Hippies)


Unfairly lambasted when originally aired for the crime of being less good than Father Ted, time and occasional repeats on the digital wilderness have combined to prove that Hippies deserves to be remembered much more fondly. While the antics of Simon Pegg, Sally Philips and Darren Boyd would have been enough on their own,  it's Julian Rind-Tutt’s original hipster that really stands out. Much cooler than his crusty cohorts, it wouldn't have been a surprise for Alex to have secretly been the love child of Sgt Wilson.


199 Guy Fuddle (Happy Families)


Hard as it might seem now, in this era of a BBC2 Comedy Zone being the occasional half-hour ghetto six weeks out of every twelve, but a lot of comedy used to get scheduled on the corporation. A lot. And the lack of an overstaffed middle-management at the Beeb meant that some of it seemingly made it to air without Men In Suits And Ties checking the contents.

Take Happy Families, for example. An ambitious post-Young Ones sitcom/drama by Ben Elton starring Jennifer Saunders in a variety of roles and Adele Edmondson as hapless lyrics idealistic berk Guy. Containing giggles about cocaine, sitting on the toilet with siblings and paedophilia, by rights this should have belonged firmly on the seedy side of the watershed on BBC2. Instead, possibly because schedulers saw the tidy and assumed it would be a cosy suburbia-set Martin Jarvis offering, it aired at 8.30pm on BBC1. In 1985. A different age.

Jennifer Saunders was the real comedic tour de force behind the programme, of course. Playing the entire female side of the Fuddle family, Saunders displayed a million times more range than subsequent decades trotted out Edina Monsoon would suggest. And yet this place on the list belongs to Ma Fuddle’s idiot offspring Guy. Unencumbered by awareness and tasked with bringing back his estranged sisters for one last reunion with their ailing (if irksome) mother, Ade Edmondson personified Nice But Dim years before Harry Enfield’s Television Programme.

Now, how about a DVD release of the series?


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