"Not That I'm Saying It's Traditional" - The Stigma Against The 'Traditional' In British Sitcoms

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  • 1. “ not that I’m saying it’s traditional” --the stigma against the “traditional” in British sitcoms
  • 2. My last visit to Germany.
  • 3. FADE IN:
  • 4. INT. CHANNEL HQ. DAY.
    • SHAUN and ALAN, writers, are talking about the pilot they have just delivered to the COMEDY COMMISSIONER, a pleasant man.
  • 5.
    • COMMISSIONER
    • (genially)
    • We’re looking at all our pilots, and working out the balance - how many traditional sitcoms we want-
  • 6.
    • The COMMISSIONER stops in his tracks and looks apologetically at SHAUN and ALAN.
  • 7.
    • COMMISSIONER
    • (urgently)
    • Not that I’m saying your sitcom is traditional.
    • (pause)
    • Sorry.
  • 8. Two questions. (1) Why did the genial commissioner apologise for calling the sitcom “traditional”?
  • 9.
    • (2) And what’s with all the rabbits?
  • 10. A traditional British sitcom.
  • 11. The traditional British sitcom.
  • 12. An archetypal moment
  • 13. An archetypal moment
  • 14. Our take on this … of which more later
  • 15. Our take on this
  • 16. What’s wrong with this?
  • 17. What’s wrong with this?
    • farcical plots
  • 18. What’s wrong with this?
    • farcical plots
    • unnatural dialogue
  • 19. What’s wrong with this?
    • farcical plots
    • unnatural dialogue
    • demonstrative acting
  • 20. What’s wrong with this?
    • farcical plots
    • unnatural dialogue
    • demonstrative acting
    • studio shoot
  • 21. What’s wrong with this?
    • farcical plots
    • unnatural dialogue
    • demonstrative acting
    • studio shoot
    • cosiness
  • 22. (A word about darkness)
  • 23. (A word about darkness) … and back to the list
  • 24. What’s wrong with this?
    • farcical plots
    • unnatural dialogue
    • demonstrative acting
    • studio shoot
    • cosiness
    • audience laughter
  • 25. The magic formula:
  • 26. The magic formula:
    • nothing happens
  • 27. The magic formula:
    • nothing happens
    • no jokes
  • 28. The magic formula:
    • nothing happens
    • no jokes
    • mumbling
  • 29. The magic formula:
    • nothing happens
    • no jokes
    • mumbling
    • hand-held
  • 30. The magic formula:
    • nothing happens
    • no jokes
    • mumbling
    • hand-held
    • cruelty
  • 31. The magic formula:
    • nothing happens
    • no jokes
    • mumbling
    • hand-held
    • cruelty
    • no audience
  • 32. In other words…
  • 33. In other words…
  • 34. In other words… real life
  • 35. In other words… real life boring
  • 36. Real life isn’t funny
  • 37. Real life isn’t funny 80-90% of laughs follow:
    • “ I know.”
    • “ I’ll see you guys later.”
  • 38. Why the stigma against being funny?
  • 39. Why the stigma against being funny?
  • 40. Why the stigma against being funny?
  • 41. The Origin Of The Species
    • music hall
    • farce
    • radio
  • 42. Technology has changed the possibilities
    • portable cameras
    • multiple channels
    • digital editing
  • 43. Technology has changed the possibilities
  • 44. Technology has changed the possibilities
  • 45. But it is not evolution music radio traditional modern hall sitcom comedy
  • 46. Different styles
  • 47. Different clusters of styles dark naturalistic niche multi- camera hand-held edgy experimental farcical audience laughter studio warm demonstrative familiar linear
  • 48. Pick the bits that fit dark naturalistic niche multi- camera hand-held edgy experimental farcical audience laughter studio warm demonstrative familiar linear
  • 49. Pick the bits that fit experimental
  • 50. Pick the bits that fit
  • 51. Crawford Park: the page
  • 52. Crawford Park: the stage
  • 53. Get the audience laughter right…
  • 54. Get the audience laughter right… … and you don’t hear it.
  • 55. Get the audience laughter right… … and you don’t hear it.
  • 56. Get the audience laughter right… … and you don’t hear it.
  • 57. Get the audience laughter right… … and you don’t hear it.
  • 58. Get the audience laughter right… “ A lot of people said that we didn't have a laughter track. We went through this bizarre ritual of saying: ‘But it did!’ And they would say: ‘No it didn't!’ And we'd say: ‘Well it did!’” --Armando Iannucci
  • 59. The fashion changed.
  • 60. The fashion changed. Also out of fashion: PUNS.
  • 61. The fashion changed. Also out of fashion: PUNS. An example pun:
  • 62. The fashion changed. Also out of fashion: PUNS. An example pun: Q: According to Freud, what comes between fear and sex?
  • 63. The fashion changed. Also out of fashion: PUNS. An example pun: Q: According to Freud, what comes between fear and sex? A: Fünf.
  • 64. The fashion changed.
  • 65. The fashion changed. hymns hers Mars Pa’s Bars Bars
  • 66. The fashion changed. It will change again.
  • 67. The fashion changed. It will change again. But slowly.
  • 68. The fashion changed. It will change again. But slowly. Why?
  • 69. Second guessing writers
  • 70. Second guessing writers audiences
  • 71. Second guessing writers audiences fashion
  • 72. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers
  • 73. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers
  • 74. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers
  • 75. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors
  • 76. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors
  • 77. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors schedulers
  • 78. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors schedulers
  • 79. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors schedulers channel controllers
  • 80. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors schedulers channel controllers
  • 81. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors schedulers channel controllers critics
  • 82. Second guessing writers audiences fashion producers commissioning editors schedulers channel controllers critics
  • 83. Who loses out? audiences
  • 84. Who loses out? audiences
  • 85. A writer wants:
  • 86. A writer wants:
  • 87. A writer wants:
  • 88. What makes your peers laugh…
  • 89. What makes your peers laugh…
  • 90. … is not what makes the audience laugh.
  • 91. … is not what makes the audience laugh.
  • 92. A neurobiologist has a formula: ((R x D + V) x F) + S A
  • 93. A neurobiologist has a formula: ((R x D + V) x F) + S A where
  • 94. A neurobiologist has a formula: ((R x D + V) x F) + S A where R = recognisability of main character D = delusions of grandeur V = verbal wit F = n o of times characters fall over S = difference in status between characters A = success of characters’ stratagems
  • 95. A neurobiologist has a formula: nonsense
  • 96. The range of sitcom is so broad…
  • 97. The range of sitcom is so broad… … some don’t even have any jokes.
  • 98. The range of sitcom is so broad… … some don’t even have any jokes.
  • 99. The range of sitcom is so broad… … some don’t even have any jokes.
  • 100. The range of sitcom is so broad… Nighty Night
  • 101. The range of sitcom is so broad… Nighty Night The Thick Of It
  • 102. The range of sitcom is so broad… Nighty Night The Thick Of It (down here is not okay)
  • 103. Jokes can be hidden…
  • 104. Jokes can be hidden…
  • 105. Playing with the timeline:
  • 106. Playing with the timeline:
  • 107. Playing with the timeline:
  • 108. Playing with the timeline:
  • 109. Playing with the timeline: … when it’s right for the story.
  • 110. Mixing and matching:
    • The Japanese businessman
    • The long-suffering wife
    • The sofa
    • The dreadful dénouement
  • 111. Mixing and matching:
  • 112. Mixing and matching:
    • Fulfill commissioners’ need to be “modern” &/or “edgy”
  • 113. Mixing and matching:
    • Fulfill commissioners’ need to be “modern” &/or “edgy”
    • Fit the budget
  • 114. Mixing and matching:
    • Fulfill commissioners’ need to be “modern” &/or “edgy”
    • Fit the budget
    • Fit the tone
  • 115. Mixing and matching:
    • Fulfill commissioners’ need to be “modern” &/or “edgy”
    • Fit the budget
    • Fit the tone
    • Funny
  • 116.
    • Funny
    IMPORTANT
  • 117.
    • Funny
    IMPORTANT Danke Schön!
  • 118.
    • SOURCES
    • The Word Season 5 Episode ? [Channel Four, 1995]
    • "Wild Rabbit" photo by Joshua Davis [cc licence on Flickr ]
    • Terry And June Season 3 Episode 3 [BBC1, 1981]
    • Father Ted Season 2 Episode 6 [Channel Four, 1996]
    • Respectable Season 1 Episodes 1& 6 [Five/Paramount, 2006]
    • Monkey Dust Season 3 Episode 1 [BBC3, 2005]
    • Laughter: A Scientific Investigation [Robert R. Provine, Faber, 2000]
    • Imagine: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Studio
    • [BBC1, 2006]
    • "Drury Lane Theatre" engraving by Isaac Taylor
    • [RCM Centre for Performance History, 88E2]
    • Fawlty Towers Season 1 Episode 5 [BBC1, 1975]
    • Extras Season 2 Episode 4 [BBC2, 2006]
    • Crawford Park pilot [Pozzitive Productions, 2007]
    • Heresy Show 4 [BBC Radio 4, 2004]
    • The Two Ronnies Series 8 [BBC1, 1971]
    • "Del Boy is top of the class, say sitcom scientists"
    • [The Guardian, June 7, 2005]
    • The Thick Of It New Year Special [BBC4, 2007]
    • Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Popular Culture Is
    • Making Us Smarter [Steven Johnson, Allen Lane, 2005]