Do good comedies have to be about losers?

Linebaugh

Well-known member
Alot of new American comedy is still right in the Friends mold, but the archetypes have changed. Now the losers are tragically hip, having reappropriated the coastal city liberal stereotype as a point of pride. They live in New York, go to art shows, do club drugs, have wacky run ins on dating apps. And of course are well aware of being said stereotype. ties into Corpsey's helpless automation thought. And like Friends you would still like to be apart of their social circle despite theirs flaws
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Here in Portugal we get (in terms of American stuff); Goldbergs (kinda losers - though let's be fair, probably not in the sense that I meant - but with a cutesy thing that means they kinda come good at the end of each episode), Modern Family (I just can't get through an episode to tell you), Family Guy and American Dad (I can't believe that he gets away with selling this thing as two different programmes, especially when they are so bad - to me these don't really qualify as sit-coms, just loads of failed attempts at jokes strung together with some irrelevant cartoon pics scrolling past in front of them), Brooklyn 99 (I guess not really losers - but is it good?), Superstore (which I'm actually watching right now and have a weird soft-spot for... definitely about losers though), Two Broke Girls (ok obviously about losers, but the real question here is how does this kind of stuff get made? How does someone say "this is a good idea" and then someone agrees with them and they take it to someone else and they get actors and everything to all meet in the same room and actually film. How is it possible that this kind of dross gets through all the hurdles in the road from concept to realisation and then survives all of them and then several episodes (even series?) get made and it gets put where people can see it and then someone else buys it and takes it to Portugal to inflict on us? There were so many chances to stop it and no-one took any of them - why not?).

But all of the above are very middle of the road stuff. Now I think about it, I suppose I'm trying to talk about things that are at least sort of good. I might not like them but someone somewhere at least thinks they are pretty good. I mean, surely it's not possible that there is anyone in the world who thinks that Two Broke Girls is good? So I suppose I'm more interested in talking about worthwhile shows, not just something that someone just created in their lunch break to fill in a little gap in the schedule. I'm interested in stuff that people (at least the ones who made it) care about.

So, moving on to the more... I dunno, modern, cutting edge even, there is one called High Maintenance about a drug dealer (cos, he maintains your high, get it?), I think I talked about that before on here - it's interesting in that it just feels like such post-modern telly - story lines not finished, important things (if it is possible for anything to be important in a world where no-one cares about anything) happening off screen, totally disengaged and unfeeling twenty somethings. Is it good, is it about losers? Shrug.
 

WashYourHands

Well-known member
Very true.

Never watched Shameless in any depth to compare the US remake, but US comedy seems to riff on aspiration, while British humour seems to lean on the indignities of stifled enjoyment and despair. Camping (the UK version was fun). Ketamine sex, everyone despising their relatives and friends. All trying to get along and failing. Didn't go near the US remake. Nighty Night played the loser as a sociopathic beautician, who through sheer perversion makes everyone else lose too. You can't imagine those jams originating in the US and i'm far from anti-American.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
I actually saw a clip from their version of Shameless for the first time the other week. It was bizarre. This ordinary looking guy turned up late to a college class, blagged his way through the back and forth with the teacher then they ended up fucking in her office. Maybe that happens in the UK version too, but I doubt it happens in quite the same way, if it does at all.

 

IdleRich

IdleRich
What's more American than ripping someone off?
That seems a little unfair. There has been a notable rise in angle-US hostilities on the board of late with a number of new posters arriving from the States. A few little digs from our regular posters - although the insurgents seem able to suck it up and hold their own - not that surprising I guess when you think about how, when the countries did fight together as in Iraq, so-called "friendly fire" did for more British soldiers than the Iraqis ever managed.
Anyway, that's by-the-by, I feel that in the interests of fairness, I should say that, as far as I'm aware, copying things is not a trait particularly associated with the US and so I don't register a palpable hit here. Or am I just ignorant?
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Very true.

Never watched Shameless in any depth to compare the US remake, but US comedy seems to riff on aspiration, while British humour seems to lean on the indignities of stifled enjoyment and despair. Camping (the UK version was fun). Ketamine sex, everyone despising their relatives and friends. All trying to get along and failing. Didn't go near the US remake. Nighty Night played the loser as a sociopathic beautician, who through sheer perversion makes everyone else lose too. You can't imagine those jams originating in the US and i'm far from anti-American.
But these aren't really rip-offs are they? I thought these are shows where someone in the US has seen it, liked it and deemed that it could work as long as it was given a bit of a tweak. In the case of Shameless at least (I didn't know a remake of Camping existed- that seems totally bizarre to me) didn't they get the original writer to Americanise it himself?
Like Version I've not seen more than the odd episode from the UK one, but they showed the re-make here and I watched quite a lot of it. I actually really like it although it's kinda weird that they made everyone super hot models with a bit of rough hair and clothing to hide it. That made it easy on the eye to watch but was pretty poor as an artistic decision... but either way, I don't think a re-make with the original creator sitting happily at the helm can be characterised as a rip-off.



vs



For instance.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
What's she called the woman who does Camping and Nighty Night? I'm not sure about them - seems to try too hard too often, leaving you with the feeling that much of it is very contrived. I would compare it to older shows that set up these ridiculous slapstick situations which would never happen, but the pay-off is supposed to be so funny that you forget about how staged the build up was (eg Last of the Summer Wine). I feel that Camping is sort of like that but it's setting up something really disgusting and cringeworthy - and so of course unlike the old man in the bath, it's about bodily fluids and cancer or something that's much more "edgy" and original regardless of the old-fashioned nature of the way it's done. . Of course there is the odd moment that works but too much of it seemed to fall flat for me.
Same with Fleabag, I can see that it's trying to do something different and that's commendable I guess but for me most of the jokes didn't really land. Well, we made it to the end of the first series and it was a bit of a struggle, but after that when all the press went absolutely fucking bananas for her - and that's not her fault, that should not prejudice me either way, except that the second series felt as though that had gone too much to her head and she'd begun to believe her own hype. We started watching the second series anyway, and there were so many moments in the first episode where she turns to the camera and says something and she just seemed so horribly smug as she did that, delivering lines that weren't that funny - I don't mean they were terribly bad either - and the odd mediocre line wouldn't have mattered that much, but she said them as though she thought she was revealing the fucking ten commandments of comedy that she'd brought back from God or something, it really grated. We made it almost to the end of the first episode I believe before it became too much and then we turned it off, I think I probably intended to give it another chance at a later date, whereas for my girlfriend, at that point it was totally and irredeemably dead... but to be honest I never did turn it back on and I can't say that I really feel as though I missed out.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
I don't think comedy has to be about "losers" specifically - more generally there has to be some kind of distance between desire and reality

and there's more comedic potential the greater that distance is

losers specifically depends on your definition of a loser, otherwise it can be expansively defined to include any comedy protagonist

look at The Cosby Show (leave aside the personal awfulness of Bill Cosby)

a sitcom about a family that personifies black excellence - the comedy is still about the distance between what Bill wants and what actually is

Bill wants to eat [x unhealthy food] his wife doesn't want him to, he does it behind her back, he gets caught, kind of thing

comedy from people who seem to have everything just inspires envy

i.e. Roger Sterling on Mad Men - he's often very funny to the audience because we know how much of a fucking mess his life actually is

and how he uses humor as a means of psychic defense

but the people around him he just comes off like a rich manchild prince smirking down at everything and everyone
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
or as people have talked about, Americans didn't really get irony at the mass culture level until America's self-image had been sufficiently punctured

(white Americans anyway -excluding Jews in this case - always have to make that disclaimer)

whether that was Vietnam, the repeated horrorshows of the last 20 years, or whatever

enough to discern that distance between self-image and reality
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I don't think comedy has to be about "losers" specifically - more generally there has to be some kind of distance between desire and reality
and there's more comedic potential the greater that distance is
I think that's roughly what I was saying with Larry David isn't it? That he is a billionaire who wrote the most successful sitcom of all time and yet we have to accept that he is constantly unhappy because of his social failures and the like.
Also, it's not that I'm asserting that all good comedies have to be about losers, I'm wondering if they have to be. And I suppose that I should admit to myself, I'm hoping that the answer is no. I'm not sure if that was the case when I started the thread, or if it's just been pulled out of me by thoughtful answers that have got me thinking.
 

WashYourHands

Well-known member
What's she called the woman who does Camping and Nighty Night? I'm not sure about them - seems to try too hard too often, leaving you with the feeling that much of it is very contrived. I would compare it to older shows that set up these ridiculous slapstick situations which would never happen, but the pay-off is supposed to be so funny that you forget about how staged the build up was (eg Last of the Summer Wine). I feel that Camping is sort of like that but it's setting up something really disgusting and cringeworthy - and so of course unlike the old man in the bath, it's about bodily fluids and cancer or something that's much more "edgy" and original regardless of the old-fashioned nature of the way it's done. . Of course there is the odd moment that works but too much of it seemed to fall flat for me.
Same with Fleabag, I can see that it's trying to do something different and that's commendable I guess but for me most of the jokes didn't really land. Well, we made it to the end of the first series and it was a bit of a struggle, but after that when all the press went absolutely fucking bananas for her - and that's not her fault, that should not prejudice me either way, except that the second series felt as though that had gone too much to her head and she'd begun to believe her own hype. We started watching the second series anyway, and there were so many moments in the first episode where she turns to the camera and says something and she just seemed so horribly smug as she did that, delivering lines that weren't that funny - I don't mean they were terribly bad either - and the odd mediocre line wouldn't have mattered that much, but she said them as though she thought she was revealing the fucking ten commandments of comedy that she'd brought back from God or something, it really grated. We made it almost to the end of the first episode I believe before it became too much and then we turned it off, I think I probably intended to give it another chance at a later date, whereas for my girlfriend, at that point it was totally and irredeemably dead... but to be honest I never did turn it back on and I can't say that I really feel as though I missed out.
Couldn’t (personally) compare Julia Davis to that grating Fleabag bollocks. Have you seen Hunderby?

Chris Morris spewed out a batch of good gear and performers. This sketch alone is an all time favourite for
ich nichten lichten

 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Couldn’t (personally) compare Julia Davis to that grating Fleabag bollocks. Have you seen Hunderby?

Chris Morris spewed out a batch of good gear and performers. This sketch alone is an all time favourite for
ich nichten lichten

I don't think Julia Davis and Fleabag are similar in what they do - it's just that I find both of those shows - Fleabag and Camping - give off an aura of trying too hard, and also they are kind of critical darlings where it feels as though an order has gone out for them to always get good reviews, even on the occasions where they misfire.
Strangely, Hunderby is on telly here sometimes - I've seen bits of it, but I think (correct me if I'm wrong) that it has an overall story arc and so, when I have caught the odd episode I've not really known what's going on, who's who and suchlike and as many of the jokes depend on the plot I've not really been in a position to know if it is good or not.
But do you know what I mean about the hype with Fleabag? It was insane. Everywhere there were all these articles about how it and she were the greatest things that ever existed. In the Guardian particularly it was on overwhelming barrage of Fleabag articles coming at you at high velocity from all directions, they found new ways to crowbar it into every article no matter what the topic. No tv programme could ever live up to that hype - it was just not possible for it to not be a crushing disappointment. It became an actual joke where I began to wonder if journalists or editors were involved in some kind of weird game of one-upmanship, taking the piss to see how many articles of increasng ridiculous they could cram into the paper.
I could have even felt sorry for PWB but - fair play to her - shes either has a supreme self-confidence that allowed her to deal with it, or she is a good enough actor tos simply project that. The hysteria around her was absolutely mental though - I've not seen anything quite so laser-focused on one person/show like that in all my life. I think it crossed a line though when they actually made it against the law to critcise Fleabag, then (a much greater stretch) they told everyone to pretend Killing Eve was good and, it worked, cos next thing she's been promoted to writing James Bond - at least that will put a few noses out of joint.
 

WashYourHands

Well-known member
Yes Hunderby isn’t stand alone episodes, viciously funny arc over 2 seasons but I can see people getting irritated by it. Kind of bonnet porn pisstaking. Sexually repressed types, small cast.

Fleabag seemed very Guardian. Feminist sexuality. Fucking a priest. Weird family tensions (this is where Camping shined more brightly imho because of V Pepperdine). The only scene in Fleabag where I chuckled was the old fella fucking her wheezing out “you’re so young” with each thrust. Hype overall though. Killing Eve I used as excuse to play records while my wife put her feet up. You’ve got to pick your battles there.
 
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