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...a sweatshop of moxie

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Seinfelding British Television

So I watched Murder at the Vicarage tonight as mentioned, and when over, left it very downhearted.

I find repellant this trend on British telly to be "modern" in acting, to attack weighty topics, rather than the traditionally detailed, gloriously dated and marvellously silly performances we all remember as one of the wonders of modern TV.

Let me give you an example.

During the Golden Age of British television (the 1970's, a full 20 years after the US Golden Age of the 1950's), there was a distinct STYLE and essence to British comedies, dramas, detective shows, and soap operas. Even sport programming had a special tone, feel and look to it.

You saw Dad's Army, you knew it was inimitable. You watched Brideshead Revisited *, you left away breathless with awe. You giggled at the Carry On series, even though it was so hammy it hurt.

This era of classically trained actors whose personal mannerisms and inflections added to productions lasted, IMHO, until Coupling came along in 2000.

And basically Coupling is a lame British attempt at Seinfelding sitcoms.

You know what I mean -- the rattatat of cutesy patter instead of suggestive repartée or pretensionless piss-taking, the keynote of all great British television series.

Broad comedy is now replaced by attempts at long drawn-out life observations. Crime drama is replaced by societal monologues. Detective shows are full of sleuths searching for their inner child. Veiled sensuality or the wink-nudge-nudge of sexually infused camp (a mainstay of British culture) is gone, replaced by serious sex talk.


This is basically what they have done to Miss Marple, starring my delectable but horribly aged Geraldine McEwan (poor thing, she was recently widowed).

The new Miss Marple

The one thing I note hasn't changed, and has not been Americanised, is that American penchant to have every actor look as if they are suspended before reaching the age of 40.

This gives American television and cinema today a preternatural youthfulness that simply doesn't lend itself to period pieces, and this is why Americans rarely do period pieces successfully anymore -- and I fear this might be the case for England, if these other trends continue.

As Gloria Swanson observed in Norma Desmondish pomposity, "We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!".

Where oh where have the Lionel Barrymores and Marie Dresslers gone...I'd give anything to see a curmudgeon rasp out a line, insted of another monologue about Steve's dating woes.


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