Meeting 4 - David Lavery

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Meeting 4 - David Lavery Powered By Docstoc
					        ENGL 6650/7650:
Special Topics in Popular Culture

     Cult Television

        Spring 2011
       Room: PH 308
Day/Time: Tuesday, 600-900 pm

                           Cult Television
Cult Television
2/8/11 | Week 4
Cult TV Series of the Week:
British Cult Comedy
[Absolutely Fabulous,
Blackadder, Black Books, Father
Ted, The League of Gentlemen,
Little Britain, Monty Python’s
Flying Circus, Red Dwarf,
Shameless, Spaced]
Required Reading: Amy-Chinn,
ECTVR 208; Hunt, ECTVR, 134;
Karpovich, ECTVR 7; Landy,
ECTVR 166 Recommended
Reading: TBA
Special Topics/Readings: The
Cult of Cult TV?—Fiddy (225)

         Cult Television
Comedy Theory
 Notoriously incomplete and lacking in definitive
answers. May well be a “fourth tray”* phenomenon.
 Plessner’s thesis in Laughing and Crying.

* “A Civil Servant used to keep four trays on his desk to
put his papers in. The first was marked Incoming, the           Helmuth
second Outgoing, the third Pending, and the fourth Too      Plessner, author
difficult.”--Owen Barfield                                  of Laughing and
Comedy Theory
Three basic camps
  •Superiority--laughter reinforces social power.
  •Incongruity--humor the result of the “clash of incompatible
  •Relief--the comic as a vent for repression.
Key Questions:
  •Do we laugh at or with?
  •Is comedy innately subversive?
  •Is comedy congenitally
  offensive/politically incorrect?
  •What is the connection between
  the body and the comic?
Henri Bergson
“Life is a comedy to those who
think, a tragedy to those who
--Horace Walpole, 18th Century
Comedy on TV
 Sketch Comedy
 Animation/Adult Animation
 Comedy in other genres: talk shows, fake
news, drama, advertising, etc.
The Sitcom
A comedic television genre
(originating in radio), ordinarily 30
minutes in length, in which a
group of characters, related by
family, a workplace, or as friends,
exhibiting little or no development     Sitcom Traits
as individuals, encounters and           Exportable and seemingly
seeks to resolve on a weekly basis      universal in appeal;
a situation (or situations) in which
                                          Tolerant of commercial
they find themselves embroiled.         interruptions;
Sitcoms on American television are
often accompanied by laugh                Dependent on gags, slapstick, and
                                         Episodic but customarily without
                                         Often the site of controversy
The Sitcom
 Workplace (think The Office)
 Family (think The Simpsons)
 Friend Families (think Seinfeld,
 Unruly Woman (think Roseanne)
 Gay and Lesbian (think Will & Grace)
The sitcom is one of
the most popular and
yet least studied
television genres. Like
the late/great Rodney
Dangerfield, it “can’t
get no respect.”

                          Studying TV
The Laugh Track
 The result, in part, of the production practice of taping before a live
 Use of older laughter on American shows.
 “Make me funnier here”--in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.
Laughter on American television has taken the place
of the chorus in Greek tragedy. It is unrelenting; the
news, the stock exchange reports, and the weather
forecast are about the only things spared. But so
obsessive is it that you go on hearing it behind the
voice of Reagan or the Marines disaster in Beirut.
Even behind the adverts. It is the monster from Alien
prowling around in all the corridors of the spaceship. it
is the sarcastic exhilaration of a puritan culture. In
other countries the business of laughing is left to the
viewers. here, their laughter is put on the screen,
integrated into the show. It is the screen that is
laughing and having a good time. You are simply left
alone with your consternation. (49)
UK Television
BBC: The Mothership
BBC2, BBC3, BBC4: Boutiquish spin-offs
BBC Wales: A regional branch of the BBC which
rebooted Doctor Who and Life on Mars (among others)
Channel 4: An independent known for its arts
programing; a frequent producer of independent British
ITV: Sir Lewis Grade’s more mainsteam independent
channel—gave us The Prisoner
 British vs. American Humor

Someone once wrote a
definition of the difference
between English and American
humor. . . . He said that the
English treat the commonplace
as if it were remarkable and the
Americans treat the remarkable
as if it were commonplace.
--James Thurber
What makes comedy cult?
Absolutely Fabulous
(BBC, 1992-1996, 2001, 2004).
Created by Jennifer Saunders

                                Cult Television
Blackadder (BBC,
1983-1989). Created by
Richard Curtis (l) &
Rowan Atkinson (r).

       Cult Television
Black Books (Channel
4, 2000-2004). Created by
Dylan Moran (l) and Graham
Linehan (r).

     Cult Television
Extras (BBC, 2005-
2007). Created by Ricky
Gervais (l) and Stephen
Merchant (r).

     Cult Television
Fawlty Towers
(BBC2, 1975-1979).
Created by John Cleese
(l) and Connie Booth (r).

     Cult Television
Father Ted (Channel
4, 1995-1998). Created
by Graham Linehan (l) &
Arthur Mathews (r)

     Cult Television
The League of
Gentlemen (BBC Two,
1999-2002). Created by Mark
Gatiss (l) & Jeremy Dyson (r)
(pictured) Steve Pemberton,
Reece Searsmith.

                                Cult Television
Cult Television
Cult Television
Little Britain (BBC
Three and One, 2003-
2006). Created by David
Walliams (l) and Matt
Lucas (r).

       Cult Television
Monty Python’s
Flying Circus
(BBC1, 1969-1973; BBC2
(1974). Created by John
Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael
Palin, Terry Jones, Terry
Gilliam, Graham

        Cult Television
Monty Python’s
Flying Circus

    Cult Television
The Office (BBC,
2001-2003). Created by
Ricky Gervais (l) and
Stephen Merchant (r).

     Cult Television
Red Dwarf (BBC
Two, 1998-99). Created
by Grant Naylor (Rob
Grant [above] and Doug
Naylor [below]).

                         Cult Television
Shameless (Channel
4, 2004- ). Created by
Paul Abbott (pictured)

       Cult Television
Spaced (Channel 4,
1999-2001). Created by
Simon Pegg and Jessica
Hynes (pictured)

       Cult Television

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