Monday, December 12, 2016

TV shows - comedies

Following on from last week’s TV drama reviews, here are some of the comedy ones we have enjoyed over the last 10 years or so.

Outnumbered (BBC).  
Charting the lives of the ­­­Brockman family – parents Pete and Sue with kids Jake, Ben & Karen, this is a funny and somewhat too close to the bone look at family life and parenting.   In fact, we know people who can’t watch this because it feels like a documentary of their lives!    Apparently much of it was unscripted, with the adult actors having to interact with the way the kids took to the direction of it.    It’s clever, humorous and realistic.    Many of the storylines are relatively mundane, yet that adds to the reality of it – the getting ready for school, dealing with kids at the end of the day, worries about aging parents and other extended family.   There are 5 seasons with extra Christmas editions, with apparently a new Christmas edition coming out this year.

Upper Middle Bogan (ABC). 
Three seasons of eight episodes, these are set in Melbourne.   Bess has grown up in upper class Melbourne, privately educated, attending the ballet and is now an doctor, married to an architect with twin teenagers.   Upon analysing the blood tests of her mother is hospital, she discovers she was adopted.  Her birth parents – Wayne & Julie – gave her up having fallen pregnant as teenagers, yet they are still together and have 3 more children, and the whole family are key competitors in drag racing.   It’s a very funny view of 2 disparate parts of Australian society, and while poking fun at both equally, the overall message is the strength of family and how both families learn to love and appreciate each other in all their differences.  We laughed out loud at many scenes.  The first season was the strongest, after a while there are probably only so make jokes you can make out of the concept!   There is a fair bit of swearing, but it does fit in.   Season 3 is currently showing. although we decided to skip it.

I used to watch this in my 20s and rediscovered it on Stan when we had it free for 6 months.    Running for 11 seasons (1993-2004), it charted the life of psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer in a character developed in the sitcom Cheers) as he moves back to his hometown Seattle after a divorce. His crotchety father Martin, injured in duty as a police officer, has to come and live with him.  Joining them is Martin’s live-in physical therapist and carer, the lovely Daphne.   His brother Niles, also a psychiatrist and trapped in a miserable marriage to the never-seen Maris, falls completely for Daphne although never reveals it.    Frasier’s radio show producer Roz becomes a firm friend.   There are parts that grate, mostly Frasier’s never ending search for love, but generally it’s great fun.  The Crane boys are polished, grand and intellectual, and their sports-loving father despairs for them.   It’s a good show about family and friendship, and I find it very funny.

As Time Goes By
This old BBC series from the 1992-2005 tells the story of Jean (Judy Dench) and Lionel (Geoffrey Palmer).  They first met in their early 20s in the 1953s, had a loving relationship, but Lionel was posted to Korea.  Due to the vagaries of the postal service, a key letter between them was lost.  No one had the courage to write to the other to check what had happened and so they never met again.   Fast forward 38 years, Jean is widowed with an adult daughter Judy, and Lionel is divorced.   Circumstances put them across each other’s paths again and friendship, followed by love, is slowly re-established.  There are 9 seasons, which I have enjoyed watching on my annual trips away by myself.   It’s slow moving and some of the extra characters can be grating at times (eg. Alistair), but I liked the story and the interactions between Jean and Lionel are lovely.   I enjoyed the insight into love in later life. 

Funny, clever and pokes fun at spy shows along the way.  I saw an apt description which was: 24 meets Get Smart.   Average computer geek Chuck receives an email from an old college friend which downloads into his brain top-secret CIA information.  All of a sudden he is of high level importance  to the CIA requiring two agents as handlers, and of interest to every other organisation who wants the info.  We really liked this series, at it has lots of action, is able to laugh at itself and the whole spy genre, and has likeable characters.  Like many people, we thought the final season was the low point - it got to a whole other level of ridiculous - but it was pretty good for most of it!

How I Met Your Mother
Based on the premise of a man telling his kids the story of how he met their mother, this was a funny, light-hearted comedy that spanned 9 seasons.   It rotates around the life of Ted Mosby (the dad telling the story), his best friend Marshall and his life-long love Lily, their good friend Robyn and the womanising Barney.  My main disappointment with this show was Barney’s crassness and attitude towards women, it was too repugnant.

Throughout almost the entire show, you do not actually know who their mother is – the story keeps teasing up to how he met her, and at some points you are wondering if you are ever going to meet her.   The real story is the interactions of these 5 friends; their ups and downs in life and love.   Everything comes to a head in the final season.  We really liked the ending and thought it reflected the rest of the show, others we know disagreed!  

Big Bang Theory
Now in its 9th season to date, this charts the lives and loves of four men – all very intelligent, nerdy scientists: Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj.  In the early seasons, all are single and three of them desperately want a woman in their life.  With more than enough PhDs between them all, as well as detailed knowledge about comics, Star Wars, Star Trek and all things science – they are all clueless when it comes to women and relationships.   Actress Penny moves in across the hall from Leonard and Sheldon, Leonard falls immediately and completely in love, and here unfold the various comedy sketches based around their nerdy intelligence and her more worldly, less educated life.   Later on Howard meets Bernadette, a highly successful microbiologist.  Even Sheldon, a genius and the least emotionally intelligent of them all, makes a friend in Amy, a neurobiologist.   It is a very funny, very clever show.    
Modern Family
When this started six years ago I wrote about it then.   It has been a show we have come to really enjoy.  Based around 3 families, all related to each other, it has funny, realistic interactions within family units and then across the extended family.   Representing a nuclear mom & dad with three kids, an older man remarried with a stepson and later their own son; and a gay couple with their adopted daughter, it hits all sorts of buttons.   This one (and The Big Bang Theory) are the two shows that regularly make me laugh out loud.    And really, that’s what we often enjoy at the end of the day!

Now, we’ve decided it’s time to revisit Scrubs.

After all that light-hearted fun – it’s time for a holiday break.

See you again in 2017.

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