Press "Enter" to skip to content

Tag: TV

Panto to Python – a history of British Comedy

“The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created.  This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”  Thus begins Douglas Adams’ Restaurant at the End of the Universe, sequel to his culture touchstone The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  That’s the book that gave us the answer to life, the universe and everything, though not the question. Welcome to episode number 42, which I have decided to devote to [drumroll] the history of British comedy.  That means we’re going to try to cram hundreds of years, thousands of performers, and a dozen mediums into a half-hour show. But don’t panic. 

 

British comedy history is measured in centuries, from chase scenes and beatings into Shakespeare’s comedies to the misadventures of Mr. Bean.  Even as times, tastes, and technologies changes, some themes are eternal.  Innuendo, for example, has been a staple in the literature as far back as Beowulf and Chaucer, and is prevalent in many British folk songs.  King Charles II was such a fan of innuendo that he encouraged it to the point that Restoration comedy became not only its own genre, but an explicit one at that.  The repressive Victorian period gave us burlesque, though not in the same form as the shows you can see today – more vaudeville than striptease. Absurdism and the surreal had always been an undercurrent, which firmly took root in the 1950’s, leading Red Dwarf, The Mighty Boosh, and Count Duckula.  Though the British Empire successfully conquered ¼ of the globe, but its individual people struggled and suffered. Plagues, wars, poverty, class oppression, and filthy cities gave rise to, and a need for, black humor, in which topics and events that are usually treated seriously are treated in a humorous or satirical manner.  The class system, especially class tensions between characters, with pompous or dim-witted members of the upper/middle classes or embarrassingly blatant social climbers, has always provided ample material, which we can see in modern shows like Absolutely Fabulous, Keeping Up Appearances, and Blackadder. The British also value finding humor in everyday life, which we see in shows like Father Ted, The IT Crowd, and Spaced, which also incorporates a fair amount of absurdity.

Words You Can’t Say On TV Or Radio, with JoChristie

Hollywood in the 1920s was haunted by a number of scandals, like the murder of director William Desmond Taylor and alleged fatal sexual assault by movie star “Fatty” Arbuckle, which brought widespread condemnation from religious, civic, and political organizations.  Political pressure was increasing, with legislators in 37 states introducing almost one hundred movie censorship bills in 1921. Faced with the prospect of having to comply with hundreds of local decency laws in order to show their movies, the studios chose self-regulation by way of a single church official.  

The movie studios enlisted Presbyterian elder Will H. Hays to rehabilitate Hollywood’s image.  Hays, Postmaster General under Warren G. Harding and former head of the Republican National Committee, was paid a lavish sum equivalent to $1.4 million in today’s money inflation.  He served for 25 years as president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), where he “defended the industry from attacks, recited soothing nostrums, and negotiated treaties to cease hostilities.”  The move mimicked the decision Major League Baseball had made in hiring judge Kenesaw Landis as League Commissioner the previous year to quell questions about the integrity of baseball in the wake of the 1919 World Series gambling scandal.  That was the one you might have seen dramatized in the 1988 movie Eight Men Out.

Short-lived, Long-remembered, with Based On A True Story podcast

Special guest: Dan LeFebvre from Based On A True Story podcast.

There are some musicians that leave an enduring legacy through long and storied careers, like the Rolling Stones, who formed in 1962 and swear 2018 for be their final year touring, for real this time.  There are actors who are iconic because they have been on our TV’s or the silver screen for decades, like Sean Connery, James Earl Jones, and our beloved Betty White. But by the same token, there are musicians, actors, and shows that are like a stone dropped in a pond — their appearance was brief, but their ripples continue to this day.

For years and years, if a music journalist wanted to compliment a guitar player, they would do it by likening them to Jimi Hendrix.  That practice continues to this day, even though Hendrix only recorded from 1967 until his death in 1970. Jimi Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix (later changed by his father to James Marshall) on November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington.  He had a difficult childhood, sometimes living in the care of relatives or acquaintances. He and his brothers were estranged from their mother, who had had Jimi when she was seventeen and died at age thirty three. 

Science Fiction Double Feature

My father was a sci-fi fan of the old school.  The man had the entire original Star Trek series on VHS, commercial free, and an Enterprise technical manual.  So in his honor, a little late for Father’s Day, we go back in time to look to the future as we dive into the wormhole of classic sci-fi.

As the spike in sales of neckties and golf-themed tchotchkes tells us, last Sunday was Father’s Day, and no, it’s not the day that sees the most collect calls all year. For one thing, it’s not 1987; who still makes collect calls? Where do you even find a payphone? My own father, who’s gone on before, was a sci-fi fan of the old school, bred to the bone. My mother would buy him grocery bags of pulp paperbacks as gifts. The man had the entire original Star Trek series on VHS, commercial free, and an Enterprise technical manual. [nerd!] So in his honor, today’s episode goes back in time to look to the future as we dive into the wormhole of classic sci-fi. My name’s Moxie and this is your brain on facts.

First off, and this is often a point of contention, we need to establish what we’re talking about when we say “sci-fi.” We’re not going to haul out the Merriam-Webster for this. There is some wiggle room and a fair amount of contention here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a list of top however-many sci-fi whatevers only to kvetch out-loud, “That’s barely even fantasy, let alone sci-fi” or “Just because it’s set in the future doesn’t make it sci-fi. Philistines.” Whether a work draws on existing science and technology to extrapolate what we might see in future generations, what is known as ‘hard sci-fi,’ or the author goes ‘laser guns, pew pew,” [sfx] a key requirement for science fiction is that it be speculative. If it’s worth its salt, its focus will be how we as humans will interact with and react to this proposed environment, its trappings and its other occupants. Even though there’s a lot of overlap in the fan bases and, as Arthur C. Clarke said, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” we’re going to eschew the sword & sorcery genre of fantasy and even science-fantasy for right now. Likewise, we probably won’t get into more recent sub-genres like cyberpunk and slip-stream today. We’ve also going to skip over some of the better-known authors because they’re, well, better-known. But that’s okay, because we have a LOT of talk about.

Get a weekly heads-up for the new episode and fun fact slides.