Posted by: Paul | October 9, 2010

Harry and Paul Go Rapidly Downhill

It was all going so well. Thoroughly enjoying a great deal of the new BBC comedy ouput so far this year, and so I was looking forward to the new series of Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse’s long running and very popular sketch show. But somewhere along the way they’ve lost their mojo.

The comedy in the sketch shows from both men over the years has generally been that of repetition. You may not necessarily laugh at the time, but as the series go on and you regurgitate the gags the following day in the playground, the common room, the bar, the office kitchen, it reaches another level and becomes funny. And then when the same sketch returns the following week, you laugh. Rinse and repeat.

Somehow, that’s not working now. Perhaps the joke isn’t funny any more, or the new material / constant rehashing of old ‘favourites’ just isn’t up to their usual standard. But through both the first two episodes of this new series, I barely cracked a smile, let alone summoned a laugh, and I don’t feel that repetition will make the situation any different.

Ali and I had a really long dissection of the first episode after it aired. In the end, we both felt that a lot of the old material was just repeating old gags without any new ideas, and the new material was, in places, downright offensive. Both the ‘probably a queer’ old club gents, and the blacking up in the Dragons Den sketch crossed the line for us. Comedy has moved on. I might sound old fashioned or overly PC, but I genuinely think you can be funny without being crass, if you work harder on the writing.

Anyway, it’s been very disappointing and I may not watch any more, which is sad considering I hold both men in high regard, as two of the greats of British comedy of the last 25 years. I have to say that in recent years Paul Whitehouse has blown me away as an actor, both in ‘Help’ and earlier in the fantastic comedy drama ‘Happiness’, both so full of ideas, great performances and characterisation, and I wish he’d do something in that vein again. Harry Enfield was far funnier on the One Show promoting the series, just being himself, than he has been so far in this. The strongest part so far is the opening titles – I doubt I’ll get beyond them next week.

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