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Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Oh, International Licensing Fees, Why Do You Torment Me?
My original plan for tonight was to catch up on some reviews. But then I remembered that the second series of Black Books was recently released on DVD, so I went out and bought it and spent the evening watching that instead.
It's a wonderfully misanthropic show about an alcoholic bookstore owner who makes life miserable for his friends and customers. It's filled with lots of "I wish I could have gotten away with doing that" moments that anyone who ever worked retail can relate to. There was a superbly brilliant bit, which I lack the technology to record and upload to YouTube, violating all kinds of copyright laws, but here's a short taste of the second series.
So, I was of course reminded of the many British comedy shows I derive stupid amounts of pleasure from, which are inexplicably unavailable on DVD in the U.S. First is Spaced, starring Simon Pegg. You'd think with the success of Shaun of the Dead, the upcoming Hot Fuzz, and the fact that it's already been shown on U.S. channels that a DVD of the two series would have turned up, but no. Pegg's series about slacker-ish twentysomethings has yet to receive the wider release in the U.S. that it deserves. It's a smart, well observed comedy, that still makes room for moments of pure surrealism.
And thinking of Spaced always puts me in mind of Big Train, an earlier sketch comedy show with Pegg which focused almost exclusively on absurdist non-sequiters.
Big Train also deserves special recognition for finally answering the age-old question; what would it have been like if Chairman Mao sang a Roxy Music song.
The Fast Show was another peculiar sketch show. I'm not sure anything on it ever made sense. I was always in tears by the end of an episode, however.
I was sufficiently brainwashed by professors with an interest in post-colonial theory to eventually develop my own interest in cultural productions by members of the southern Asia expatriate and immigrant communities. Goodness Gracious Me was brilliant and incisive political satire disguised cleverly as a sketch show. The cast mined their own communities for material, and a frequent focus was on the sexism of their culture, but they were just as quick to exploit the racism of British society for a laugh as well. I've seen enough similarly boorish behavior ("What do you mean you don't have anything with beef in it? What kind of restaurant is this?") in Indian restaurants in America to appreciate the joke in this sketch.