Gigglebox Weekly #56
This week Ian Wolf encounters what some people claim to be racist stereotyping, and something thought to have been extinct – canned laughter.
There are several problems with this show, chief amongst them being what on Earth I can say which hasn’t been said already in the past week.
For those who have not seen this show, the series revolves around a British-Pakistani family from Sparkhill, Birmingham. The head of the family, Mr Khan (Adil Ray, who also co-writes the series), a pompous community leader trying to control his family in his own way as well as the local Muslim population. Part of his problems comes from the new Mosque manager, a British-born convert called Dave (Kris Marshall).
Following the broadcast of this first episode, it seems that just about no-one likes it. There are reports of at least 700 people complaining to the BBC claiming the show is guilty of racist stereotyping. Meanwhile the critics have been attacking the series for being old fashioned.
Speaking as someone who knows very little about the Muslim community (I even learnt a little bit about Islam during this opening episode) I am not in position to say if it’s racist or not. However, I can give an opinion on how funny or unfunny it is. Given that it’s a studio sitcom with a live audience it’s no surprise the critics don’t like it. Having watched it, the thing that sprung to mind was trying to compare it with similar shows. With his pompous, domineering nature to me Mr Khan shares similar traits to Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping up Appearances, which was one of my favourite comedies as a child.
However, some of the gags were just so predictable. When you saw him in the Mosque with a microphone who just knew he was going to say (on indeed sing) something stupid into it, unaware that he was broadcasting from a minaret.
In the end it’ll come down to the public vote, so to speak, and Citizen Khan will probably be axed. It’s for the best, really…
So, last week the BBC broadcast The Revolution Will Be Televised and Channel 4 went with I’m Spazticus. Now ITV has hit back if its own hidden camera show, and brought in the genre’s most famous name: Dom Joly.
However, Fool Britannia is a much tamer programme. It’s being broadcast in a pre-watershed slot, for starters, in another attempt to make-up for the shortfall caused by the end of TV Burp. While it’s a nice idea to try and make a more family-friendly prank show, the show appears to be suffering a bit in its slot.
You can tell that Fool Britannia goes out after You’ve Been Framed – and they share two key traits. A voice over, which for a prank show doesn’t really work, and a laughter track. To make it worse, I happen to know that this is canned laughter. Genuine canned laughter, in this day and age! Shocking.
Admittedly, there are some genuine laughs to be gotten out of the show. My personal favourite was Joly’s health and safety officer character Ian Yard trying to prevent coffee from being too hot by using a mini electric fan. It has some potential, but it needs to cast aside some of the more troublesome features of the programme.