Daniel Schwendener

Gigglebox Weekly #1

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Gigglebox Weekly

Hello, and welcome to what will hopefully be a weekly feature here at Giggle Beats, a look back at a selection of comedy on TV over the past seven days.  Now, I will try to cover as broad a spectrum as possible, but given that I have to watch this stuff there will be a large bias based on my own personal taste.

“Who is Dan Schwendener?” I hear you ask. I haven’t got a Media degree, I’ve never written a sitcom, and I’ve never blown a TV executive to get a spot on a weekday panel show.  I’m just a fan of comedy, really, probably an enthusiast like most of you.  More importantly I’m writing a piece that’s getting published on the internet and that makes me fairly important, so shut up with your questions.


I’ll start, as the week did, with something fairly light-hearted and family friendly. Miranda, the sitcom by Miranda Hart, is still on track and delivering the laughs.  It’s surprising in this day and age that a pre-watershed comedy can be so popular and not be utter pap *cough* My Family *cough*.  With a good helping of childish jokes, slapstick and physical comedy this could so easily have been a complete failure.  It’s not without bad points – sometimes it has a whiff of CITV about it – but it manages to stay on target.

A lot of this has to do with Miranda Hart herself, as the main writer and star of the sitcom she brings so much of herself to the show.  It’s clear that she’s at the heart of Miranda in more ways than one, and this helps in making good what would otherwise have been a fairly outdated style.

This isn’t essential viewing for most people, but it’s definitely worth a watch. Some of it may grate on you (the running Heather Smalls joke tends to get people’s backs up) but I think it’s worth putting up with.  Miranda is definitely something you can sit down and watch with your family on a winter’s evening, if you could imagine such a heart-warmingly sickening scene.

The Trip

If you’ve missed this series, or not bothered, then you’ve missed out (although feel free to catch all 6 episodes on iPlayer). Not your average sitcom, The Trip is a semi-improvised tale of what happened when Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon hit the road for a tour of restaurants in the North.  The restaurant tour is pretty inconsequential, merely providing a backdrop for Steve & Rob to riff with each other.  The real story here is Steve Coogan’s own journey of self discovery, if you pardon the cliché.  Struggling with the fame of his previous incarnation (Alan Partridge), Steve has found it difficult to break out and be taken seriously as an actor.  The beautiful scenery provided by a wintery English Countryside provides a fantastic backdrop to his ongoing breakdown, and Rob makes the perfect unconventional antagonist for the story, a man who is happy with his lot, married with a child, doing what he loves for a living and content with it.

Their friendship is a warm one, however Steve is constantly distancing himself from Rob, playing the role of the tortured and pretentious artist.  Rob on the other hand is playing the role of the lovable and affectionate puppy dog, barraging through Coogan’s constant insults and dismissive nature.  The two characters work well together and bounce off each other – the chemistry really is perfect.

Altogether, The Trip makes for some fantastically funny and surprisingly touching moments. It may not be to everyone’s tastes (the constant impressions did get on my nerves occasionally) but this truly is a wonderful show and well worth watching.

Tramadol Nights

This week saw the second episode of Frankie Boyle’s debut TV Show, Tramadol Nights.  After tuning into the first episode I thought it showed some promise and even provided a few laughs – however the second episode went down hill faster than a group of teenagers sledging towards a rusty barbed wire fence on a car roof.

That last sentence pretty much sums up this show; needlessly offensive and clumsy.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for offending people and using foul language – it’s good to make people uncomfortable and upset the status quo from time to time, and that’s why it’s so refreshing to see a channel broadcast a show with sketches like ‘Iran’s Loose Women’ from the first episode.  The trouble in Frankie Boyle’s case? He’s offensive just for the sake of being offensive, and often at the expense of being funny.

Let’s start with the stand up bits: they’re utterly pointless.  They provide no information as to the nature of the show, they do not segue between the sketches and half the jokes are re-hashed from his stand up shows and panel show appearances.  He has a few good one liners, you can’t deny him that, but 90% of his set has absolutely no context or meaning and the jokes don’t make sense, save for the fact that they quite often involve something “controversial” (mental disability- isn’t that hilarious?).

The sketches are possibly even worse. I watched the show 5 days ago, and I am having trouble remembering a single one.  There were a couple of half decent sketches in the first episode, if that’s any help.  All in all, there are some good ideas that could have been done a lot better were they not marred by a lustful need for rape, paedophilia and drugs to be crow barred in at any opportunity. It feels like the sketches have been aired without editing, often being more than twice as long as they should have been.

In essence, Frankie Boyle is lashing out against the ever increasing censorship found in TV, a noble cause I think you would all agree, but the way he is going about it is childish and ineffective.  He’s like a student protesting tuition fees by setting a police man on fire; passionate but missing the point entirely.  Watch Tramadol Nights if you like Frankie Boyle (rape and paedophile jokes seem to be all the rage at the moment), but don’t be expecting much.

If you do want to watch some comedy that is actually dark and disturbing, seek out a copy of Jam by Chris Morris.  I should warn you about the content, but I won’t.  Just go and watch it… with the lights on.

FHM Stand Up Hero

Now unless you frequent comedy forums, buy FHM, or religiously check out what is on the plethora of ITV channels then this one has probably passed you by.  FHM Stand Up Hero was the televised competition for stand up comedians new and old, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s too late.

Despite being on ITV4 and sponsored by FHM, this show was actually quite good.  The comics ranged in experience, from having a couple of gigs under their belt to ten years’ worth, and overall they were pretty representative of what you would find on the circuit right now from my experience.

The show had none of the usual trappings of TV talent competitions: no sob stories, no sex scandals and no chance of Amanda Holden’s face popping up and scaring the children.  It was a straight up competition. Five heats each with five comedians doing five minutes of their best material. The best five go through to the final to do another five minutes to try and claim the prize of – you’ve guessed it – ten thousand pounds!  And that was pretty much it. Some comedians were good, some were bad; Brendon Burns did a good job of presenting and it made for good viewing. Josh Widdicombe was a deserved winner, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing more of him over the coming years.

There you go – that’s some of the peaks and troughs of comedy on TV this past week.  If you agree with anything I’ve written, or want to suggest something that needs writing about in a fairly childish and uneducated manner, please leave a comment below or on the Giggle Beats Facebook wall.  If you disagree with anything, please leave your mouth shut, because I’ll be back next week and will write nasty things about you if you’re mean.