Sabotage Times, We can't Concentrate so Why Should You?Sabotage Times, We can't Concentrate so Why Should You?


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Why American Female Sitcoms Walk All Over The British Equivalents

America has The Mindy Project, Girls and 30 Rock, whilst we have the utter trash that is Miranda. Here's why the yanks are so good at mastering the female-led sitcom...

There are two major problems with TV in this country: that Gok Wan is allowed on it, and that there are hardly any female comics on mainstream shows. I recently wrote an article asking where the bloody hell all of the funny laydeez are, and challenged readers to list 10 stand-ups sans peepee. Needless to say, nobody could think of very many, and I didn’t have the heart to tell the person proud of themselves for naming 11 (after thinking about it ‘all day’) that newspaper columnists didn’t shitting well count, nor did semi-retired actresses who hadn’t been on the telly box since the Cretaceous period.

But anyway I digress, what I was trying to figure out was where these mistresses of merriment (sorry) were hiding while we were watching Miranda Hart slip on a banana skin for the 48th time, and then it hit me. AMERICA. The US of bloody A. Across the pond, women are writing their own shows, starring in them and lapping up critical and commercial acclaim. Future funny women of the UK take note, for this is how it’s done.

So in the US there’s this show that not many people write on/talk about/excessively over-intellectualise called Girls, where young women who are funny and spend zero time talking about their hair (SHOCKER) actually provide belly laughs, pertinent storylines and a worryingly realistic glimpse into life during the festering shit pit that is one’s early twenties. The first series felt like the freshest thing to hit the small screen in years, with witty writing aplenty and such a stronghold on the zeitgeist that it seemed hard to believe that anything could ever better encapsulate the moment than these bra-less fuck ups who couldn’t make rent. (Let’s be real, the second season was a massive let down but I put that down to the premature dispatching of Elijah. Bring him back, Dunham, and we’ll say no more about it). And then Lena Dunham, its writer and creator, became a hero, which here means someone people propelled to fame and fortune, got jealous of and then tried to tear down at every opportunity. In other words: she made it.

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But while Girls did bring something new to the table, there were quite a lot of people sitting there already. Take, for example, Parks and Recreation – the Amy Poehler fronted mockumentary about a rag tag group of local government workers who make the dullest premise on earth for a show utterly hilarious. Although written by and starring many-a-dude, the show’s most prominent relationship is the one between Poehler’s lead character Leslie Knope (unisex name – in your FACE, conformity) and best friend Ann, and they use the programme as a vehicle to address issues of actual importance like gay marriage and the under representation of women in government. The BBC may have only just got round to airing it, but the show is nearing the end of its fifth season in the States, and those who stick with it through the admittedly less accomplished first series will not be disappointed.

And those shows are far from the end of America’s funny females pool – New Girl still makes for great viewing two seasons in and is starred in by everyone’s favourite not-actually-that-offbeat oversized specs wearer Zooey Deschanel. Again, it’s written by a woman, and again, displays a strong female friendship as one of its central relationships. Then there’s Tina Fey’s award-nabbing hit 30 Rock, which recently bowed out after seven successful series, and Mindy Kaling has just picked up the comedy baton in her new self-titled show, The Mindy Project. Not only is Kaling the creator and star (much like 30 Rock and Girls), but the show is also the first in the US to feature a south Asian American as its lead. Hear the (archaic) barriers crashing down, people.

I think amidst my waxing lyrical in the last 500 odd words I have at least tried to make a point, which is that America is wooping our pasty hineys when it comes to showcasing original female talent. I refuse to believe that a 6ft woman being mistaken for a man every three minutes is the best lady-fronted entertainment this country has to offer, and while Miranda does genuinely deserve some big old kudos for giving women a small screen comic presence, it’s about time we started evening out the criminal gender motivated comedy divide.

And can somebody please see to Gok Wan.

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Russ 7:54 am, 1-Apr-2013

The US seem to better us vastly in most areas if ur talking about TV or films. Id say budget is the major factor

Russ 7:55 am, 1-Apr-2013

whats your theory?

Russ 9:52 am, 1-Apr-2013

Also i dont know where you might see a change - the BBC is clearly some kind of weird boy's club (we are just startin to see how fuckin weird), ITV and quality are two words rarely found in the same sentence, and Channel 4 has been mediocre for years.

Markxist 12:50 pm, 1-Apr-2013

It goes deeper than this. British TV simply cannot produce a female role model anywhere anymore. Gone are the days of Juliet Bravo, Survivors, The Gentle Touch, Take Three Girls or early Casualty all of which depicted strong independent and believable women. We've taken a huge retrograde step. In the working class soaps they are all tarts with hearts, in the hospital dramas they are scheming manipulative sleep around biatches who would walk all over the nearest female competition who they view as a threat and treat sex as a weapon. Even classier drama isn't much better, with the penchant for period putting women firmly back in their place, though over in detective drama, Olivia Coleman is single handedly making a difference in ITV's Broadchurch. If you want to see a proper depiction of a female anyone can aspire to you have to watch international TV...but not America, I'm talking about Scandinavian drama; The Killing, Borgen, The Bridge all have great roles for women.

Markxist 12:53 pm, 1-Apr-2013

Pulling on BBC3 written by and starring Sharon Horgan could have given the US shows a run for their money but it was cancelled after just two series because with Horgan being nearly 40 (yet playing 30) at the time, it failed to fit BBC3's yoof demographic. Likewise BBC2's Hometime written by and starring Emma Fryer.

Charlotte Lytton 1:07 pm, 1-Apr-2013

I think budget definitely plays its part, but also that British TV execs are a lot more risk averse than those in the US. Very few sitcoms over here feel new or different in any way - if anything, the most women we ever see on screen here is in period dramas where they're trussed up in bonnets and bloomers. The lack of female role models on screen is pretty disappointing, to be honest, and I do think that given we pay for the BBC, they have some kind of responsibility to even out the male/female led programmes they air.

Russ 1:37 pm, 1-Apr-2013

You also have the problem of America preferring to remake sitcoms than gamble on our versions of them. British humour is to most Brits the funniest, but generally has a much harder time getting over to an international audience. I think that the US shows bear it in mind. They know how to generate huge profts which then opens up the chance to go for something more experimental like, say, Girls. Also the backing of a company like HBO gives you lots more time and help to develop a sitcom that is multi-layered. Agree that UK shows barely have proper female role models anymore, a reflection on our society going backwards? It's hardly surprising when you think of the absolute shite that tops the ratings

Markxist 4:03 pm, 1-Apr-2013

Russ, true. The joy of HBO is it is a cable channel that thrives on the reputation it has built up over many years. But even then, it drops the ball; Deadwood and Rome being two prime and multilayered series they ultimately decided not to take the time to continue to develop or resolve with the all important final seasons.

gobby cabbage 8:10 pm, 1-Apr-2013

Dont believe the hype - the top 1% of US TV is excellent but the vast majority is utter shite. Just in the female sitcom category alone, you have Whitney, 2 broke girls, the B in Apt 23, New Girl, The Mindy project. They're all on right now and are all crap. Parks n Rec is still excellent and Girls is ok (still traumatised by the table tennis scene in Patrick Wilsons house) but overall, it is a shallow pool.

yogavo 9:51 pm, 1-Apr-2013

i think we (british tv watchers) tend to get what is considered the best of american sitcoms - i am sure if you were in america you'd see some pretty shitty tv shows that didn't make it across the pond.

Russ 1:08 am, 2-Apr-2013

im sure thats true too. also, it takes a certain craft to write a high-level sitcom i think. sorry for the archaic example but you might have someone like victoria wood, think - oh shes funny she can write a sitcom - dinnerladies! the most successful tv shows have teams of writers, all fully trained highly professional - its no easy job

Russ 12:57 pm, 2-Apr-2013

@charlotte your comment just appeared, i agree the bbc should represent a broad cross section of society but at the moment its all in a twist over the way it covered up a serial nonce for twenty years, dont expect great things from them hahaha. have you seen any if the tropes vs women thigs yet? i think u might like them

Russ 2:24 pm, 2-Apr-2013

10 female stand-ups (currently gigging and currently awesome) Angela Barnes, Tiff Stevenson, Isy Suttie, Kerry Godliman, Sarah Pascoe, Lucy Porter, Lucy Beaumont, Katherine Ryan, Rachel Parris, Harriet Kemsley.

Russ 2 2:31 pm, 2-Apr-2013

that stand up list was mine, didn't realise there was already a Russ commening.

Russ 2 2:33 pm, 2-Apr-2013

oh, and also Aisling Bea and Grainne McGuire

LoneWolf 5:54 pm, 2-Apr-2013

The Mindy project was about as funny as Miranda...i.e not in the slightest.

Russ 3 5:09 am, 3-Apr-2013

My name is Russ too

Carlton_Whitfield 10:15 am, 23-May-2013

err. sue perkin's heading out. I'm sure that was funny to some people.

Russ' Girlfriend 5:11 pm, 23-May-2013

There is only one Russ. He's literally talking to himself on the Internet because he doesn't want to watch Vicar of Dibley with me. I'm outta here. Russ, I'll be at Lucy's for a few days. Get some batteries when you go to the shop.

Beezer 1:11 am, 24-May-2013

Two words: Daisy Steiner.

the real russ 1:47 am, 24-May-2013

cos my names russ yea im the real russ, all the other russ' are just, makin a fuss. so wont the real reall russ please stand up, please stand up, please stand up

dan 12:10 pm, 24-May-2013

@Markxist - great comment. @Russ - I agree budget is an aspect but really its about thought and the role of women as leaders in young society. British women tends to fall into two categories; 1. the posh lot who have far more exposure here than there. 2. the attempts at laddette/loaded girls who are considered trash in the US but here are somehow celebrated.

Dave 12:31 pm, 24-May-2013

For every Female sit-com show you rate I can give you one massive one that is so crap it gives crap a bad name. I give you 'Whitney'! This woman is so unfunny but yet she doesn't know it... someone needs to tell her. NBC cancelled her show earlier this month.. hooray!!

remould 7:25 pm, 8-Jun-2013

There's a new comedy coming out on BBC4 written, produced and directed by women with a mostly female cast, it's called 'Quick Cuts' sounds positive except they only commissioned three and it has to find an audience to get re-commisioned! let's see.

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