This post was written by guest blogger and reality TV showbiz observer Daniel Cohen. Catch up with him on Twitter here!
For many weeks I had been looking forward to the return of Rik Mayall on my TV screens. I was counting the days until Man Down started.
Having (for some strange reason) never seen Greg Davies in anything else but “Fast and Loose” and a few quiz shows, I had no expectations, but he seemed fun enough…
What a shock I got come Friday the 18th. And before I start: let me tell you I am no comedy prude. As stated before I am a big Rik Mayall fan, so not easily shocked.
But there is a difference in the way you portray things, and Man Down got it all wrong.
The first thing that struck me as off is that Davies plays a teacher in this show, a teacher that in one of the better earlier scenes seemed to care about the children in his class.
So hence my surprise when in a later scene Davies visits one of his children on work-experience and simply ignores how the abusive and homophobic tailor he has been placed with treats the boy.
A day later the boy is still in the shop, saying how he has been forced to work all night (his hand barely able to move after sewing nonstop) and begs him to contact his mother because the man won’t let him go. Is this really comedy? Because it didn’t seem very funny. The way Davies indicated to the boy that the mother never called him or the school, so clearly didn’t care made it worse. The scene was brought in a strange – more dramatic- way, that left no room for a laugh, and brought a bad taste to the mouth, especially knowing that something like this is actually happening somewhere. Davies says he took moments from real life for this show, let’s hope this wasn’t one of them.
In the same scene Greg Davies wanted to try trousers he ordered by the same tailor and went to try them on and discovered that he had put his mum’s underpants on. The owner walked in and equated wearing women’s underwear with being gay and then paedophilia. So, naturally, he locked the shop top attack Davies with a big sharp scissor. What, if there ever as one, was the meaning of this? It brought nothing to the story and seemed to say: look how funny gay bashing is – ha, ha.
One of the viewers, Lisa Waite complained: “watching man down, disgusted by the ‘trannie’ jokes, really?? in this day and age, i will not be watching again”.
Sadly not many viewers seemed to notice this or other “off” moments, which made it worse. It’s a sad day when a rape scene in Downton Abbey can get people up in arms, but bizarre jokes about child abuse and gay bashing go unnoticed. It might be that it was the Friday Night crowd, or maybe the “hard-core” comedy audience has changed since I got into it in the ‘90’s, but these days it’s not fun or laughs, but how many shocks and cringes you can include that get’s compliments.
I liked Alan Partridge, but I blame him and David Brent for the style of comedy that according to critics and “Comedy buffs” is the one all series that are “revered” by them should adhere to. In the 80’s and 90’s there were many styles of comedy with or without an audience (interestingly Black Adder only became a hit AFTER it included an audience.) You could go for Black Adder, Alan Partridge or Red Dwarf, go quirky with Father Ted or even go for the broader humour of Allo’ Allo’ or Keeping up Appearances.
Testimony to the fact that many people are actually getting turned off by never ending sameness of the “Brent” type comedies churned out is that shows like “Miranda” that break that mould and return to a more old fashioned style are panned by critics and the “buffs” but lapped up by audiences while comedies like “Man Down” are not. Maybe old fashioned should become the new revolution because you know what: some people like to watch comedy to have … FUN.
Oh, and Rik Mayall wasn’t even in it for more than one minute…
Rik shows how you can shock AND be funny at the same time: