Monday, November 15, 2010

Texas Tea: Four Comedies About Money and Manners

Considering four Anglo-American comedies trading heavily in the complexities of socio-economic relations and expectations, I ask: why do they work? What are they saying? Above, a scene from the American series Sanford and Son (1972-1977), adapted from the British series Steptoe and Son (1962-1964, 1970-1974).  Sanford and Son is set in Watts, L.A., USA; Steptoe and Son, in London, England.

Set in London: Are You Being Served? (1972-1985).  Class conciousness is clear as a bell in this one, and the butt of many jokes.

Keeping Up Appearances (1990-1995), set in the West Midlands, England.

The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971).

How people play the cards they're dealt is central to each series. Perceptions, ideological differences, vanities, foibles and conflicts are all in there. Advanced aliens could probably reconstruct a lot about human civilization and modern societies simply by decoding how these comedies work. Indeed, aliens may be decoding these broadcasts deep in space even as you read this! 

In all instances, characters are beloved by their creators, not belittled, which is interesting in itself, especially since so many characters spend so much time belittling each other over perceived personal insults rooted in socio-economic, gender and cultural differences. This two-faceted approach moves sensitive and often masked matters out into the open like all good comedy tends to do.

Today's Rune: Journey.


Charles Gramlich said...

This is the first I ever heard that Sandord and son ws based on a British show. Never knew. said...

Kinda liked Red Foxx.


Johnny Yen said...

I knew that "All In The Family" was based on a Brit show. Never knew "Sanford and Son" was too.

Just looked up Redd Fox-- apparently Sanford was his real name. According to the article, he was on the set of the show doing his old "I'm coming to see you Elizabeth" fake heart attack bit, when he actually had a heart attack.

Lana Gramlich said...

I didn't know about Sandford & Son, either.

*Catching a glimpse of the bucket woman, I run away to hide.* I only realized recently that the man who plays her husband, Richard, was in Borman's "Excalibur" back in the day. He was young Arthur's foster-father.