Thursday, September 06, 2007

People Like Us

I started listening to the radio version of the BBC comedy People Like Us again recently and have to say that, for me, this is probably the funniest series that's been on radio in the past decade or so.

It's written extraordinarily well (thanks, John Morton!) so that the hapless documentarian Roy Mallard (played perfectly by Chris Langham) leaps to life as someone we all recognize. The humor doesn't come from standard tropes (for instance, there is little reliance on "set-up/ punch line" jokes and few if any traditional puns). Many of the laughs come from a nervous and scatterbrained narrator who constantly creates logical and syntactical quicksand for himself.

The series relies in part on our familiarity with the BBC (and for US listeners, NPR/PBS) "serious" documentary feature stories. The presenter's interactions with the "real people" ring true and truly funny. These characters, while generally just an inch from total realism, are hilarious as are their situations.

While, as faux documentaries, there is necessarily similarity between episodes, Morton manages to set up an array of social situations and psychological landscapes that take us along different paths in each episode.

And of course, the running jokes (everyone is surprised that Mallard is married; he never gets coffee, tea or snacks) pay off wonderfully, too.

It's one of the few series that works nearly as well for me in TV as the radio version, though I think the audio holds up better.

I don't know if John Morton is a genius generally, but he exhibited genius when he wrote this at least. That is far better than most writers pull off.

Chris Langham has had serious criminal problems recently. Too bad, because he's one of the funniest performers in UK comedy.

1 comment:

JW said...

Does anyone know where i can purchase the radio episodes? I LOVE the tv show and would like to listen all the radio episodes. I am in America and having a difficult time finding the episodes. Any help would be most appreciated it. thanks.
jwwolterman@gmail.com

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