The left has performed a humour resection on Britain

BBC humour about as thin as these facades

I recently had the luck to see ‘Murder Ahoy!’ on TCM, which shows classic films on TV, mainly aimed at the over 50s. Made in 1964 it taken from one of Agatha Christie’s twelve novels about Miss Marple, her indefatigable spinster detective.

Starring Margaret Rutherford, the eccentric character actress, it was astonishingly amusing and entertaining, at least in comparison with the usual BBC Christie adaptations, which arrive around Christmas like a dose of gout, seem interminable and never raise a smile, either from the Botoxed faces on screen or those watching at home.  

Rutherford’s gentle irony was a counterpoint to wilder antics from Lionel Jeffreys, Nicholas Parsons, Derek Nimmo and William Mervyn. No one apart from Francis Matthews looked attractive; Rutherford pulled extraordinary faces. She was a cousin of Tony Benn and there was an obvious likeness in her large wobbling chin and swivelling eyes.

In films, TV series and radio panel games, that uniquely British sense of humour which those actors encapsulated is rapidly evaporating if it hasn’t already evapped. We can’t blame the tensions caused by Covid; we prided ourselves on laughing through the Blitz with ITMA and the stars of the Windmill Theatre. Out of the war came a golden generation comedians and comic writers including Spike Milligan, Joyce Grenfell, Kenneth Horne, Frankie Howerd, and Benny Hill who is no longer mentioned, now on the proscribed list, which gets longer every day.

Political correctness and market forces have combined to turn us from the best makers of comedy and drama in the world to a poor competitor. Puritanism has surely not affected us so deeply since December 1657 when Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan Council banned mince pies because they smacked of Catholic idolatry. The equivalent of that today is offending any of the ‘protected categories’ listed in Harriet Harman’s Equalities Bill amendment of 2010.

Even the most popular TV shows are affected. In Little Britain, ten years ago seen as radical, Matt Lucas and David Walliams once freely put on black-face, dressed as transvestites and wore ‘fat suits.’

Lucas recently expressed the obligatory public remorse, saying that dressing as a, ‘rubbish transvestite,’ now seems ‘extremely insensitive.’

He says they wouldn’t play black characters either. Despite that the show has now been removed from BBC iPlayer, BritBox and Netflix. You cannot get infected by its heresy even if you want to.

Even the cosy comedy, Gavin and Stacey, showing working-class life in Essex and Barry Island is now on the hit-list. It was the most popular TV show last Christmas, but the BBC was bombarded by complaints from right thinking callers demanding the show be scrapped because two characters were described as, ‘Chinese Alan’ and ‘Seth, the black fella.’

The show was also accused of lacking enough ‘BAME’ actors. PC and the desire for foreign markets now means jumping of fashionable band-waggons such as colour-blind casting, so that every second face on Barry Island or under a poke-bonnet in Victorian London must be  black or Asian.

British comedy is now really just another term for Agitprop. If you are woke you do not joke, or only about the evils of Trump, Boris and or Brexit. But oldies who’ve survived the pandemic, are obstinately still out there, providing a reactionary ‘grey’ market; BBC Radio 4 Extra, like TCM, offers classic comedy to them, preceded by warnings about the use of old-fashioned non- PC language. Even a recent episode of All Gas and Gaiters, from a popular 1960s TV series about a group of clergymen, had to have a warning about, ‘The language and attitudes of the time.’

Like many listeners I now play a ‘spot the offence’ game, straining to hear the forbidden words; they could possibly have been the old archdeacon saying a young lady visitor was, ‘Very attractive,’ with a leering chuckle. More likely it was a character appearing briefly with a cod Indian accent.

Humour is now extremely dangerous stuff as we learned from Charlie Hebdo and the recent beheading of a teacher in Paris. Outside France, his murder aroused no comment from the usual ‘social justice’ warriors. There were no calls to ‘take the knee,’ in his memory. The tacit silence suggested that by showing cartoons he’d offended against a minority group and was therefore worthy of capital punishment.

I first noticed this eradication of humour in 2012 with the BBC adaptation of Great Expectations. It had an all-star cast, including the refined and unscary Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch, cost nearly seven million dollars, and every single humorous character was removed. Even Wemmick and his famous castle in Walworth, with drawbridge, cannon and moat, and his old father, known as ‘The Aged,’ and ‘Aged P,’ had gone.  

(Referring to someone as ‘The Aged,’ is of course non-PC. In 2009 the decorously named  Help the Aged charity changed into the blunt, ‘Age UK.’)

Instead we had a lurid, sexed up Miss Havisham, played by Helena Bonham Carter. Pip’s sister didn’t have a switch to whip him with, she wasn’t nasty she was oppressed, and Jo Gargery was not a simpleton of comic pathos; more some kind of unfortunate proletarian.

Alarmingly none of the TV critics noted the absence of comedy in this version of Dicken’s greatest novel. Perhaps we no longer even expect to be amused or have scripts faithful to the spirit of the author rather than the woke director?

Pip’s class attitudes, central to the story, remained a problem which could not just be written out. As the producer Mike Newell put it, ‘Why is Pip such a little shit?’

He had no interest in finding out.

Like Miss Marple, Dickens usually arrives on TV at Christmas, appropriately as he and Prince Albert largely invented it. To make sure we don’t continue to enjoy this, like the white reactionaries we are, the original stories are now unrecognisable. In A Christmas Carol,  December 2019, we didn’t even get Jacob Marley’s face on the door knocker.

Episode one was the most watched TV show of that week with 7,330,443 nostalgic viewers. The next episode failed to register in the top fifteen BBC1 broadcasts with 1.4 million viewers. If the aim was to sell it to America that failed too.

 ‘A series designed to alienate the Dickens brand’s traditional core audience,’ wrote the Hollywood Reporter. Other US critics called it a, ‘Dispiriting adaptation, short on joy and very, very long on purgatorial slogging.’ Critic Nick Allen wrote: ‘Approximately three joyless hours of watching an adaptation try to justify its edginess.’

Despite all the expensive famous faces, another critic remarked on its, ‘Unrelenting dourness.’

Oliver Cromwell approved ‘dourness,’ but could not have guessed the effect advanced capitalism would have on public service broadcasting services. Humour doesn’t necessarily translate and the BBC can no longer take creative risks. Instead there is an endless attempt to assess what customers might want to buy. You’ll never see a wobbly face like Rutherford’s in the leading role now, what counts is what they like in Beijing and LA.

Last winter the BBC gave us Christie’s, The Pale Horse, starring the beautiful Rufus Sewell, appearing several times without his shirt, and even more pulchritudinous Kaya Scodelario. Everyone dressed as if they were off to a Buckingham Palace garden party. It was adapted by Sarah Phelps, who is best known for her work on EastEnders but has also adapted five Christie novels for the BBC and two Dickens series, although she spoke about never having read him.

Along with the visual opulence there’s usually graphic violence. She described her version of the Pale House as ‘a shivery, paranoid story about guilt and grief and what we’re capable of when we’re desperate.’

One critic commented on its, ‘Brutal thrills.’ The Telegraph said Phelps was chucking the, ‘rat-filled kitchen sink into this rewrite of Agatha Christie.’

If Dicken’s comic pathos is no longer PC or a safe bet to sell abroad, it’s even more of a risk to try sustained mordant irony. In September ITV produced The Singapore Grip, from J.G. Farrell’s 1978 satirical novel. Part of his ‘Empire Trilogy,’ lampooning British colonialism. His slant was entirely lost on the ‘British East and Southeast Asian Media Advocacy group, (BEATS) who beat up ITV calling the series ‘harmful’ and ‘deeply upsetting.’

‘The Black Lives Matter movement has placed this country’s problematic view of its own colonial legacy firmly under the microscope.’ They wrote pompously.

 ‘In this context an expensively mounted TV adaptation of Farrell’s novel with colonial Singapore as its exotic backdrop, is a kick in the teeth to the U.K.’s East and Southeast Asian community. The adaptation could have taken a more enlightened perspective in keeping with the progress that’s happened in the half century since the novel’s publication.’

They wanted a version made to suit their specific identarian agenda and also called for inverse racism.

‘Even the cynical desperation and callous decadence of Farrell’s Caucasian characters is bled out in favour of jauntily-forced, comedic indulgence,’ wrote BEATS, ‘presenting this traumatic period of Singapore’s history as little more than breezy and inconsequential.’

Let’s have no ‘comedic indulgence,’ from ‘Caucasians,’ surely an odd word to choose now that the word, ‘Negroes’ is forbidden. The Guardian also criticised the use of a majority white cast.

BEATS had a point about ‘inconsequential.’ Compared to the book the series was bland; the novel ends bleakly with the hero starving in a Japanese POW camp. On TV we saw he and his friends toiling in a paddy-field looking well fed and cheerful.  Obviously, ITV didn’t want to offend the Japanese who are now regarded as victims of American war crimes and a major market for British TV. Most of the activists listed on the BEATS website are Chinese, and no one wants to risk offending them either.

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24 Comments on The left has performed a humour resection on Britain

  1. To be fair to the BBC, the TV version of Miss Marple’s adventures starring Joan Hickson (1984-1992), and the radio version starring June Whitfield (1993-2001), are both excellent.

    But you’re right about the state of comedy. What normal man or woman could watch an episode of “Fleabag” (to name only the most egregiously over-rated example) without loathing and despising the writers and performers as much as the writers and performers obviously loathe and despise normal men and women?

    • Fleabag is championed by woke luvvies as a benchmark for contemporary comedic writers to emulate. An unfortunate viewpoint, since it isn’t remotely funny. At all. The clue to its appeal is the repetitive breaking of the fourth wall by the main protaganist – this is highly addictive to the Lefty brain as it taps into their desperation to feel part of a knowing hive mind, in which only they and those like them are included. Actual humour in this instance is irrelevant, since everything has been reduced to the level of a purile in-joke for a select elitist few, laughing simply to maintain their status within the group. It is an exceptionally weak program which has been written by and for an exceedingly limited demographic. No amount of phoney awards – awarded by other luvvies – can obscure this fact.

  2. Yes, humour is now forbidden.

    Also de-legitimised are the concerns and rights of the productive, white striving classes.

    All sectors of Western society, esp in the Anglosphere, are now dominated by a collection of ideological idiocies promulgated by power-mad, ignorant, malignant, destructive, parasitic, Big Statist, teenage-rebel types of all ages, both home-grown and imported.

    And those with most to lose -the law-abiding, white, productive, striving folk- are too busy, and/or too immobilised by accusations that the very values and capabilities that fuel their productivity and non-violence are actually racist, to realise that their full and final enslavement is nigh.

  3. Dear Jane,
    An excellent article.
    There are only two exceptions in modern(ish) television that I can think of, Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield’s rather brilliant “The History of The Twos”, which catalogued in comic form the story of BBC2.
    The other, “Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer Go Fishing”, which uses fishing the basis of various gentle adventures around the British Isles, and two genuinely funny men, being funny. However, the very last episode of series three was hijacked by a po-faced doctor (from daytime televison I assume), who droned on about mens’ health, it was as jarring as if an adonoidal man in a high visibility jacket had appeared in the middle of a cartoon to warn Tom not to hit Jerry with a cast iron frying pan.
    Otherwise, if a programme doesn’t feature Alec Guiness, Alastair Sim, Kenneth Moore, or Joan Greenwood it isn’t worth watching.
    Yours
    R

  4. Dear Nick.

    I would like to think that you are right but corporate technology in concert with the growth and power of the state is determined to forge the populace into being perfected compliant consumers. Karl Marx prophesied ‘new man’ from his fantasy Utopia but, after his acolytes proved it a complete failure, it doesn’t prevent variations on a theme by others.

  5. What the left has done to our comedy is just part of their forever war against anything British. Once multiculturalism is officially defined as good (as it was in the 1980s) then anyone or anything promoting British mono-culturalism is logically inferior and a threat to be extinguished by the leftist hive mind. With that Blairite victory, the British state became antithetical to British people and culture. Look how it treats patriots like Tommy Robinson, compared to the racist grooming gangs he fought to expose. But all western nations and cultures face the same existential threat or slow suffocation and eventual death; think of the parasite attached to the face of the character famously played by John Hurt in ‘Alien’ to get an idea of what leftism is doing to us.

  6. An excellent critique of modern television and cinema by Miss (or Ms) Kelly. I haven’t had, let alone enjoyed, television this century, but there are still some very good, entertaining films and series being produced in England, which I watch on DVDs when they come here to my side of the pond (don’t you just hate that hackneyed expression?)

    Speaking of Dickens, for instance, why it was just 5 years ago that BBC produced Dickensian, which I – having read all of his novels and some of his lesser works (including The Nobel Savageparental guidance advised) – can attest was a sharp-witted playful composite reimagining of Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, Bleak House and some other of his great works.

    I can think of other examples of wonderful dramas, exciting mysteries and thrillers being produced even more recently on your side of the pond (dang!)
    ___
    Possibly a bit off topic, but as this piece is a retrospective on British television, can anyone remember a drama series from the mid-1970s (c. 1975-77) about life on a council estate set in perhaps Birmingham or Manchester, possibly London? I’m not thinking of Coronation Street, but a grittier, gimer place where the main story line was more tragic than comic. Can’t remember the programme’s name. Have tried finding it online without success. I suppose the actual films may longer exist, this being before the days when celluloid films were routinely transferred to discs.

  7. Dear Harry.

    Donning a thinking cap is only effective if we know the ground on which we might fight back. I don’t know how an effective survey could be carried out, but it would be useful to judge just how many people in Britain under the age of 30 are supporters of multiculturalism, the full panoply of the ‘green agenda’ against fossil fuels, the policing of speech, and the importance of race and gender issues in their life. If the result should show a significant adherence to those policies, then your advice for us who don’t to leave Britain is the only realistic option as opinions formed after coming of age (variable of course) is rarely changed and, as the realist Europhiles pointed out after the Brexit vote, It’s a temporary setback for the E.U. supporters as the ant-membership voters are old and will die off and Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland, and the English regions will rejoin to be Euro-currency provinces as intended.

    • Dear Derek,

      Excellent points you make.

      And yes, I regard rural France as a fine place to reside, as you do.

      And I know of other such places.

      It’s the ten of millions of others who have no prospect of leaving England for whom I have concerns.

      And I extend my compassion to striving whites all over the West, esp those in the major cities.

      Now, just for the moment, I do not exclude the possibility of concerted, even successful, counter-measures across the West by whites who volunteer to spend their own time and own money to establish anti-marxist/anti-greenist news/opinion multi-media platforms and even new education systems separate from the current anti-Westernist models, and who also work to re-form the nominally non-marxist political parties. I think it likely that Trump and the people he has mobilised will work hard to show the way.

      Perhaps separately, I see the most likely scenario for the EU as a slide to dissolution. The massive array of internal differences, weaknesses and conflicts in that entity cannot be overcome, nor denied for more than a decade or two.

      And, it seems likely to me that France will emerge from that coming-apart quite well, and Germany will not.

      A very pleasant Sunday to you Derek -Harry.

    • Dear Derek
      There is no reason to assume younger generations and immigrant communities won’t be increasingly resisting control by unaccountable, unrepresentative, undemocratic, incompetent and anti-British politicians in both London and Brussels. Moreover, the authoritarian EU and its imperial leftist vision are dying off faster than British patriots are learning to stand up again, in large part thanks to populists like Farage, Salvini, Orbán and the incomparable Donald Trump.

  8. Isn’t the point of comedy to induce the sort of pain for which laughter is the only reasonable balm? If so, should it matter whether a comedian is hurting someone’s feelings? Isn’t it enough to either make you laugh… or not?

    The problem is that the people with the power will only accept the pain induced on conservatives as valid humour. With the possible exception of someone like Andrew Laurence, who frequently inflicts pain by lampooning certain types of ordinary folk, but then he spices it up by taking a dig at the latest woke act.

    As for the old classic films (often in B&W) from the post war era up to the mid sixties, whilst many are much better than the latest woke remakes, if they are portrayals of great novels, surely the actual novels are the best resort?

  9. Whites of the striving classes!

    Awake!

    Know this:

    The contemporary white super-elites, and the contemporary arts-entertainment people, do not regard you as essential for their purposes.

    This is a big change from the white super-elites and the arts-entertainment people of days past.

    And the consequences of this change, now rapidly becoming apparent, will be utter disaster for striving whites.

    Really, thinking caps on!

  10. Authentic comedy has to be offensive to someone and is why humour has died in Britain except for the ‘right-on’ media luvvies, masquerading as comedians, lampooning the political enemies of their commissar mentors.

  11. Jane. I think I love you. Come to Toronto and marry me; and pour out your thoughts every day. But you’ll have to hurry l’m 87 and Canada has set its sights on becoming Zimbabwe in a decade or two.

  12. We, the legacy British, are already dictated to by the non-Whites. What’s it going to be like in the run-up to 2070, when, we are assured by them as knows, on present trends the country will be majority immigrant and largely Muslim?

    That will certainly be no joke. Thank goodness I will be dead and will not be around to see it. I couldn’t bear it, but my children possibly and certainly my grandchildren will have to if they don’t take action.

    I’ve told them their best bet is to try to emigrate.

    • It won’t be one country by then.
      The unspoken divisions so apparent to anyone with their eyes open now will have manifested themselves in the formation long before 2070 of at least two distinct states. The Muslims, Blacks and other immigrants (who fail to grasp that the entire reason they are here in the first place was to escape their failed cultures) aided by their guilt riddled liberal white buddies are more than welcome to London, the south and cities in general. By then they will be drought plagued lawless slums and anyone white, black or brown, with any common sense will have left long before.

    • Hello Colin,

      Emigration might be useful advice.

      But where to?

      I think the USA will resist Islam more than the rest of the Anglosphere, while Canada, NZ and Australia are busily appeasing Islamists and their quiet but effective Muslim supporters -which accounts for most Muslims, innit.

      But if you chose to move to the USA pick a remote, rural area and avoid all big cities and their immediate suburbs for the obvious reasons of rising black violence and general black criminality.

      France, Poland, Hungary will resist Islam more than Germany -but will France, Poland, Hungary welcome vast numbers of Britons seeking refuge?

      Possibly yes -start checking now.

      Austria seems to have thrown in the towel, but perhaps it’ll be OK in Northern Italy and key regions of Spain and Portugal, at least for several decades anyway.

      Finland will also resist, but Sweden and Norway are asleep on this matter.

      Touch and go in Denmark, but the Danes are generally more alert than Swedes.

      Anyway, my advice is to observe, in all Western nations, the patterns of appeasement of African blacks and Muslims from everywhere.

      Meanwhile, agents of the Chinese Communist Party are quietly flooding all Western institutions, so Muslims will face a contest -in their grabs for power.

      Should be quite entertaining to watch on TV eh.

    • But where to, Colin? Name me an English speaking country, still largely Anglo-Saxon, where your children will be better off living in 2070. All of them suffer the same loss of faith in their culture.