Sitcoms of War- the ultimate antidepressant?

Hello! Goodness gracious me it has been a long time hasn’t it?  I guess you can blame the extremely long summer for my lack of posts. Well no, that’s not true; I can’t pretend I have been sat on the sofa for about 4 months abusing my sitcom boxsets because I have been working hard too. Which means I haven’t really had much inspiration for a sitcom related blog- I have had plenty of inspiration for a sitcom, however, but that’s a whole other story.  I also apologise if I am a little rusty at this, I do hope you will forgive me!

Anyway I guess there is no time like the present to introduce this week’s blog topic- war and why it is important when it comes to entertaining.

As you know, I have a soft spot for Goodnight Sweetheart and since I have been reunited with my Blackadder boxset and been drawn to Gold’s showings of ‘Allo ‘Allo, I began questioning why so many of Britain’s most popular sitcoms are set in some of the least funniest circumstances. Actually, I tell a lie, this topic actually crossed my mind when I took a trip to the Dad’s Army museum in Thetford last month. (It is a very interesting attraction which I would highly recommend!)

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My sister and I at Thetford’s Dad’s Army museum

There is a really simple explanation as to why programmes like It Aint Half Hot Mum, Dad’s Army, Blackadder Goes Fourth and even Sky 1’s recent sitcom Chickens work so well. It doesn’t take a genius to see that genre is not only there to entertain it’s audiences but to act as an antidepressant. I personally feel that situation comedies have a purpose to ensure that for half an hour the viewer forgets any worries, sorrows or uncertainties life is throwing them at that moment, by presenting the audience with a set of characters and situations which are far worse than their own.

When I ever feel down I immediately draw comparisons with characters belonging to my favourite sitcoms. People are also reminded by peers when they are feeling a little low that we should count our blessings and be thankful we aren’t out on the frontline of some brutal battle, fighting for our lives.

Maybe that’s what the writers of these mentioned sitcoms thought, by creating tragic, down trodden, humble characters and happening to place them in the first world war or the second one, surly this way they are creating the ultimate tonic for those who are in need of a little cheering up? After all, they do say laughter is the best medicine.

Take René Artois, from ‘Allo’Allo, for example. What we have here is an adulterer, who happens to be stuck in a loveless marriage but is too much of a coward to do anything about it. Now introduce the fact he is struggling to run a cafe in a small town which also happens to be occupied by Nazis. He is torn between keeping his livelihood, his life and helping the allies and French Resistance. He now becomes sympathetic despite his cowardly qualities, but that alone, of course is not funny. That’s why we need the element of farce that this show is remembered for. No matter what we are going through we can’t help but laugh at the extreme, over the top antics, René gets caught up in. Whether he has faked his own death and now has to pretend to be his identical twin brother with the same name or, he is hiding British airmen in his cellar, or The Fallen Madonna for the German Officers, the audience knows that their own life isn’t as bad as this- despite it being fiction.

Ooh Rene: The cafe owner is always in a predicament

Ooh Rene: The cafe owner is always in a predicament

We can draw some comparisons with the trials and tribulations of Captain Edmund Blackadder, in the fourth and final series of the historic sitcom. Edmund, rather like René is the straight man, surrounded by all walks of life, most of which are depicted to be stupider and more crazy than the protagonist. The main comparison I would like to illustrate is cowardliness, like Mr Artois, Captain Blackadder is desperate to do whatever he can to get out of the situation he is in, for example putting pencils up his nose and wearing underpants, in a desperate bid to go home,in the final episode.

Captain Blackadder couldn't get out of his situation

Captain Blackadder couldn’t get out of his situation

Personally, I believe that while we do admire the main characters in all war related sitcoms (maybe not all of you will agree when it comes to Gary Sparrow, I personally think while he is a coward we can admire him even more so as he is ‘one of us’, having come from our time and not the past) as we ourselves could not picture us in their situations, it is vital that these protagonists are seen as a little bit cowardly, otherwise they wouldn’t be believable.

Also, I think by having characters, like Private Pike, in Dad’s Army and Beaumont in It Aint Half Hot Mum, who are somewhat wary of their situations, and a little scared or cowardly is a good thing for the audience’s morale. Because as you are watching, you admire the sitcom characters who are dealing with war because no matter how grave the consequences are, no matter how many times they step out into uncertainty, they accept that this is what they have to do and they get on with it. This then subconsciously comforts the viewer into knowing that no matter what they have to face, that running away from the problem is inevitably impossible and by seeing their favourite characters getting through it,  you are reassured that everything is going to be alright.

If the likes of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard, the staff at Café René,  the performers in the base’s Concert Party, Captain Blackadder’s platoon and Gary Sparrow’s friends in 1940’s Whitechapel can do their best, going through events far worse than your own, then it is worth a shot and turning off the telly and getting up and fighting whatever the day wants to throw at you.

If wartime sitcom characters can get through it- you can!

If wartime sitcom characters can get through it- you can!

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