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Tony Grist

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Happy Birthday, Dad's Army [Aug. 3rd, 2008|11:53 am]
Tony Grist
I watched Dad's Army when it was new. If you'd told me then that I'd be watching an evening of tribute shows 40 years later, I'd have raised a quizzical eyebrow.

TV back then wasn't made to last. A lot of the early episodes have gone forever. The BBC taped over them.

No-one last night had anything but kind words for the show. A pity really. It's solid enough to bear a little criticism.

Croft and Perry are jokesters. If Dad's Army is better than their other shows it's because they hired some wonderful actors.

Notably Arthur Lowe. He took a stereotype- pompous little man who's riding for a fall- and put flesh on the bones. His captain Mainwaring is one of the immortals. John Le Mesurier's pretty wonderful too. And Clive Dunn. I don't think Dunn gets enough credit for just how funny he is.

The scripts, though, can be thin- and contrived. If there's depth, pathos, subtext, it's because the actors put it there. Had Croft and Perry hired the vaudevillians they usually hired we wouldn't be rating Dad's Army any higher than cheerful romps like Are You Being Served? or It Ain't Half Hot, Mum. 

Lowe and Le Mesurier have brilliant timing- but that's not true of everyone in the cast.  Sometimes what we see on screen is barely good enough.

I don't suppose anyone involved in the show thought they were creating art.  Isn't it interesting how little that matters?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: ibid
2008-08-03 01:23 pm (UTC)
It's often the way, Mozart's magic flute is among his best. Who rememebers Arthur Sullivan's seious stuff? Why should it be any different with tv comedy?

I have to disagree with you a bit. The earlier episodes are gag based it is true but, as you say the actors were so fine it didn't matter. I think as the series went on Croft and Perry responded to the quality of their instruments (as t'were) and created some very fine scripts.

Am I alone in finding Mainwairing (pompous fool though he be) actually more sympathetic than Wilson?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-03 01:33 pm (UTC)
I won't argue about the improvement in the scripts. In recent years I've only ever seen odd episodes in random order.

No, you're not alone in finding Mainwaring more sympathetic than Wilson. Thanks to Lowe- who was, I think, a great actor- Mainwaring has much greater depth than any of the other characters.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2008-08-04 12:36 pm (UTC)
Rising Damp--just thinking about it makes me smile--is my all-time British comedy favorite series. My mother and I watched all the DVDs available just before she died--amazing that the programs she wanted most to watch were British: Upstairs, Downstairs, which my sister bought for her, and Rising Damp, which she got for herself. She loved Miss Ruth and Rigsby!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-04 01:54 pm (UTC)
I never watched Rising Damp- and I only know it in exceprts. Leonard Rossiter was a very funny man. You might want to check out his other show- The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

Frances de la Tour is a very funny person too. i saw her on stage once- a long long time ago- before her TV fame- and she stole the show.
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From: senordildo
2008-08-05 08:10 pm (UTC)
It's interesting what survives...before sitcoms people used to go to plays to get their doses of comedy. And most of those proto sit-com plays have been utterly forgotten. But thanks to advances in technology, old sit-coms can be perpetually re-experienced and are preserved for decades beyond their original shelf-life. In a way it's wonderful that we get to keep so much of the past. But I wonder at point we'll start feeling suffocated by it. And then will people willfully embrace ignorance, or retreat into niches?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-06 09:14 am (UTC)
That's a very good question.

There's got to come a time when these old shows will be so culturally remote from us that they become unwatchable.
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