06 March 2019 2483 Views

Two Comedies from Channel 4. HOME is everything wrong with the British Media /Political zeitgeist. But DERRY is BRILLIANT!

by James Murphy
HOME and DERRY: two comedies..both alike in release date, production / release dates..both available on Catch up..

Derry Girls speaks for itself. A warm, funny, real, historical portrait of Ireland in transition. Layered with pathos and dramatic implication. But it’s a laugh a second, too and just MOVES with speed, vigour, economy, clarity. The politics are ‘there’; the tragedy is there but all in the background, thereby serving rather than substituting for the story and entertainment content. Watch, enoy: that’s all I have to say.

But its companion piece, HOME..well that’s another story..a snapshot of all that is wrong with ‘comedy’ today in the British media establishment. And hence, my focus, here. 
Premise: middle class family (well, sort of: the dad is a kind of hanger on attachment rather than biological father?)..happen upon a Syrian refugee in their car. They take him in, at behest of Saintly mom. Thereby causing both dramatic tension (?) and ‘comedy’ (??) amidst ensuing clash with the boo hiss dad (Rufus Jones: who also wrote /devised this..thing..).

There is a Brexit ‘joke’ within minutes: the unlikeable Dad figure OF COURSE voted ‘leave’..ergo leave = racist = brexit = linked to our failures in Syria, too?
The mother is of course, lovely. But once again could be maxine peacock or claire skinner or A N other du jour of similar stature /voice.
Her character is, of course, a TEACHER! Because THAT is the ONE JOB that is now on message and approved as not TOO middle class: you are earning and secure but on the side of the underdog! You read books and have opinions but not TOO academic. You’ll have money but not TOO much (though to be fair..THAT house looks TOO good even if the lady is head of department?)
Rufus Jones plays an instantly emasculated ‘male’: he is in HER house, as is pointed out via puns. An inadequate. And he, of course, personifies, in the show, what the average person is now being primed to THINK the average Brit thinks /feels about race and culture and how we ought to be re-educated. It’s not even controversial, provocative comedy that sent up and exposed / took down the racism of the past via the satirical Alf Garnett /Love Thy Neighbour varieties. So so DULL.

In any event and in reality? I suspect most families would NOT panic when faced with Mr Syrian. They’d assess him, quite quickly, in fact. Give him a cuppa and HELP him how they could. Panic is, or at least, should, be the exception, rather than the rule.
Authorities might be involved, sure. To HELP, not to simply have the poor person thrown back to the warzone and away from one’s lawn/back-yard et al. Britain is bigger than the narrow minded perception that we are all a bit..well..narrow minded?
You know: a great deal of people that work in refugee admin / processing / care do so because they have a vocation to protect the vulnerable and engender understanding, through objective yet compassionate action. There is a wealth of character material there.
I have met some of those who work in the field. They defy all stereotypes, just as they themselves combat prejudice and discrimination. I once had tea with a lovely lady who helped on the front lines of the UK’s camps. 20-30 something, blonde, beautiful, elegant, soft, erudite and compassionate. A smile that could recruit you to any cause worth a fight but also a pragmatic ability to sift you out, subtly, as simply not up to the challenge, in the nicest way possible? An impossible fusion of ethereal, innocent beauty and earthy, worldly experience. Wonderful Girl! And the KIND of heroine one wishes they’d see more of, in fiction, rather than just, in one’s real world encounters. 
Once again: THAT is a good basis for conflict and thereby both drama and comedy; maybe even romance, in a Beyond Borders kind of way?. Alas, that would also require some reading, research, field work/study and a giant big risk by programme commissioners to ‘go there’. Far easier to take the tried, trusted option: hence, HOME.


The presumption is one of two extremes.
that an innocent refugee would be kicked out, unhelped, in frenzied paranoia, or
that some ordained, saintly family, would equally be compelled, by some higher moral /cultural authority, to have the man lodge with them.
Am I over-simplifying? Maybe. Maybe not. There IS a narrative now and it seems to get commissioned, a LOT! It is, an ethos of sorts and in itself, to my mind, a BIT simplistic.
One could even argue that it’s anti Brit prejudiced in potential (itself surely a quasi-racism?) and typical of the media luvvy language of today. Which ironically enough helped give us the likes of Brexit and Trump as people rebelled against such awful presumptions. It’s the same tide that is, alas, I fear, unravelling, rather than enabling a truly enlightened, multi-cultural, co-existence. Vulnerable people are being driven to the arms of extremism, all too easily, because there is an agenda at every corner waiting to clash with its counterpart.
But enough of that..Back to..
..Anyway: the family do take in the nice refugee bloke. And in the only true belly laugh, there is a nice farcical scene at a Police station / immigration debrief.
Had there been more of THAT and LESS of the didactic, preachy presumption and derivative, cut and paste socio-economic set up? Then you COULD have had an actual COMEDY with PATHOS, DRAMA and above all..HEART, real emotion and LOVE thrown in. But then, that probably would not get commissioned, for lack of right on political relevance? Too bad.
HOME is now on Channel 4 (that’s a BRITISH channel: got a PROBLEM wiv that? ;)). You may love it. I didn’t (did you guess?)
DERRY GIRLS: Also available. It’s IRISH but ‘the right sort of Irish’. 😉 You will love it. I did!
This week’s charity: feel free to check out THE CHILDRENS’ SOCIETY


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