A trio of British comedies

Some decades back, our local PBS station would run several British shows on Friday nights. For many Americans this was their first exposure to classic UK fare and, for me, solidified my love of British humour. (See what I did there?) Here are a few of the shows that grabbed our attention and found their place in America’s heart.

Image of DVD cover for Fawlty Towers complete collection

Fawlty Towers – Basil Fawlty is having a bad day. Every day at Fawlty Towers is a bad day for Basil, especially if his “little piranha fish” wife Sybil has anything to do with it. Easily frustrated, Basil’s constantly trying to ‘raise the tone’ of their hotel, set on the so-called ‘English Riviera’ in South-West England.

The brainchild of main character John Cleese, who plays Basil, the show was inspired by a hotelier that ran a hotel where the members of Monty Python were staying at in Torquay, Devon, whom Cleese described as “the rudest man I’ve ever come across in my life”. The man’s antics included tossing Eric Idle’s briefcase out a window “in case it contained a bomb” and viewed his guests as a “colossal inconvenience” according to Michael Palin. Continue reading “A trio of British comedies”

The Inimitable P.G. Wodehouse

P G Wodehouse was a prolific writer, with nearly all of his stories set among British aristocracy and/or in the proverbial ‘polite society’ of 1920s and 30s Britain. Knowingly or not, he somewhat reflected the naïve obliviousness of a few of his characters in his real life. After moving to France and being captured by the Germans in 1940 he wrote and performed several broadcasts on German radio. Although comical and apolitical, the mere act of broadcasting over German radio during the war was incredibly controversial, and fueled a charge of treason back in Britain. Never quite understanding the ostracism, in 1947 he moved house to the US where he lived until his death at age 93 in 1975.

His characters are wonderfully stereotypical, as Wodehouse himself said, “a real character in one of my books would stick out like a sore thumb.” Even so, they become perfect players in his explorations and send-ups and show his deep understanding of human nature and behavior.

Here are three television adaptations that showcase Wodehouse’s insights into the (well-mannered) human condition. Continue reading “The Inimitable P.G. Wodehouse”

Who needs Disney+ when you have the library?

Sure Disney+ has new TV shows and movies to watch, but the library has the classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and lot of other great Disney resources too!Walt Disney

Whether you want to start at the beginning and learn about the man who dreamed up Disney with the book Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination,or read about the history of Disney from their art to their music, check out these books: Continue reading “Who needs Disney+ when you have the library?”

Reports on the Death of the Romantic Comedy are Greatly Exaggerated

For years, romantic comedies (rom coms) have been few and far between, and those that were released were often small budget indie films that were a hit with critics but did little at the box office. Then a little movie called Crazy Rich Asians came along…is it the beginning of a rom com renaissance?

While they weren’t blockbusters, there have been several rom coms over the past few years that have pleased both audiences and critics. While you wait for Crazy Rich Asians to come out on DVD,check out these three rom coms with diverse casts and storylines.

The Big Sick
Pakistani stand-up comic Kumail Nanjiani and grad student Zoe Kazan fall in love, but their relationship is complicated by Kumail’s Muslim parents and Zoe’s sudden illness. More romantic than funny, the film earned accolades for its realism and warmth, and the cross-cultural themes that added new dimensions to the rom com formula.

Continue reading “Reports on the Death of the Romantic Comedy are Greatly Exaggerated”

Here’s Looking at You!: Documentary Films about Artists

An artist’s life can be as compelling as the work they produce. A documentary, at best, strives to render a portrait of the artist as honestly as possible. This, of course, is as close as any of us will get to being in the same room with a person whose life and work draws us in.  What will you find that you do not, already, know?  Will this new view enhance the experience of the art or detract from it?

Continue reading “Here’s Looking at You!: Documentary Films about Artists”