SUNSHINE ON PUTTY: The Golden Age of British Comedy from Vic Reeves to The Office

Ben Thompson, Author . Fourth Estate $24.95 (459p) ISBN 978-0-00-713583-7

This hefty chronicle brings together an assortment of newspaper articles and magazine pieces by British media critic Thompson spanning the past 14 years. Realizing that digression is the better part of valor, Thompson tosses in many funny footnotes as he writes in a whirlwind of whimsy, circling about his central premise: that modern British comedy found a new direction after the influential Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer launched Vic Reeves Big Night Out in 1990. To trace the evolution of the decade's surreal satires, Thompson did hundreds of interviews with Brit wits, from top comedic talents to producers, directors, executives, managers and agents. Highlighting memorable moments, he probes the creative elements of such shows as The Day Today ("inflate[s] the familiar visual and verbal tics of the TV newsroom into... magnificently grotesque shapes"), the celebrity quiz show Shooting Stars and The Royle Family ("one of the most original pieces of British TV in years"). Full chapters are devoted to Johnny Vegas ("awesome comedic potential"), The Fast Show, Father Ted and the "dysfunctional characters" of The League of Gentlemen . Most of the series and performers Thompson discusses are unfamiliar to American viewers; however, the inclusion of a "Chronological Timeline" is helpful, and fascinating references and comparisons to American sitcoms abound. (July 15)

Reviewed on: 05/10/2004
Release date: 01/01/2004
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