Monday, March 28, 2011

When you’re here, you’re family…so get ready to be somewhere else

Last August, a black wreath was hung outside the doorstep of Rancho Yesteryear when the BBC axed the longest-running situation comedy in television history, Last of the Summer Wine.  So with the news that the Beeb has put another one of its sitcom veterans on the chopping block, My Family, the florist may be a little busy:

The BBC have confirmed today that the next series of My Family, one of the longest-running sitcoms in British TV history, will be the show's last.

Series 11, which was filmed at the same time as last year's episodes, will be shown later in 2011, but new BBC One boss Danny Cohen has now made it clear that he will not be ordering any further series. He says: "Now that all the Harper children have fled the nest we feel it's time to make room for new comedies on BBC One. I can confirm that the eleventh series, coming to BBC One later this year, will be the last."

My Family, which has been running on BBC One since September 2000, has notched up over 100 episodes - one of just 12 British sitcoms to pass this milestone.

Now, I should probably come clean here and admit that while I liked My Family in its early years, it’s a program (programme) that should probably have called it quits much earlier in its run (around Series 4, the last one to feature Kris Marshall as eldest son Nick).  I have about eight of the show’s series on Region 2 DVD and I think the only reason why I continued to collect and watch it was that I really enjoyed the performance of star Robert Lindsay, a Britcom veteran whose other shows include Get Some In!, Citizen Smith and the underrated Nightingales.

This article at The Guardian posits that it was only a matter of time before the Harpers moved out of the TV neighborhood because the kids on the show got older with each passing year and with all of them out of the house finding ways to involve them in the show’s scenarios proved to be a difficult chore at best.  One of them, youngest son Michael (Gabriel Thomson), started out as a precocious (if geeky) little brainiac but by the time he got to the age when red-blooded males start chasing women he kind of became…well, creepy, if you want to know the truth.  I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t confess that I developed a bit of a crush on actress Daniela Denby-Ashe who played daughter Janey; I liked her character because she realistically played a shallow, self-centered individual who never really matured even after she became a single parent in Series Five.  (She’s a bit too young for me, though, so maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to criticize her creepy brother.)

It’s a rare animal for any Britcom to reach more than one hundred episodes because usually the custom across the pond is that shows are generally written by one or two individuals who write all the programs in a series; the American model goes against this by employing a team of writers or having writers submit scripts that are then shaped to fit the show by the program’s creative consultants.  My Family was an attempt to emulate the American style and was created by writer Fred Barron, best known for writing the story and screenplay for TDOY fave Between the Lines (1977) and creating TV’s Caroline in the City (he had also previously worked on such TV hits as Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show and Dave’s World).  Family followed the Caroline mold in that while both shows featured funny lines and humorous situations there wasn’t much substance to the characters; the show was a highly-rated one with UK viewers but many boob tube critics seemed repulsed by its longevity and popularity.  Barron’s other UK creation, After You’re Gone, suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Beeb a few years back (cancelled even though the show was still a ratings winner) but remains an unknown quantity to me even though I do have the first series on disc around here somewhere (I just haven’t had an opportunity to open it up).  Linda of Yet Another Journal fame has mentioned to me in the past that My Family aired often on cable’s BBC America, a channel for which my cable company insists I cough up extra cash.

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ClassicBecky said...

I still miss "Are You Being Served" and it's been gone for ages! And I used to love the show whose name I cannot recall -- duh. It was Hyacinth and her husband Richard, sisters Rose and Daisy, I think. What the heck was the name of that show?

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

You're thinking of Keeping Up Appearances, which is one of my Mom's favorite Britcoms because the lead character (Hyacinth) is so much like her late stepmother.

When you say you miss Are You Being Served? do you mean that they don't air it in your neck of the woods? Because such an occurrence is something I would find mind-boggling, given that the show runs like tap water here in GA (I think it's the only Britcom GPTV knows about).

Page said...

Admittedly, I've never watched the British sitcoms on a regular basis but when I visit my mom we watch all of them together. Then if I want to catch an old Gene Autry I just walk into the other room with my dad! My dad complains about these sitcoms and my mom gripes about the Westerns which is hilarious to me.

When I first met my fiancée who's a Brit, I asked him if his mother watched Are You Being Served and Las of the Summer Wine and of course he said "Religiously"! I certainly can see the appeal as they're pretty funny with great actors in the roles.

I watch the BBC on a regular basis but it's to watch Top Gear, Graham Norton, Law & Order UK and Ramsey's shows. I used to watch their Cash in the Attic until they stopped running the episodes. I loved their version because they had GREAT stuff in their attics.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Page, my father loathes what he calls "scripted television" (he says it in the same breath as one might utter the words "Nazi Germany") but he'll make an exception for Britcoms -- both he and my mother are huge fans of shows like Keeping Up Appearances, As Time Goes By and especially Waiting for God. I tried sometime back to get him to watch the Britcom warhorse Dad's Army, though--he complained it was too slapsticky.

My father is also not a fan of old movies because for years he would rail at me that when we finally got a color TV set (and honestly, we were the last ones in this country to do so...I have the documentation) all I wanted to watch was black-and-white films. However, if I stumble across something monochromatic and there's a person sitting on a horse...BAM! He won't budge.

Page said...

Thanks for sharing your families viewing experiences with me. My parents have such different taste in television shows which is what makes it so fun to visit. I can always find a parent in one room most likely watching something I can get into! But my dad is one of those annoying channel flippers. And my mom lives for the old Charlie Chan movies which I've never been crazy about.