|Index||5 reviews in total|
This is a show that I would have loved to see find a wider audience
here in the U.S.. There's definitely an audience for it; it covers a
lot of the same ground that 'Frasier' did. But 'Agony' has more drama
to it, and emphasis on the kind of real-life heartache that doesn't
come from grand, tragic events but from the slow drifting apart caused
by a relationship that just isn't enough.
Jane Lucas, advice columnist, is supposed to have the answers. Then one day, her husband announces he's leaving. Now she's at a loss. Over the next few seasons, she grows and learns more about herself coping with the job of being the one people turn to for advice while proceeding the best way she knows how, with help from friends and family.
The final episode and the resolution between Jane and her on-again-off-again estranged husband Laurence is a true gem. Had it been a U.S. production it would have stood as one of the great finales of its decade. It had, in just a few seasons, much more wit, insight, and real understanding about adult relationships than you'd ever find in trash like 'Sex & The City'. Perhaps some clever executives at BBC or wherever will find this show a rightful home on DVD.
I LOVE this show. I saw it originally on PBS in the mid-eighties. At several years old, it was beyond ahead of anything on U.S. TV at the time. I found the first 3 episodes on a VHS tape through a store specializing in British things and found out that time has not taken anything from it. It's still a fantastic show. Put it on DVD and I'll buy it before the discs cool!! Hilarious, great characters, great plots.
There have been several high profile surveys in the last decade,
determining the best sitcom ever made (of course what they mean is "in
the English-speaking world"). Seinfeld is mentioned, as is Fawlty
Towers, but, as far as I am concerned, the two greatest to date are The
Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and Agony.
These were shows so in tune with the times, so forward thinking that they stunned viewers, and are probably still more shocking/surprising than most of what is on television (yes, even Sarah Silverman, The Family Guy, and the latest celebrated HBO or AMC series). A simple run-through of Agony's plots, plot twists or gags would prove this.
Most significantly, Agony featured a gay couple as regular characters, and showed them in bed together more than a few times. It also had the two declaring their love for each other. Compare this to Will & Grace, in which Will was never seen in the bedroom with a man to whom he was attracted. Even the Sarah Silverman Show skirts around the gay issue, choosing to have its resident gays behave like dorky frat boys who - we are invited to assume, depending on our comfort level - actually having sex at some time, somewhere...deep in the shadows. And here is the stunning fact: Agony is technically a 70's Britcom, having gone into production in 1979.
Agony's other plots/plot-twists/back-stories featured drug use, sex, birth control (including abortion), interracial relationships, pornography, censorship, swinging, etc, etc. It openly mocked government, the ruling classes, and religion, and the series only got more and more cutting as it evolves.
Even the production values of the series were remarkable. Val, Jane Lucas' secretary, was a New Romantic poster girl, appearing each time as a new glamorous space-aged persona. Diana, Jane's boss, was a Grande Dame fashionista who would make Anna Wintour look like a Gap employee with an inferiority complex. Vincent Fish, one of Jane's suitors, was a post-punk glamboy. The Lucas' apartment was decorated in a relaxed and slick way still found in lofts and city "pads". Andy Evol now seems to have been a template for many a 90's and noughties hipster-doofus.
Most importantly, Agony was funny, with the humor as slick and savvy as the clothes, sets and makeup. And Maureen Lipman, with her openness and earnestness, is primarily responsible for the shows success, though she also had a supporting cast there to back her up.
Agony still holds up today, and the only problem with a viewing, is that it is bound to make one dissatisfied with what is currently on television. Having a region 1 DVD set of this series is at the top of my Wish List. If only.
Regarding the other reviewer's comments on Agony,while I share your enthusiasm for the series you were a bit amiss in your facts. Diana Weston played the secretary not the boss in the first series and Jane's Mum is Jewish not Scottish. That was the whole point of her character. Given Maureen Lipman's subsequent popularity I am surprised that only three episodes have ever been released on video and are now out of print. I had to go looking on eBay for them. I agreed with your comments on it not being a typically British series with the snappy one-liners, it took someone with Lipman's comic timing to make it work. It was a shame seeing her waste her talent on those BT ads but I suppose they provided for her old age.
I saw 'Agony' on its late 1980s reruns and remember it and its odd
characters and situations very well. Never in sitcom were more 'issues'
and trendy characters portrayed than in this 70s classic.
We had Maureen Lipman's agony aunt (and the whiny Dear Jane tune); Peter Blake as obnoxious DJ Andy Evol; Jane's secretary Diana Weston, with her tinny voice; Maria Charles as the scary Jewish mother always interfering; Simon Williams as Jane's teacher hubby Laurence who later shacked up with an Indian girlfriend, while Jane shacked up with the bright blond haired Vincent (Bill Nighy); and, of course, the gay couple up the stairs Michael and Rob (Michael with curls, played by Peter 'Dennis from Please Sir' Denyer; Rob a bit camp with a beard). I'd love to see it again - but forget the sequel; totally feeble and a misfire. Blake and Denyer worked together again in the equally excellent 'Dear John' in the late 80s.
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