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Yes, great for the first three years...
I agree with the other reviewer who noted the above dichotomy.
Recently, this iconic comedy series began a run on the Decades channel.
Occasionally, such as during the early part of the third season, I noticed an occasional flat episode or two. Otherwise, most of the humor and wit were sharp and/or amusing for almost all of the episodes of the first three seasons. The second half of season three was a special treat, with both Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin in attendance,the latter just beginning her time on the show. I was wondering why this show had not been so fondly remembered by yours truly. I opined that some of the humor might have been over my head. Well, that may have been the case for those early years...
When season four began, I noted not only the cast changes, but more importantly the weakness of the wit on presentation. Gone were Goldie Hawn, Jeremy Lloyd, Teresa Graves and Pamela Rodgers as performers (Judy Carne had also slowly phased herself out during the third season), but most notably, a number of writers had departed after the third season. Apparently their contributions did make a difference, as the laugh-out-loud moments became rare from that fourth season on. As there were some rough episodes even with those authors on board before, the situation seemed to become somewhat dire afterwards. Perhaps this is why we don't recall Laugh-In as the great comedy innovation it was at its outset.
For those incipient years, we had sly political commentary, reminiscent of the previous Tom Lehrer/That Was the Week that Was era, occasionally poking its way in through Rowan & Martin's dialogues; i.e. jibes at the NSA, the AMA, hopelessness of widespread implementation of alternative auto fuels, etc., through the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate and Whoopee award spots, as well as Rowan's military general character. In short, issues still on the table today were approached, which made the show seem less than fatuous. The humor often combined old jokes with new issues in a seamless fashion that made things funny, even if we knew the jokes were old. It was old but also cool, just as older guests and the younger cast seemed to blend well.
For the fourth season, all that seemed to fly the window. Instead, we had more obviously lame jokes and what felt like tired humor. Instead of crisp barbs we had Barbi Benton and such. There seemed to be more of a spirit of Tuning-Out and Turning-On on display than the more pertinent critiques blended with "flower power" humor that seemed to work in years previous. In short, whereas they had previously, finally made the social commentary of Lehrer and the like palatable to the general public, after years of aborted attempts that had been too caustic, now that area of the scripts was more-or-less scrapped. After season 4, Artie Johnson and Henry Gibson also left. One can see why. If the show had been what it once was, perhaps they would have remained. Some execs obviously told Rowan & Martin and co. to tone down on certain aspects and to fluff things up. This seemed to disembowel the show of its core, the reminders of the motives behind the protest movements, and leave it with the hollow shell of the lifestyle that remained. That resultant, shallow after-taste is what also seemed to happen with Benny Hill, the Carry On films and others, i.e. milking the product whilst also reducing to the LCD level of sophistication.
Laugh-In, we remember your early years, lest ye be judged on the later. It was the perfect recipe which was then tinkered with.
Can't Smeg Won't Smeg (1998)
This must be Ainsley Harriott at his best. He is having such a great time with the Red Dwarf gang that it seems to bring out the best in him. When he isn't swiveling or singing, he's joyfully barking orders in his charismatic cookery way. Danny's Duane Dibbley was never better! Rimmer is smug and slimy, Kryten is hilarious and Lister is classic Lister...but all in good taste (ahem)...
love dwarf series 8 esp Back in the Red
7 slightly missed the mark, 8 is wrongly maligned...inspired performances in back in the Red esp Craig Charles at his best as Lister...difficult to believe that others have not stated so...
anyway, timing in comedy is key, and Danny John Jules as well as Criag Charles are in top form for series 8....Chris Barrie is great as usual and the return of Norman Lovett is great, while Hattie Hayridge was great as well...Chloe Annett's Kochanski is much improved from series 7, has her comic form down pat...so why is it so knocked? The whole atmosphere around the show was great at that time...
so much laughter is provided by series 8 and it deserves far more in the way of kudos...lighten up ye of stodgy temperament!
Red Dwarf: Entangled (2012)
Roots of coincidence
Arthur Koestler gets namechecked here and his thought even given some marginal support, albeit via the dwarfers. Synchronicity has come in for heavy criticism over the years, so it is nice to at least have it mentioned again, and who better than the Cat and Kryten to dabble in it.
Anyway, I thought Series 10 in general was great. The cast were back in the zone again, getting all the comedy right. Everything seemed to click. Series 9 and 11 are a different story. The latter are just not funny. Series 10 was Red Dwarf anew. The scripts for 11 seemed to be weak, tired clichéd versions of better jokes from earlier series. Dwarf has a big following but it seems hard core fans don't contribute here. Well, I think others might agree, certain series just work, which for me is every one save 7, 9 and 11. The dwarfers are in the zone or they are not.
Mork & Mindy (1978)
Much wittier than my recollection
I recently caught a few episodes from the last season of the series. I either forgot, took for granted, or let some of the downright obtuse references in Robin Williams' lines and/or improvisations go over my head when I originally viewed some of this in the early 80s. My brief impression upon revisit has been that this was acutely humorous, and frequently hilarious, without sinking to tastelessness, as is the wont nowadays when shows or performers run low on comic material.
I think maybe I was going through my early teens' "I'm too cool for this" stage when these originally aired. As others have stated, Pam Dawber was perky with never seeming to be saccharin, and she even had a certain "je ne sais quoi" that is quite wholesome. Jonathan Winters' turn on the show was inspired, and they had numerous great guest stars as the show went on, a la everyone wanting to be on an episode of "Batman" 15 years earlier, another show which is also funnier upon adult revisit. Inspired writing, some of which may have been Williams' improv, as I have been watching a lot of the last season and he would have been given some leeway by then. I too recall that at the time, I thought the last season was a dip in form. Perhaps having been starved of any truly inspired comedy of late, I am appreciating that this is a relative feast in the comedy sense. (I just read the Trivia section, which notes that Winters and Williams were given explicit license to improvise in parts of the scripts for the last season. Also, Conrad Janis' comments about Robin Williams are enlightening, as he was well liked by the cast. All this comes through in the positive overtone of the episodes that I recently viewed).
I am downloading episodes from all the seasons to further explore. As another reviewer stated, some of the early episodes made more use of Mork's alien nature as the butt of jokes, so that is the juvenile, silly part I was remembering. By the 4th season, Robin Williams' character had become more earth-friendly, so he could reasonably make all these great jibes about Turlock, Marshall McLuhan, chewing lanolin, Eddie Fisher's bad marital luck, etc.. By then, Williams had carte blanche to improvise, and he ran with it, but many of us had turned off to the show by then.
Hurray for Antenna TV for preserving these tasteful, uplifting gems of comedy! It is a few leagues above those American sitcoms which all seem generic starting at about ~2000, which are dire in comparison.
Lee Evans: Monsters (2014)
Love Lee Evans in his guest spots, but not here....
Hate to echo the negative, but the vulgarities, combined with the facial contortions and a certain insensitivity, made me quickly stop the video proceedings. If you like this sort of thing, OK, but I prefer a world that doesn't encourage it. On the other hand, Lee Evans is great in his Dr. Who & Big Fat Quiz spots and such...hilarious...just keep him away from himself! His stand-up persona, in general, is a love it or the opposite type of affair for the viewer. He should stay away from certain social issues that I was surprised to hear him trod upon. Apparently, this is what sells, so he "goes there". Having announced his imminent stand-up retirement, this comes as good news for those of us who prefer the kinder, gentler Lee Evans...Lee Evans the stand-up is dead, long live Lee Evans!
Blake's 7: Killer (1979)
Predates "Epideme" of Red Dwarf does it not
I agree with the previous reviewer's comments, re. the faint likelihood of Blake recalling the tactics of Lord Ashley, utilizing smallpox-tainted blankets against Native Americans, at such short notice. Plot contrivance excused, Gareth Thomas seems to pull it off well. Similarly, guests Paul Daneman and Ronald Lacey paint their characters visibly and rise above the corniness of some of the others' lines. The latter's turn here conjures up memories of his performance in the Avengers' "The Joker".
However, the crisp dialogue between Villa and Avon is what is most priceless. Holmes' use of Villa's puns and Avon's facial expressions, and how the others play off them as well as how they propel the plot forward, is subtle and expert. Holmes has a talent for effectively developing characters over a short time period, but the casts for his Blakes episodes are equally commendable for pulling off his expositions.
Series 7 of Dwarf did revisit the storyline presented here, with the comic twist of how the virus is transmitted to Lister. Well, Doug Naylor must have seen his share of Blakes 7, however, what that does demonstrate more pointedly is the series' influence over the years. It does seem to fall short of recognition in that respect.
A good episode which improves upon repeat viewing, usually a sign of strong, subtle writing.
Carry on Loving (1970)
Better Than the Average Vote Count, and Maybe The Last HQ CO
Watch this after "CO Up The Jungle" and you will see what I mean. That film came just before this one, and was replete with those tiresome tit-ogling genre sequences that saw the COs decline in quality. The popularity of "CO Camping" probably pushed things in the wrong direction, re. BW's popular scene...well it is about making a buck, which inevitably trumps quality. The double entendres in this one work a bit better, thanks largely to the presence of Hattie Jacques, whose chemistry with Sid James also worked well in "Carry On Cabby". Joan Sims is good in her usual put-upon woman role. KW and CH are as funny as always. The newer faces actually provide some variety to the proceedings, as opposed to those in "Convenience". The two couples are cute. Everything seems to skirt the edge of bad taste and tiredness here, which cannot not be said for later entries. Just relax and enjoy, what's so horrible about cute? It's better than stale...
Doctor Who: Utopia (2007)
Top marks to all involved
From Chipo Chung to Derek Jacobi, all involved give brilliant performances here. The enthused scientist chatter between the Doctor and the Professor is a breath of fresh air, and the sci-fi/metaphysical chatter between the Doctor and Jack is refreshing as well.
Looking back at this episode with the benefit of the intervening years to place it, I would say that it represents a zenith of sorts for the show. Great script, excellent execution, etc.. Some great moments followed, "Waters of Mars" for example, but the tight execution and dynamic cast on display here are brilliant. Freema Agyeman is great, as well as the supporting cast and especially John Simm.
Spooks: Episode #4.2 (2005)
Possible poster episode(s)?
Having viewed all ten series and being bold enough to admit it, I would have to say that this two-part "Special" might capture the best that the program has to offer. Without listing all those categories covered, it would suffice to say that this two-part installment benefits from an excellent script, wit, excellent acting with inspired and realistic characterizations, clever and insightful references to real events and people (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Jamie Oliver a la his lamb slaughtering, 1984 IRA attempt on Thatcher, etc.) as well as the healthy smattering of academia/classics via Professor Curtis and his awakening through Ruth, and so on. I suppose I just bought it all, but nevertheless it is very well done. The complexity of characters which on the surface seem one-dimensional, then evolve otherwise, is also pointed in this episode. Malcolm, Colin and Tash and their interaction is also charming, while Anna Chancellor plays her character's type well in its incipience. Adam and Zaf are also convincing in their banter.
Spooks: Episode #10.6 (2011)
I viewed this, the last episode of a sometimes surreal-in-a-context-where-it-shouldn't-be-surreal, but otherwise excellent, series with sadness, as it seemed like this would truly be the end. The last series seemed to take into account what some viewers had been saying, i.e. that the real MI-5 were not always straightforward "good guys", and that they often had to do things which were ethically and morally sketchy. The characters played by Max Brown and Lara Pulver showed this well throughout the 10th series. They were both excellent in that they came across as conscientious, caring people who nevertheless had to lead innocent, likable citizens down the garden path, to the point of ruining their lives, for the sake of a planned special relationship with Russia. In a sense, it shows that getting into bed with the Russians would involve sacrifices that would be dubiously justifiable, at best, and that those sacrifices would be red flags as to the inappropriateness of such an arrangement. The loss of Tariq earlier in the 10th also showed this. Like Colin, Tariq seemed to represent the brains as well as the heart-and-soul of MI-5, but his and Colin's sacrifices seemed to show that heart-and-soul are expendable, whereas brains can be replaced. Welcome to the cruel Darwinian world, or some twist on that theme. The human sacrifice in this episode continues and sums up this theme in grand style. Of course, the characters know the dangers involved and the series has consistently shown the possible consequences. The ep also has other good touches, including Calum's sarcasm, which seems to bring out the contrasts in his character, extremely bright in some ways yet the opposite in others, so deuce at the end of the day. Still, one always hopes that Harry Pearce and the others could transfer to a more idyllic situation, but such will never be the case, and this episode hammers the nail in the coffin on that reality.
Honey West: The Fun-Fun Killer (1966)
OK, they tried to pull an Avengers stateside
The beginning is so like the Avengers '66 episode The Cybernauts as to be plagiarism, but let's not take it so seriously. That Avengers episode apparently aired on ABC in the US weeks later, but so many of that series' episodes seemed to repeat themselves after a while that it's difficult to say who or which came first, in either series. Anyway, that seems to explain some of the back story here. Just add an ocelot, Anne Francis and her nifty nevus, cool Sam and you have an episode. Seen one Honey West episode, seen 'em all...or some such nonsense. Liking Anne Francis and the legendary Marvin Kaplan, late of the Mad Mad World gas station, goes a long way in helping enjoy/endure this installment.
Red Dwarf: The Beginning (2012)
If you don't take it too seriously...
then you should enjoy this ep immensely, especially if you're a dwarfer. The opening scene with young Rimmer's response to his fleetingly adoring classmate is classic..as he's writing we know he's coming up with another Rimmer muck-up...which means you're laughing before you even see it, again esp if you're a dwarfer. Like others I also felt some of RD IX was strained at times, maybe because it was too much like scrutinizing under a microscope, looking for tired jokes etc.. If you just let that go and enjoy series X for what it is, you will see what I mean. There are some joke-type retreads, e.g. Rimmer's fear speech and his summary afterwards are a lot like a joke from the original series, but what the heck, it's funny the way he delivers it here...and since it's the type of joke we've had from him before, it seems that much more seemly to hear it again with a new twist. I loved the surprises and the responses. Having these guys back for six episodes helped me get used to them again...the delivery of the lines by all the cast is what makes it for me...OK we know where they're going before many of them, but isn't that half the fun? I cannot wait for XI, sure I am not alone...
Spooks: Episode #2.3 (2003)
Many of the Spooks early entries, as well as some of the fourth and sixth series' episodes, provided interesting and sympathetic characterizations of the intelligent but often-misguided types who were targeted by terrorist groups. The danger is that there has sprouted an epidemic, social-profiling shoot among the masses, the which preys upon these kinds of TV-fueled side-linings of anything that smells of independent thought. God forbid. Well, what is refreshing about this episode of Spooks is the script's well-balanced portrayal of an old-school Socialist as portrayed by Christopher Fairbank. The off-handed manner in which Tom and Zoe discuss his fate at the end is frightening and reveals the ugly side of the roles their characters play, which provides a realistic and thought-provoking edge to this episode. Zoe makes a comment about Fairbank's character which makes the viewer consider him as truly admirable to the extent that he has an obvious love for teaching, whereas he is not blameless for his involvement with a group which might be up to more than he is aware of. However, it is this kind of person that would make Tom consider something along these lines later on, i.e. that MI-5 sometimes leaves questionable casualties in its wake. Thank you early script-writers for presenting these juicy ethical dilemmas, they are memorable.