A Metalhead's Guide To... British Sitcoms
The spirit of metal is alive on TV screens across the UK
Let’s be honest here, metal is quite funny, isn't it? OTT, absurdist, high camp and often utterly ludicrous, but it's this indulgence thats's part of the fun. This means most metal fans have a pretty sophisticated sense of humour, and when we aren’t blasting our ears with all manner of glorious noise we like to have a laugh. But the sloppy, broad, piss poor gurning of Mrs. Brown’s Boys is hardly what the doctor ordered if you hold your comedy in as high a standard as you do your music.
So here we present our very own Metalhead Guide to British situation comedies.
**Yeah, so maybe the concept of two twenty-something clubbers co-existing in a small flat in London wouldn’t appeal to metal fans on the surface. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that not only is Simon Pegg's and Jessica Hynes' Spaced incredibly, uniquely and brilliantly funny, it’s also filled with the kind of references to horror, science fiction and alternative culture that only true geeks would appreciate. Whether it’s Pegg’s character Tim being sacked from his job at a comic shop by Bill Bailey after insulting a small boy for his love of The Phantom Menace, to the Doom inspired, first person shooter scene that led to the creation of the classic Shaun Of The Dead. Spaced is made by fans, for fans.
Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place
If you love the metal, you love the '80s. And no situation comedy, even ones made in the '80s, has managed to capture the aesthetic of what made the '80s both so brilliant and so bonkers as Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place. The creation of Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade, GMDP is a show within a show as Holness’, portraying ‘Writer, artist, visionary and dreamweaver’ Marenghi, introduces an episode of his ‘lost classic’ Dark Place show from the '80s. Set in a hospital of the same name, a hospital erected ‘over the very gates of hell’, each episode chronicles the spooky goings on, from the birth of a giant eyeball to an extra-terrestrial broccoli infection. It’s both brilliantly absurd and superbly painstaking in its attempts to recreate the naffest effects, acting, cinematography and costume of the era. It also features appearances from future stars like Stephen Merchant, Noel Fielding and Matt Berry.
The League Of Gentlemen
It’s almost certainly the most disturbing and unusual sitcom of all time, and yet this is a multi-award winning, household name of a programme. Quite how a show that is often so deeply unsettling slipped through the net and into the mainstream is unclear, but the like of Tubbs and Edward, Herr Lipp and, of course, Papa Lazarou have become some of the most loved and quoted characters in comedy of the last twenty years. The League have described themselves as ‘The Slipknot of comedy’ before, presumably due to the number of mask, prosthetics and guises they adorn leaving them almost unrecognisable, and admit to taking far more influence from Hammer Horror and Nosferatu than they do from Fawlty Towers. All of this has led to a genuinely hardcore fanbase obsessed with the goings on in Royston Vasey. Anyone with a penchant for the dark, the bleak and the arcane need look no further for their comedic kicks.
**Metal is a genre that takes so much of its inspiration from historical events, so it’s natural that we would love Richard Curtis' and Ben Elton’s classic Blackadder. Over four series the eponymous anti-hero, the role of a lifetime for Rowan Atkinson (fuck Mr. Bean!), cheats, lies, manipulates and snakes his way from the middle ages to the First World War. Featuring an ensemble cast that may well be the finest ever put together; Miranda Richardson’s squealing, reactionary Queenie, Stephen Fry’s bizarre, baa-ing General Melchett, Rik Mayall’s thrusting, egotist Flashheart, Hugh Laurie’s childlike, simpleton Prince Regent, Tim McInnerny’s twitching, jobsworth Darling and, of course, Tony Robinson as Blackadder’s useless, cunning plan hatching dogsbody Baldrick. It’s a comedy institution and, come on, really we shouldn’t be having to tell you to go and watch! As for that final scene in Blackadder Goes Forth... has there ever been a more stirring, moving moment in sitcom history?
The Young Ones
If you ask Motörhead to play on your show then the chance are you’re going to appear on this list. The fact that, even without Lemmy and Co., The Young Ones would still have been the biggest bogey crusted middle finger to mainstream entertainment when it burst onto screens in the early '80s, providing the biggest of big bangs for alternative comedy in the process, goes to show just the kind of impact it had. And while most metal fans would point to the denim clad, chaos maker Vyvyan as the character they most identified with, it was, again, the superb ensemble cast of Nigel Planer, Christopher Ryan, Alexei Sayle and, the late, great, Rik Mayall and the scattershot and absurd twists and turns in the plot that made The Young Ones so great and so divisive. While many teenagers growing up in Thatcherite Britain at the time were obsessed with its anarchic approach to comedy, the older guard hated it. Something that made us love it even more, which all metal fans can definitely appreciate.
**It’s becoming a bit of a theme that these shows are characterised by their subversive nature. Nighty Night is Julia Davis’ attempt to juxtapose the normal suburban housewife lifestyle against the mind of the callous, self-centred sociopath Jill Tyrell, played by Davis herself. Some of the content is painfully close to bone, like telling her, perfectly healthy, husband Terry (played by the always excellent Kevin Eldon) that he has terminal cancer and seducing her obsessive stalker Glen Bulb (The League Of Gentlemen’s Mark Gatiss) into committing suicide with poisoned Angel Delight, there is a sadistic streak running through Nighty Night that those who delight in brutality will adore. The Good Life this is not.