An Interesting Day Culminating With Twenty Minutes Spent Watching Dire Situation Comedy, 11 October 2016

People who know me well know that I watch very little television other than cricket and news.

So how did an interesting day end with me watching extracts from not one but two dire situation comedy shows? Here’s how.

I had arranged to meet Richard Goatley at lunchtime after a noonday game of real tennis at Lord’s. My game went very well as it happens, as evidenced by Richard who popped in to see the final point and asked if I wanted to start our meeting with some lunch in the Tavern, which I did.

Over lunch, before getting down to business proper, Richard and I chatted about a myriad of topics, including a rather geeky conversation about per capita GDP in various European countries and then, somehow, the subject of dire situation comedy shows on television.

Richard asked me if I had ever seen a show named “Come Back Mrs Noah” with Mollie Sugden in the lead. It was set in the year 2050 on a spaceship that was accidentally launched with a housewife and reluctant scientists on board. I confessed that I had not. Richard told me that I simply had to watch the first episode (which is available on YouTube) for its sheer direness, although he suspected that I wouldn’t last the full 30 minutes.

Richard googled “Mrs Noah” to extract some details about the show’s provenance and found a list of the 10 most dire situation comedy shows which included one, “Heil Honey, I’m Home”, about Hitler and Eva Braun, which neither of us had ever come across.

When dividing up the action points at the end of the meeting proper (yes, we did discuss plenty of real Middlesex CCC strategy business, thank you), we agreed that I would watch said episode of “Mrs Noah” and Richard would track down “Heil Honey”.

Come Back Mrs Noah was not hard to find – even easier for you – click here for the first 10 minute reel and (if you can bear it) you’ll see links to the other reels too.

Mrs Noah was not quite as bad as Richard led me to expect, although it was bad. There was one really prescient joke right at the start when the newsreader mentioned “The Margaret Thatcher Memorial Statue in Moscow’s Red Square”. As the show was written in 1977, 18 months before Thatcher came to power, I thought that was an intriguing joke to set in 2050.

There was a very non-PC 1970s joke in which the spaceship’s lift spoke with a rather unconvincing Trini-meets-Bajan accent and the reporter says, “they make the lifts in Notting Hill Gate nowadays”.

Another non-PC joke (presumably set to be a runner) was a sentient camera that was said to be able to frame and focus on the most interesting part of any scene; the device continuously followed Mollie Sugden around, clearly pointing its lens at er bust.

My dad would have laughed at that runner, as he would have laughed at the runner in which the computerised vending machine for making tea or whatever emitted a fart sound before dispensing its contents. I quite liked the idea of the computer (in the hands of posh, unworldly scientists) taking far longer to botch up making a cup of tea than it would take for a competent person simply to make a cup of tea. Indeed I enjoyed the notion that the whole enterprise was Heath Robinson-like – an unconfident, comedic, British answer to Star Trek.

But 10 to 12 minutes in I could see where the show/series was going (nowhere near orbit, I fancied) and what most of the runners were going to be. It wasn’t all that bad – it seemed to me no worse than other shows from the same stable, “Are You Being Served”, “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum” etc., faint praise as I always found those shows lame. I gave up after 15 minutes.

I’d put aside the full 30 minutes, so I decided to track down “Heil Honey I’m Home”, which was also pretty easy to find – even easier for you – click here.

Heil Honey is truly terrible. Exceptionally awful. Simply not funny. This is not because of the subject matter – I have seen and heard Hitler made funny a few times – the show simply does not present a potentially funny scenario. Perhaps the idea (Hitler in a suburban American home) would be worth a one minute sketch, along the lines of a sketch I remember fondly, the “Mr Hitler Joins An Assertiveness Training Course” sketch – (was that on the Burkiss Way or Radio Active or something else?). But even a one minute sketch needs a joke or two.

Heil Honey I’m Home is a crime against hilarity. It brought to mind the late great Ivan Shakespeare’s uncharacteristically catty line about a comedy writer whose work he didn’t like, “he basically only has the one joke, which he recycles in every sketch he writes…and the sad part is…his one joke isn’t funny.” Ouch.

The Heil Honey title did remind me of one of my weirdest lyric writing episodes, “I Only Have Heils for You”, only partially explained, with the lyrics set out – click here – I think you’ll laugh reading this.

I lasted five minutes on “Heil Honey”; I think I showed perseverance staying for five. I didn’t laugh once. But worth the experience as I now know where my lowest comedy ebb sits. Thanks Richard.

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