Monday, July 23, 2001
Why do I like watching people falling over on television? Probably for the same reason I like to see clips of 1970s soup commercials featuring minor celebrities when they were ten years old.
Bad TV can be really good, and I stand by my commitment to ‘You’ve Been Framed’ and ‘Before They Were Famous’ despite all criticism about the intellectual bankruptcy and all-round crapness.
First, with ‘You’ve Been Framed’ – what’s not to like? A stupid adult gets on a rope swing across a river, and even though you know exactly what’s going to happen next, it’s still great to behold when the branch snaps and the bloke gets dumped into the mud.
Or two goats arrange a cunning trap where one crouches down behind a kid and the second gives her a nudge from the front, sending the hapless four year-old falling backwards over the goat obstacle. Priceless.
Slapstick comedy is considered to be very low-brow (unless it’s Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd, when you’re allowed to say it’s genius), but I’d argue that while it might not be very subtle, these pratfalls are just flat-out funny.
Normally people stay upright, stay in their rowing boats, ride their bikes OK and open patio doors before they walk through them. But on the other hand, the universe tends towards chaos, so if you have enough people standing beside a swimming pool (especially with a video camera to hand), then sooner or later someone will fall in.
And when they do, it’s funny. So long as nobody gets hurt then this stuff is a gentle reminder of our hubris in thinking that we’re in control around here. Being dumped in the mud is a forceful suggestion that you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously.
A similar reminder is watching Jeremy Irons dancing around like a fool with Brian Cant on ‘Playaway’.’Before They Were Famous’ is the celebrity version of your mum showing your baby photos to your new girlfriend. You have to sit there squirming while she sees your toddler self naked on the sheepskin rug (or maybe I’m sharing too much here).
One baby looks pretty much like another, and it doesn’t really tell you anything about the person now, but it’s entertaining for her to see you in a former life, and reflect on how far you’ve come.
And it’s exactly the same when we see Martin Clunes in some 1980s horrorshow outfit trying to act tough in ‘Doctor Who’, or Grant Mitchell from ‘Eastenders’ singing ‘They’re tasty, tasty, very very tasty – they’re very tasty,’ in a Kellogs ad.
Seeing these clips (and ones of a shiny young Tony Blair trying to smile when he’s just lost his deposit in his first run for parliament) reminds us not to lionize these folks, and maybe tells us something about the fleeting nature of fame. And it makes you laugh.
So don’t feel guilty if you find yourself watching ‘You’ve Been Framed’. Even when someone ends up with a portaloo tipped over them, it’s all good clean fun – you’re just becoming a connoisseur of crap.