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A break with tradition

In which we review something *after* watching it, for a change


After posting this and that recently, I thought it might be time for a break with tradition, and actually watch something before getting opinionated about it. So, we sat down last night and watched an episode of the BBC3 series Horne & Corden. Which, admittedly, I’ve already been opinionated about. But it’s a start.

Possibly we were already slightly biased, by our reaction to the Lesbian Vampire Killers publicity, and to the show’s trailers. But, I can honestly say, we didn’t laugh. Not at all. Not once. None of the sketches in the show seemed at all funny. Mathew Horne is a good actor, granted, but good acting isn’t enough.

Many writers have said, over the years, that good short writing is harder than good long writing. Most famously, there is Pascal‘s quote: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” It’s frequently referred to, though; I remember the Anglo-Australian novelist* Nevil Shute saying, in his autobiography, that the reason he was a failed poet was: because of its length, there is no room in a poem for mistake.** And, structurally, a poem is to a novel what a sketch is to a sitcom. In a sitcom, although it’s not ideal, you can cope with a weak scene in each episode, or a weak line in each scene. In a sketch, you don’t have enough room for any weak lines. Like a poem, though, it all has to make sense, despite having very little space for setup and explanation.

Too much of Horne & Corden felt like private jokes; too little of it was funny to an outsider. Sometimes I thought: I can see what they’re trying to do here, but that’s not funny. Sometimes, they had a setup, but nowhere to take it: “wouldn’t it be really funny if we did synchronised swimming! And we weren’t very good!” Sometimes, I couldn’t see where the joke was meant to be at all. We won’t be watching it again. At least now, though, I can criticise them with a clear conscience.

* and aeronautical engineer. I have a vague memory, which may be wrong, that his company designed the first retractable aeroplane undercarriage.

** Of course, he apparently never tried to write an epic poem

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