Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cheesy fonts and situation comedies

I spend far too much time in pubs. That's a fact that becomes obvious when you meet me in the oh so substantial flesh. I am now so round and dense that I'm forming my own gravity well. But the pub is important to me as it is the hub of social activity in villages and small towns. These bloody youngsters are slowly destroying them, sadly, with their cheap Tesco vodka and binge drinking culture. For my generation, the idea was to go out and have a good time and if getting slowly bladdered along the way made the experience more fun - great. Now, it seems, the whole reason for going out has been reversed; the aim is to get drunk as quickly as possible and then, hopefully, have a good time. Judging by the numbers of under 20s pushing prams around my High Street, the plan has backfired more than a few times.

For me, part of that 'having fun' business has always been drinking games from the energetic delights of 'Bunny' to more cerebral affairs such as 'Actor or Biscuit' or the excellent 'Cheese or Font'. Never played? Come on then, have a go. You tell me whether the following are cheeses or typographical fonts:

Bandel, Livno, Granjon, Folkard, Oltermanni, Rokpol and Tengwar Noldor.

Tough isn't it? (Answers at end of post.)

Playing silly pub games actually led to writing my first book, Joined-Up Thinking, which grew out of challenges that my friends and I would set each other to find connections between apparently unrelated facts.

Another constant source of entertainment - certainly among blokes anyway - is the discussion of Top Five and Top Ten lists, a habit made famous by Gary and Tony in the sitcom Men Behaving Badly. And, coincidentally, I recently found myself discussing my Top Five favourite sitcoms. It was surprisingly difficult to choose them. There have been so many wonderful programmes made. There was also a sub-discussion about what actually constitutes a situation comedy. Take something like Blackadder for instance. Sitcom or comedy play? What about Cold Feet or Ripping Yarns? By definition, sitcom is 'a genre of comedy that features recurring characters in a common environment such as a home or workplace, accompanied with jokes as part of the dialogue'. That would mean that Fawlty Towers is but Blackadder with its ever-changing cast of characters, possibly isn't. Ebeneezer Blackadder is very different to the Prince Edmund in Series 1 who is, in turn, very different from the Edmund in Series 4. Baldrick goes from being quite bright to a man who uses phlegm for frothy milk, and Percy vanishes while the actor playing him re-emerges as Captain Darling. Meanwhile, the 'situation' that the comedy takes place in changes every series.

Yes, we were probably overthinking the issue but we were around four pints of good bitter in by now. Anyway, after much discussion, I settled upon what I consider to be my Top Five sitcoms.

My Top Five (in no particular order) are: Arrested Development, Fawlty Towers, Frasier, Father Ted and I'm Alan Partridge.

Possibly controversial choices there? Maybe. But you have to draw the line somewhere. I could so easily have included Bottom, Dad's Army, The Young Ones, Black Books, Blackadder (if allowed), Coupling, The Office, Phoenix Nights, Peep Show, Spaced, Hippies, Steptoe and Son, The Thick Of It, Testees, Better off Ted, Curb your Enthusiasm, 15 Storeys High ... but, in the end, I went with the five sitcoms that have made me laugh the most.

What are yours I wonder?

Cheese or font answers: Bandel (Cheese), Livno (Cheese), Granjon (Font), Folkard (Font), Oltermanni (Cheese), Rokpol (Cheese) and Tengwar Noldor (Font). See? Not so easy is it?

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