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Class-based British TV programmes

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  • Class-based British TV programmes

    Somebody once told me that the Normans bequeathed the English with their poisonous class system. The French later had a revolution to solve their class problem. The English had a revolution briefly but then changed their mind. In the 1980s Mrs Thatcher had the idea of making everyone middle class, but the upper-middles didn't like it - Peregrine Worsthorne of the Daily Telegraph famously complained about "braying yuppies". How dare those common people be allowed to get rich! Norman Tebbit now tells us how shocked he and Thatcher were at how greedy people could be - their Thatcherite revolution was not meant to be about that.

    Many British TV series have been based on class or class differences. One example I immediately think of is "Upstairs, downstairs", where the very title expresses class division. How many other such programmes can the members think of? And how accurate or inaccurate a portrayal do they give of the British class system, past or present?
    Last edited by garth; 13th September 2019, 06:56 PM. Reason: Typos

  • #2
    I'm currently watching Hine made in 1970 and starring Barrie Ingham.
    Barrie plays a Manchester boy from the slums, made good as a wealthy arms broker.
    He is constantly thwarted in his get rich quick schemes though, by the old school tie brigade in the shape of Public school Whitehall man Colin Gordon and the privately educated rival arms dealer Paul Eddington.
    Eddington's character of Astor was an Army officer and knows Hine from the latter's National Service days, and sneeringly refers to him as the Corporal..

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    • #3
      The name rings a bell, but when I google for online videos and include "British TV programme", I get everything but the Hine I'm looking for.

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      • #4
        Dad's Army is a favourite on this forum. Shorty-pants Captain Mainwaring, from a mere grammar school, can't abide Sergeant Wilson, the tall suave ex-public schoolboy. I had two ex-public schoolboys as managers in my working days. Both could be shockingly ruthless, rude and Machiavellian behind closed doors. I much preferred the "middle" middle-class managers that I experienced. Being an ex-state grammar schoolboy from a working class background myself, I seethe when I see people like Jacob Rees-Mogg on TV, with his ridiculously affected upper-middle class drawl.

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        • #5
          Jacob Rees-Mogg talks class with Ali G.

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          • #6
            Here's Penelope Keith in The Good Life, playing a ridiculous snob. The script is not very funny, but she played the part perfectly:




            In interviews Ms Keith was always good fun and not like that character at all.

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            • #7
              At the other end of the scale, here's Hyacinth Bucket pretending to be what's she not:




              I find this sort of stuff very unfunny, though. Why has it been so prominent in British 'comedy' ?

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              • #8
                As current hits like Peaky Blinders and the eagerly anticipated big screen spinoff of Downton Abbey demonstrate, this subject remains as popular today as it's ever been.

                For me, one of the best ever TV series to wrestle with "class" was When The Boat Comes In, set in the North East of England in the 1920s it tackled the whole subject head-on with grit, humour and pathos. Wonderful, authentic stuff; carefully researched, beautifully acted and written.

                As for the popularity of class within British comedy series - well, we do love to see pomposity deflated, don't we? It's why The Good Life's snooty Margo slithering flat on her backside trying to pick peas in Tom & Barbara's muddy garden made us giggle. Watching Dad's Army's self-important Captain Mainwaring effortlessly trumped on the social scale by Sergeant Wilson (or being trampled underfoot by his eager platoon, only to surface with hat and spectacles skew-whiff) never failed to tickle us.

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                • #9
                  I did enjoy When The Boat Comes In, partly because I'm from Newcastle. James Bolam. a Sunderlander, was very good, but in real life he's scathing about the North-East and has no desire to go back. In the final series, Jack Ford is shot dead in Spain during the civil war. That inspired me to read about the Spanish civil war, which I thought would be a very dry subject, but I found it fascinating. All sorts of politics was involved: anarchists, Basque and Catalan separatists, a Trotskyist communist party that hated the Stalin communist party, and the Francoists who were divided between backward-looking Catholic reactionaries and pro-Nazi fascists. Hitler felt he'd been fooled by Franco: "Why is this man putting dukes and bishops into power?!" he fumed.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Tonch View Post
                    As for the popularity of class within British comedy series - well, we do love to see pomposity deflated, don't we? It's why The Good Life's snooty Margo slithering flat on her backside trying to pick peas in Tom & Barbara's muddy garden made us giggle. Watching Dad's Army's self-important Captain Mainwaring effortlessly trumped on the social scale by Sergeant Wilson (or being trampled underfoot by his eager platoon, only to surface with hat and spectacles skew-whiff) never failed to tickle us.
                    But there's an inherent snobbery in that. I prefer surreal humor myself - Paul Merton: The series, and the The Harry Hill Show. I loved Game On too, which had some quite sharp social satire within its comedy.

                    There is another kind of class comedy, that looks at poverty and striving and rivalry among those who have little: Steptoe and Son, Only Fools and Horses. That is gentler humour and funnier than the unfunny Hyacinth Bucket, etc.

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                    • #11
                      There's some class-based snobbery on just about every film & TV programme if you look hard enough for it.

                      Many people still think that we're class obsessed in the UK. In reality, we are no more class obsessed nowadays than the majority of other countries

                      Steve

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Steve Crook View Post
                        There's some class-based snobbery on just about every film & TV programme if you look hard enough for it.

                        Many people still think that we're class obsessed in the UK. In reality, we are no more class obsessed nowadays than the majority of other countries

                        Steve
                        If you look HARD enough. But that's a subjective quality. How hard? As hard as ME? As hard as a hard Brexit?

                        You can't prove that we're no more class-obsessed than the majority of other countries because you've never visited the majority of them - or watched enough of their TV programmes and films. Case dismissed!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by garth View Post

                          If you look HARD enough. But that's a subjective quality. How hard? As hard as ME? As hard as a hard Brexit?
                          What does that mean? Nobody knows how hard a “hard Brexit”is

                          You can't prove that we're no more class-obsessed than the majority of other countries because you've never visited the majority of them - or watched enough of their TV programmes and films. Case dismissed!
                          I’ve seen plenty of American films & TV programmes. Enough to know that they’re really just as class obsessed (or not) as us.

                          I’ve also visited plenty of European countries

                          So that’s far from being “Case dismissed”.

                          To turn it around, can you show that any country (e.g. the USA) ISN’T as class obsessed as we are? Or even that we still are?

                          Steve

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Steve Crook View Post
                            To turn it around, can you show that any country (e.g. the USA) ISN’T as class obsessed as we are? Or even that we still are?

                            Steve
                            Well, you're on fine form today. I could but I'm too busy and it's totally subjective anyway, so I win by default.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by garth View Post

                              Well, you're on fine form today. I could but I'm too busy and it's totally subjective anyway, so I win by default.
                              Ha, that’s a good default position that you have, where you claim to win even though you said that you “lost”. (Even though it wasn’t a case where anyone wins or loses, it was just a discussion).

                              Maybe you should be a politician, the way you twist the results & claim victory when you obviously didn’t “win” anything

                              Steve

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