Search For Treasures

Monday, July 12, 2010

Character Analysis: The Work of Graham Linehan

This is Graham Linehan. He is a television writer and director. This man has created three of the most popular British/Irish sitcoms of the past 15 years. I am of course referring to Father Ted, Black Books, and The IT Crowd. As different as these shows, there is a key similarity between the three: the relationship of the core characters.

I find that the core characters of these shows fall into three categories.

Type 1: Neurotic Insider
  • Father Ted Crilly from Father Ted
  • Fran Katzenjammer from Black Books
  • Jen Barber from The IT Crowd

These characters is seemingly the most normal of the group. They have a chance to fit into normal society, but they are constantly kept on the fringe due to both their own neuroses and the actions of the other two types of characters.

Type 2: Awkward Manchild
  • Father Dougal McGuire from Father Ted
  • Manny Bianco from Black Books
  • Maurice Moss from The IT Crowd

These ones are simply an awkward misfit. They are the intermediate level of weirdness. They vary in intelligence or level of social skills, but usually they are the sidekicks of the group. These types also are bunglers, and have a tendency to destroy things unintentionally. They annoy the other characters by their bugling and naivete.

Type 3: Willful Recluse
  • Father Jack Hackett from Father Ted
  • Bernard Black from Black Books
  • Roy Tenneman and Richard Avenal from The IT Crowd

This group are basically comedic sociopaths who are happy and indeed proud of their outsider status. They don't do anything for themselves. They depend on Type #1 to do nearly everything for them, from cooking to dressing them.

The relationships of these characters are strange and yet they work for some reason.

Type #1 is usually the caretaker of the others. They try to keep the other types out of trouble, or at least present them as respectable normal people in society, but they usually fail. This is true of all three shows. Jen intermediates between the IT crew and the rest of the company they work for. Father Ted usually takes over all priestly duties, as Jack and Dougal are incapable of doing them. Fran has to make sure Manny and Bernard don't kill each other.

Type #1 is usually the one to interact with Type #3. Type #2 usually stays out of the way. The best example is how Father Ted is the only one to talk to Father Jack. While it's not true for Manny and Bernard, or Roy and Maurice, but Jen is the only one to talk to Richard.

Besides this, 3 resists all changes to their lives unless prodded by 1. Father Jack refuses to give up drinking until Ted hides away all of his booze for Lent.

Type #2 will do little things to change their lives, like clean up their house or take a class to widen their horizons, but usually they are content with their lives and they like things as they are.

In spite of their differences, these three depend on each other and they cannot bear to break the group apart. They need each other to survive. My best example is how in the last episode of Father Ted, Ted cannot bring himself to leave the other people of the parochial house. Although they may not like each other, these three character types are better off together than apart.

Interestingly enough, these characters, each character type probably could not exist by itself, or with others of their type. The neurotic insiders would probably backstab and undo each other. The awkward man-children would probably never do anything, or they would destroy their home. The recluses would probably kill each other or starve to death due to their lack of initiative.

Now, I know that these characters have greater depth and differences, but this is generally how these characters are placed. I also know that I haven't classified Mrs. Doyle anywhere, but she is a bit of a mystery to me. She is something different from the others.

I hope you all enjoyed my intellectual dissection of these TV productions. I hope you enjoyed it and can benefit from it.

Happy Trails


Oisin O'Sullivan said...

I had NO IDEA Graham Linehan worked on Black Books!!!!
I love that show but I thought it was all - English. This is a pretty cool revelation.

I feel a little weird about Father Ted being called a "Britcom", seen as the writers, actors, director and setting are Irish. The sets were in England and it was produced by Channel 4, an English station.
But still, U2 were on Island Records, and their albums were produced by them, but does that make them a Jamaican band? No.

Those are some interesting observations, though.

Also, by the way, the Father Ted director, Declan Lowney, is my second cousin.

Eric Noble said...

You're right. The latter two are British. I'll be sure to change that. Thank you for that.

Anonymous said...

I just watched a few episodes of "Father Ted" recently, and they're all hilarious. Father Jack seems to be my favorite character. You never know what he's thinking about and he's quite unpredictable at times. Sort of like Curly Howard or even Stimpy and their mannerisms if you know what I mean. The Irish and the British seem to be the world leaders in comedy from what I've seen from both of them. America needs to catch up to their smart sense of humor soon.

By the way, this is off-topic, but have you ever watched "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World?" That movie is one of the most hilarious ones I've ever seen in my whole life. Not a single shot or gag is wasted, IMO, and everything about it is funny. So funny, that you probably won't stop laughing for all the three hours that it lasts.