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

Father Ted: Inspired Insanity

One of the most inspired comedies to ever have graced the television screen is a gem from Ireland known as Father Ted. Created by Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews, the show premiered on the 21st of April, 1995 on Channel 4.

For those not in the know, the show concerns three priests banished to the fictional backwater world of Craggy Island. Craggy Island seems to be the place where all of the people who can't fit into normal Irish society are sent.

This is our main character, Father Ted Crilly. He's a relatively straight character, but he has a bit more character and nuance to him than the others. Ted is either the victim of the others idiosyncrasies or just cruel fate. That's what keeps him on the island, although he would rather be in Las Vegas. He was sent to the island due to some "financial irregularities", although he'll tell you that the money was resting in his account.

This here is Dougal McGuire, the idiot Robin to Ted's Batman. He is an idiot of the most profound kind. Not only that, but he is slightly crazy, as he can't tell the difference between reality and fantasy. A lot of the time, it's his idiocy that destroys any chance of Ted succeeding in life.

This is Father Jack Hackett. The ultimate drunk. He can drink anything, including floor polishes. He is cantankerous, and most of his dialogue is made up of strings of vulgarities. At points, he seems like a household pet than an actual priest. Always a fan favorite.

This is Mrs. Doyle, the housekeeper of the Craggy Island parochial house. She takes her job very seriously. Hospitable is not enough of a word to describe her. You'll never run out of tea in her house.

This show is a terrific surreal satire of all things Irish and Catholic. The reality of this world looks very much like our own, but then it veers out into left field. It takes all of the archetypes of rural Irish life, and takes it to such surreal extreme ends. Father Jack is not just a drunk, but a bizarre drunk, capable of ingesting floor polish and able to survive the effects of it. Being sober is like a hallucinogenic drug to Father Jack.

A big theme of the show is priests in a modern world. The priests in this world are very pop-culture savvy. In fact, in an interview with the creators, the show is an outgrowth of the idea that modern priests don't like being seen as priests. Ted is the epitome of that. If Ted had his way, he would be out in Las Vegas living the high life.

One of my favorite aspects of this show is that each character has a distinct personality, with their own mannerisms and eccentricities. This is a breath of fresh air in the world of Friends-like shows of interchangeable characters sharing wisecracks. Its atmosphere was distinctly Irish, and yet completely universal. That, and it is so cartoony and exaggerated. No modern-day cartoon can compare to this.

I happened to discover this show late one night on PBS. I was waiting for my dad to come home from work. As I watched it, I began laughing harder and harder. When my dad did come home, I showed him the show and we laughed hysterically. It has become one of our favorite shows and we still love it to this day.

I recommend this show to everyone looking for something outside of the mainstream.

Happy Trails

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Leslie Illingworth (1902 - 1979)

This time, I'm covering a cartoonist that has been said to have been superior to David Low! (oh the blasphemy!!) His name was Leslie Illingworth.

According to his biography, he was born in South Wales on September 2, 1902. Although he worked for many magazines and newspapers in his early years, his main employers were The Daily Mail and the illustrious English humor magazine Punch. In 1945, he became the main political cartoonist for the famous magazine. He left The Daily Mail in 1969. After that, he was mostly retired until he suffered a fatal stroke on December 20, 1979.

Although he is not as famous as David Low, he was just as loathed by the Third Reich. It has been shown that Adolf Hitler himself collected Illingworth's cartoons in his bunker and scribbled insults all over them. That would make any political cartoonist proud.

Walt Disney Treasures Reissues: My Dream

This is going to be a pretty quick post. I am just here to say that I hope one day that the Walt Disney Company rereleases the Walt Disney Treasures DVDs.

The reason I bring this up is because I got a copy of the above DVD set from the library today. I put in the first disc and it wasn't able to play. Also, I am unable to fork out out the near seventy bucks that it would take to get it on Amazon.

I came in late to collecting the Walt Disney Treasures sets. I have four sets, but I want the others, particularly the cartoons. I think Disney should do it. I feel they could make a financial gain from this. You have new generations of die-hard Disney fans who will be unable to get their hands on the treats that lie on these DVDs. Give them a chance. They could do it in the same manner as the features.

I think I should start a letter-writing campaign to see if I can get this accomplished. It's worth a try.