Curbing my enthusiasm

Could this be the last great sitcom Michael J Bailey will enjoy?

Curb Your Enthusiasm – those three words are very special to me. I have to confess I’m slightly addicted (in a healthy way) to Larry David and his TV creation. Why am I so interested in a balding billionaire who looks like my local auctioneer? It’s difficult to put into words but he’s just got that ‘comedy aura’ about him. Also, the plotting and dialogue are just sublime. And you’ve got a stellar cast. It doesn’t get better than that.

However, my brain is getting worried. I’m now in my early-40s (no, that’s not the concern) and I’m starting to think: Is Curb going to be my last ‘great’ sitcom before I snuff it? (hopefully I’ve got 40+ years) Will anything in the future come close to making me laugh so hard that my stomach aches? I have to say, at the moment, I’m not too confident. The reasons:

1) As previously hinted, the show is my all-time favourite sitcom. I can’t see anybody getting near it.

2) I’ve just read an article suggesting the sitcom is dead.

3) Apparently a lot of commissioning editors are now desperately seeking primetime sitcoms that appeal to the whole family. Well that won’t cut-the-mustard for me. Apart from one or two exceptions, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a modern sitcom that went out before 9pm.

4) My sense of humour is on the decline.

Number 4 will probably be the main reason why Curb Your Enthusiasm is my final gut-buster. Sadly, it’s common knowledge that the ability to see the funny side diminishes with age. My TV comedy viewing is just one typical example. Rewind 20 years and I would have appreciated approximately 50 per cent of the output. In 2008, it’s up to the giddy heights of 10 per cent – and that’s being extremely generous.

The way things are going I’ll be struggling to raise a semi-smile by 2018. Fortunately I’m very easy-going. I’ve accepted the inevitability. It’s a bit like music. You start off listening to Radio 1 with gusto and then you get to a certain stage in your life (usually late-teen, early-20s) and you suddenly think, ‘This is irritating the crap out of me – it’s time to move on.’

For the record, I’m now a big fan of Radio 6.

Getting back to the world of comedy. What do I consider to be ‘great’ sitcoms from the past? Well that’s a tough call. I’m spoilt for choice. However, the following Magnificent 7 have had the biggest impact on me: Fawlty Towers, The Young Ones, Blackadder, Alan Partridge, The Royle Family, Early Doors and The Office. I’m sure they tick the boxes for most comedy fans.

OK, The Young Ones may have dated but it was must-watch in the Eighties. I can still recall taping every episode and viewing it repeatedly the following day.

So what about the short-term future for sitcom? I’m quite optimistic. Another Curb Your Enthusiasm has been given the green light (bring out the fireworks). Although it won’t hit the US screens until 2009 (put them carefully back in the box). Interestingly, I’ve heard rumours Larry David wants to beat Seinfeld so, fingers crossed, there should be at least four more seasons.

We’re also going to get fresh material from: Flight of the Conchords, Peep Show, Lead Balloon and a new project from Steve Coogan. We might even get a show from a newbie writer/performer that blows everyone away. It’s a possibility. Why not? But you have to remember one thing: It still won’t be as good as Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Published: 1 Aug 2008

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