“Now on BBC One, expect the unexpected – for the first time, Mrs Brown’s Boys goes completely live. Be prepared for strong language and adult humour. Agnes and her family are waiting in the wings – so it’s time to hand over to the director in BBC Scotland…”
— BBC One network continuity announcement into Mrs Brown’s Boys Live, 23rd July 2016
“Alan Carr hosts the comedy Live at the Apollo, now at 11:15. Before that on BBC One, strong language and adult humour, as we catch Agnes live – and on the hop…”
— BBC One network continuity announcement into Mrs Brown’s Boys “Live”, 30th July 2016
Last year, one of my most popular pieces here on Dirty Feed was this analysis of the 2005 live version of Quatermass – specifically, the differences between the original live show, and the edited version now widely available on DVD. Near the end of the piece, I wrote the following:
“Maybe we should be careful not to overstate the originality of the 2005 Quatermass. Sure, the BBC billed it as its first live drama for over 20 years. But looking to other broadcasters, Coronation Street did its first live programme in 2000, five years previously – and looking across to America, ER‘s live episode was in 1997. But still, as the beginning of the BBC’s renewed interest in live drama and comedy – through to EastEnders, Two Pints, Bollywood Carmen Live, and next year’s Mrs. Brown’s Boys live episode – it’s extremely important.”
One the 23rd July, that live Mrs Brown’s Boys episode was transmitted – and a week later on the 30th, we had a repeat. If ever there was a piece which I just had to write, this was it. Did much change between the two broadcasts? And if it did, will the show incur the hell and fury which Quatermass unleashed from these very fingertips?
Let’s take a look. All times given are from the repeat version of the episode, so you can watch along and see where the changes were, even if you haven’t got a copy of the original episode itself. Incidentally, the version now available on iPlayer is the edited repeat version.
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I just read two articles. Two articles about two entirely different subjects. Oddly enough, however, they both managed to annoy me in exactly the same way. (Incidentally, congratulations – you’ve just managed to find the only site on the internet to tie together Mrs Brown’s Boys and Flappy Bird.)
Firstly, Rachel Cooke interviewing BBC director of television Danny Cohen:
“Would he explain to me the success of Mrs Brown’s Boys, watched by 9.4 million on Christmas Day? “Yes. There are huge numbers of people – and I’m one – who love studio-based sitcoms. The joy in the room!” Again, I peer at him, trying to work out if he’s being sincere. Oh, Lord. I think he is.”
Secondly, Patrick O’Rourke on Flappy Bird. He starts off with an interesting question:
“After about 10 minutes, I came to the realization Flappy Bird is an absolutely horrible video game and began to wonder why it’s so extremely popular.”
Somehow manages to contradict himself within two sentences:
“It’s Flappy Bird’s simplicity that makes it so addictive. What I don’t understand is how people genuinely seem to be enjoying playing Flappy Bird.”
And then just gives up:
“So do yourself a favour and stop playing Flappy Bird; it sucks.”
Now, what I think about the two topics is irrelevant. (For the record, I really like Flappy Bird, and haven’t seen enough Mrs Brown’s Boys to be able to judge.) What irritates me is the acknowledgement of how successful they both are… and a complete lack of engagement on behalf of the writer as to why.
In the case of Mrs Brown’s Boys, I genuinely don’t understand the interviewer’s response to Danny Cohen’s statement. Which bit is she disagreeing with? That people like studio-based sitcoms? That Cohen specifically likes studio sitcoms? The bit about the “joy in the room”? Or does she think he ducked the specific question and just spoke in generalities, and that’s what she’s perturbed by? It’s not clear at all. It’s just a dig from someone who doesn’t like the show, expecting the reader to happily go along with it without a single further thought.
The Flappy Bird article is even worse. It claims to be a piece where someone who hates the game genuinely tries to find out what people love about it… and yet the writer makes little effort to actually figure it out. The point of the article having now completely disappeared, instead he throws out an order from on-high to tell people to stop playing the game. I would hope that last part at least has some level of irony attached, but it’s still pointless. The entire article is ridiculous.
Let me be clear. I’m not saying that just because something’s popular, you have to like it. You hate something popular, you should write articles in deep and penetrating detail saying exactly what you don’t like about it. (God knows I have.) What annoys me about these two articles is that both specifically bring up the fact that something they hate is popular… and then refuse to engage with any potential answers as to why. Instead, they prefer to sit back and sneer.
My suggestion: have a go. Listen. Engage. Think about why people might like something you don’t. You don’t have to suddenly agree that something is brilliant – but at least have the discussion. You’re more likely to come up with something that’s actually worth saying.