In TV, does life imitate art or vice versa?
I’ve ranted enough in recent months about how American comedy simply cannot re-create British comedy. Looks like the British have figured it out by imitating a comedic style and not trying to duplicate a specific program.
In somewhat of a role reversal, the UK comedy world is now copying a style of comedy that American writers / actors / producers have known for years. What has become known as a “sim-com” as opposed to a Sitcom or Britcom, is where the principle actor is playing an exaggerated version of him or herself. Programs like Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm or, for those that remember farther back, the greatness of The Garry Shandling Show have been long a part of American comedy.
To me, this started with a series that I’m a huge fan of in Lead Balloon with Jack Dee as a grumpy, stand-up comic whose life is one let down after another. Admittedly, his character name is Rick Spleen, but it is an exaggeration of Jack Dee’s life on the small screen.
The rise of the sim-com in the UK has delivered some of the best new comedy in years. Recently, Simon Amstell’s Grandma’s House, a fictionalized version of his actual life. In the show, Amstell plays a TV presenter by the name of, you guessed it, Simon Amstell. Currently slated for broadcast on BBC2 later this month is The Trip, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as “loose versions of themselves” visiting a selection of top restaurants and researching a series of reviews for the Observer.