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Sunshine on Putty: The Golden Age of British Comedy from Vic Reeves to The Office Paperback – 4 Oct 2004
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'Brilliantly insightful, warmly appreciative, and chock full of observations of the most alarmingly accurate kind … Thanks to the perceptive Mr Thompson, I know now what I’ve been doing wrong all these years.' Jonathan Ross
'If you are passionate about comedy you'll want to read this book.' Time Out
'An awesome compendium'. Arena
'Can't fail to become definitive.' Observer
'A brilliant book'. Jimmy Carr, Radio 4's Loose Ends
'Erudite and funny … Thompson demonstrates both an encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject matter and an astonishingly broad frame of reference.' Guardian
The definitive history of a golden age in British show-business, Sunshine On Putty is based on hundreds of interviews with the leading comedians of the era, as well as managers, agents, producers, directors, executives and TV personalities. In the 1990s, British comedy underwent a renaissance -- shows like The Fast Show, The Day Today, Shooting Stars, The League of Gentlemen, The Royle Family and The Office were hugely popular with critics and audiences alike. Just as politics, sport, art, literature and religion seemed to move towards light entertainment, the comedy on the nation's televisions not only offered a home to ideas and ideals of community which could no longer find one elsewhere, but also gave us a clearer picture of what was happening to our nation than any other form of artistic endeavour. From Ricky Gervais' self-destructive love affair with dairy products to Steve Coogan's suicidal overtaking technique; from the secrets of Vic Reeves' woodshed, to the stains on Caroline Aherne's sofa; from Victor Meldrew's prophetic dream to Spike Milligan's final resting place, Ben Thompson reveals the twisted beauty of British comedy's psyche.See all Product description
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The only way to get through the sixth form politics is to treat them with the amused indulgence an elderly relative would show towards a teenage would-be-anarchist. Still whining about 'Thatcher'? It was all a long time ago, sonny. Most of the nation's ills can now be blamed on Tony and Gordon.
Some good interviews, but overall, not worth the bother. Give the money to the Tories instead.
Ben Thompson clearly sees himself as the same kind of writer... but unfortunately he's not. Get over the laboured wisecracks, though, and 'Sunshine On Putty's not half bad.
For one thing, Thompson adopts an irritating spoof academic style (extensive footnotes and all) which veers uneasily between the present and past tense throughout. Thinking of buying this? I'd urge you to read at least the introduction first as you're in for a long haul (or more likely, a wasted purchase) if you cannot cope with Thompson's tiresome style.
Even worse, are the factual errors. To touch on Alan Partridge alone, no, the Christmas Special did not see Alan accidentally killing one of his guests. No, there were only two, not three series of I'm Alan Partridge. And, yes, I am sounding petty. But surely in a book citing Partridge as one of the ten best series of the decade, it's not unreasonable to expect Thompson to get his facts straight?
Despite these shortcomings, I still found this an engaging read, perhaps because I was so interested in the subject. Thompson's argument that the period covered by the book spawned a golden age of British comedy is a compelling one. The Fast Show, Father Ted, I'm Alan Partridge are all undeniably classics, even if Thompson's exclusion of Spaced from his "top ten" list seems bizarre.
Yet even this theory is undermined by Thompson's apparent conviction that Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are some sort of comedy geniuses. Even their mainstream flop Families At War - by any yardstick, a critical and commercial disaster - is heralded here as some sort of comedy triumph.
Events since the book's publication in 2004 have also weakened Thompson's hypothesis still further. If the golden age ended with the second series of The Office, how does Thompson explain the likes of The Thick of It, The IT Crowd and Peep Show?