The Wright Way: Ben Elton And 4 Other Comedy Legends Who Lost Their Way

“The whole thing is irredeemably dreadful” cries the Guardian. “It’s a shamelessly broad, deliberately lowest-common-denominator sitcom” it continues, barely unable...

Sean Keating

Contributor

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“The whole thing is irredeemably dreadful” cries the Guardian. “It’s a shamelessly broad, deliberately lowest-common-denominator sitcom” it continues, barely unable to contain their vitriolic anger. “It should be thrown on a pile of dung and set ablaze with a thousand gypsy women dancing and singing folk songs of yore around it” it doesn’t add. But it should. Then again that’s probably why I don’t write for the Guardian. And what is the target of this focused fury and bile?

Ben Elton’s new sitcom; The Wright Way.

I do think it’s pretty funny that we live in a society where unbridled anger can be unleashed so masterfully at a mass market sitcom. But it is anger from a place of regret at what this once dynamic comic has become. This man who was once the staple of 80’s political satire is now reduced to BBC1 Sitcoms about life in a health and safety office. I bet the pitch for that show went like this.

“Sitcom In A Hospital?”

“Nope. Green Wing and Scrubs”

“Sitcom in A Police Station?”

“You Wrote That Ben, Thin Blue Line”

“Sitcom in Parliament”

“Thick Of It, next”

“Erm… Erm… health and safety…?”

“… oh go on then”

So this is what Ben Elton, creator of Blackadder and The Young Ones, became. But he’s not the only comic legend who went on to retroactively piss all over his career.

 

4. Robin Williams

Robin Williams

Some of my earliest movie memories involve this man. To me he will forever be The Genie and Mrs Doubtfire. My Nan only ever had two videos at her house when we visited for weekends when I was young, Paint Your Wagon (which I now wish I had watched after seeing The Simpsons parody it) and Mrs Doubtfire. So it was obvious what film I watched at every visit. I was in awe of this funny guy with a heart of gold. I mean, he’s a man, dressed like a lady! In ladies clothes and everything! With an extremely appropriate theme song about a dude looking like a lady! And he does funny voices and funny faces. God the 8 year old me loved and adored this guy.

So I found his other films; Jumanji (Animals In the House!), Flubber (green goo in the house!), Hook (pirates in the house!) God this guy lived the life. I imagined when he wasn’t working he just had people following him around indulging his every whim, and why shouldn’t they? These were the mid-90’s and he was Robin Frickin’ Williams (full legal name).

And then he won an Oscar.

Suddenly it all changes. Robin Williams is a serious Actor now with a capital A. No kids, Flubber 2 isn’t happening and do you know why? Because Uncle Robin is TOO GOOD for your s**t now. He’s turned his back on you, like so many of your own father’s will eventually do or probably have done. Mr Williams now wants to do existential dramas like What Dreams May Come, and psychological thrillers like One Hour Photo. Hell, he can now book jobs and get top billing above Pacino in Insomnia. Sorry kids. It was fun while it lasted.

Only Robin Williams didn’t really take off after his Oscar. His career stalled big time, and he’s only seen once in a blue moon. Sure he might release camp little comedies now and then like RV which I think 3 people saw by accident because they wandered into the wrong screen. But he will never be the undisputed comedy king of my heart again.