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Sex and the Sitcom (2011)

Early sitcoms of the 1950s were family-orientated,eschewing sex and even the permissiveness of the Swinging Sixties did not extend to the genre,even though 'Till Death Us Do Part' featured ... See full summary »


Rachel Boyd


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Complete credited cast:
Madeline Smith ... Herself - Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Stephen Armstrong Stephen Armstrong ... Himself
Wendy Craig ... Herself
Bruce Dessau Bruce Dessau ... Himself
Dick Fiddy Dick Fiddy ... Himself
Jonathan Harvey Jonathan Harvey ... Himself
Nerys Hughes ... Herself (archive footage)
Lesley Joseph Lesley Joseph ... Herself (as Leslie Joseph)
Carla Lane Carla Lane ... Herself (archive footage)
Brett Mills Brett Mills ... Himself
Sue Nicholls ... Herself / Joan Greengross (archive footage)
David Nobbs David Nobbs ... Himself
Simon Nye Simon Nye ... Himself
Leslie Phillips ... Himself
Jon Plowman Jon Plowman ... Himself


Early sitcoms of the 1950s were family-orientated,eschewing sex and even the permissiveness of the Swinging Sixties did not extend to the genre,even though 'Till Death Us Do Part' featured adult issues. By the 1970s sitcoms usually dealt in double entendre (exemplified by 'Up Pompeii'),the exception being the short-lived 'Casanova 73' with Leslie Phillips as a sexual predator. 'George and Mildred' presented a frustrated wife whose husband was scared of sex,setting the stage for the likes of 'Butterflies' and 'Reggie Perrin',which,for all their farcical bases,had a serious tone. 'Ab Fab's Patsy and 'Birds of a Feather's Dorian were women in sexual control,like the girls in 'Men Behaving Badly',whose boyfriends were immature and desperate. Come the twenty-first century the likes of 'Gimme Gimme Gimme','Him and Her' and 'The In-Betweeners' show that anything goes and that comedy now probably pushes boundaries more than drama with regard to sexual matters. Written by don @ minifie-1

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Release Date:

29 March 2011 (UK) See more »

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Production Co:

Crocodile Media See more »
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Clichéd Account that Reinforces British Stereotypes Towards Sex and Sexuality
1 January 2016 | by l_rawjalaurenceSee all my reviews

This is a typical example of a lazily-made documentary. By "lazy," I don't mean to criticize the standards of production (which, as ever, are slick and efficient), but rather the tendency of director Rachel Boyd to draw on some of those boring clichés that always seem to be trotted out while endeavoring to explain the course of historical change over the last five decades or so. The so-called "Swinging Sixties" ushered in a new permissiveness about sex and sexuality; the Eighties rebelled against that permissiveness during Margaret Thatcher's reign as Prime Minister; the Nineties saw the growth of New Laddism; while the present day is much freer than at any time in the past, enabling writers to produce more frank - and presumably more forthright - analyses of sex in comic form.

These clichés make for good television, but can be simply refuted. If TILL DEATH US DO PART explored sex in a frank way, its permissiveness was offset by the popularity of NOT IN FRONT OF THE CHILDREN, one of a seemingly endless stream of family-oriented sitcoms produced about that time. THE YOUNG ONES explored the frustrations of young student types in the Eighties, but SORRY had Ronnie Corbett bossed about by his mother (Barbara Lott); while a decade later the New Laddism of MEN BEHAVING BADLY has to be set against the appalling MY FAMILY, where Ben Harper (Robert Lindsay) plays a hen-pecked husband who could have appeared in a sitcom three decades previously.

This documentary also made some glaring omissions in its historical sweep, especially in the Seventies. It touched on GEORGE AND MILDRED, but made no mention of the series that spawned it, MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE (1973-6) which explored the relationship between three flatmates, one man and two women. Nor did the program look at MISS JONES AND SON (1977) whose central character (Paula Wilcox) was an unmarried mother. One of the so-called "experts" appearing in the documentary dismissed ITV's fare at this time as "working- class," citing ON THE BUSES (1969-73) as an example. The fact that all three of the above- mentioned sitcoms were produced by ITV would seem to challenge this assertion.

In fact, what emerged most palpably from the documentary - and which was only cursorily explored - is that for all the new frankness in terms of language (sitcom characters discuss masturbation, oral sex and foreplay with a frankness that would have been unthinkable in the Seventies), British attitudes towards the sexual act remain wearyingly unchanged. For young men it is something to be discussed with bravado in groups, especially in public settings; when they are alone they become far more reticent. There is still an emphasis on using the third person singular term "it," to describe sex, despite the coarse language. And very few characters ever conceive of sex as something pleasurable, to be enjoyed for its own sake rather than discussed. I am not the greatest fan of D. H. Lawrence, but I do wish that some of the frankness characteristic of a work like LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER could find its way into the sitcom genre. Perhaps that strategy might help to make some of the scripts much funnier.

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