One of the things I find intriguing is the disparity that sometimes occurs between the attention shows get in America and here in the UK. Take The Good Wife for example; it’s adored in America and a comfortable ratings hit. Here in the UK it has some critical love, but is hidden away on More4, presumably to mainstream for Channel 4 itself (which has gone for the more counter-cultural Fargo and the increasingly controversial-yet-dull Homeland as its international centrepieces).

This problem doesn’t just apply to drama. Modern Family is treated with critical fanfare over here almost as loud as it receives in its homeland. I haven’t seen it, but I’m sure it deserves the love it gets. However, The Middle is an equally big show in the states, yet barely gets a nod of recognition in Britain. I have had to resort to Youtube to get decent access to it, as not even subscription services like Netflix carry it.

Perhaps the problem lies in that it is too conventional. This sitcom feels like it could sit as comfortably 10, 20, maybe even 30 years ago. There will always be space for a show about a family struggling to make ends meet, the tempers that fray and the familial bond that just about holds them together. The writing isn’t exactly edgy, the characters aren’t really that new.

Yet that doesn’t stop it from achieving the one thing a comedy always needs to do: being funny. If anything, the gentleness at times helps it, as you are not so distracted by being shocked that you forget to laugh. It could be the heartlessness in me, but highlights have included the decrepit old aunts and their emphysemic dog, Sue’s constant optimism despite repeatedly running into life’s walls, and the unsung hero Bob, the adult who has lost at life and knows it.

Like a lot of American sitcoms, it takes time. The characters need to build layers. But clearly something has clicked across the pond, as it is on its seventh season. Maybe being conventional isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Advertisements