In my last blog, I talked about how used to the underwritten, underperformed style of comedy in sitcoms. No audience laughter, naturalistic settings and acting, and plots that often revolve around the basics of being human. Until The Office, these were virtually non-existent, but have since formed the majority of comedies. The traditional sitcom has become a rarity, and a divisive one at that.

One example of the more ‘underdone’ sitcom, as I’m going to name it for the sake of convenience, is Going Forward. It is written, and stars Jo Brand, and is the sequel to Getting On, in which she played a nurse on a geriatric ward. It was very good at highlighting the problems the health service faces when treating older patients, particularly in a country as diverse as ours. She won a BAFTA for it, and rightly so, as she played it note perfectly. Brand captured the dark humour working in such situations requires, as well as the paperwork that has weighed down nursing.

In Going Forward, Brand has become a community health visitor for a private firm, visiting the elderly in their own homes. The red tape is still there, with limited visiting times meaning only the basics are done, like dressing the elderly and preparing a basic breakfast. The consequences are clear – we see the loneliness that old age can bring, and how selfish we have become as a society to find anyone to palm off those who are dependent on our on to.

Brand presents her character as one who is frustrated by these restrictions, as no doubt many in her profession are. You can see that she wants to offer the company that would really make the patient’s day better, making sure their home is properly clean and they have three square meals a day.

One big difference from Getting On is that we also get an insight into her character’s home life. Her husband is working a job whose take home pay is miniscule to the hours worked because of his company’s enforced deductions. Her son has given up on his future and his dealing with being a teenage dad. The daughter at least has some hopes and dreams and, even though the character is fictional and barely seen, you want her to succeed.

Bubbling in the background is an emotional subplot. Brand’s mother has had a stroke and is in a care home. The sister has spent all her money from the sale of the bungalow, leaving Brand to foot the bill for the care, leading to a very tense relationship between the sisters that is due to explode.

All of this is terrible, but accurate, indictment of our society. There is a price tag on everything, even the care of our loved ones. In our selfish society, our taxes don’t cover it, because we would rather vote for a government that promises low tax than one that wants to support those in need. We want services to be available when we need them but to not have to pay into them when we don’t. Employers of many companies take the mickey with how they treat their staff, and seem to have targets for everything bar job satisfaction.

Yet, in spite of all this, it is funny. Brand has a brilliant way of writing that allows humour to break through the bleakness. Comedy is a weapon, and she knows how to wield it. If ever a sitcom could be a force for change, this is it.

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