I don’t very often drift into sitcom territory here. I don’t really watch them- in today’s enlightened age sitcom’s simply aren’t what they used to be, usually for fear of upsetting somebody, somewhere, which has resulted in most of them being, well, pretty anaemic. On the one hand, I can see it as progress, on the other, it’s a bit of a shame; comedy can be a good tool to enlighten, and ridicule some beliefs and prejudices through humour. I might cringe a little at some moments in Steptoe and Son from the 1960s and 1970s, but it’s nonetheless bloody funny and I don’t think it does any harm to realise (and appreciate) how times have moved forward while having a good belly-laugh.
Sitcoms of course have always been a mainstay of British television, but times change. The days of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas specials bringing the nation together with audiences of over 20 million are long gone (the 1977 Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show attracted 28 million viewers – around half the total UK population at the time, sitting around their television sets when it was aired; imagine that). Video recorders and more recent advances like the iplayer have meant that people simply don’t all watch the same programme at the same time anymore, and of course we are no longer limited to just three channels here as we were back in 1977. Its a bigger, more fragmented world now.
Indeed, it’s so easy for things to pass me by now. I didn’t come across The Detectorists until it was all over, and was late coming to Two Doors Down. I saw its original pilot (set at New Years Eve) when it was repeated on New Years Eve 2017, purely by chance, and subsequently watched its third series that aired a few weeks later. So I came around to series one on repeats on UK Gold this summer and a Christmas present of the DVD boxset has given me the chance to (finally) catch up with series two, and a festive binge through all three series. Its been a slice of Heaven this past few weeks with what’s being going on here of late, being able to escape ‘real-life’ through it- I’m almost bereft at finishing the last episode. Fortunately the show is popular enough that a fourth series is starting next week, so more lies ahead.
There is something quite comforting about being able to settle into a DVD boxset of your favourite sitcoms. I guess it’s the comfort-viewing equivalent of a comfort food. In darkest winter as it is now, with short days and long dark nights and a political climate as poisonous and dystopian as they come (LA 2019 far more welcoming and pleasant than anything in UK 2019- if only Ridley knew back in 1982 that he needn’t have bothered with Syd Mead and Douglas Trumbull, eh?). Losing oneself in several episodes of sitcom-land is such a welcome escape. Two Doors Down has some great characters, marvelous acting and comic-timing to deliver some really quite witty scripts. I simply adore it, laughing both with and at the characters, wincing painfully at some and sympathising with others (particularly the put-upon Beth and Eric whose home is usually the setting for all the comedic revelry).
I don’t think I’m alone in coming upon the series late- I’ve read that the programme is one of the best-kept secrets on television now. I hope its success continues and that maybe we’ll get a series five some day. If you’ve never watched it, I urge you to give it a go. Its rare these days for a sitcom to strike me as genuinely funny and involving as this one does- sitcoms almost seem a lost art, but maybe there is hope yet…