‘I’m Dying Up Here’ – Sky Atlantic

I’m Dying Up Here was on my to-watch list for a long time before I took the plunge. I’m sorry I hesitated, because it’s exceptional television. It’s American comedy-drama television series created by David Flebotte and set firmly in 1970s Hollywood. It was made for Showtime in the US and picked up in the UK on Sky Atlantic (exactly where you’d expect quality imports to pitch up). It has comedy pedigree in its backbone as it’s based on a book by William Knoedelseder detailing the excesses of soon-to-be household names such as Jay Leno, Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman on Sunset Strip in the 70s. It’s also executive produced by Jim Carrey, and at the time of writing, the less said about him the better.

While based in reality, this is a fictionalised account of the premier Los Angeles comedy club, and the denizens who inhabit it, honing their craft to make it to the big time. That way real-life anecdotes can be revised, tweaked and magnified, much like the way a stand-up takes real life and makes it funny, constantly revising their act.

The comedy club is Goldie’s, owned and run by businesswoman and matriarch Goldie Herschlag (played by Melissa Leo, and loosely based on Mitzi Shore the founder of The Comedy Store). She has very little tenderness in her heart and is all about business. She cares for her comics in a way, but is very strict with them, and this tactic has proved extremely successful. What she says goes (even insisting one comic change his name after daring to play in another LA club). Goldie’s is only place where the talent scouts come from Johnny Carson’s ‘Tonight Show’, the big coast-to-coast American talk show. That slim chance at stardom is what keeps her comics loyal.

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BBC Sitcom Season – ‘Are You Being Served’, ‘Porridge’ and ‘Young Hyacinth’

In the gloomy lab of a crazed scientist’s lair the spooky organ music rises to a crescendo. The thunder cracks and the lightening flashes. The hand-stitched body-parts on the gurney start to twitch and there’s no longer any doubt. “It’s alive” yells Dr Frankenstein, “it’s alive!”.

This is exactly what happened in the mind of head comedy commissioner Shane Allen when he decided to launch the BBC Sitcom Season, reviving comedy classics from the last 60 years, to mark the anniversary of the first broadcast of Hancock’s Half Hour arguably the originator of all tv sitcoms. It’s up to us to decide if these unnatural creations are monstrous, or if like the good Doctor’s best known creation, they’ll have us in stitches.

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