Saturday, December 14, 2019
Mind Your Language (1911-1981)
British sitcoms are famous the world over for being the best of the best. With gems like Dad's Army, Faulty Towers, The Young Ones, and many more, there's an abundance to choose from. And all easily watchable too, since each season would only have 6 episodes, and only rarely would have more than 5 seasons. This is infuriating for those of us who want more to enjoy, but at least it means they were the ultimate example of quality over quantity. Among all these shows is the classic Mind Your Language...
English teacher Mr. Brown finds himself with more than he bargained for when he takes a new job at a school, for a foreign education class. = with students from all across the world, seemingly united in being absolutely rubbish, he has his hands full trying to teach them the language of their new country, but never has a boring day =...
Mind Your Language is one of the best British sitcoms in my opinion. It's consistently hilarious, always inventive, and not only has a large cast of distinct[ive] and enjoyable characters, the scenarios are always different. Each episode is divided into two halves, with the first usually focusing on Mr. Brown's attempts at teaching his = class, in various different ways and subjects. The second halves, meanwhile, are devoted to the main story, i.e. whatever confusion, misunderstanding, or dilemma has gripped the school this week. This structure works very well, and ensures that we get plenty of time to see this school in action, as opposed to the school only being a set dressing to be largely ignored. The classroom structure also ensures that no character is ever left out.
The comedy here is uproariously funny, in many different ways. It's also a very sweet show. You have raunchier jokes, funny brawls or confrontations, and =, but it's never mean-spirited, and everyone is always in on the joke.
One of the biggest pluses to Mind Your Language is that it's a very diverse show (perhaps one of the most diverse until the fully Pakistani Citizen Khan over 30 years later), with three Desi characters, and two East Asians, among the others, such as Mediterranean, and Turkish (albeit playing a Greek, and blessed with an Armenian name, for maximum confusion). As far as I know the only actors in the show who are Brits putting on [accents] are = as Giovanni and = as Anna, and they do good jobs too, not coming across as caricatures.
Despite the number of characters in such a confined location, they all pop out and make themselves distinctive, and after a couple of episodes you'll have all their names and characteristics down pat. Jeremy Brown is a straightlaced main character, with all the scruples and attitudes you'd expect of a teacher, but never overbearing or strict. The school's principal Miss Courtney however is another story. She's hilariously mean and domineering. God help any man foolish enough to piss her off!/The school principal Miss Courtney is a tough older woman who's staunchly feminist, and takes no crap from men, or from slacking-off students. She =, but does have some semblance of a softer side
Giovanni is your average Italian womaniser and vino connoisseur. Despite his irreverent nature, he often gets appointed to substitute teacher whenever Mr. Brown has to be elsewhere for a spell, and he's half-and-half for effectiveness versus slacking off/taking the opportunity to slack off. Max is like Giovanni 2.0, but with enough of his own traits to stand out./Max is quite similar to Giovanni, being a fellow curly haired Mediterranean. who's an Orthodox Christian, loves a good drink, and is always up for fun times with the ladies.
The French Danielle is a sultry gal who harbours deep affection for Mr. Brown, but is never loose. She may want Mr. Brown in her bed like =, but whenever other male characters try making passes at her or chatting her up, she swats them away like yesterday's news. Anna, meanwhile, is a very serious and straightforward lady, always blunt and brutally honest.
Ranjeet is your typical Indian Sikh, kindhearted, apologetic, knowing how to shake his head, and absolutely hates his Muslim neighbours. He frequently butts heads with the Pakistani 'Barbarian' Ali, who likewise sees Ranjit as an 'infidel'. Both are otherwise very humble and down to earth characters, from Ranjeet and his "A thousand apologies", to Ali and his absolutely adorable smile.
Su Lee is as adorable as she is fierce. When not failing to overcome her L's and R's, she is trying to preach to the class about the teachings of Chairman Mao and his little red book, much to the exasperation of Mr. Brown. Juan is a tricky Spaniard who may or may not know more English than he lets on, and is most recognisable from his frequent utterance of 'Por favore?'.
Jamila is one of the quieter characters, given her almost complete lack of English skills at the beginning, but still has an active presence. A meek housewife fluent in Urdu, often calls Mr. Brown 'Masterji', [which I find hilarious]
An older Japanese gentleman, Taro is another of the more minor students on the show, but still gets his moments. Then there's his relationship with Su Lee that starts out not quite as hostile as Ali and Ranjeet, but gradually develops into one of respect and understanding.
Last up are the more minor characters, and later students. Gladys the tealady is an amusing well-meaning but nosey busybody, while the cockney caretaker Sid, who's always . Then there's Zoltan and Ingrid. They were new additions to the second season, and felt a bit like copies of other characters, but interacted well with others, and got some good laughs. I also felt they weren't superfluous in the end, because their presence helps show that this class isn't static, only ever having the same people all the time.
Something to discuss is how the show is seen by some as 'racist' by today's standards, an accusation which I vehemently disagree with. The show is stereotypical, yeah, but in a knowing and goodhearted way. When you have a classroom full of different nationalities, stereotypes are inevitably going to crop up, in or our of universe, and it's good that the show plays into this. It's never bigoted or mean, and these characters are always on top, always having fun, and never put down upon by the show. Overall, it takadamick, but it takesadamick from a place of love. This is especially apparent given the show's extreme/massive popularity in the countries it's supposed to have offended, same with It Ain't Half Hot Mum.
As for the L and R swapping with Su Lee's accent, it's obviously exaggerated, but it is at least in the context of an English class, where legit L and R swapping is a real hurdle to overcome (assuming the speaker can be bothered/actually wants to overcome it). I guess you could see it as akin to someone clumsy in the context of a tv show. People usually don't tend to be quite that clumsy in real life, so such traits are exaggerated for the screen. L and R confusion is a real issue in a language class, and the show dials it up for comedic purposes. It's not handled in a demeaning manner, nor is it like if a character was doing it in a 100% serious setting. And the fact that she's not the only character to have such a linguistic habit (the German Anna has the same difficulties with her V's and W's) make it come off as/feel like a general language joke, rather than a specific racial jab [at the Chinese].
One last thing to discuss is Mind Your Language's enduring popularity overseas. Before I got the DVD set, I watched the series on Youtube, and for every episode there were hundreds of loving/adoring comments. Not only do audiences from all over the globe (especially the sub-continent, like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc) enjoy it wholeheartedly, but their enthusiasm and [acceptance] is heartwarming, and seeing their reactions to the characters and writing is very sweet. Wherever Barry Evans is now, it'll warm his heart to know that even almost 40 years after the show ended, there are strangers from halfway across the world who express compassion for the tough life he had to lead, admiration for his skills, and gratitude for making them laugh.
Mind Your Language is a definite classic of British comedy. Taking a simple yet undoubtedly ripe for comedy idea, and telling many truly hilarious stories with a = cast of lovable characters, it's fun the whole family can always enjoy, no matter what part of the world you come from...
screenshots 17:45 cheating game