In this weekly column, I’ll introduce you to the world of British comedy in the chronology of how I, an American anglophile, discovered it in my life. This week: The Thin Blue Line.
Many of my entries in this column have focused on shows that were cutting edge or in some way subversive. This week, however, I’m shedding light on the 2 season, barely remembered police station sitcom The Thin Blue Line, a show which lived comfortably within the confines of the traditional sitcom format.
Written by the legendary Ben Elton and starring comedy mastermind Rowan Atkinson, The Thin Blue Line ran from 1995 to 1996 without much fanfare (at least stateside). The show’s various plots revolved around police inspector Raymond C. Fowler (Atkinson) and his squad of bumbling and lackadasical uniformed officers as they fought against boring, small-town, local crime. (Though much of the comedy comes from their infighting with each other, and their arch enemy, Detective Inspector Derek Grimm and his plain-clothes detectives.)
Inspector Grimm and Inspector Fowler:
By all standards, this is a straight-forward sitcom, complete with a bit of over-acted mugging and laugh track. But it’s elevated beyond shit-com by the wonderful cast and terrific writng of Ben Elton. It should come as no surprise that The Thin Blue Line would feel more traditional, since Elton based it on the classic 60’s and 70’s British WWII farce, Dad’s Army.
I love odd little shows like The Thin Blue Line. They aren’t challenging your perceptions of comedy, but rather gleefully reveling in the comfort-food quality of a simple sitcom, well done. There’s a lot to be said for that.
Not everything can (or should) be extreme, or push all boundaries. Occasionnally, one needs to sit back, relax and indulge in something that is there to entertain without pretension. If it’s well done, it reconnects us to a more positive, upbeat stripe of comedy meant to make us guffaw like an idiot rather than cynicly grin like a jackal.
So, if you are indeed in the mood for a delicious cream-pie of a comedy, indulge with, The Thin Blue Line.
You can begin checking out The Thin Blue Line on YouTube…for FREE!
Curtis Gwinn is a writer and comedian living in LA. He’s written for The Onion, MTV’s Human Giant, Comedy Central and FOX Searchlight Pictures. He also co-starred in and co-wrote Fat Guy Stuck in Internet on Adult Swim.