THE NEW STATESMAN written by LAURENCE MARKS AND MAURICE GRAN (Shock DVD)

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THE NEW STATESMAN written by LAURENCE MARKS AND MAURICE GRAN (Shock DVD)

Although as dated in its own way as Mind Your Language (the British sitcom which milked racial stereotypes for humour), The New Statesman still has something to recommend it to contemporary audiences.

Filmed in the Thatcher era (a character playing Thatcher appears in the series), it broadly satirised the greed and ruthlessness of that period through the loathsome, sadistic and self-centred character Alan B'Stard (Rik Mayall). It was hardly subtle, but that is what makes it interesting and sometimes very funny, although it lacks any of the droll, satirical detachment of Yes Minister which was its immediate predecessor in political comedy on British television.

Because it came before the time of Tony Blair's centrist Labour movement, the Right and the Left are reduced to cliches (as in Mind Your Language of a decade previous): on the Right are B'Stard, bumbling fools, toffs, in-breds and out of touch landed gentry; on the Left it is all cloth-capped unionists and wishy-washy liberals.

Viewed from this distance that is an almost ancient divide, but one which had been entrenched in Britain's class system. Post-Blair however it has -- in some measure -- been eroded and the division into cliches is less obvious fodder for humour, hence more subtle programmes like The Office . . . and less subtle shows like The Thick Of It (and its film offshoot In the Loop.)

As with In the Loop there is banter to be had between B'Stard and the Amercians in series two -- and of course matters of the European Union, johnny foreigner and the like are all ground up in the wide swathe this show cut.

The current coalition government in Britain might also be a farewell to all that old class divide as seen in The New Statesman -- although David Cameron and Nick Clegg are doppelgangers and childen of privilege.

We can only hope the satirists are sharpening their knives again, rather than attacking with club as did The New Statesman writers Marks and Gran in this five disc, complete series set.

In the clip below watch for Screaming Lord Sutch at the two minute mark. 

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