From unforgettable classics of popularGreek entertainment to couch comedy

Comedies based on misunderstandings, bedroom farce, humor about cohabitation, the young, families, old people, village and city life, «single woman seeks,» people who don’t fit in and friendships: All of them can be classified as «couch comedy,» according to Nikos Perakis. Of the 37 Greek series broadcast or scheduled for this year’s season (44 in total if we also include the daily series), 20 are comedies and most have high viewer ratings. «Hara’s Cafe» on ANT-1 (in its third year running) and the «Sto Para Pente» («Last Minute») on Mega channel have drawn more than 1.5 to 2 million viewers and many comedy series appeal to hundreds and thousands. After a decline in this genre following an invasion of reality shows, the channels have given more airtime to serials. These productions are more expensive and more attention is given to detail: They are shot in exotic locations with a large cast; have less hysteria and foul language; the dialogues are well-smoothed; the plot is more compact; there are more witty and not so witty retorts, while the time available for shooting the production is longer. In short, most of the comedy series are more professionally produced, a far cry from the highly amateurish video films of the 1980s. Has some progress been made then or have we seen worse? Undoubtedly, most of the comedy series do not meet the standards of either the talent of many Greek comics, or of the great tradition of theatrical and cinematic comedy, in particular that of the 1960s, nor of the training undergone by the production teams (most are better trained than those of the previous generation). Neither do they compare favorably with successful foreign series, a necessary comparison in today’s multi-channel environment and following the deluge of DVDs on the market. If we compare some samples of ’90s TV comedy with current production, there are few comedies today that actually make a splash. The «Unacceptables» (Mega) is one. Dimitra Papadopoulou, Spyros Papadopoulos and Vlassis Bonatsos not only created characters but expressed a whole generation with strong overtones of the madcap element that prevailed in the early years of political changeover, in addition to highlighting the visible signs of the looming yuppie movement. Akalyptos (Antonis Kafetzopoulos in «Married Couples Have a Soul,» ANT-1) was one of the few modern TV characters who portrayed a complete and «tactful» guy. Unfortunately, in most of today’s television comedies, we find caricatures or clumsy sketches of characters. The so-called career woman, the colorful homosexual who uses the gay idiom as a professional qualification, eccentric grandparents or the kid that never grew up are all caricatures. Nevertheless, good actors have managed to express real characters, those we meet in our real lives. This is true of Petros Philippidis in «50-50» (an authoritarian father stripped of his role, a middle-aged father who dotes on his married daughter). It is not that the other actors in the series are not as good, but the screenplay gives Philippidis the opportunity to mold a fantastic character. In this year’s serials, even when they do not satisfy us entirely, it is possible to find other such examples, an optimistic sign. Along similar lines is the childlike and unaffected humor of «Para Pente,» the expressive duo of «Hara’s Cafe» (Haris Romas, Renia Louizidou), and Panos Michalopoulos in «I Ora i Kali» («All the Best»), while many Greek comics give examples of outstanding talent in «Efta Thanasimes Petheres» («Seven Deadly Mothers-in-Law»).

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