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Andy Walker

Does television influence behaviour?

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A head teacher is calling for parents to ban their children from watching Little Britain, the BBC reports.

Lynne Hargreaves, head teacher at Hildrenborough Primary in Kent, has written to parents after hearing sketches from the BBC comedy show repeated in the playground.

"I have had staff up in arms, not only because they felt the content of last night's viewing was close to the edge, but also because a number of children watched this after the watershed," she wrote.

The show's co-creator David Walliams has said that the show is not aimed at children, despite its potentially immature and slapstick humour, but added that "it's great if they love it".

Research commissioned by the Radio Times found that 86,000 four to nine-year-olds watched the last series, suggesting many teachers have to suffer bad renditions of "no but, yeah but yeah" in the classroom.

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I vividly remember my friends and I doing exactly the same thing with The Goons skits each week - we howled with laughter every week as we did the voices of Eccles, Bluebottle and Neddy- we annoyed the teachers back then too but it doesn't appear to have blighted any of our lives. I hope that's the biggest problem this primary school has!

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I vividly remember my friends and I doing exactly the same thing with The Goons skits each week - we howled with laughter every week as we did the voices of Eccles, Bluebottle and Neddy- we annoyed the teachers back then too but it doesn't appear to have blighted any of our lives. I hope that's the biggest problem this primary school has!

I tend to agree with you on this one Jean.

However with the programme in question children in my school have been known to mimic racist, sizeist and homophobic "humour" with very little understanding perhaps of the writers intentions.... at least it gives me the opportunity to engage in some tutorial work!

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Jean writes:

I vividly remember my friends and I doing exactly the same thing with The Goons skits each week - we howled with laughter every week as we did the voices of Eccles, Bluebottle and Neddy- we annoyed the teachers back then too but it doesn't appear to have blighted any of our lives. I hope that's the biggest problem this primary school has!

Aaah, the Goons! We drove our teachers mad with our renditions of "He's fallen in the water" and "I don't like this game" - and I suppose there was a touch of racism (although I guess none of us had heard of the word "racism" at the time) in the role in which Ray Ellington was cast. I still have a 33rpm LP of two Goon Show recordings.

"Little Britain" is totally over the top and often very student-reviewish, but its catchphrases are as popular as the Goons' catchphrases were in the 1950s. I was waiting in the ski lift queue in Austria last January when the electronic turnstile failed to recognise the ski pass of the guy in front of me. With one voice all the Brits in his vicinity (including me) chorused "Computer says no".

As for "Yeah but, no but...", bin there, bought the teeshirt in the mid-1980s when my two daughters were aged around 13-15. I could almost accept that Vicky Pollard was modelled on them - along with Catherine Tate's character: "Am I bothered? Look at my face".

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I have only watched Little Britain a couple of times and find it completely unfunny. It reminds me of the Dick Emery show. I have never found the constant repetition of certain phrases funny. I suspect it has something to do with youth, although I remember my mum laughing at television comedian’s “catch phrases” when I was a boy.

I do not agree with banning it but Andy makes a good point about the danger of children who “mimic racist, sizeist and homophobic "humour" with very little understanding perhaps of the writers intentions”

Many years ago I saw a great play by Trevor Griffiths called “The Comedians”. First performed at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1975, the play is about stand-up comedians. The point that Griffith’s makes is that all humor is political. At its best, humor is educational and liberating. However, most comedians get their laughs from reinforcing stereotypes and therefore are part of the dominant ideology. Griffiths has commented: "It's basically about two traditions - the social-democratic and the revolutionary... The play has been read as being about humor, as a play about comedians. At another level, it is probably that too."

I think that Little Britain is part of the social-democratic tradition whereas shows like “Have I Got News For You” has the potential to educate.

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I have never found the constant repetition of certain phrases funny.

Hence the absence of Mr Gratz recently?

I think that Little Britain is part of the social-democratic tradition whereas shows like “Have I Got News For You” has the potential to educate.

I find the public schoolboy humour of the likes of Ian Hislop exclusive and right wing. I also find the label "social democratic tradition" for Little Britain quite odd. Perhaps you could expatiate?

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