Miranda is What I Call Such Fun
In this day and age after thousands of years of plays and literature, it is challenging to come up with an original idea. At a comparatively younger 65 years, television seems to have gone through every possible storyline. Many are fatigued by the glut of remakes and sequels or shows that lazily repackage every cliché that TV is offering these days. Have we hit our narrative brick wall?
Miranda offers salvation as it proves that a sitcom doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel to still be fresh and entertaining. Written by and starring Miranda Hart, Miranda is a quirky amalgamation of the traditional American three-camera sitcom with goofy British slapstick and jugular-abundant wordplay.
Hart, a 6 ft. 1, moose-figured woman with a high pitched voice like a camp male impersonator, was born to be a clown. Based off Hart’s autobiographical-ish radio show, Miranda follows the misadventures of a 34-year-old woman-child who makes a major ass of herself in every single social situation without fail.
In anybody else’s hands, Miranda could easily be grating trite. Miranda, immature and lazy, owns a joke store with her trust-fund and has a treasure trove of put-offs. She is needy, insecure, super uncool, clumsy, and highly inappropriate. Miranda Hart is fearlessly buffoonish, an expert physical comedian, but she also wins your heart with her frantic sense of awkward desperation conveyed in her voice and almost gratuitous breaking of the fourth wall. You can’t help but root for her. And she is eminently watchable; it’s no surprise that Hart has become the star she is (I predict that soon America will call, and inevitably misuse her talents).
Admittedly, this show has a limited bag of tricks, but they elicit belly laughs even as they are repeated, past the point of good sense. As critic Chris Harvey astutely notes, “pretty much every time Miranda turns and looks at the camera, I burst out laughing. And even when her slapstick is so obvious it wouldn’t confuse a small child…I still laugh… Even when I really, really don’t want to.”
While Miranda might not be inordinately clever or have socio-political significance (it’s actually quite retrograde in its centrality about finding a man), it strikes the funny bone. And that is the most important thing.
What should be flaws- lame jokes, lame catchphrases, lame puns, lame wordplay – add to the show’s appeal. Out of the relentlessly contrived lameness comes an oddly normalizing and intimate relatability that saves Miranda from a flop and makes it into a smashing success. Even more commendably, Miranda accomplishes the difficult task of finding the funniness of infantilism by capturing the most wonderfully fantastical elements of childishness.
Tremendously boosting the show’s appeal is the supporting cast. What saves them from mere caricatures is their individual idiosyncrasies and the way they are simultaneously apart and a part of Miranda’s world of silliness.
The pint-sized cupie-faced Sarah Hadland as Miranda’s best friend is a perfect foil for the hulky Hart.
Although the beautiful, elegant Patricia Hodge bears no physical resemblance to Hart, as Miranda’s oversexed mother, she has many of the same hilarious eccentric Briticisms that make her and Miranda quite a pair (and the catchiest catchphrases “what I call” “such fun”).
Tom Ellis as Gary is more than just a disproportionately beautiful love interest; he brings a sensitivity and makes a great straight man to Hart’s wild antics.
Season’s 1 and 2 are universally stellar. “Date” is one of the best pilots of any sitcom, establishing all of the themes and bringing the hilarity for the full 30-minutes. Other highlights include “Holiday,” where Miranda, chastised for her sheltered life has a wild adventure in “Thailand;” “Before I Die,” Miranda’s desperately failed attempts to be more socially acceptable; “Let’s Do It,” shows the tender, fun side of Miranda and her blooming romance with Gary while having the rare problem of thwarting off unwanted pervy socialite men.
Season 3, which resumed after a two-year hiatus, has its moments, but seems to have lost some of its momentum. These episodes are at their best when they retain the show’s surreal whimsy. Meanwhile, there are some real eye-rolling moments, usually involving the ensemble perform in a mind-numbingly uniform over-the-top acting style, eschewing their wonderful individual character tics. It is also the exuberance of Hart and company that make you laugh, even when their material is soggy.
The good news is that most of Miranda is available on Hulu. Such fun!