Watching television from a sociological perspective, a very valid question is whether or not life is as segregated as it appears on television. Comedies such How I Met Your Mother or Citizen Khan give us a glimpse into a racially monolithic lifestyle for the characters on screen. At least in these middle class shows, there is very little mixing. Most of the characters are of a single ethnicity with outsiders playing minor, usually one-dimensional roles.
This is, perhaps, the truth of private life. For some reason, and despite assumptions of equality, miscegenation in a true multi-cultural arena is slow to permeate even throughout cosmopolitan cities. Yet in the public sphere, one cannot help but interact with a wide variety of people. At least we can hold this as true when the people in question do not have the financial means to separate themselves by flight away from the centers of intermingling.
For the middle classes who the focus of sitcoms such as New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, and (for a non-white example) Citizen Khan, it is possible to band together in suburbs or gentrified corners of cities and forget that other cultures exist around them. Yet the lower classes have no recourse in such separation and must learn to co-exist as best they can. This pastiche in the public sphere of the lower classes has been ignored until very recently. The first shows to do it in earnest were Australian raunchy comedies such as Fat Pizza and Houzos, where the suburban poor of the down under are portrayed as a lazy, crude, and anti-authoritarian but, above all, multi-ethnic group.
While British comedy Chewing Gum is ostensibly about a 24-year-old religious virgin, the greater part of it seems to be social commentary of the type showcased by Paul Fenech’s aforementioned Australian farces. The poor are mocked and examined, from the perpetually pregnant white chavettes to the various ultra-religious ethnic minorities, central to all being our black lead actress Tracey Gordon. It’s not as bawdy as its forebears, but make no mistake – it’s still quite bawdy, as you might have guessed from the synopsis of a 24-year old zealous virgin trying to find an outlet for her sexual urges. More than just shock debauchery, though, it is about irreverent satire of a realistic situation.
As for the show itself, beyond its ideas, it is a strong production by Channel 4. The actors portray their characters with nuance and humor. The dialogue has an authentic feel, with the writers not even shying away from slang in promotional material. The setup itself is realistic and the situation is sure to resonate with many people. For example, the first season revolves around Tracey going from one end of the relationship extreme to another – her first boyfriend is a rigid religious nutter, but she moves on to an equally inappropriate relationship with a guy who has absolutely no rules, no creed, and few ambitions beyond playing video games. Out of the frying pan and into the fire – a refreshing slice of real life indeed.
The fans tend to agree. While #CG doesn’t have the strongest of internet presences, nearly a thousand users have rated it on IMBD, giving it a score of 7.6 out of 10. This puts it in the neighborhood of other good comedy shows. Likewise, 93% of the rating audience on Rotten Tomatoes currently likes it and they have given it an aggregate score of 4.5 out of 5. Critics and audiences seem to like its eclectic style and innocent displays of humor. Indeed, for all the novelty of the setting and characters, the show has a primordial sincerity when it comes to the basic human interactions it shows without branching off into complexity.
Other outward signs show success for the post-teen screwball romp. Lead actress Coel won a BAFTA award for her portrayal of the frustrated young adult. Netflix also began to air the first season in October, effectively exporting it to the massive US market. Channel 4 has secured a second season for the show, although the details of it aren’t clear except for a promise by Coel that the second season will be even more lascivious and shocking. We’ll have to see how many notches up the producers decide to take this one. We will soon see if it it can avoid nose-diving into the gutter and losing all seriousness like the Borat movie or American Pie.
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What do you think of this new British comedy? Do you think Ronald will come out of the closet soon? Do you think Tracey and Connor will settle into a serious relationship? What changes do you think will come in season 2? Give us your comments and opinions down below.