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Saturday, 19 January 2013

Retro Review: Desmond's

Duration: 1989 - 1994
No of seasons: 6
Release date: (UK) 5 January 1989
DVD release by Channel 4
Produced by: Humphrey Barclay Productions
Distributed by Channel 4 Television Corporation
Cast: Norman Beaton, Carmen Munroe, Ram John Holder, Gyearbuor Asante, Kim Walker, Geff Francis, Robbie Gee, Justin Pickett, Dominic Keating, Mathilda Thorpe, Lisa Geoghan


One of the best Black sitcoms ever, period! 

Whilst the likes of The Cosby Show, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son broke new ground for Black sitcoms in the United States on major networks such as NBC and CBS, there has been a struggle in the U.K to have a successful Black British sitcom lasting for more than 1 series (or season for those in the U.S).

The show follows the everyday lives of its customers who come into the barbershop for more than a haircut, as well as the lives of the Ambrose family made up of Desmond, wife Shirley and their children, Sean and Gloria. 

Desmond's is not only arguably the best Black British sitcom that has aired on television, but it is also one of the best Black sitcoms, ever in my opinion.

I think what made it so cross-culturally appealing towards people of all cultures and races was the humourous -yet clever script and interactions between Desmond towards the customers, the staff, his family and to other people. This is also the same reason why Desmond's was so successful. The supporting characters who enter the barbershop are an interesting and varied bunch: from Desmond's childhood friend, Porkpie and the Gambian student, Matthew to assistant barbers Tony and Ricky- Tony's replacement. Both of whom are also White. There were also 2 White female characters in Gloria's friend, Louise and Michael's personal assistant, Mandy. Lee was your typical 'Londoner' who deals with used goods; he was like the Black version of Del Boy Trotter from another British sitcom, Only Fools and Horses. Interestingly, both Desmonds and Only Fools and Horses are set in Peckham, South London, respectively.

Desmond's epitomised Black British comedy at its finest and was co-written and created by Trix Worrell. Through the Ambrose family, it provided an interesting insight into Black family life in Britain and how it fares to say the Huxtables of the Cosby Show. Whereas the Huxtables were a middle-upper class African-American family with a Doctor in Cliff and in Clair working for a law firm, the Ambroses were a working-class Black-British Guyanese family in Desmond and Shirley, who own and run a barbershop.

An interesting thing about Desmonds also was that Trix Worrell wanted to emphasise the prejudice and cultural differences between, as well as within ethnic groups.

We all know racism exists with people of other races - White on Black, Black on White, but what about racism between people of the same race but from different Diaspora communities? In other words, Black Africans being made a butt of the jokes by Black Carribeans for instance. This is exemplified by Porkpie making fun of Matthew, and Matthew, who in turn pointed out African history's strength and the fact that Carribeans are descendants of Africans.

It's pretty interesting stuff when you think about it.

The humour in Desmond's is generated through the dialogue and script, moreso than the physical comedy aspect but it is well- written and very unique. Many of the writers also served as writers on the all-Black U.K sketch show, The Real McCoy, which is the U.K's answer to In Living Color - another U.S based comedy series. The performances from the cast are terrific- there isn't a particular actor or actress whose efforts stand out from the rest, but still, for me they are all as good as one another.

Overall, Desmond's is by far one of the very best Black sitcoms I've watched and it still to this day holds the record as Channel 4's longest- running sitcom. Its legacy and impact it has left on British sitcoms has been quite remarkable almost, 20 years since it ended.

And since it ended, there hasn't been a successful Black British sitcom that has come close to or rivaled Desmond's; that in itself shows how great this sitcom was, and still is.

I enjoy everything about it: the characters, the writing, the humour and jokes and there isn't an episode that I thoroughly disliked. Trix Worrell worked his magic on this series, and his efforts have paid off.

If you haven't seen Desmond's, then I recommend that you do.

*Final rating out of 10:  10!

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