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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > British TV > Only When I Laugh - Set Two

Only When I Laugh – Set Two


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: D     Episodes: C



The premise sounds like it has potential.  Three men who are constant hypochondriacs take up semi-permanent residence in a hospital and drive everyone nuts.  That Peter Bowles (The Bounder is reviewed elsewhere on this site) is one of the would-be-ill made it more promising, but after watching six of the episodes of Only When I Laugh, I was surprised how unfunny it was.


Sure, the show is not politically correct, has a fine cast, is on the smart side, and was made at a good time for British TV in 1980.  However, I never laughed.  I did not buy the situation that they could be in the hospital for so long.  Maybe a feature length film (or telefilm), but an entire TV series?  The hook necessary to suspend such disbelief is never presented, and if it was in early shows (like the hospital needed the money), it is not reasserted.


The shows come down to either they resident ill driving each other nuts, or complicating “invading” visitors (i.e., the truly ill, who do not stay as they get well and go home), which is far too predictable for its own good.  When I thought about it, there was not one TV comedy series about a hospital (M*A*S*H does not count, because they were military and it was mobile) that was ever funny.  A few were tried, with the later (and lesser) episodes of the 1970s Bob Newhart Show sort of qualifying, but that still does not count.


The full screen, color shows were shot on PAL videotape and show their age, but the transfers work well enough, while the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also sufficient.  The only extras here are some brief biography/filmography combos.  That was exactly the case with the first boxed set.


One might argue that this critic missed the jokes because the show was so British, but I did not think it was British enough.  Furthermore, it is nowhere as outrageous as Lindsay Anderson’s grossly underrated feature film Britannia Hospital (1982) or how the likes of Monty Python or Benny Hill would have handled it.  Only When I Laugh is more like “if only I laughed” and only for the most curious.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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