The great British sitcom

Discussion in 'TV Central' started by Mel O’Drama, Sep 17, 2016.

  1. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Late last year, inspired by spontaneously watching The Galton And Simpson Playhouse, I began a British sitcom marathon, which has occupied the majority of my viewing schedule since then.



    My revisited shows have so far included:

    Duty Free
    Hi-De-Hi!
    To The Manor Born
    The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin
    George & Mildred
    Fresh Fields
    French Fields*
    That's My Boy*
    Terry & June*
    Only When I Laugh*
    Ever Decreasing Circles*
    'Allo 'Allo*

    * = First time watching all episodes consecutively




    Series I've explored for the first time include:

    Hallelujah!
    Agony
    George & The Dragon
    Dad's Army**
    The Good Life**
    Rising Damp**
    Man About The House**

    ** = I've seen the occasional episode of these but never got drawn in



    I have some more to watch for the first time, some sets I've started to watch and not finished and oodles of shows to re-watch for the umpteenth time. I'm slowing down a little and may not watch as much as I was. But as and when I do, this will be where I post about it.
     
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  2. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Last night, I finished my watch of In Loving Memory. This series and Hallelujah! have made something of a Thora Hird fan out of me. I can understand why she is asked to carry a show, as she has a certain something that makes her very enjoyable to watch.

    The final series was fine, but the series as a whole felt like it was several episodes too long. Some scenarios were beginning to feel a bit samey, which is surprising considering the changes made for the final series. Sherrie Hewson fitted in ok with the cast (I'm not a fan, but found her tolerable).

    There was a further attempt to change the formula with the first few episodes of the final series following the characters on honeymoon (a nice try, but it didn't work in my opinion). By the time we got back to the funeral parlour, the rot had set in and things felt stale.

    A seven episode running gag with Billy and his new wife Mary's bedsprings groaning and boinging under the strain of their carnal activities while Ivy rummaged round for bromide to put in their tea was old before the end of its first episode.

    There was even something of a clip show (rarely a good sign), though that got turned around. The premise of the clip show was Billy and Ivy showing Mary through their photograph album and telling stories of their former adventures. But at the end of the first half, Mary found a photo of Billy's "wedding" to Marion Yeats from Corrie which took place in an earlier episode (a bit of a Corrie theme going on with his wives, certainly). This led onto a half episode of story which played out well.

    It was nice to see Patsy Rowlands back too (as the same character she'd played before, throwing herself at the now-married Billy. All very cheeky and Donald McGill). Her Carry On compatriot Joan Sims also returned for the last series. First a little reprise of her previous appearance in the clip show (sans dialogue, which I assume meant they could pay her less). Then she returned as a new character running a rival funeral parlour. It's always good to see her, so that helped.

    The series ending was quite the damp squib. I'm hard pressed to remember it, and I only watched it last night. The end of the previous series with Billy's wedding would have been a more fitting ending.

    Anyway. Criticism of the final series aside, I did enjoy In Loving Memory's northern setting, beautiful location filming and some lovely period touches. And Thora Hird.
     
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  3. Mrs Emelee Newman

    Mrs Emelee Newman Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I am currently watching Absolutely Fabulous for the first time. Currently on series 2. I will then start with Blackadder.
     
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  4. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    After a month of easing myself back into British comedy with French And Saunders (and before that watching American drama for the best part of a year) I'm feeling ready to visit a vintage British sitcom once again.

    Happy Ever After - the precursor to Terry & June - is on my radar now that I have the box set on DVD. But I have watched it before, so first I've chosen to dive into a show that's brand new to me... You're Only Young Twice.


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    Having just watched the first episode, it feels like pretty standard Seventies fare. I'm familiar with Peggy Mount and Pat Coombs from other things, of course. And these two character actresses were part of the draw. The cast overall seems to gel well. There was a Golden Girls vibe to some of the scenes, with Mount as the Dorothy, Coombs as the Rose, the vain actress as Blanche and the Irish lady as Sophia. It's a bit naff of me to make that comparison since GG actually came more than half a decade after this, but like I said before, I haven't seen YOYT before. The retirement home setting also conjures up thoughts of another sitcom that would follow years down the line - Waiting For God.

    Anyway - I have all four series lined up to watch. I'm not expecting it to be too demanding, or even too funny. But I'm anticipating it will be a nice, safe, comforting little ride.
     
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  5. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I've just finished the first two series of It Ain't Half Hot Mum. Not a show I would have even considered (re)watching (I have vague memories of it as a kid), but I was given the series box set by a comedy afficiando for my birthday last year. So far, it's funny and clever and hugely endearing. The jewel in its crown is also the reason it's been more or less airbrushed (unfairly, in my opinon) from British sitcom history: Michael Bates' exquisitely judged, affectionate (and yes, cocoaed-up) performance as bearer Ranji Rahm.



    It's a fascinating character -- on one level, he's so devoted to his British "superiors" that he's kind of in denial about being Indian himself (which, of course, Bates, the actor, wasn't), yet at the same time, he discreetly outwits the stupid white men with help from his native peers (who are played by real Indians). Alongside that, you've got the heterosexual military brass absent-mindedly lusting over the resident concert party, who are just a bunch of oiks in dresses -- an arrangement which only the permanently outraged Sergeant Major (the brilliant Windsor Davies) ever questions. He'd be happy to ship them all up the jungle except that he believes one of the party (the stupidest one of the bunch) to be his illegimate son. The genius bit is that the lad isn't his son and everybody knows it but him. So it's slightly tragic as well as broadly humourous.
     
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  6. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    My relationship to It Ain't Half Hot Mum is very similar to yours prior to watching. I have a low level awareness of it being on in the background fairly regularly when visiting relatives (probably repeats - I'm thinking it was late Sunday afternoon fare). I can picture the end credits, but couldn't tell you anything about the plot.

    I hadn't even thought of throwing it into my future watches, but your comments have moved it onto my radar. The video you posted - and a couple that popped up at the end of it - made me smile, which has to be a good sign.

    Enjoy the last six series, James!
     
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  7. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I must say I really enjoyed the previous thread, @Mel O’Drama , and I only knew about a third of the series you reviewed. :) I'm glad you decided to do a "reboot"--they're all the rage, from what I've heard.
     
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  8. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks. That's nice of you.

    Some of those shows were new to me too.



    All the rage you say?! How very unlike me. :oops:
     
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  9. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The second series of You're Only Young Twice has now commenced for me.

    Ostensibly nothing has changed, but the three second series episodes have felt more energetic and enjoyable to me than the first. It's actually getting a few titters from me now, rather than polite smiles. Even though each episode of Series One had a specific focus, the theme of each Series Two episode so far has felt clearer.

    It could simply be a case that the series has clicked with me and I've got it. But I like to think the production has got a little sharper and more confident.


    It's helped that I now understand the structure of the cast more. Peggy Mount and Pat Coombs aside, the other residents little quirks have become clear to me. It took most of the first series for me to tell Dolly and Mildred apart, both of them having blonde hair and a quick comeback for anything Flora throws at them. Katy's role seems to have been reduced as the episodes have gone on and I've noticed she only appears in Series One and Two. It's a shame as I quite enjoyed her scene stealing in the beginning, but I'm guessing perhaps the actress's health dictated this move.

    The ensemble nature of the series is enjoyable. Peggy and Pat feature heavily on the DVD sleeves. It's true that both are heavily featured, but the other characters are in the majority of scenes adding balance which is very welcome.

    The writing isn't always the most memorable, and I think that for it to fly, it really helps to have these strong character actors. The way Coombs plays Cissie grates on me a little at times. She overdoes the whimsy, with lots of shrugging and skipping and fanciful gestures which I just don't find to be that funny most of the time. I've enjoyed her in other things, so maybe my expectations were a little high.

    Charmian May as Miss Milton feels very much like an ersatz Penelope Keith. So much so that I keep picturing Keith herself in the Milton role. Not that there's anything wrong with May here. It's only over the Series Two episodes that I've noticed the character's penchant for using phrases like "What are you telling me?" (when it's patently clear what she is being told). Is it a new thing, or had I just not noticed it before? Either way, I like it.
     
  10. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Maybe it's me surrendering to the tone of the show, but You're Only Young Twice is going up in my estimation with each episode I watch. As I reach the middle of Series Three I find myself looking forward to watching and laughing quite regularly when I do.

    There's an inherent cosiness to the now-familiar setting. Even the women being held at gunpoint had a cosiness to it. And when there's an episode with rain pouring onto the windows it gets even cosier.

    Mount makes the most of Flora's every line and seems to have worked her way into full on battleaxe mode. No bad thing. She's a joy to watch.

    Coombs as Cissie continues to be the weak link for me. She seems to be written dopier with each episode which no longer feels believeable. It's reached the point where her unthinking comments and actions cause so much damage she seems at times more malicious than ingenuous.

    Dolly, too, has been written more broadly at times - recent episodes seem to have upped the emphasis on her love of the bottle with lots of slurring and hiccupping - but it works for the character. Lally Bowers is such a fun watch, so I believe it. The Dolly/Mildred double-act is great. They're like a snide little Greek chorus, willing Flora's schemes to fail and taking great delight when they do. Katy has disappeared without comment, which is a shame. Her role was small enough for it to continue to work without her, but just having her sitting at the table or cutting the queue to get into the bathroom brought a nice energy that I miss.

    Charmaine May's Miss Milton has gone from Penelope Keith to Margaret Thatcher. Her resemblance to the Milk Snatcher was quite uncanny in the last episode I watched. See 2:40 in the video below for evidence:

     
  11. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Now that I'm midway through the fourth and final series, the end is approaching for You're Only Young Twice (damn - I still find myself writing "You Only Live Twice" and needing to correct it).

    With each passing series it goes up and up in my estimation. Apart from a little lull towards the end of Series Three it feels like it gets better and better. But I'm half convinced it's just that the more immersed I get in its little world the more enjoyable it is. I suspect I could watch the episodes in reverse order and be loving those early episodes more than ever.

    The characters are strong; the situations memorable; the setting appealing and the writing (despite my vacillation) is funny. It's up there with a great deal of sitcoms of the era. Which is why I'm rather perplexed this show has passed me by until now. I have no memory of it airing when I was young, nor do I recall ever seeing repeats on UK Gold and the like.

    I must give mention to a couple of characters I haven't really discussed before...

    Handyman Roger has been a reassuring presence throughout. Johnny (or sometimes Johnnie) Wade has that reliable cheeky chappy character actor air. His IMDb page is proof of that. The many different characters he's played in sitcoms and dramas include: "Barman", "Taxi driver", "Milkman", "Barber", "Card Dealer", "Delivery Man", "Butcher", "Security Man", "Ambulance Man", "Garage Man", "Scrounger", "1st Removal Man". No wonder he seems familiar. I must've seen a couple of dozen shows that he's had small roles in, giving series regulars some grief. YOYT seems to be his best-known role. I feel glad to know that he had several years of steady work out of this as he's a very enjoyable part of the show.

    Georgina Moon as Finchy is another that feels very much of her time. A pretty young woman who knows her lines but sometimes delivers them as though her script had no punctuation. Her IMDb credits are also quite telling, including small roles in the two outdoorsy Carry Ons (Camping and Behind) and an ongoing stint as Erotica in Frankie Howerd's Up Pompeii! series. She may be one of the weaker links of the team, but as part of the whole she's perfectly fine. Georgina's most recent credit is a 1983 is an episode of That's My Boy, after which she presumably became obsolete. Strange to think she's now older than the core cast of YOYT were at the time. I like to think she's residing in a home for former Seventies starlets, getting into hilarious escapades and sparring with the likes of Penny Irving and Margaret Nolan.
     
  12. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    My little visit to Paradise Lodge has come to an end having watched the last two episodes of You're Only Young Twice this grey Saturday afternoon. As expected, the final episode was a fairly standard one, with no real "ending" to the story. Which is fine.

    It's been a surprisingly enjoyable series to watch and has certainly exceeded both my pre-viewing expectations and my initial impression. At risk of repeating myself, it had a great ensemble and some nice scenarios. Gentle, silly fun with an original setting.

    My viewing companion commented that it did really pick up several episodes in, which matches my own view. While initially watching I planned to eBay the DVDs after watching. But now I'm going to hang on to them and look forward to a re-watch in a few years' time.
     
  13. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Next up on my viewing calendar is a series I haven't watched in perhaps quarter of a century:

    Happy Ever After

    [​IMG]


    Tonight I watched the Pilot followed by the first two regular episodes and I'm already looking forward to the next.

    The scenes feel very long after those in You're Only Young Twice. In fact they're like little plays, with much of the episodes feeling like a two-hander. And handled by two real pros. Terry Scott is such a wonderful comedian. His facial expressions alone are worth the entry fee. June Whitfield is as reliable as ever and the chemistry is already so good between the two of them.

    Enjoyable as the Comedy Playhouse Pilot episode was, most of the little tweaks for the regular series feel like they're for the better. The title sequence is slightly improved, the sets are better and it's definitely a wise move not to have their daughters dropping in regularly. In fact I could do without seeing them again. But the jury's out on whether the replacement Aunt Lucy is better than the Pilot version whom I really liked.

    The series is a little edgier than I'd remembered, which is a nice surprise. The first regular episode had the main characters arguing over politics when Terry - a staunch Conservative - discovered June had been voting Liberal. Terry's almost-expletive, too, was a nice moment ("What the f...", he ejaculated before being interrupted by June).

    Ronnie Hazlehurst's catchy theme music is quite the earworm. I'll be taking it to bed with me tonight and quite probably waking up with it in the morning.
     
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  14. Walford Boy

    Walford Boy Soap Chat Fan

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    Happy Ever After, that brings back memories. :)
     
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  15. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The short first series has now given way to the second and Happy Ever After continues to be consistently good.

    After discussing politics, other episodes so far have covered topics including life, death and sex. Some of these topics come during the Fletchers' bedtime conversations. They're typified by Terry's angst which is usually exacerbated by June's casual comments, and it's interesting to try and spot where June's disinterest ends and her teasing begins. The best example of this was during Terry's health kick when they spoke at length about what would happen to June if Terry died, leading to his horror at learning she might remarry and set herself up in a flat in Cannes.

    Discussions around sex, too, have been an interesting watch. They had a similarly paced conversation about their love affairs before they met which again ended with Terry aghast on learning that June's past was at least as colourful as his. It's a simple little device based around expectations not being met, but very difficult to pull off and adds to the play-like feel of the series.

    When it comes to sex, Terry has been shown to be a little seedy at times, which is to the credit of the show. In the am dram episode he showed great disinterest in the rehearsal June held in their living room until buxom, breathy Madeline Smith swept in as Sally (Smith being from the same school of Seventies starlets as Georgina Moon - see post #11). He then became interested in filling a role when he discovered that the character's main function in the play was to rip off Sally's dress and get all rapey. The casual discussion of the rape scene is certainly an eye opener to anyone who considers Terry & June paragons of safe tweeness - even more so when one consider's Terry's arousal at the prospect. Naturally, Terry offered to drive Sally home, and his smug belief that his attraction is reciprocal gave way to a very unexpected fantasy action scene on his drive home where Terry's Austin Maxi morphed into a Jaguar roadster and whisked him to a helicopter where he was then taken to a horse from which he rode to rescue Sally from a castle tower. At this point his clothes switched to karate whites and he threw some people round. And all accompanied by Laurie Johnson type action music. This sequence segued to Terry kicking the bedsheets off, waking up June. It was well done and probably not too cheap, and it captured so much of the underlying delusion and impending mid-life crisis that drives Terry's character (and perhaps a good percentage of the target viewer's).



    Do tell, WB. When did you watch it, and what are your memories of the show? :)
     
  16. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm laughing out loud at Happy Ever After quite regularly. It's a delight.

    But oh dear... the episode in which son Frank visited from Hong Kong with a fiancée had some truly dire moments. Terry, naturally, was the voice of dissent who freaked out at the thought of his son marrying an Asian woman, with June the voice of reason "All marriages are mixed", she casually observed, "A man and a woman". Naturally it was an excuse for him to cut loose with every imaginable stereotype, bowing, striking a huge gong, putting a basket lid on his head, swapping his "r"s and "l"s (for instance, he referred to his son as Flank Fretcher and their Ealing locale as Earring).

    That said, as uncomfortable as some of the humour is four decades down the line, many of the most cringeworthy moments were no doubt intentional. After all, the premise of the entire series is that Terry makes a fool of himself and embarrasses June on at least an episodic basis. The humour here comes on two levels. The baser of the two is Terry's quite frankly racist patter. But there's also the understanding that Terry - even by 1976 standards - is a dinosaur who just hasn't caught up with the way the world works.

    What's slightly horrfying is that Terry overcame his racism with sexism. Before even meeting his future daughter-in-law, he grew to like the idea when he read that Asian women pander to their husband's every desire and bought into that stereotype.

    While it was never explicitly stated, Terry's sexist double standards could be seen in the following episode. After shooting his blood pressure up over his son's relationship with an Asian woman, he barely batted an eyelid at his nineteen year old daughter's relationship with a man in his thirties.

    The daughter's new love was a TV producer and saw the Fletchers talked into taking part in a fly-on-the-wall documentary show: an interesting concept given that reality TV was a rare thing at the time. It was said that the new show was to observe a middle class family in the same way a previous show had followed a working class family. A quick online search suggests this would be a reference to a 1974 BBC series called The Family.

    Terry and June were, of course, delighted to find that he worked for the BBC and not "the other side", which Terry insisted he didn't watch. It seemed pretty standard at the time that it wasn't permitted to say "ITV" on a BBC show. At one point June mentioned Marks and Spencer and was chastised because she wasn't allowed to advertise on the BBC. And then it dawned on me that Happy Ever After aired on BBC, so that couldn't be entirely true. But I had to stop thinking about that one too deeply.
     
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  17. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    My Happy Ever After jaunt has reached the end of Series Three and is still one of the best parts of my day.

    The Aunt Lucy character has taken a while to grow on me, but I've got to love the running gags around her character: Terry's increasingly blunt hints about wanting her to leave and her knack for appearing whenever a bottle of sherry or brandy is cracked open. Her mynah bird seems to have disappeared without comment, but I don't mind as I was starting to worry about the poor little thing under those hot studio lights.

    Terry's British Leyland cars (and others in the show) are a nostalgic part of the viewing experience of this show and Terry & June. There's something quite fitting about them that feels right for the series - they're comforting, terribly British and rather bland. He started out with a K-reg Maxi (which would be '71-2) which has regressed into a K-reg Austin 1800. They even took it stock racing in one of the episodes.

    The foreign exchange episode gave the series the opportunity to fall back on two favourite Terry personality tropes: his Colonel Blimp mentality and the leering, dirty old man. As with the Asian daughter-in-law episode, his sexism helped him triumph over his racism on discovering the French exchange student he was dreading was buxom and curvaceous. I think I commented on this when watching Terry & June, but what I find at most disturbing about Terry lusting after their young houseguest is the way June accepts it with smiling resignation.

    A couple of future 'Allo 'Allo actors have appeared. Rose Hill was instantly recognisable, her voice sounding just the same but with a different accent. She even treated us to a great deal of Madame Fanny-esque bad singing. More foreshadowing with Kirsten Cooke: she had a walk-on role at the end of the foreign exchange episode as a new French student for Terry to lust over.

    I'm very curious about the reason Mistaken Identikit was chosen to be remade almost word for word as an episode of Terry & June towards the end of that series' run. It's a great episode, but then any number of them are. Josephine Tewson was in the HEA version, with some thoroughly enjoyable panicking at having to interact with Terry whom she believes to be a mugger.

    The props department must've had great fun with the teasmade, which looked like those gizmos they used to wheel onto the floor of Grace Brothers every once in a while. The jug rose up and poured tea into the pot which then whirred round amusingly (it occurred to me while watching that I've never actually seen a real teasmade in action, so for all I know they do this for real). Naturally it all went tits up and took on a life of its own, and was part of an enjoyably silly elaborate plot involving multiple teasmades being given as presents in an effort to get rid of them.
     
  18. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Gunga Din the Mynah made a return appearance in the first episode of Series Four and gave one of the most endearing scenes to date. On the set of Terry's latest endeavour, a boat.

    In a very frazzled scene featuring Terry, June and Aunt Lucy all at their wits' end, the "actor" playing Gunga Din decided to join in with some very loud noises. All three actors struggled valiantly through the scene, trying to deliver dialogue over the bird, including some facial expressions and ad libs that acknowledged what was going on and tried to incorporate it into the scene. There was one moment where all three clearly were on the verge of corsping and working hard to contain themselves and support each other. It's a really nice moment that shows the camaraderie on the set. Scott had a reputation as a perfectionist so there was something especially endearing about seeing him almost lose it.
     
  19. Daniel Avery

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    "In the next episode, the characters were seen having a backyard barbecue. Eagle-eyed viewers commented on the small, overcooked bird on the grill not looking like anything they'd ever seen served on such an occasion."
     
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  20. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Ha! That really wouldn't have surprised me. Nobody likes to be upstaged.
     

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