Leon Hunt
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The ‘Zooniverse’ and other (furnished) comic worlds
in Cult British TV comedy
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According to Umberto Eco, the cult text must provide a ‘completely furnished world so that its fans can quote characters and episodes as if they were aspects of the fan’s sectarian world.’ While Eco was speaking of cult film, this ‘worldness’ seems better suited to the longer narrative forms on television. Nevertheless, ‘world-building’ is associated particularly with the expansive universes of fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror. TV comedy occupies smaller worlds, such as the still popular sitcom ‘trap’. This chapter examines the elaborate worlds developed in a genre more usually associated with restrictive spaces (the homes, workplaces and ‘traps’ of sitcom, for example). While the programmes discussed here largely do conform to these spatial constraints, they are extended in other ways, expanding their worlds through a richness of design detail and a dense intertextuality, drawing on horror films, pop culture and computer games. They are also characterised by their design intensive televisuality – ‘cinematic’ camerawork and stylised production design. The chapter also examines how transmedia content can further extend this world, looking at the example of BBC Comedy Online’s ‘Psychoville Experience’.

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Cult British TV comedy

From Reeves and Mortimer to Psychoville

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