The Holy Buffoon in the Living Room: Contemporary British Religious Sitcoms 1982-2014

Walker, Emily (2022) The Holy Buffoon in the Living Room: Contemporary British Religious Sitcoms 1982-2014. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Since the 1980s, one of the most quietly persistent sitcom sub-genres on British television have been ‘religious’ sitcoms, including All in Good Faith (1985-1988), The Vicar of Dibley (1994-2007), Father Ted (1995-1998), and Rev. (2010-2014). These vicar- or priest-led sitcoms received broadcast audiences of up to 16 million, especially significant considering that during this period church attendance and self-identifying Christians dropped to record lows. Even though these sitcoms are ‘religious’, they are not currently contributors to public service broadcasters’ remit to provide religious programming. Also, despite their frequency in British televisual history, academic study has largely ignored the shows, stemming from a lack of study into popular sitcom and a tendency to prioritise ‘quality’ sitcoms over traditional. The religious sitcom’s very existence is questionable as some humour and religious scholarship deems religion too serious and humour too light for mutual benefit. This thesis addresses three points through a textual analysis of the above sitcoms: 1. the establishment of ‘religious sitcoms’ as a sub-genre; 2. the intersection of humour and religion; and 3. the representation of religion. This thesis offers the first definition of the religious sitcom, contributing to our understanding of the sitcom genre as a whole, relating existing debates on the complexities of humour and religion to practical examples of intersection, and arguing that the range of religious representations and discussions in these sitcoms firmly fulfils the PSB remit to provide religious programming. The thesis, therefore, combines both synchronic and diachronic aims and approaches in seeking to identify key tropes of the religious sitcom sub-genre, whilst situating key developments in relation to shifting and intersecting creative and cultural contexts. Ultimately, this will shed a light on this under-the-radar mainstay of the British airwaves, to give the religious sitcom some well-deserved and overdue academic attention.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2023 10:03
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2023 10:03


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