By James Cary
5/5 Imagine An Evening With James Cary, sitcom writer of the likes of Bluestone 42 with episodes of Miranda, My Hero, and My Family to his name, creator and writer of radio series Think the Unthinkable and lots more. Imagine he’s taking a sideways look at Bible stories you know (so well you haven’t really thought too much about them). Imagine he throws in some insights on why writing a sitcom about Christians would be a really tricky thing to do, tells a few personal anecdotes and imagine he throws in some really funny rewrites of Pilgrim’s Progress. Now you’re ready to read this book.
James has an obvious love for the Bible and his approach is in no way disrespectful, quite the reverse. The Bible isn’t a joke book, it isn’t a laugh a minute but there are times when you see the funny side of a situation. Familiarity means we usually miss it and it’s good to see it afresh. No spoilers (James concentrates on John’s Gospel) but take the book of Jonah. It could be an extended sketch. From the outset the joke is on Jonah. Having spent 3 days and 3 nights in the gastric juices of a big fish the reluctant missionary, looking and smelling like a fish, goes on a preaching tour in a town that worships Dagon the fish god. And the big reveal at the end of the book is Jonah sulking with God because his mission was a big success – you don’t hear that in Sunday School.
I was fascinated to read James’s thoughts on the difficulties of writing a sitcom about Christians. It’s something I’d given some thought to, partly idle speculation, partly academic interest, partly as someone who’s produced some (minor) radio stuff. Never a sitcom but some kind of drama. I came to the conclusion it was either going to be sickly sweet or incredibly boring and probably both. James pretty much explains why. Now a sitcom written for a Christian audience who get the in jokes, that might work. Can’t help thinking there would be offence taken though …
This is a great book and an easy read. I highly recommend it. I’m not sure whether I’d prefer it to go in the wacky religious section of the secular bookshop or join the other three books on humour in the Christian bookshop (read the book for the reference). I guess online sales takes care of that.
Thanks to Netgalley and SPCK for the ARC.