Series: Mind Your Language
Politically incorrect Brit Com
that ran between 1977 and 1979. The show was about a hapless class of students learning English as a foreign language
. It has been much criticized for its xenophobic outlook and heavy use of ethnic stereotypes, but at the time it was appreciated that the show gave actors of colour a bigger presence on TV.
Hilariously, it was outsourced abroad to great acclaim. To this day it is still re-run on Comedy Central in India and elsewhere.
Four main characters worked at the college of adult education where the show is set:
- Jeremy Brown, teacher of English as a foreign language
- Miss Courtney, strict principal of the college
- Sid, the Cockney caretaker
- Gladys, a tea lady with a penchant for gossip
Jeremy's students were:
- Giovanni Cupello, a macho Italian
- Danielle Favre, a French nymphomaniac
- Anna Schmidt, a humourless German
- Juan Cervantes, a Spanish bartender with hilarious '70s sideburns
- Maximillian Papandrious, a stereotypical Greek
- Jamila Ranjha, an Indian housewife
- Ranjeet Singh and Ali Nadim, an Indian Sikh and Pakistani Muslim (respectively) who constantly fight
- Chung Su-Lee, a fanatical Chinese communist
- Ingrid Svenson, a Swedish nymphomaniac
- Taro Nagazumi, a Japanese businessman
- Zoltán Szabó, a Hungarian with a strange tendency to burst into song
The series was later adapted (unsuccessfully) in the US as What A Country
, starring Yakov Smirnoff.
Tropes used included:
- All Men Are Perverts/All Women Are Lustful: When Brown's away from class, his students will either be messing around or reading something racy. With the exception of Jamila, who'll probably be reading something about knitting, and Anna, who seems to be the only student to take the class seriously.
- Animated Credits Opening: The opening credits feature cartoon versions of Jeremy, Miss Courtney, and the students. Jeremy writes the series title on the chalkboard, but is distracted by the arrival of Danielle, who causes various levels of distraction or disapproval (split down gender lines) in the other students as she walks past - until everyone notices a scowling Miss Courtney standing in the doorway. (In the second series, it is Ingrid who distracts the other students after pushing Danielle aside.)
- Berserk Button: Miss Courtney's reaction when addressed as "Mrs".
- Brawn Hilda: Anna has no problem beating the shit out of anyone who annoys her.
- Comically Missing the Point: A lot.
Mr Brown: After William the Conqueror came his son, William the Red-
Ali: Oh blimey! You are having a communist king?!
Su-Lee: (open mouthed grin and waving a Chinese flag enthusiastically)
Mr Brown: What? Oh no, he was called "the Red" on account of his red hair.
Su-Lee: (sullenly stops waving and sits down)
- Catch Phrase: Most of the characters had at least one, usually a Malapropism of some sort.
- Ali was fond of using the very British phrases "Oh blimey!" and "Jolly good!" in his bid to assimilate into English culture.
- Juan, whose English was among the more fragmentary in the class, would say "¿Por favor?" (Spanish for "Please?") whenever he had trouble understanding Mr. Brown. Zoltán had the similar "Bocsánat?" (Hungarian for "Pardon?") whenever he ran into a communication barrier.
- Giovanni's favourite term of agreement was "Okey-cokey" (confusing "Okey-dokey" with the hokey cokey dance (hokey pokey in the USA)).
- Ranjeet's preferred phrase when Mr. Brown corrected his mistakes was "A thousand apologies."
- Call the school's headmistress "Mrs.", and she would acidly insist, "MISS Courtney!"
- Deadpan Snarker: Mr Brown had his moments.
Mr Brown: (seeing Giovanni dressed up in typical Mafia getup, look of disgust) Are you representing Italy or the Mafia?
Giovanni: I REPRESENT SICILY!
- Doorstop Baby: Jeremy reveals in the Series 1 episode "How's Your Father?" that he was left on the doorstep of an orphanage on Jeremy Street as a baby, and grew up never knowing who his parents were.
- Everything's Sexier in French: Danielle.
- Fanservice: Danielle and later Ingrid.
- Final Season Casting: Many characters left before the fourth series (among other things, Dino Shafeek (Ali) died of a heart attack in 1984), leaving Giovanni, Juan, Anna, and Ranjeet as the only survivors of the original class (though Ingrid was brought back from season two).
- Funny Foreigner: Though mostly portrayed sympathetically.
- Fun with Foreign Languages
- Germanic Depressives: Anna is very rarely seen smiling, in contrast to the more outgoing Danielle, Su-Lee, and Ingrid.
- Germanic Efficiency: Invoked and discussed.
Mr Brown: (Taking register) And you?
Anna: Anna Schmidt. German. Au paire.
Mr Brown: Ah! Good old fashioned Germanic efficiency.
Anna: Germans are very efficient.
- Hilarity Ensues: Several episodes centred around the characters' brushes with the law through misunderstandings of English. In one case, the entire class managed to get themselves arrested separately while trying to complete assignments from Jeremy (Giovanni and Danielle interrupted a live television broadcast, Su-Lee and Taro got in a heated argument with an orator at Speaker's Corner, etc.).
- Modern Minstrelsy: The classroom is packed with broad national stereotypes, mostly (but not exclusively) played by actors and actresses of the same ethnicity as their characters.
- My Local: The characters were rarely seen outside of a school setting, but would often congregate in the college canteen.
- National Stereotypes: By the truckload. The German student is rigid and humourless, the French student is a would-be seductress, the Italian student is a hot-blooded skirt-chaser, the Chinese student is a devout Maoist, the Japanese student is a tech savvy camera salesman, the Punjabi and Pakistani students are constantly at each other's throats... and the English characters are sexually repressed and socially awkward.
- Running Gag: Ali saying 'squeeze me please', Ranjeet's thousand apologies and Taro putting -oh at the end of every word.
- Stock British Phrases: Sid speaks in nothing but these.
- Theme Tune Cameo: During the school's talent night, Jeremy (dressed in a Union Jack coat) leads the students (dressed in the stereotypical costumes of their various home countries), as "Jeremy Brown's United Nations", in a chorus of the series' theme tune.
- Wacky Homeroom: National stereotypes though they may be, each of the students does have a distinct personality, and though they may like Mr. Brown, that doesn't mean they'll behave themselves during his lessons (Giovanni especially is fond of acting out).
- Wimp Fight: Both Giovanni and Maxmillian get into a fight in one episode where they basically skip around each other with fists raised talking about how they're gonna hurt the other, but never once actually throw a punch. Lampshaded by Danielle.
"Fighting?! It was more like dancing!"