The Smoking Room: The Ashes of Sitcom Style

Curator's Note

American sitcoms alternate between bland lighting illuminating bland people in affluent spaces and cartoonish visual style depicting cartoonish characters. As part of the recurrent post-Thatcher British study of the abject, The Smoking Room takes place entirely in the lounge for the tobacco pariahs of a middling commercial concern (invaded, in this clip, by the boss trying to make nice). The Smoking Room damps down the color register through the haze, puts broken-down furniture in front of mismatched paint on the walls, and features a gloomy cast who share the deadening pallor of the cigarette addict. British anti-smoking groups first protested the production of the series by the BBC, but quickly quieted down, for obvious reasons. While the BBC promoted The Office with the warning “Prepare to cringe,” the likely response to The Smoking Room is to grab a steel-thistled brush and start scraping the televisual grime off our skin. And can you please open that window?

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