1 9 9 1 – 1 9 9 3 (UK)
23 x 30 minute episodes
The loud American™ is a stereotype the British undoubtedly love to perpetuate. Quite how The loud American™ fits into British television, though, is another matter altogether – especially if The loud American™ happens to be Ruby Wax.
While US sitcoms like The Golden Girls and Roseanne combined larger-than-life characters with carefully-timed, acid wit, Wax tended to use a presentational technique akin to a large sledgehammer, a habit she did not appear anxious to break in this, her first outing on BBC 1.
Debuting in January 1991, the programme opened with a wild-eyed Wax at the wheel of a large van, hauling people off the street and carting them off to a large white room at the Beeb where they were supposed to engage in heated Kilroy-style debate for host Ruby’s gratification.
The problem with this opening sequence – and with the other prerecorded strands like ‘Ruby’s Blind Date’ and ‘Inside America’ – was that while they were obviously intended to come over as spontaneous, Wax’s style and the formats she used left the viewer confused about whether the ‘real people’ were indeed real or fully paid-up members of Equity.
The producer of The Full Wax was BBC youth supremo Janet Street-Porter. But where other Street-Porter efforts may have captured a raw and occasionally exciting atmosphere of unpredictability, this just came over as messy and badly coordinated.
The editing was astonishingly bad, which was most evident in the studio sequences and deprived the conversation of any real sense of flow, which was further hampered by Wax’s aggressive style.
While the ratings in the UK for American comedy are a testament to its popularity, the bulk of what is seen in Britain is tightly scripted and exceptionally well written. There may have been a few amusing one-liners in The Full Wax, but much of Wax’s humour came over as heavy-handed and crude without any of the wit many US stand-ups have become well-known for.
Little attention appeared to have been paid to timing and there was certainly no sense of space in the conversation, a traditionally British characteristic, perhaps, but one that American presenters like Oprah Winfrey have mastered.
Instead, the pace was one of fits and starts, laced with some self-indulgent, inconsequential waffle between Wax and her guests. Wax is not without talent and deserved a better vehicle than this.
Trans-Atlantic guests on The Full Wax included Lauren Bacall, Joan Rivers, Shelley Winters, Sandra Bernhard, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jamie Lee Curtis, Billy Crystal, Danny DeVito, Brigitte Nielsen, Dudley Moore, Tracey Ullman, Felicity Kendal, Richard E. Grant, Rik Mayall, Will Self, Esther Rantzen, Juliet Stevenson, Rula Lenska, Terry Wogan, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Joanna Lumley and Kathy Burke.