The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Comedy Tonight


Thoughts on the Guardian article about the state of UK TV comedy; the BBC having recently admonished itself for not having had much luck with mainstream comedies in the last few years.

I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of sympathy with commissioners explaining how difficult it is to have a hit comedy. That’s their job! That’s what they get paid for!

That’s one difference with the UK and the US. In the US, the commissioners are rewarded for their successes and held responsible for their failures. It’s why US TV comedy still has huge, lucrative hits like The Big Bang Theory.

The article also makes the point that comedy is seen as being unprofitable. Which is, frankly, down to a lack of ambition; if shows like Peep Show and The Inbetweeners had longer runs they could build bigger audiences. Treat comedy as a niche product and it will only ever get a niche audience.

It’s a Guardian article about comedy, so expect a few massive factual errors; Fawlty Towers was never broadcast in a ‘mainstream’ slot, I remember it was on after my bedtime and hearing my dad’s laughter through my bedroom wall. And Only Fools did not take three series to ‘get good’ (the chandelier episode is in series two, FFS!).

Another positive step would be if success were rewarded; it’s massively discouraging to everyone in comedy that Not Going Out was axed as it was actually gaining viewers.

Part of the problem is that comedy always gets bad reviews; a cynic might infer that critics are frustrated failed writers. Sadly I think it’s not healthy for comedy show’s success to be measured by their reviews or industry awards – it was focusing on commercial and ratings success that generated the hits of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

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