Comedy Central announces big studio sitcom ambitions
Comedy Central, the digital broadcaster best known for its repeats of American sitcoms, is looking to significantly expand its stable of home-grown comedies.
In its previous guise of the Paramount Comedy Channel, the network - jointly owned by BSkyB and American media conglomerate Viacom - was known for a string of cult commissions from the mid-1990s onwards, helping to launch the careers of comics including Matt Lucas, David Walliams and Simon Pegg, and has been slowly aiming to grow UK commissions again in recent years.
The sitcom Big Bad World (pictured below) and clip show Seann Walsh World are due to launch shortly, following the success of the sitcom Threesome, which has run for two series to date.
However, Comedy Central is now understood to have fallen in love with the mass-audience studio sitcom format and aims to produce "four to five" brand new British series every year - making hundreds of episodes in the next few years with US-length circa 22-week seasons, rather than the British norm of six to eight.
The first series to fall under the new plans was revealed earlier this week. Mummy's Boys is the first ever studio sitcom from Big Talk Productions and has already been commissioned for an 8-episode first series. Channel managing director Jill Offman hopes, industry website Broadcast reports, that the sitcom will quickly rise to 22-episodes per series, hitting a cumulative total of 100 shows by 2018.
The move is a concerted effort to produce mainstream, mass-audience hits, such as Miranda and Mrs Brown's Boys on the BBC, rather than the relatively niche, single-camera comedies that have been the prevailing sitcom trend over the past decade in Britain.
Referring to the prolific creator-writer-producer behind hugely successful US sitcom hits including The Big Bang Theory, Two And A Half Men, Dharma & Greg, and many other titles that Paramount and Comedy Central have broadcast in the UK over the past two decades, Offman said: "Are we going to aspire to be Chuck Lorre? Why wouldn't we?"
Comedy Central intends to broadcast commissioned shows on its equivalent channels across the globe, except in the United States where they will aim to sell format rights to the main broadcast networks such as Disney-owned ABC.
The news follows the appointment of former NBC vice-president of programming, Lourdes Diaz, as Comedy Central's commissioning chief. She will be based in Los Angeles and travel to London for 10 days a month.
Jill Offman told Broadcast: "I don't need Lourdes here. I need American expertise, and if she lived here that would slip away. Her role is to make sure that we're keeping those American beats, that glossiness and pacing."
Offman confirmed that Comedy Central already has two other studio sitcom pilots in development, which are expected to be commissioned "in the next few weeks". Executives from the channel will then "go out in the next couple of weeks and do an event with producers [from independent production companies]".
Owned jointly by Viacom and Sky, the former's MTV Networks division operates Comedy Central in the UK. Steve Regan, senior editorial director of commissioning and production at MTV UK, will also work on Comedy Central, and already has a further two factual entertainment series in development. Former BBC executive producer Simon Lupton will join him in commissioning for the channel.
John Cleese is to oversee the first official Fawlty Towers stage adaptation. Fawlty Towers - Live on Stage will launch in Australia in August 2016.
Sky Arts is making 12 scripted comedy shorts for Christmas featuring up-and-coming comedians. Stars include Nish Kumar, Limmy and Twisted Loaf.
Japanese stand-up Yuriko Kotani has won the 2015 BBC Radio New Comedy Award, after a public vote.
Hit ITV comedy drama Cold Feet is to return for a brand new sixth series, it has been confirmed. James Nesbitt, Robert Bathurst, Hermione Norris, John Thomson, and Fay Ripley will reprise their roles.
Car Share, Catastrophe, Detectorists, Inside No. 9, The Keith Lemon Sketch Show and People Just Do Nothing are amongst the nominees for the Broadcast Awards 2016.
ITV has ordered a second series of Play To The Whistle, the sports-focused comedy panel show hosted by Holly Willoughby.
We have three copies of Mrs. Brown's Boys latest live stage show to give away on Blu-ray. Get involved. Enter
Russell Kane talks to BCG about growing up, being mistaken for other people, and his future comedy ambitions. Read
The programme for Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival - which runs from 3rd to 21st February 2016 - is out: Read
We've three copies of Keith Lemon's Back T'Future Tribute to give away, in limited edition 1985-style packaging. Enter
Double act Max Olesker and Ivan Gonzalez introduce their live show via a copy of a map of where their creations live. Read
Bring The Noise regular panellist Katherine Ryan talks about some of her favourite music in this interview. Read