Current sitcom climate

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Aaron

  • Monday 2nd December 2019, 1:40pm [Edited]
  • Royal Berkshire, England
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Following on from a discussion begun in the Scarborough thread...

Quote: Alfred J Kipper @ 2nd December 2019, 9:07 AM

Well Scarborough is the latest but also from the last 3 or 4 years Warren, Quacks, Home From Home, The Kennedys, Mountain Goats, Sun Trap, Porridge 2016, all prime time BBC 1 or 2 so called sitcoms. Then there's at least three from BBC4 I can think of, two with Ben Miller in.

Fair points. It feels like many of those are quite a while ago now, but almost all did deserve at least a second series in my view, and attracted higher viewing figures than many that have been recommissioned.

Quote: Alfred J Kipper @ 2nd December 2019, 9:07 AM

That doesn't explain why some are binned with good audience figures like The Royal Bodyguard not that long ago. Nor does it explain why the Beeb doesn't commission as many as it used to, if it's losing out to other channels then surely you'd think they'd want to make more sitcoms not less. Maybe they actually realise the general quality of modern sitcoms is getting worse and worse and many aren't really sitcoms but comedy dramas or increasingly comedy soaps with not much comedy. Did we really need yet another soap?

And these are very interesting points indeed. I understand that comedy is by far the best performing genre on iPlayer, so may well get much more money and slots to fill before long. But it's also true that linear TV audiences seem to be under-served at present, particularly the older generations who make up the majority of TV viewers, and working classes.

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chipolata

  • Monday 2nd December 2019, 5:38pm
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I agree that older generations, especially those left behind by modern technology and reliant on Freeview, are underserved, especially in terms of the lack of good old fashioned sitcoms. And because they remember the heyday of the British sitcom, they feel the abscence most keenly.

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Firkin

  • Monday 2nd December 2019, 8:42pm [Edited]
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Interesting thread Aaron. There have been many attempts to fit that demographic. Could it be that comedy quizzes, room 101 etc.. also fill the slot but are cheaper and run longer ?

There have been so many failures, makes more sense to look at the winners. Partridge and Sacha Baron Cohen have both been successful, but interestingly they have both morphed with the times. Porridge 2016 was always going to fail, the original central characters were too strong to follow, a bit like Fools and Horses. Benidorm also had strong central characters. What other recent sitcom aimed at the older market can boast that ?

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chipolata

  • Tuesday 3rd December 2019, 6:36am
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Quote: Firkin @ 2nd December 2019, 8:42 PM

Interesting thread Aaron. There have been many attempts to fit that demographic. Could it be that comedy quizzes, room 101 etc.. also fill the slot but are cheaper and run longer ?

Yeah, and I think ratings behemoths like Strictly and X Factor have filled the gap that sitcoms once filled. They're cheap (at least compared to sitcoms) and interactive and are what people talk about the next day.

Sadly, I can't remember the last time a sitcom really got everybody, not just the chattering classes, talking. Peter Kay's Car Share came close but then seemed to fizzle at the end, and was never intended to be a long-running show anyway. Possibly Gavin and Stacey too. But other than that most recent sitcoms don't seem to resonate with the general public the way reality shows do, or dramas like Bodyguard.

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Tuesday 3rd December 2019, 1:15pm [Edited]
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Quote: Firkin @ 2nd December 2019, 8:42 PM

Could it be that comedy quizzes, room 101 etc.. also fill the slot but are cheaper and run longer ?

That is a major factor imo. It's comedy and afaik there is one budget for all comedy at the Beeb, so if there's suddenly a spate of new comedy panel shows on TV then there's bound to be less money for sitcoms or narrative comedy as I hear they like to call it now. Panel show comedy is a natural and easy progression from stand up comedy which seems to be the taste of the century so far and it's helped evolve the taste in TV comedy from sitcoms to panel shows for the under 40s who've known little else.

Sitcom is no longer king on TV, comedian based comedy is. :( When they get handed sitcoms as well it really irks me Pirate as bar one or two they have been no more than blatant rehashes of their stand up work with virtually no attention to characters, the absolute priority of any true sitcom. There should be a strict sitcom template given to them to follow but it seems all they have to do is be a popular name and plop their used material into a flat pack flat share vehicle and hey presto they've got a prime time sitcom for as long as they can keep it going. Pirate steam

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chipolata

  • Tuesday 3rd December 2019, 2:29pm
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Quote: Alfred J Kipper @ 3rd December 2019, 1:15 PM

That is a major factor imo. It's comedy and afaik there is one budget for all comedy at the Beeb, so if there's suddenly a spate of new comedy panel shows on TV then there's bound to be less money for sitcoms or narrative comedy as I hear they like to call it now. Panel show comedy is a natural and easy progression from stand up comedy which seems to be the taste of the century so far and it's helped evolve the taste in TV comedy from sitcoms to panel shows for the under 40s who've known little else.

Sitcom is no longer king on TV, comedian based comedy is. :( When they get handed the majority of sitcoms as well it really irks me Pirate as bar one or two they have been no more than blatant rehashes of their stand up work with virtually no attention to characters, the absolute priority of any true sitcom. There should be a strict sitcom template given to them to follow but it seems all they have to do is be a popular name and plop their used material into a flat pack flat share vehicle and hey presto they've got a prime time sitcom for as long as they can keep it going. Pirate steam

Can you name some of these sitcoms that have done that? Not a trick question, I just like evidence to back up an argument.

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Tuesday 3rd December 2019, 5:07pm
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The Klang Show, Miranda, Lab Rats, Not Going Out, Grandma's House, Josh, Lead Balloon, Heading Out, The Kennedys, Getting On and possibly others like Time Gentlemen Please. NGO the most blatant and successful at it but all of them reuse bits they've performed on stage.

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chipolata

  • Wednesday 4th December 2019, 6:30am
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I think you're conflating a number of issues. The comedian who gets a sitcom off the back of becoming popular rather than any discernible writing talent is clearly a bad thing. Writer-performers work-shopping and developing material onstage is clearly a good thing. And it makes sense that producers gravitate towards them because they've seen their material working in front of an audience.

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Aaron

  • Sunday 8th December 2019, 1:08pm
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Quote: Firkin @ 2nd December 2019, 8:42 PM

Interesting thread Aaron. There have been many attempts to fit that demographic. Could it be that comedy quizzes, room 101 etc.. also fill the slot but are cheaper and run longer ?

They're certainly cheaper and seen as longer-running, but they don't provide the returns, and certainly don't attract those older audiences in the same way.

Quote: Firkin @ 2nd December 2019, 8:42 PM

There have been so many failures, makes more sense to look at the winners. Partridge and Sacha Baron Cohen have both been successful, but interestingly they have both morphed with the times.

How do we define success and winning?

Off the top of my head, I can't think Sacha ever made a sitcom, and has left Britain - and television - entirely. Partridge, meanwhile, is a cult interest whose most recent incarnation attracted fewer viewers than shows that've been mentioned above as cancelled after just one series.

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Aaron

  • Sunday 8th December 2019, 1:43pm
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Quote: chipolata @ 3rd December 2019, 6:36 AM

Yeah, and I think ratings behemoths like Strictly and X Factor have filled the gap that sitcoms once filled. They're cheap (at least compared to sitcoms) and interactive and are what people talk about the next day.

They're definitely not cheap, but perhaps they are more financially efficient in the short term.

However, let's not forget that these kinds of shows always existed in the previous decades when there were dozens of sitcoms airing, too.

Come Dancing. New Faces. The Generation Game. All sorts in exactly that light entertainment vein.

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Aaron

  • Sunday 8th December 2019, 4:33pm
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Quote: chipolata @ 3rd December 2019, 6:36 AM

Sadly, I can't remember the last time a sitcom really got everybody, not just the chattering classes, talking.

What about Mrs. Brown's Boys and Miranda?

Quote: Alfred J Kipper @ 3rd December 2019, 5:07 PM

The Klang Show, Miranda, Lab Rats, Not Going Out, Grandma's House, Josh, Lead Balloon, Heading Out, The Kennedys, Getting On and possibly others like Time Gentlemen Please. NGO the most blatant and successful at it but all of them reuse bits they've performed on stage.

This is largely a fallacy. For starters, almost if not all of these shows had pilots before being commissioned to series. No one is simply handed a sitcom. No matter how bad you think the resulting product may be - no matter how bad it may objectively be - all have significant work put into them.

Would you criticise Up Pompeii!?

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Monday 9th December 2019, 1:03am [Edited]
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Firstly no I'd never criticise Up Pompeii! but it's not of the type of show I listed - all of which were written or part written by the comedian who apart from one, starred in it as well. UP was written for Howerd not by him. It was a genuine narrative sitcom with a bold central character starring an actor good enough for the role. What I saw or glimpsed of the above listed, few were genuine sitcoms, some had token sitcom plots with vague characters and some starred people who could not act. But they were names in the comedy industry which satisfied one of the key requisites of BBC sitcom commissioning as published on their website.

Quote: Aaron @ 8th December 2019, 4:33 PM

This is largely a fallacy. For starters, almost if not all of these shows had pilots before being commissioned to series. No one is simply handed a sitcom. No matter how bad you think the resulting product may be - no matter how bad it may objectively be - all have significant work put into them.

But every show has to go through this, pilots are effectively no more than recorded auditions and plenty are rejected because of it. If they reject every one because of a weak pilot then I doubt we'd have more than two sitcoms a year on TV, so they have to accept some they're not entirely happy with just to fill the schedules. And plenty have got through which have failed, including some I listed. So I stand by saying some sitcoms are being handed to comedians and some prove not worthy of the commission, even the Beeb recognise that or they wouldn't be pulling them after one series, which constitutes a costly failure.

So, something is going wrong, which brings me back to the commissioners, my no1 suspects. Do this current lot know what they are doing? Do they understand sitcom enough? Are they looking in the right places? Are they looking for genuine sitcom writing talent or just falling back on known names who make people laugh on stage and TV panel shows but then prove generally less able at narrative comedy, and some clueless at it!

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Aaron

  • Monday 9th December 2019, 1:15am
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I dearly, dearly love Frankie - but in no possible way could you call him an actor. He was himself. In everything.

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Monday 9th December 2019, 1:58am
  • Aldershot, England
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Next to Simon Amstall the man was Oscar worthy.

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john tregorran

  • Monday 9th December 2019, 2:39am
  • mornington,victoria, Australia
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I did some talking about Mrs Brown and Miranda BUT not in a good way.