British Comedy Guide

Sitcom Mission 2020 Page 4


Alfred J Kipper

  • Tuesday 17th November 2020, 8:55am [Edited]
  • Aldershot, England
  • 6,364 posts
Quote: Lazzard @ 16th November 2020, 9:58 AM

If you're trying to write comedy that is like it was 40 years ago, then you'll be ploughing a lonely furrow.
It doesn't mean SitCom is dead - just your painfully narrow definition of it.

Sorry but I simply don't agree. Can't tell you the exact figures but I think Dad's Army still beats most current sitcoms on viewer ratings - A 50 year old sitcom with an 80 year old setting. There were similar ratings successes with other older sitcoms when they were repeated on BBC like Fawlty Towers, The Good Life and others. And whatever the ratings for them are on ITV 3, Yesterday, Drama, CCXTV the fact they are all filling their primetime slots with old sitcoms means they are popular. And they're mostly studio sitcoms with laugh tracks.

The commissioners of new sitcoms are the ones getting it wrong, not the writers of traditional style sitcoms. You can still have the modern style non studio dramadies with themes of sex and drugs for those who want them, but why mostly replace a wholly successful form of sitcom with them when the figures show they can't match the ratings of these older sitcoms? People are turning them off and turning on Yesterday to watch what they know they like. Decent funny sitcoms. And you can have modern themes in traditional formats, so why kill the stonkingly successful sas because once trendy Mr Gervais doesn't like them?


Stephen Goodlad

  • Tuesday 17th November 2020, 9:21am
  • Mirfield, England
  • 3,879 posts

That's all true Alfred - especially the ratings.
But alas, the world now ignores the older populace.

If it doesn't fit the remit of exclusivity and the rest, it won't get read. Actual comedy and well crafted scripts are well down the list.



  • Tuesday 17th November 2020, 9:55am
  • Ludlow, England
  • 4,878 posts
Quote: Alfred J Kipper @ 17th November 2020, 8:55 AM

the fact they are all filling their primetime slots with old sitcoms means they are popular.

It means they're cheap.
Yesterday get about .5% of viewing share.
Of course there's a market for old-style sitcoms - and what's more there's plenty of them out there to run and re-run for virtually nothing.
Why go to the expense of making more?
Its like saying " Why don't they make more sweets like Werther's Originals?"
Because there's Wether's Originals, that's why.


simon wright

  • Tuesday 17th November 2020, 10:27am
  • London, England
  • 455 posts

"But the free scripts links misses the point here, as useful (and confusing as they can be - they prove there IS NO ONE SINGLE DEFINITIVE FORMAT LAYOUT, as much as these experts tell you there is..." Alfred J Kipper.

"You learn best by READING a lot and writing a lot." Stephen King.


kate to the party

  • Tuesday 17th November 2020, 2:30pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 56 posts

To offer a counter perspective on the modern vs classic sitcom debate: a lot of the creators of new sitcoms have said they are heavily influenced by the "classics" (Ghosts' Ben Willbond has talked in interviews about being influenced by Blackadder and Fawlty Towers, for example). I think while the legacy of these older shows is undeniable, it has translated into new, highly original shows that aren't necessarily exactly the same kind of style/format, but are still connected spiritually (pun intended??) to the things that have inspired them.

So it's not a case of all new comedy = a flat-out rejection of the old (or that one is better than the other, even) it just comes out in different ways I think, and there is room for both (Think also about all the stuff that has been 'ressurected', Spitting Image is back, Vicar of Dibley is coming back again apparently, Open All Hours had a reboot -there is definitely a market there).

Also it's probably worth recognising that there was a lot of truly terrible comedy in the olden days too; we just don't hear about it now.


Alfred J Kipper

  • Wednesday 18th November 2020, 3:27am
  • Aldershot, England
  • 6,364 posts
Quote: simon wright @ 17th November 2020, 10:27 AM

"You learn best by READING a lot and writing a lot." Stephen King.

And still get told you're doing it wrong! Rocliffe this year, as I mentioned they've got someone very technical in for the feedback or maybe I just happened to be passed to them this time. Mostly good, in way of being informative and reasoned, (if a tad cursory, I'd happily pay 20 quid more for a little more depth) pointing out its weaknesses, and some was so positive I was expecting it to say I've won, not been rejected.

The only thing that didn't make any sense at all was the line "There are also some formatting errors in the script - the writer may find the script templates and archives on the BBC Writersroom website useful in this regard." ? Eh? I used the BBC TV Sitcom template on my software and crosschecked it with the Matt Carless BBC template and it matched perfectly. (And this was sent after I sorted out the auto pilot character name issues which ruined my first draft sent to you (SM20).) I checked and triple checked it - It was formatted to the Tee of the standard template. So you (I) can't win. Teary

And moreover their archives are full of scripts from successful sitcoms with many varied layouts not following that 'mythical' single standard format. The strict formatting advice you always get is confusing rubbish tbh. Prods apply to it to those they don't want (when they're even flawless) and waive it to those they do want but barely follow it. It's another con trick for them to exploit.


simon wright

  • Wednesday 18th November 2020, 7:58am [Edited]
  • London, England
  • 455 posts

How to lay a script out is just one of the things you'll absorb by reading successful scripts - and it's nowhere near the most important thing.

We're really not format fascists here at Sitcom Mission.

Having said that, don't do what one writer did in his two-hander:


BEN (TO BILL): Oh, hi. Didn't see you there.

BILL (TO BEN): How's things?

BEN (TO BILL): Oh, you know...