27 July 2009

A Comedic Dilemma?

Upon hearing the news that the Beeb are in a bit of a pickle over pre-watershed comedy on BBC One (via From the North) it got me thinking: how can you make good comedy for the general audience?

I suddenly started thinking of current good comedies - Lead Balloon, Gavin and Stacey, even Saxondale - almost all decent comedies are on after 9pm, or on BBC2

The only shows praised have been Outnumbered, which is brilliant, and curiously, My Family - which I think went stale years ago

But that is what they actually want - banal comedy that your mum or grandparents will happily sit down and watch with the younger kids - the BBC still produces very good comedy (such as Mock the Week) - but invariably good comedies are rarely suitable for pre-watershed slots

Even Gavin and Stacey, which is(/possibly was) an excellent family comedy, is too edgy for the watershed - so basically the task of comedy at BBC One is to find an innocuous, mildly funny show that doesn't offend anyone - preferably comparable to Only Fools and Horses

The ironic thing is, finding this rather bland style of programme is incredibly hard - harder than finding the best comedies, because decent comedy doesn't have huge numbers of restrictions placed upon it

So what we have now is tripe like The Green, Green Grass, and After You've Gone (weirdly both linked to OFAH) - propped up by the strangely popular My Family - and apparently it simply isn't good enough...

But here is the problem - you cannot experiment with comedy on BBC One (pre-watershed anyway) - for if you were to show one of the odd pilots you get on BBC3 people would not be impressed, the flagship channel has standards, you know

Throw in the fact that viewers of the other channels will not be impressed by lame sitcoms with no swearing or sexual references and we have a right dilemma - BBC One cannot take the risk and 2 and 3 don't have the audience

So where do you find these sitcoms? Well the truth is, unlike with good comedy, where you gamble recklessly, you play it cautious - stick to established writers and performers and use a familiar concept - My Family is a continuation of 2point4 Children and it's no coincidence that primetime comedies feature well-known faces such as Nicholas Lyndhurst and a spin-off from OFAH, nor is it surprising that these shows go on for years - because they are inane drivel

But to find good inane drivel is an artform and a very hard ask in this day and age - it seems to be mostly luck - finding a show that jumps through enough hoops to not be a risk in the evening slot on the flagship channel and then be found funny by those odd people who actually watch primetime comedy - it's no wonder they want at least 10 years out of one when they find it

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