Speaking as a frustrated writer looking for that spark of an idea, I feel as if British comedy on television at the moment is something of a lead balloon. I'm not speaking about the Jack Dee sitcom, 'Lead Balloon', although there is little I find funny about it; but it just seems that our sitcom output at the moment is stuck in an eighties timewarp. Take the new comedy 'In With The Flynns', what, if anything is so different and amazing about that in comparison to 'Terry and June' or 'One Foot in the Grave'. This is on BBC ONE, in a prime-time slot and it offering nothing different to what we have been watching for the last thirty years.
The current most popular sitcom is 'Outnumbered', but, and writer's take note, this bulk of the popularity is built on the premise that the episodes are unscripted. Really, is that the future of British sitcom's, to be completely ad-libbed?
In reality, our television has been offering nothing of any worth in sitcom-land since Only Fools and Horses, it is a shame that the late and great John Sullivan is not being emulated in any way by the current crop of sitcom writers. His worlds were rich with characterisation, flaws and emotion. Having watched 'the Flynns' last night, there was very little coming out of the characters to make you warm to them. Sitcom's aren't just about punchlines and sarcastic remarks; they are far more than that, they are taking realistic situations and putting extraordinary characters in there. Take Frasier, a truly outstanding achievement in sitcom, this has an extremely simple premise with a batch of very strong characters and actors that fitted the shoes perfectly. How can the American producers get it right so often and constantly evolve the medium, while we seem intent on repeating the success of Dad's Army?
I find it saddening at the moment that in our own country we seem stuck, we are producing television sitcom that just doesn't push the boundaries in any way. Where is our Frasier? Surely for a country that is so good at sarcasm it should be be difficult to come up with a character that people would love to hate and root for even though he is a fool.