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Author Topic: Are Sky taking over British comedy?  (Read 2303 times)  Share 

biggytitbo

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Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« on: February 15, 2012, 07:06:05 pm »
Interesting article here http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2012-02-15/rich-in-laughs-how-sky-took-over-british-comedy


It all sounds very admirable, especially the amount of investment and the supposed creative freedoms they're offering writers and performers. The comedy playhouse stuff on sky arts sounds especially interesting.


But has it all actually produced anything good so far?

Saucer51

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2012, 09:54:17 pm »
If The Cafe was the firing of their broadside, I'm not going to worry too much.

Ignatius_S

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2012, 10:21:44 pm »
...It all sounds very admirable, especially the amount of investment and the supposed creative freedoms they're offering writers and performers. The comedy playhouse stuff on sky arts sounds especially interesting....

Sky wants to get value for its money - it's not going to take a punt on shows that it doesn't think have little chance of being a success. Similarly, it's tapping into existing talent, rather than new.

...But has it all actually produced anything good so far?

The Chekov Shorts, for a start. Perfect example of something the BBC should have down, but it wasn't interested in the slightest.

I haven't seen Spy, but those on CaB who have and posted here all seemed to be pretty positive (see short thread) - that's been backed up for what I've read elsewhere/been told. Most of the stuff that's come out has had fairly good write-ups - nothing that's set the world on fire, but nothing that's been complete crap. However, I think the desire to play it so safe (despite the dubious assertions in the RT article) is going to prove a problem, but the shows so far have done pretty well - and Stella was might to have done very, very well indeed.

If The Cafe was the firing of their broadside, I'm not going to worry too much.

Given the amount of new shows, it's patently not.

*edit* I've noticed that the debut viewing figures mentioned for Trollied conflict with what the RT have previously reported.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2012, 11:54:18 am »
Perhaps surprisingly, UK Gold are investing in new comedy too:

http://www.comedy.co.uk/news/story/00000754/uktv_gold_to_create_new_comedy_shows/

biggytitbo

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2012, 06:05:57 pm »
Why are Dave showing Red Dwarf and not the BBC?

Ignatius_S

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2012, 06:17:45 pm »
Why are Dave showing Red Dwarf and not the BBC?

Dave is partly owned by the BBC.

*edit* Accoriding to the link provided by Ballad of Ballard Berkley, wholly owned.

Ignatius_S

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2012, 06:24:21 pm »
Perhaps surprisingly, UK Gold are investing in new comedy too:

http://www.comedy.co.uk/news/story/00000754/uktv_gold_to_create_new_comedy_shows/

As that article says, the station has been dipping its toes into original programming so interesting to hear how it wants to take that forward.

Goldentony

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2012, 06:52:00 pm »
Imagine my excitment one night to see Sky 1 airing Stella. "Fuck me, Stella!" I thought. "I haven't seen or heard of that for years. What on obscure thing for them to pick up! excellent, it's coming back from the break"

Disappointed doesn't cover it

Steve Williams

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2012, 08:18:40 pm »
Why are Dave showing Red Dwarf and not the BBC?

Because the Beeb seemingly didn't want it and Dave did. But it's not quite correct to say the Beeb own Dave, it's a BBC Worldwide initiative which gives them access to the archive and that but also allows them to show adverts. And also show stuff from other channels, natch.

biggytitbo

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2012, 08:21:26 pm »
It's inexplicable that the BBC didn't want another series of Red Dwarf (and possible shiteness hasn't stopped them bringing back stuff in the past), considering all the other shit they make. Itd rate well and at the very least they'd get their money back wouldn't they?

Ignatius_S

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2012, 08:52:32 pm »
It's inexplicable that the BBC didn't want another series of Red Dwarf (and possible shiteness hasn't stopped them bringing back stuff in the past), considering all the other shit they make. Itd rate well and at the very least they'd get their money back wouldn't they?

The viewing figures of the episodes made for for Dave were good and wouldn't be too shabby for BBC 2 but there was quite a sharp tail-off after the first episodes (I think the third got about 1 million, so we're talking about half of the audience not sticking with it). To give some context, the first episode of the first series of Miranda pulled in over 25% more viewers than the first episode of RD for Dave - and the last episode over three times as many people tuned in than there were for the last episode of RD on Dave.

That comparison may not be like for like - BBC 2 would be expected to get more people watching etc. There's a rather big difference in that one series is successful franchise with a very strong fanbase and the other was a vehicle for someone that most of the great British public had no knowledge of.

The Dave Red Dwarf material didn't get good reviews, there was a lot of negative feedback amongst fans and it's been a loooooong time such the series' popularity peaked - that no one at the Beeb wants to commission another series isn't something I find highly surprising.

rudi

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2012, 09:44:30 pm »
Yeah, it was knackered and shit and everyone onvolved appeared to realise that.

Small Man Big Horse

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2012, 10:46:49 pm »
According to Chortle, Channel 4 decided not to pick up the Simon Bird/Joe Thomas/Johnny Sweet sitcom Chickens, so Sky1 have scooped it up. I thought the pilot was watchable but little more than that, so can't get too excited by the news, but hey, you never know, it might turn out to be alright.

The Duck Man

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2012, 07:13:10 am »
It contradicts this bit of the Lumsden interview (although there's no direct quote):

Quote
Lumsden thinks this boldness and contemporaneity are key. When I speak to her I’ve just finished watching a preview of The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff, a wiffly whiskers-and-whimsy BBC2 series set in Dickensian times. I can see her point.

I didn't think Chickens was all that funny, despite liking the original concept. It'll be interesting to see what they can pull off in a full series.

Ignatius_S

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2012, 11:12:34 am »
It contradicts this bit of the Lumsden interview (although there's no direct quote):…

But no more than any of the Sky comedies that were mentioned in that article – would anyone really say that any showed ‘boldness’? As mentioned previously, Sky is risk-aversive in its commissioning; it’s only interested in programmes that it thinks have a decent chance of being successful.

Although that article mentioned Trollied starting well, it neglected to mention what viewing figures were like by the end – which I believe was 400,000. Not a disaster, but neither a smasheroo. All in all, the article was rather a puff piece.

…I didn't think Chickens was all that funny, despite liking the original concept. It'll be interesting to see what they can pull off in a full series.

I didn’t actually see it, but from the various reviews I read, it seemed fairly well received – maybe not a show that will have a longer lifespan that WWI, but with some potential (so it was interesting to see what you said about the concept). Possibly, Sky think the appeal of the three (or two, in particular thanks to a halo effect from The Inbetweeners) will be a big boost to the show. There was something I read that suggested C4 weren’t keen on doing a period sitcom, which was contributed to them taking a pass – no idea if that’s true though.

I saw that The Guardian commented that this is the first Big Talk production for Sky – although I’m sure that this wouldn’t have been a big factor for Sky picking up the series, it must be a nice bonus for it luring another production company.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #15 on: February 24, 2012, 11:44:27 am »
Chickens just wasn't that funny, really. It's also an odd concept to spin - during a hugely unpopular foreign war, there's a sitcom based in the past, where the "villains" of the piece are people who don't want to go to war.

Saying that, I could have gotten over the odd central premise if the writing had been better and if the two Inbetweeners had played characters other than the two Inbetweeners, just with tweed clothes on.

tothenakedrawedge

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #16 on: February 24, 2012, 12:15:52 pm »
Every channel seems to have a pathetically low hit-rate with original comedy, I don't buy the idea that 'high-risk' shows with little to no chance of success would be a brave thing for Sky to do, just a stupid one.

Shows like Seinfeld or The Simpsons had things that made them lower-risk (established stars, established formats whatever), likewise you get a Porridge by putting an established star actor with established star writers. They can't be expected to just take a punter off the street and give him 3 million, likewise they can't be expected to give big budgets to critically well-regarded but minority taste comedian to make a show of his or her own choosing realistically.

The point being, they don't necessarily to be that BOLD to produce a hit, they just need to be smart and take the right risks, not the highest risks.

(By the way, I think what they're doing atm is shite and I hope it will never work)

Ignatius_S

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2012, 03:02:24 pm »
Chickens just wasn't that funny, really. It's also an odd concept to spin - during a hugely unpopular foreign war, there's a sitcom based in the past, where the "villains" of the piece are people who don't want to go to war.

Saying that, I could have gotten over the odd central premise if the writing had been better and if the two Inbetweeners had played characters other than the two Inbetweeners, just with tweed clothes on.

From what I remember of the discussion here, it was pretty much what you’ve said. Very much agree with what you said about the concept.

Every channel seems to have a pathetically low hit-rate with original comedy, I don't buy the idea that 'high-risk' shows with little to no chance of success would be a brave thing for Sky to do, just a stupid one….

I don’t think anyone is saying that Sky should be taking a high-risk strategy, but any creative product has an element of risk. Plenty of projects look great on paper but despite being realised by teams with a good track record, they don’t work. Playing it safe doesn’t always work – if it did every Hollywood film, primetime show, sitcom etc. would be a hit.

With something like Sky’s Christmas Crackers, did every single star need to be so well known and established? The closest that it’s got to new talent is arguably John Bishop and Jack Whitehall.  I think it’s reasonable to claim that the consensus about both series is that it’s been a mixed bag – by the nature of the beast, that’s not too surprising and some have been great. However, some have been surprisingly poor – I didn’t see the Harry Hill one myself, but was told more than one person that it was awful and this has been echoed by the vast majority of online comments I’ve read. Maybe, just maybe, having one or two relatively unknown stars in the series may have produced something better than someone who seems to be involved on the basis of their name. I know it could be argued that a big name will draw people to the show, but sometimes the same name will inspire people to turn over.

…Shows like Seinfeld or The Simpsons had things that made them lower-risk (established stars, established formats whatever)…

How many American primetime animated sitcoms were there before The Simpsons? The only one I can think of is The Flintstones. Other than that, the nearest would be Wait Till Your Father Comes Home, which was late evening/early night and very much aimed at adults (but not over here). The animated sitcom was not an established type of show. But a sitcom is a sitcom, right? Not when The Simpsons started. I remember a friend saying he would never watch The Simpsons for the simple fact it was a cartoon and only children watch cartoons. He wasn’t alone – the show had to fight against the perception that a 'cartoon series' couldn’t be properly be enjoyed by grown-ups.

…… likewise you get a Porridge by putting an established star actor with established star writers….

It’s debatable whether Clement and La Frenais were ‘star’ writers at the time of writing the pilot for Porridge. Yes, The Likely Lads was a big, big hit for them, but it was really Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads and Porridge that really established them.

That aside, there was more to how we got Porridge – namely, it came from an anthology showcase for Ronnie Barker. Another episode of Seven of One was also written by Clement and La Frenais – personally, I rather like I'll Fly You For A Quid, but I think most would say that Prisoner and Escort was superior. Although unaccredited, La Frenais also contributed to another episode, My Old Man and when Yorkshire Television picked it up, he would be co-writer. Overall, I would consider than Seven of One was a success – individually, the episodes worked and some led onto great success Porridge and Open All Hours were obviously huge hits, whilst My Old Man didn’t do too badly but The Magnificent Evans (which evolved from I'll Fly You For A Quid) was a rare failure for Barker and Roy Clarke.

Despite track records of actors and writers, success can’t always be assured. Casanova ’73, anyone?

With a series like Seven of One or Comedy Playhouse, not everything will be  good, but there can be some excellent stuff that comes out and some can lead to incredibly successful shows. Additionally, it can be a good breeding ground for talent – as Play For Today was. When people lament about the death about those series, it’s because of rose-tinted nostalgia, but that they offered something that doesn't seem to get served up elsewhere much. It’s not always about taking huge risks, just not being obsessed with trying to make a series that will have a good shelf life. Even a successful series of one-off dramas like The Street seems to requires a linking device of a shared location for it to be made.

Dead kate moss

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2012, 03:16:29 pm »

Despite track records of actors and writers, success can’t always be assured. Casanova ’73, anyone?

Or Croft & Lloyd, riding high on the success of Are You Being Served in 1977 not quite having the same success with their next project, essentially 'Molly Sugden In Space.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Come_Back_Mrs._Noah

Quote
Come Back Mrs Noah was not a success, with some regarding it as one of the worst British sitcoms ever made

Jerzy Bondov

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2012, 03:26:16 pm »
Or Croft & Lloyd, riding high on the success of Are You Being Served in 1977 not quite having the same success with their next project, essentially 'Molly Sugden In Space.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Come_Back_Mrs._Noah
I laughed at this:
Quote
After a failed effort to nudge the craft into the Earth's atmosphere, the series concluded with Mrs. Noah, and crew, careening off uncontrollably to the depths of space.
and this:
Quote
Clive and Mrs. Noah then go to the sleeping quarters, and find the toilet is on the wall and have to use magnetic shoes to use it.
I doubt the programme itself was as funny as its Wikipedia page.

tothenakedrawedge

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #20 on: February 24, 2012, 03:42:33 pm »
Yeah I think what you're saying is right here Ignatius, but it seems to me that the 'little crackers' segment is an attempt to rekindle the play for today/seven of one etc. experimentation / see what sticks approach.

I agree they should have been more creative with this, as opposed to relying on standard names. But I just don't think it's about being 'daring' and 'taking risks', I just think it's about trying to do something that will convincingly work. Whatever path you take there are risks, and as you rightly point out pairing established writers with established actors doesn't by any means guarantee success.

I just think the temptation for taking risks and being bold can lead to some really high-concept nonsense, or just bizarrely misjudged programming, whereas I would certainly widen the net beyond the obvious 'names' they're trying to draw, but look to do things that are quality and funny as my number one aim, as opposed to daring or audacious which I don't think works.

But I think pretty much everything you said is right, and we're probably broadly on the same page, and neither of us thinks that Sky are doing the right thing / going to yield any classics from this current effort.

Alternative Carpark

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #21 on: February 24, 2012, 05:55:15 pm »
The Magnificent Evans (which evolved from I'll Fly You For A Quid)

Did it?  Hadn't realised there was any connection.  The only thing they had in common was that they were both set in Wales, wasn't it?

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #22 on: February 24, 2012, 06:21:11 pm »
From what I remember of the discussion here, it was pretty much what you’ve said. Very much agree with what you said about the concept.
Clearly, my words are so powerful people remember them long after the fact. Or I'm a tedious twat who repeats himself too much. I'll go with A.

steveh

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #23 on: February 26, 2012, 10:49:02 am »
Can someone explain why it is that Sky's UK commissioned output looks different from the BBC / ITV / Channel 4 stuff?

Even though it's often the same production companies involved, there's something that doesn't look right about them. A flatness in the lighting? Sets that aren't as detailed? Cheaper gear? Less time for getting the look perfect in the edit suite? Something else?

The Roofdog

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Re: Are Sky taking over British comedy?
« Reply #24 on: February 29, 2012, 07:46:23 am »
Every fifth frame has been substituted for an image of Murdoch's face contorted in hideous laughter.