02 March 2006 07:50
BBC3 is to commission six new pilot sitcoms to run as a 'comedy playhouse' in a bid to uncover the channel's next comedy hit.
BBC comedy commissioner Lucy Lumsden is ordering the programmes from a mix of in-house and indie producers. The pilots, which will target a pre-watershed audience and be filmed in front of a studio audience, will be screened later this year with the best being given a series commission.
One has already been commissioned, and is being produced in-house and written by Robin French and Kieran Quirke, whose credits include BBC3 comedy Man Stroke Woman.
"It's like the comedy playhouse thing which the BBC used to do many years ago," said a BBC comedy insider. "It did the same thing with Seven of One with Ronnie Barker, which led to Porridge and Open All Hours."Source: broadcastnow.co.uk
It's also like the Comedy Lab Channel 4 have been running for several years. One startling difference is that all the BBC shows will be pre-watershed and multi-camera; a format which has been called dead a few times recently.
The problem is that with single-camera comedy you can get away with smiles and don't need laughs but in front of an actual audience you do need actual laughing out loud. Most of the recent Comedy Labs could have played as Drama Labs. The other problem is that making a show pre-watershed instantly cuts off the supply of easy sex jokes and you're forced to work harder to be funny - which is not entirely a bad thing.
If you have just had a dark humoured obscene comedy rejected, I'd suggest trying a lighter family studio one - just to see if you can do it. There are many classic British studio sitcoms which prove it's not just the Americans who can do it. Maybe yours will be the next classic.