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Warren United - A Sign of Things to Come for UK Animated Comedy?

15/04/2014 12:51 BST | Updated 14/06/2014 10:59 BST

Here's an easy question - Can you name the last three animated comedies you last watched on telly?

You can? Great. Now let me guess... Family Guy, The Simpsons and American Dad? Thought so.

OK, here's a slightly trickier question - Can you name the last three British animated comedies you watched on telly?

Go on... it's alright, I've got time... OK, name me two. No? Nothing? Right, surely you're able to name me one?

Oh. You're not able to? This is awkward.

Well it's not actually. The reason you can't name any is because they barely exist. That could be all about to change though, with the arrival of a brand new British animated comedy about football called Warren United, kicking off soon (pun intended) on ITV4.

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OK, so ITV4 may not be the most high profile channel of them all, and Warren United may not be high profile enough to kick-start a movement towards more British animated comedies on television... but at least it's a start.

ITV4 may not be the highest reaching of all the ITV channels, but it is in many ways the perfect fit for a comedy about football, because after all, the channel describe themselves as "...a haven of sport and cult classics, feeding your inner fan."

Having seen the first few episodes of Warren United, I can vouch for the fact that yes, whilst it is about a man's love for football it's probably more about a family man and how his love for the beautiful game affects those around him.

So what I'm trying to say is that Warren United is one not just for the hardcore football fans. Yes there's Warren (Darren Boyd, Spy) who's a massive football fan and diehard fan of Brainsford United, but it's not all about Warren.

Warren United really is for everybody. Mum's around the country will sympathise with Ingrid, Warren's long-suffering wife who in on episode makes Warren go through therapy to hate the beautiful game. This soon backfires though and it's not long before Ingrid is asking for the therapy to be reversed.

Then there are the kids, Charlie and Harrison (Morwenna Banks, Absolutely) - Charlie is your (somewhat stereotypical), thirteen-year old daughter who dresses all in black and "can't understand why people look so happy". Harrison is your (again, somewhat stereotypical), seven-year-old father's boy. His dad's love for football has been passed down to him but not entirely. Unlike his father, Harrison does have time for other things in life apart from football.

Oh and if your nan has an active social life and let's say, an eventful love life. - she's bound to relate to Warren's Mum (Georgie Glen, Waterloo Road). She is determined to have a good time and doesn't care what people think.

Other guest voices throughout the series include Johnny Vegas (Benidorm) and Nitin Ganatra (EastEnders)

Bill Freedman, one of the Executive Producers of Warren United, summarises what I've just said neatly when he says "...Warren United is not really just about football or even sport. It's partly about the two most important F's in life - family and football, and the connections between the two. My three children and seven grandchildren are all but one now avid Arsenal fans too."

Simon Nye, writer and creator of Men Behaving Badly has written a couple of the episodes of Warren United, and speaking at the launch about animation as an art form said "You've got more freedom to do fancy stuff, like talking horses. It's fun to explore the medium... there's lots of things you can do in animation that you can't do in real life..."

It's all well and good to now finally have an animated comedy to call our own, but why are they so hard to come by in this country? Again, Simon Nye had some thoughts on this. He pointed out how "It's very difficult to get animation off the ground nowadays. It's difficult to think of a series that's made in Britain for adults. You do get some one-offs and Aardman do some great stuff. To actually get an entire series off the ground is challenging."

Tim Searle, who's the Animation Producer and Director for Warren United and responsible for all the animation, says "I've been doing comedy animation all my working life and I love working with comedy talent and the voice cast - it's all just a melting pot of great ideas." He describes comedy as "exaggerated truth" and animation as "distilled comedy".

Warren United is one of eight or more British animations in production, this is a result of a new tax break granted by George Osborne, in March 2013. Before this resurgence there was a real slump in British animation Tim Searle, was part of Animation UK, which lobbied the Government for the tax break.

British animation sees the return of some iconic characters The Clangers are making a return a long with a Mr Bean animation also directed by Tim Searle is currently being made for children's television. It seems to me, that animated comedy is the preferred art form when it comes to children's telly, but when it comes to making telly for adults, animated comedy seems to be the final art form considered.

So if Warren United achieves anything, I hope it opens the doors for more animated comedy aimed at adults from the UK, and not just from ITV, but BBC, Channel 4 and Sky as well. I admire it so much as an art form, the length it takes to create an episode is far greater than that of a tradition studio comedy, yet the recognition doesn't quite seem to be there... yet! Perhaps because not that many are being made.

Warren United starts on Tuesday 22nd April at 10pm on ITV4.