As an opportunist screenwriter minus a notable broadcast credit, what probably will follow will sound tainted with bitterness and potentially a bit communist. Lets put it this way: I'm not convinced by what's getting churned out by the current mainstream of televised comedy. Personally, the last UK televised comedy programme I was excited about was The Thick Of It, with 2012 being the last notable solid sitcom I could say as being well written (Notable mention to Rev too). As a big fan of Greg Davies and Arthur Matthews, I had high hopes for Man Down, Toast Of London but then they became far too over reliant on obscurity for its comedy kicks and I involuntary became humpty with comedy conservatism. I should have been running up and down in naked glee for House Of Fools, but the constant tirade of poor and tired gags was like someone pissing ADHD into my eyes.
Now it's somewhat cowardly to have a blasé moan on a blog with generalised targeting of the comedy figureheads and gatekeepers. Plus I really need to keep certain people sweet if I'm ever going to get the chance of having a commission. There's only so much more horse penis I can keep eating. Their job isn't easy and as an occasional script reader myself, it's seldom when a golden nugget of a script might stand out from the sludge pile. Even when something good might turn up, there are always external factors that prevent something going further into development.
Okay, it's no secret that some really good stuff gets on the Internet, and I do mean, some really good stuff does get on there, stuff that might not be getting shown by Funny Or Die, The Poke, British Comedy Guide, Chortle etc. One of the issues I feel, particularly with sitcoms, is a lack of comic instinct and being too over reliant upon sitcom formula, for example, take Uncle. Uncle began really well, Andy (Nick Helm), is broken and ready to end it all, so he had my sympathy. Yet as the story unfolds, his character falls into the conventional sitcom protagonist i.e. ego driven, delusions of grandeur, selfish etc. This is quite a quick turn around for a man who at the beginning wanted to kill himself, which logically would suggest he is a man that has lost his confidence. By doing so it fairly cheapened the first scenes and the theme of suicide, and eventually I lost interest. What I'm saying is that I could see a perfect amount of comedy from a man that was broken, internally conflicted and maybe feels he has nothing left to lose. There will be plenty of people who like the show and the other ones I listed above, and that's perfectly fine since, as the timeless argument says, comedy is subjective.
There's a particular need by broadcasters to have a 'name' as a sign of guaranteed quality, but that raises expectations, whilst on the other hand one can go in with zero expectations watching a sketch by a relatively unknown group. Whilst independent filmmakers are faced with budgetary constraints unlike well-produced broadcast comedies, they are less constrained by freedom of expression or constant editorial influence. (That's not to say editorial influence cannot make something better). There's more scope for originality and experimentation and in a time where there are less sketch shows on the TV, or risk, it's comforting to find that there are many who are brave and bold enough to have that DIY ethic and confidence to go and find their own audiences, whether that be on the net or film festivals. Okay, it's not easy to find stuff on Vimeo or Youtube, especially when Youtube is trying to distract you with an episode of River Monsters you've not seen. But when you do find something, it's utterly rewarding, like stumbling upon a little secret. Obviously I couldn't champion these groups without exemplifying a few.
I'm not trying to stir a debate or wage war with the industry and I've had plenty of conversations with people enjoying the current crop of new sitcoms. All I am saying is if you think the state of comedy isn't healthy then you're wrong. It's maybe just a little harder to find.
Short Com's end of year programme will take place at the CCA Glasgow on the 15th of February as part of the Glasgow Short Film Festival, hosted by Josie Long. For you London types keep your eyes open for LOCO events and Brainwrap Comedy to see new Independent filmed comedy.