An interesting article on Broadcast asks whether the BBC are risk-averse when it comes to comedy commissioning.
One recurring issue is the sense of a paint-by-numbers approach to comedy commissioning. Jeremy Salsby, head of development at So Television and executive producer of the Bafta-nominated CBBC sketch show Sorry, I’ve Got No Head, says: “Comedy has to be instinctive but recently it feels like it has become too prescriptive. Too much effort goes into trying to work out the science of it and into safe casting and safe writing and producing – so actually what you end up with is more of the same.”
His views are echoed by a frustrated up-and-coming writer who says BBC commissioners often demand a show set in a specific location – say, a workplace – and insist the lead characters are a certain age or gender. Half a dozen writers begin work on the idea but only one is chosen.
Lucy Lumsden, BBC controller of comedy commissioning, doesn’t recognise the charge. “We never put down [prescribe] a subject matter – the whole point is that we welcome a range of ideas… 20% of the strategy is, ‘Here are the bits of the schedule that we need to fill’ and 80% is, ‘What have you got?’