In previous blogs, I've noted that there's an awful lot of decent drama around. I've recently been loving The Night Manager and The People vs OJ. And when Hugh Laurie was finally despatched, along came Line of Duty to take it's place. I'm being well served by drama. No question about that.
If we look at the ratings that are churned out by various agencies, we will see that drama is dominant, and if we squint a little, we may be able to make out a victory dance.
I've been poring over these numbers as provided and filtered by Broadcast magazine in their 'Consolidated Figures' list, which includes catch-up, PVRs and the like, and I've been trying to arrange them into something useful. So here's something: if not a snapshot, then a slightly longer exposure than that.
|Look out. They've spawned a monster.|
Call the Midwife (10.89m), Happy Valley (9.34m), Night Manager (8.56m), Death in Paradise (8.09m), Silent Witness (8.4m), War and Peace (7.4m), Vera (7.3m)
Only one sitcom is competing with these murderers and midwives. That would be the one with our Granville: Still Open All Hours (7.88m).
In that same time period, there are 5 more dramas that have done some very decent numbers (5m+):
Midsomer Murders (6.47), Grantchester (6.3), Endeavour (5.94), Shetland (5.8), Doctor Thorne (5.7)
Only two sitcoms are competing with these: Benidorm (5.95), Birds of a Feather (5.34)
Now maybe this is an unfair time period. If we went back to 2015, we'd be able to include Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Specials, Car Share and Count Arthur Strong. But then we'd also be including dramas like Downton Abbey, Broadchurch, Doctor Foster, Sherlock, And Then There Were None, Doc Martin, New Tricks, The Syndicate, Partners in Crime, Inspector George Gently, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Ordinary Lies and Poldark. Another very respectable list.
So why is this happening in mainstream, when there's probably as much comedy on TV as there's ever been looking across all the channels? What's happened to the mainstream sensibility? Why are household names like Steve Coogan and Harry Enfield still making comedy for BBC2, not BBC1 or ITV? And why are these highly acclaimed, well-made, award-winning shows on BBC2 and C4 rarely beating reruns of Dad's Army? Why are great British comedy writers winning EMMY's for Veep and not BAFTAs? Why is the writer of Men Behaving Badly, Simon Nye, writing The Durrells, and not a sitcom? Why aren't big stars queuing up to be in sitcoms any more?
I really and truly don't know. I don't even know if it's possible to know.
Maybe I'll get some compelling theories at the conference. I hope to share the thoughts of the assembled comedic throng soon.