Drop the dead ideas

Top writer vows to shun BBC1

Leading comedy writer Andy Hamilton says he won't be writing for BBC1 any more because it is obsessed with short-term ratings at the expense of developing good programmes.

Hamilton, who created Drop The Dead Donkey, is angry with the channel over its treatment of his comedy-drama Trevor's World Of Sport (pictured).

The show was unceremonially dropped from its prime-time slot after three episodes to make way of Only Fools And Horses re-runs, then bounced to a late-night slot after a two-week gap.

Writing in today's Independent, he said: "It is difficult to grow new comedies on BBC1 at the moment, because the focus there seems to have narrowed to how a show does rather than what it is."

He said that many writers now consider working for BBC1 as "depressing" because it is so market-led.

"As a consequence, ideas on casting have to be flushed through the narrowing stackpipe of celebrity. Laughter tracks are imposed on shows that weren't designed to have them (because, supposedly, this boosts the figures). Shows are pressured to incorporate the conservative tastes of focus groups.

"Writers now hear depressing talk of "Audience Insight Managers", who will sit in on development meetings and "make a case for what the viewer would like to see". I hope this is meaningless PR, because the first casualty of this approach is originality. How can you delight and surprise an audience if you consult it beforehand? Great comedy is invariably an ambush."

Hamilton's article in full

Published: 6 Jan 2004

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