ITV's new comedies fail to shine

Low audiences for Murray and Wallpaper

ITV’s new Friday-night comedy line-up has failed to attract the viewers.

Audiences for both Al Murray’s new sketch show, Multiple Personality Disorder, and the second series of Moving Wallpaper were both more than 50 per cent down on the average for their slots.

At 9pm, 2.5million people tuned in to watch the return of Ben Miller’s sitcom set behind the scenes of the TV industry, but 700,000 switched off over the half hour, leaving an average of 2.1million – just over nine per cent of the total audience at the time.

Immediately afterwards, Murray could do nothing to improve on the poor inherited audience, and recorded overnight ratings of 1.9million – a share of just over eight per cent.

The average audience for the slots last year were 4.6million and 4million respectively.

Multiple Personality Disorder – Murray’s first departure from his Pub Landlord character in 15 years – received a mixed reaction from critics and previewers. The consensus was that the show was frequently funny, but that some characters flopped.

Previewing the show, the Guardian Guide said: ‘There is much to enjoy [but] it doesn’t all come off’; the Radio Times said: ‘It’s very funny at times, but it's outrageous, too’; while the Observer said it was a cleverer version of Little Britain – even if it did require some ‘tweaking and expunging’.

After Friday’s debut, Sam Woolaston wrote in The Guardian that it was ‘hit and miss’ adding: ‘I did laugh a few times, but I’m not sure that sketch shows are the right thing to be commissioning these days. Like 4x4s, they don't feel like the right vehicle for now.’

However the Sunday Mirror’s Kevin O’Sullivan was less generous: ‘Apart from the odd magic moment, affable Al’s dreary cast of comic characters had me yearning for his sorely-missed pub landlord.’

However, there was some good news for ITV comedy on Saturday, when ratings warhorse Harry Hill's TV Burp gained an audience of 5million, up by a million on last week.

Published: 2 Mar 2009

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