BBC controller of comedy Shane Allen has cut a swathe through the BBC’s roster, announcing that The Wright Way, Heading Out and Getting On will not be returning.
Allen said that BBC1 comedy The Wright Way, a return to studio comedy for Blackadder co-writer Ben Elton, was a brave attempt to make an old fashioned comedy but he admitted that it did not connect with audiences and said that Elton was “bruised” by its negative reception.
Starring David Haig, the comedy – which was set in the health and safety department at Baselricky Council – slowly shed its audience and was critically mauled.
Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch today, Allen said that Elton suspected he would be slammed for the comedy, his first BBC1 sitcom since 2005’s Blessed, and added that he would be keen to give Elton another opportunity at the BBC.
“Ben Elton was really bruised by the reaction and he thought if people weren’t connecting with it then he should stop it. It was a good effort at doing something mainstream and it had some brilliant characters.”
Asked why it failed he said that sometimes a production did not gel in the way the creators wanted. “Sometimes things click and come together,” Allen said.
“People are scared of that glare because they see what happens with comedies like The Wright way and [ITV’s critically panned sitcom] Vicious.”
“They see that things can get slaughtered quite quickly. Comedy provokes massive reactions.
“People feel passionate and that’s good, but when people don’t like a comedy they are very quick [to react] and I do worry in a world of social media and Twitter people are instantly saying, 14 seconds in, ‘this is s**t’.
“I think, ‘come on, give it an episode at least’. We are living in that snap judgment world. A lot of things are loved retrospectively. Only Fools and Horses took two series before it bedded in.”
BBC2’s Sue Perkins sitcom Heading Out, which was also attacked by critics and finished its run with fewer than 1 million viewers, has also been dropped, Allen confirmed.
Allen said that BBC4 comedy Getting On will also not be returning but confirmed that the show’s co-creators Vicki Pepperdine and Jo Scanlan will be making another BBC4 series set in the world of dog lovers called Puppy Love, as revealed exclusively earlier today by RadioTimes.com.
He said that Miranda Hart’s workload means that a fourth series of her hit show co-starring Sarah Hyland and Tom Ellis is “a long way off”.
The BBC has commissioned a second series of Count Arthur Strong’s new comedy even before series one has aired. The show premiered last night with around 1m viewers.
“Everybody wants to do late night cool stuff but this is harder to land,” said Allen who predicted Count Arthur Strong will “grow like Miranda”.
Allen, the former Channel 4 comedy chief who joined the BBC six months ago, also said he wanted to see the return of Absolutely Fabulous after last year’s Olympics special, which many comedy afficionados said was probably the last.
He said that no plans were in place but that “the door will always be open to Jennifer Saunders”.