They were meant to herald the long-awaited return of quality sitcoms to ITV primetime, but unfortunately neither did as well as the channel hoped.
And now the makers of recent comedies Vicious and The Job Lot have an anxious wait to see if they get a second run from a commercial broadcaster apparently embarrassed by their failures, according to sources.
RadioTimes.com understands that Kudos Productions the makers of Vicious and The Job Lot producers Big Talk have been given no assurances on their show’s futures from the top brass at ITV including director of programmes Peter Fincham who heavily backed them before they were aired.
When they launched with great fanfare earlier this year, Fincham backed both shows describing Vicious, the sitcom about two gay men played by Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi as “an enormously warm comedy, with characters who, deep down, love each other”.
However the great British public appeared not to agree.
One critic said the comedy in which the theatrical giants played ageing actors exchanging waspish insults in their Covent Garden flat was “the least funny new comedy in recent memory” another said it was “devoid of wit”.
The Guardian’s Sam Wollaston wrote: “It’s not just old-fashioned, pre-Office TV comedy it’s also, frankly, a bit lame… I want a bit more artfulness, wit and surprise from my television.”
Created by Will & Grace executive producer and Family Guy writer Gary Janetti and playwright Mark Ravenhill it also leaked viewers over the run, beginning with 5.7 million viewers according to the overnights and ending with 2.7 million.
The Job Lot, which was set in an unemployment office and starred Russell Tovey, was better received with the Guardian saying it was “nicely observed and recognisable” and the Independent saying that there was “something to laugh at”.
However the Job Lot haemorrhaged viewers to an even greater degree, beginning with 4.7 million viewers according to the overnights and ending with less than 2 million.
RadioTimes.com understand that ITV is to decide whether to recommission Vicious after the Christmas special and that ITV’s comedy commissioning editor Myfanwy Moore attended a meeting of senior ITV executives last week in which she defended the show’s performance.
However the omens are not promising, especially after both shows inherited a large audience from Coronation Street when they were shown.
“Yes, Corrie viewers are very different but it doesn’t look like either will get another go,” said one ITV insider. “With such a big name cast like Vicious had you need to get them booked early so the fact that a second series has still not been agreed so long after transmission cannot be anything other than a bad sign.”
Another source added that the poor performance of both shows reflects the fact that ITV viewers prefer comedy dramas like Love & Marriage rather than sitcoms.
One additional embarrassment for ITV is the success of two recent BBC1 comedies in the 9pm slot, Miranda and Mrs Brown’s Boys.
An ITV spokesman said that a decision had not been made over either series and declined to comment further.