BBC controller of comedy commissioning Shane Allen has taken a humorous swipe at the two men bidding to buy BBC3 by comparing them to eccentric Bond villains.
In a light-hearted speech at a BBC comedy reception last night, Allen said: “There will be a live auction tonight. It’s not just BBC3. We are going to sell off all the channels. If you are like a Bond villainesque, multi-millionaire eccentric comedy producer you might want to stick around for that.
“You could go home with BBC2 if you are lucky – BBC4 if you are not.”
And in case anyone didn’t get the reference he added: “Unfortunately Jon Thoday and Jimmy Mulville cannot be here tonight – they are doing an aggressive takeover bid of Woolworths. And they are trying to look into buying the Sinclair C5.”
Jon Thoday, the managing director of independent producers and talent company Avalon and Jim Mulville, the boss of production house Hat Trick, continue to insist that their £100m bid for BBC3 is serious. However the BBC remains adamant that the channel is not for sale.
Despite that, this week Mulville and Thoday’s joint bid won the backing of comedian Steve Coogan who co-runs his own independent production house Baby Cow.
However even this was not lost on Allen who referenced a TV idea by Coogan’s alter-ego Alan Partridge with the joke: “If the bid goes ahead you could make Monkey Tennis – for real.”
Allen’s speech went down well the audience which comprised the cream of British comedy talent including Paul Whitehouse, Martin Clunes, Mackenzie Crook, Richard Curtis, Tracey Ullman, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton.
The executive spoke with passion about BBC’s comedy output, which comprises 140 hours of original British programming from a spend of £60m.
“That’s what BBC comedy is about – it is about range and risk.
“Comedy needs a broad range because it is incredibly subjective. One person’s bon mot is another person’s knob joke. We need a massive range.
“Drama I feel has it easy. Controversial, I know. But there is more commonality to what makes people cry than to what makes people laugh.”
Last night’s reception also saw the unveiling of a new raft of comedies including Tracey Ullman’s return to the BBC after 30 years for a brand new comedy series.
Other commissions include I Want My Wife Back in which Ben Miller plays an abandoned husband in new six-parter.