Did we like it?
With its half-baked arguments, half-decent clips and half-remembered sourpusses, we’ll give it five out of 10.
What was good about it?
• Some good clips
• Some good contributors
• Richard Briers had the good grace to realise that his hating of The Office was simply because he didn’t get it. “I found it unfunny and totally depressing, and I spoke to somebody else ancient and they said, ‘No, it’s us, it’s our generation’.’
What was bad about it?
• The ghoulish-looking David Liddiment, the former director of programmes at ITV, wasn’t very engaging as a presenter.
• The argument that five people are symbolically to blame for the premature slaughter of the sitcom held little weight.
• The odious Ben Elton being cited because The Young Ones subverted the cosy sitcom. As much as we hate Elton, The Young Ones was a great show and sitcoms lived on healthily long after its four stars had joined Elton as pseudo-establishment figures. He should, of course, have been pilloried for the awful Blessed but he tried to blame the lack of budget for the show’s shortfalls rather than the lousy premise and laughably bad writing.
• Ted Danson being cited because his Cheers led to a flood of imports. Surely it is up to British broadcasters to emulate the success of the US shows, rather than raise the white flag and go away?
• We did agree that reality shows have been to blame for squeezing sitcoms out the schedules – but we could have done without seeing TV’s Second Most Annoying Jeremy (the jerk Spake from Airport).
• Caroline Aherne should not have been in the dock for The Royle Family. Because it was filmed in real-time and had no studio audience didn’t mean every other sitcom had to follow suit.
• Blaming digital TV (and PM John Major who paved the way for the explosion of channels) was a weak argument as digital channels have nurtured some comedy classics in recent years.
• Surely Liddiment himself was very much to blame by upping the amount of soap on ITV1 to ridiculous levels.
• Victoria Wood and Carla Lane whingeing that they’d been sidelined. That only happened, girls, because you were coming up with crap and no longer earned the right to screen time. Wood had the audacity to complain about the size of the cameras.
• Attempts to portray My Family as a decent sitcom.
• The rose-tinted glasses view that sitcoms were always great. For every hit, there have always been three or four duds. And in recent years we’ve had The Office, Early Doors, Peep Show, Phoenix Nights, Nighty Night, Two Pints, The Thick Of It, The Smoking Room, Black Books – all of them every bit as good as vintage comedy offerings.
• The people who maybe should have been blamed – today’s TV executives – got off scott-free.