BROADCAST TV COMEDY FORUM: Channel 4 comedy head Andrew Newman has urged the BBC to ignore the “psychotic agenda” of the Daily Mail and take more risks in comedy.
Newman has backed Jana Bennett’s call to address the “market failure” of comedy at a time when commercial broadcasters, including C4, are investing less in the genre than they would like.
“Whatever the BBC does, the Daily Mail isn’t going to like it – so it should do what it believes in,” Newman said.
He said press reports that, for example, criticised a Mock the Week joke taken out of context, were the equivalent of “picking up a book in the library, saying it’s shit and therefore so is everything else in there”.
At the same event, Harry Enfield noted that the popularity of TV content on the web can also lose context.
Speaking about a controversial sketch in his show Harry & Paul about a Filipino maid, Enfield said: “It was obviously a satire of the London middle classes, but all this stuff goes on YouTube and if you’re in Manila and see it, you might think it’s all about sex traders.”
Newman urged broadcasters to ignore “short-termist” attitudes towards underperforming comedies, arguing that the popularity of repeats of shows such as Dad’s Army proved the resilience of quality programmes.
“It’s harder to justify comedies but there is a lot of short-term thinking,” he said. “Comedy has a longer shelf life than any other genre. We know that with property shows, even if it’s not a good episode, it will easily do as well as Peep Show. In comedy, 8 out of 10 Cats is more popular than Peep Show too – but Peep Show will repeat better.
“And on-demand, Peep Show is one of the most successful things we do. People feel very passionate and the future will be about infinite choice – people will seek it out wherever it is.”
Newman confessed his concern that from 2011, comedy shows will no longer have a lead-in from Big Brother, but pointed to last Friday night, when a Derren Brown special helped Peep Show deliver record ratings, as an example of C4’s continuing attempt to help build audiences.