Disclaimer: This is a broad generalization when referring to specific episodes but I am making an overall point so don’t dick me over some late night show which you term a classic.
Each decade of television (and radio) has had an element of the radical that has changed the landscape and influenced the following generation from the Goon Show (1950’s), Tony Hancock (1960’s), Monty Python/ Q (1970’s), Blackadder/ The Young Ones/ Only Fools and Horses/ Spitting Image (1980’s), The Day Today, Big Train (1990’s), The Office, Nighty Night and Nathan Barley in the noughties.
Obviously there was a load of crap that fell by the wayside (Fresh Fields/ Curry and Chips/ Mind your Language) but the last one on my list is the point I am making albeit a broad one.
For me the last great comedy series was Nathan Barley and due to it’s reception was considered an artistic failure, which seemed to be a Chris Morris backlash. Since then there has been nothing challenging which is curious because comedy is about as fashionable as Anna Wintour these days.
I know there are others you may shout out like The Mighty Boosh but I never got into that surreal nonsense, and don’t even get me started on Gavin and Stacey… you can call it personal taste but I can watch any episode of the aforementioned classics and it never gets boring.
There seems to be a fear of pushing the envelope on broadcast television and sticking to mainstream populist fare such as Miranda with all the artistic innovations now being made online with the advent of cheap equipment and easy access to an audience. Some may not become classics but the audience benefit from the choice on offer.
Where these grey suits have held onto their power have now slowly been losing their grip, the internet has been the vanguard of entertainment and fair enough that most of them are of varying quality but they instantly find an audience without being watered down. Only now has Broadcast Television slowly started to unshackle itself and pay attention to the possibilities. It isn’t too late for them to stay in the game (1+ catchup services are so 90’s!). Right now iPlayer are showcasing programming prior to traditional broadcasts, which is interesting considering the success of Netflix’s operation.
This online world is more important to diverse audiences who have been starved for so long and now have the opportunity to get their voices heard. In the last 30 years the most popular shows have been The Real McCoy and Goodness Gracious Me (among a few more) and why didn’t i put these in my initial list? i was saving them for here to prove another point about access. The stations are still slow to react but changes are happening (a minor blip being the travesty that is Citizen Khan). I know a few people who have dived into online comedy series on very slim budgets but they have the outlets to the audience like never before. Some are actually good!
The station bosses back in day may not have known that what they commissioned would be cultural icons and remember, some were put out in the graveyard slots like Spitting Image which was on Sunday night and Goodness Gracious’s Monday transmission and it’s time for the current crop of commissioners to have the same sense of daring.
While the online evolves, we will wait to see what Shane Allen and co have under their belt and see if traditional programming will get back the guts to experiment.