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BBC Shoos Out Blue Collar Comedy
The weekend ended with news that White Van Man was being axed by BBC3 after a second series had failed to ignite the nation with combustable laughter like previous superhits The Mighty Boosh, Gavin and Stacey and Little Britain.
Writer and creator Adrian Poynton told the British Comedy Guide that he felt his team had made a “bolder and stronger” series than the previous one but that “it seems BBC3 wants to take its comedy output in another direction”.
Whilst Twitter fumed, Naomi Bentley felted “gutted” and Will Mellor blamed “Politics!!!!”, it seems the more boring truth was that the ratings just weren’t good enough for a channel who openly admits to being “shamelessly and directly influenced by you”. So where next?
The obvious answer is YOU.
As ITV looks to the bread isle of Tesco on a Saturday morning for its inspiration, the BBC is striving beyond the everyday, the mundane. So far beyond in fact that it has plopped out the other side and into the magical realm of scripted reality.
Witnessing the blank-white exquisiteness of this format du jour, commissioners realised every genre deserved a go through the portal. In the case of comedy it was a new BBC3 series called Boom Town. Broadcast magazine describes it as a twist on the existing sketch show format, using people from all over the country “simply playing themselves”.It will be set in a fictional eponymous town populated with real life characters who appear to live there as a community, with fake road signs and landscape shots designed to create the illusion.
I have to admit to being excited by this prospect. Because there’s nothing more funny than your mates down the pub or the old lady that shouts insults at your hair in The Newsagents.However, comedy is a very valid artform and the falldown is often context. How funny is the man with the stutter when you’re asking for directions? How funny is a woman dressing up in airplane lavatories like flemish restoration portraiture when you’re trying to explain it to your tight-lipped inlaws?
Good comedy is about timing, knowing your audience, letting them ponder on a joke or be pummelled with a round of punchy one-liners. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Boom Town will take real life and sift it through the fingers of the finest producers, directors and editors in all of TV land to find nuggets of their gold. For every Snog and TOWIE, there’s a Geordie Shore. Please do it with heart BBC.