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Why ITV Should Look to America For Inspiration

With the recent appointment of Myfanwy Moore as ITV’s new Commissioner for Comedy, the channel has taken up the challenge of Sky’s recent big budget injection into the genre. Take note BBC.

Whilst the new Commissioner is unlikely to play a big risk hand for the premier channel’s schedule (whose demographic is consistently known as Asda mums), it’s great to see ITV having a go, despite their historical ineptitude for good sitcom.

It’s a shame then that their first round of green-lits are all so depressingly mundane. Take The Job Lot, made by Big Talk (who also make the glorious Rev and Him and Her) and starring Russell Tovey. The series is set in a job centre in the East Midlands and, according to Exec Producer, Kenton Allen,  “captures the spirit of our times”. Having spent quite a bit of time in one, I can tell you now, a dole queue does not engender any spirit other than vodka.

How about “A Great Night Out”, featuring four thirtysomething drinking buddies in Stockport? It’s vague enough to have potential until you realise it’s written by the same folk who vigorously dismantled David Jason’s comedy legacy via The Royal Bodyguard. Ok, then look to Naked House, starring Jason Munford, about a recession-hit thirtysomething who has to move back in with his parents. I lost you at recession-hit didn’t I?

Oh come on ITV, the Tories might be hell-bent on destroying our NHS but we can still have a laugh can’t we? The BBC has a monopoly on “the past” (she’ll never dry up) so you should have a monopoly on “the future”. That could mean tin-foil hats and Sally Phillips acting to a tennis ball on a string, or it could mean a glowing-orb of positive energy I like to call America.

As a child of the 80’s the USA was the future. Me and my peers looked up to its sentimental, shamelessly capitalist but highly entertaining storytelling and we loved it. Why not turn our gaze westward once more? Bring me my hightops mother, I’m going digging for positivity:

Top US Sitcoms in 2012

1) It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. 4 young Philadephians run a bar and get up to general naughtiness. It’s semi-improvised, which has proved a great stylistic approach to getting that “fresh” comedy vibe going. See The Office, The Thick of It and Curb. Note the optimism – they run that bar baby.

2) Community. Jeff Winger looks after a merry study group of adult-students on a community college campus. A ridiculous world of pop-culture references and absurd plotlines that makes us feel part of a gang. Happiness guaranteed.

3) Modern Family. Noughties family setups dealing with everyday situations and enjoying themselves whilst doing it. Such behaviour could not be easily be transposed to a modern British family setup, which would need to include a senile grandparent, an angst-ridden gay, rain-sodden BBQs and camping.

4) Louie. Comedian Louie CK plays an even more jaded version of himself as he explores ageing, parenthood and divorce. But at least he gets on with it, raising two daughters in New York City and maintaining a stand-up career. And he writes, directs and produces the show himself. So, props.

5) Parks and Recreation – Was a bit of an Office rip-off until it really got going. Now Pawnee City and its local community politics has captured the hearts of its fans. Think Springfield but with SNL’s Amy Poehler as a Joe Quimby minion.

6) Happy Endings – It’s like friends. See title. Nuff said.

7) 30 Rock – Tina Fey might be a little snippy but everyone else around her is having a ball. They beat the cynicism out of her, sometimes literally.

8) How I Met Your Mother – It’s sweet as apple pie and the cast includes Jason Segel, who wrote and starred in the recent The Muppets movie. He’s not only a puppeteer, he’s also dating Michelle Williams. My heart is fit to burst.

9) Bored to Death – Jason Schwartzman is a writer named Jonathan Ames (also the name of the series’ writer) who decides to advertise his private investigative services on Craigslist. The fun is in his sincerity. And what could be more confident and positive than naming your main character after yourself. Not even Woody Allen has done that!

10) New Girl – Zooey Dechannel being so kooky you want to club her to death. At least Sue Pollard meant it.

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