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|'BAN ON OLD-STYLE BRITISH SIT-COMS, IGNORES VIEWER-NEEDS|
deteriorating sit-com situation is no longer a laughing
matter, thanks to Ageism, and quasi-American, youth
culture targeting, which rejects all things
Thats the view of veteran comedy writer, Vince Powell, who, over the past three decades, devised and wrote a string of television comedy blockbusters...and is now appalled at the lack of laughs on the box, and is alarmed at what he views as Ageism in the Industry.
Award winning writer, Vince - whose track record includes top-rating shows, like Never Mind The Quality; Feel The Width; Nearest and Dearest; Bless This House; Mind Your Language; and pioneering mixed race sit-com, Love Thy Neighbour - says: "todays current crop of sit-coms is all too often banal, crude, and unfunny." In the run-up to Christmas, he said, we didnt have one single British sit-com on our screens, and this was symptomatic of the situation.
What were - in the Golden Age of Comedy - the fun factories, have now become glum factories, he says, in which cynical, unlovable productions roll off the line, plainly bankrupt of that familiar mix of love, life, laughter and pathos, which endeared sit-coms, and their stars, to millions of viewers, in former, and more successful, times.
During that era, more than 20 million viewers used to switch-on to sit-coms, written by Vince, when they were guaranteed lots of belly laughs, at good broad comedy.
Today, he says, comedy of that genre is shunned by modern television executives, on the dubious pretext that it is oldfashioned, politically incorrect, or has little appeal to todays audiences...and Northern sit-com, in particular, is a prime casualty.
"The truth is, viewers are crying-out for funny, oldfashioned sit-coms, which make them laugh, without recourse to crude jokes about bodily functions, sex and four-letter words", said Vince, "and, even more so, since the events of September 11, when people desperately need something to raise their spirits.
"Many of my contemporaries are similarly alarmed, at the apparent demise of situation comedy" he said. "These include such writers as: Jimmy Perry and David Croft (Dads Army ; Hi-Di-Hi), Eric Chappell (Duty Free;Rising Damp),Galton and Simpson(Hancock;Steptoe) Brian Cooke (Father, Dear Father; Robins Nest), Esmonde and Larbey (Please Sir; The Good Life), Wolfe and Chesney (On The Buses; The Rag Trade), Dick Sharples (In Loving Memory), Clement and La Frenais (Likely Lads; Porridge)."
"All those talented writers are still around," he said. "So, why arent they writing sit-coms any more ?
answer is that television executives have lost the
plot, and are
"Such American comedies, as Seinfield, Cheers, and Soap, are all very well", says Vince, "but they are not representative of our good old English culture".
"Sit-coms, such as Are You Being Served, Hi-Di-Hi, and Steptoe, were home-grown laughter vehicles - about people living, and working on this island - and now there is nothing, to fill the gaping chasm, left by their marked absence.
"Certain television executives have the mistaken opinion that many veteran writers, are out of touch with contemporary views", Vince added. "Of all branches of the media, that of Television Comedy stands alone, in practising Ageism."
|"He says that, unlike any
other specialisation within the Industry, once a comedy
writer reaches middle age, he or she is deemed to have
lost the capability to amuse.
"Novelists, dramatists, composers, painters or dress designers, are never considered too old to work", he said, "but, in contrast, once a comedy writer reaches middle age...thats it: theyve lost it; well, certainly, according to some of our new policy-makers, at the top.
"But this is nonsense: it is the TV executives, themselves, who are out of touch. Viewers are no longer excited by cookery programmes, gardening, make-overs, reality programmes, and quiz shows.
"They want to be amused, and entertained by programmes capable of tickling their laughter glands: hence the popularity of old sit-com repeats, on cable and satellite, and the big viewing figures they notch-up, in the ratings.
"The lack of new situation comedies, on television, has led to a dearth of comedy writers", warns Vince. "We veterans are still writing now, but - when we are gone - who will fill our shoes ?"
Vince reckons he has a winning formula, to get the de-railed laughter train, back on track again; while, in the meantime, he is encouraging and training-up, budding writers, via his internet-based writing school.
"Persuade a major broadcaster to commission more sit-coms, by inviting each of the above mentioned writers to submit a sit-com, to be transmitted weekly, under the generic title Comedy Half Hour, or Time For A Laugh.
"Not only would such a series be entertaining", he said, "but at least one, or more, could spin-off, into a series, in much the same way as Steptoe And Son, Till Death Us Do Part and Last Of The Summer Wine were spawned by BBCs Comedy Playhouse."
"Television needs the experience, craftsmanship and expertise of writers who have written successful sit-coms, in the past, and are more than capable of writing equally successful sit-coms in the future", says Vince.
"It is high time for a Renaissance of situation comedy: a return to those halcyon days, when television viewers could - for a brief half hour - forget their problems, and learn to laugh again."
He is also writing two animation projects, a comedy play, for the stage, and a novel.
In addition, in a bid to pass-on his wealth of experience and skills, to up-and-coming comedy writers, he has designed a creative writing correspondence course, which is available on the internet.
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