The BBC have 33 slots for comedy shows every 12-months, but comedy's a prime target for cost-saving, so it's been necessary to axe a few shows this year. Cheryl Taylor, the BBC's Comedy Commissioner, recently decided to axe the gastronomic comedy Whites as part of these cutbacks. This is a decision that, frankly, boggles my mind.
I'm not saying Whites is an instant classic like The Office, but it was one of the best new comedies the BBC premiered in 2010 and showed plenty of promise. It made a change seeing a sitcom with funny characters that also have some reality to them, while also managing to stir some broad laughs into the mix (if you'll pardon the cooking terminology.) Alan Davies and Darren Boyd had unexpected chemistry as a double-act, and it was generally a welcome return to BBC sitcoms that have heart and humanity to them.
Quite how Cheryl Taylor's team arrived at the decision to cancel Whites confuses me. By the BBC's own admission, studio-based sitcoms are seen as expensive to produce. Well, guess what, Whites isn't studio-based, but Fast & Loose most definitely is. I know which one I'd like to see return for a second series.
So what can you, the public, do to try and save Whites?
- It won't hurt to follow @bbccomedy on Twitter and send them a few tweets in support of Whites. Even better, ensure your tweet includes the #BringBackWhites hashtag. If that can start trending on Twitter, great!
- Visit the BBC Comedy Facebook page and send a message of support for Whites.
- Visit the BBC Comedy website and send them some feedback via their Contact page.
- You can also write an old-fashioned letter and sent that to BBC Comedy Department, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W1A 1AA. The people that matter take more notice of actual letters arriving at their office than hundreds of impersonal e-mails, or electronic petitions.
- In the meantime, you could also buy the DVD or encourage your friends to. I'm sure the BBC will take notice if it becomes a Peep Show-sized success in the shops.
I don't believe Cheryl Taylor and the people who decided to cancel Whites are just being nasty. If they weren't being asked to tighten their belts, Whites would probably be back for seconds. It can't have been an easy decision to make. Something has to be axed to save cash. They HAVE to make these cuts and Whites DID lose some viewers over its run, which put it in the firing line. It was also overlooked at the British Comedy Awards, which perhaps didn't go unnoticed and was perceived as an indication it's not respected. But there are other shows that, frankly, deserve the chop more than Whites, and I have a suspicion the BBC are being shortsighted and just axing something with a "last in, first out" mentality.
If the campaign to get the show back is strong enough, the BBC in many was have an obligation to do what they can to bring the show back. The great thing about British TV is that it's fairly flexible from a production standpoint. A show can vanish for years and then return (see Alan Partridge), so provided the core talent behind Whites can reassemble it's never truly dead. And decisions can be reversed if the BBC Comedy execs realize an outpouring of online frustration equals millions of viewers the flawed BARB ratings system didn't capture.
Maybe it's worth considering a partnership deal for Whites, which is becoming increasingly popular just now (see Mrs Brown's Boys and Episodes)? Or how about an independent production company take over creating it? Maybe some of the cast/crew would agree to lower wages, rather than lose this job completely? Who knows.
Anyway, support the campaign to #BringBackWhites. Not Going Out was revived thanks to a simple petition, remember -- almost a year after it was axed! So the future of Whites isn't set in stone. Please, do what you can. Spread the word. Email. Twitter. Write. It only takes a few minutes.
We can take this heat, we just want back in the kitchen.