Thursday, 14 July 2011

Channel 4's COMEDY SHOWCASE returns

Thursday, 14 July 2011
Comedy Showcase: CHICKENS

I've been covering the annual Comedy Showcase season on Channel 4 since it started four years ago. I think the idea of airing what are effectively pilot episodes, then deciding which ones to take to series based on viewer response is brilliant. It's just disappointing when Channel 4's actions often go against that perceived methodology: Pete vs Life went straight to series despite being announced as a Comedy Showcase offering, PhoneShop was granted a series the day before its pilot aired, and was Todd Margaret ever in danger of being discarded, given the fact it stars David Cross and Will Arnett from Arrested Development?

To be frank, I'm now unconvinced Channel 4 care what the critics or public make of their Comedy Showcase. I'm sure they're aware of which ones have "legs" before they air, or which ones can be easily commissioned because of cast/crew availability, and only a vehemently negative response from viewers may change their minds. But there still remains the possibility audiences will latch onto something Channel 4 didn't think would work, and the magic of the internet will force a few rethinks. Let's be positive!

Regardless of how it's run or promoted, today it's been announced that Comedy Showcase is coming back for a third run. Channel 4 have confirmed these seven offerings:

Coma Girl, starring Anna Crilly (Lead Balloon) as a comatose woman called Lucy, who's visited by her school friends (Sarah Solemani, Katy Wix, Katherine Parkinson) in hospital; The Angelos Neil Epithemiou Show, with comedian Dan Skinner as his Angelos character from Shooting Stars; House Of Rooms, written by Milton Jones and Dan Evans, about a middle-aged man (Milton) living with his mother, who falls in love with their new lodger Alice; The Function Room, written by Dan Maier (How TV Ruined Your Life), which follows the exploits of various character who rent a pub's function room for different reasons; Chickens, a WWII comedy written by and starring The Inbetweeners' Simon Bird and Joe Thomas, about the men who didn't leave home to fight the Nazis; The Fun Police, starring Vic Reeves and Rhys Darby (Flight Of The Concords) as members of a local council's health and safety department; and Felix & Murdo, starring Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller as athletes in the first modern Olympics of 1908.

Most of those actually sound promising. It's almost guaranteed that Chickens and House Of Rooms will go to series, purely based on the talent involved and amusing premises. The latter sounds particularly intriguing; a kind of Rising Damp meets Sorry. I'm excited to see what Milton Jones has in store for us there.

The Reeves/Darby sitcom may also be good, maybe as a nuttier version of Parks & RecreationComa Girl and The Function Room will need to prove they have longevity, as they sound like something more suited to a single comedy-drama. And I fully expect the The Angelos Neil Epithemiou Show to be atrocious, as I hate that character on Shooting Stars, but we'll see.

This sounds like a much stronger lineup than previous Comedy Showcase's, though—what do you think?