When I tune into a new comedy series written by an established name, I expect to be entertained.
So when I spot the name David Renwick, Simon Nye, John Sullivan – perhaps Richard Curtis, Ben Elton, Rowan Atkinson and even Steven Moffat – I expect to be entertained.
Now of course not everyone is capable of creating a hit every time; Steven Moffat’s Chalk was a bit hit and miss, and Sullivan’s Green Green Grass should probably be put out to pasture permanently. Generally speaking though, those mentioned are usually good value and massive assets to the industry.
So, in honour of the writing talents of broadcast comedy, here is my top ten:
- David Renwick – For One Foot in the Grave alone, episode after episode of twisting comedy genius.
- Steven Moffat – now well known as the man behind some of the strongest Doctor Who episodes, Moffat also brought us Press Gang, the superb Joking Apart and Coupling (don’t mention Chalk too loudly)
- Paul Whitehouse & Charlie Higson – these two men have heavily influenced the modern sketch comedy genre, whether via The Fast Show, Reeves & Mortimer, Harry Enfield or various radio skits. Their contribution mustn’t be overlooked.
- John Sullivan – twenty-odd years of Only Fools and Horses might have taken their toll on Sullivan, but he still created some of his best episodes towards the end.
- Ben Elton – Immense contribution to British comedy both as a writer and standup comedian. His contribution to Blackadder II provided the series with a massive turnaround and made it a hit, and while his own rousing, revolutionary standup ability challenged the Tory government of the 1980s and 1990s.
- Richard Curtis – Ben Elton gave us the better three series of Blackadder, as well of course as providing some of the top British movies of the last 50 years. He also brought us The Vicar of Dibley, so like his colleague above he is by no means perfect
- Simon Nye – I love Nye’s work, but it always seems to receive such poor treatment by the broadcasters; Men Behaving Badly was cancelled after two series by ITV before jumping to BBC One, while Hardware was badly supported and broadcast for some reason at 10.30 on a Sunday evening.
- Ricky Gervais & Steven Merchant – love him or hate him, The Office is a superb portrait of so many middle managers the country over, a dramatisation of luck and charm over ability and competence.
- Lucas & Walliams – I was watching these two back in their UK Play Rock Profiles days; their depiction of Prince as a Glaswegian drunk was utter comedy gold.
- Andrew Collins – who? Older readers my not know Collins, but he pops up a fair few times across the airwaves, often in those Top 100 shows, like “Top 100 PG Tips moments EVER!” or somesuch. He’s also responsible for some of the best laughs and strongest writing on television in the last two years, moulding Lee Mack’s quickfire delivery in BBC One sitcom Not Going Out into the best British comedy serial for years.
Some others are drifting around the edges.
I know there are going to be some surprising entries here – let me know what you think.