There have been an increasing number of television vehicles for comedians lately, with the BBC’s new The Sarah Millican Show adding to an array of pre-existing TV programmes fronted by comics. To name just a few on television in recent months: John Bishop’s Britain, Kevin Bridges: What’s The Story, as well as Channel 4’s Show and Tell hosted by Chris Addison.
One reason for this is that comedians are seemingly guaranteed to pull in the viewers, such as Alexander Armstrong’s game show Pointless, which drew in an impressive five million watchers over the Christmas period and is now being shown in a prime time slot on Saturday nights with celebrity guests. Another, more cynical explanation for the current crop of comedian-led shows is that they are easy to make and produce ? you can simply reuse the same sets over and over again; it’s decidedly low risk programming. In these recession-hit times, it’s understandable that people need a good laugh, but TV networks such as the BBC should be taking more risks on new comedy talent, both writers and actors. Well-made programmes fronted by comedians can be fun, light and entertaining; however, as regular viewers of Mock the Week will be well aware, comedians on television tend to recycle their stand up material, such as routines that you have probably already watched on Live at the Apollo.
In all fairness, Kevin Bridges: What’s the Story takes a refreshingly different angle to the typical comedian-based panel show format, instead cutting between Bridges’ stand up and a series of interviews with him and other comedians. This gives us an insight into the lives of the comedians and shows us where they get their material from. Overall, in my opinion, television should be an ideal form of exposure for fresh talent and not a means of self-promotion for already successful and well-established comedians. This is not to say that the occasional comedian television programme is a bad thing, but there should be a better balance.