In Search of the British Animated Sitcom

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Check out this opinion piece from Miles Bullough (co-founder of Wildseed Studios who recently signed a deal to produce new Disney XD animation Counterfeit Cat, and who used to be the Head of Broadcast at Aardman Animations).

Miles has written a piece about the state of animated sitcoms which explores some of the issues in creating them and why it has been so difficult for the UK to create a long term animated sitcom (a bit like the US did with The Simpson or Southpark.) There’s also a nice history charting British animated sitcoms throughout the years.

At Wildseed we’re determined to have a tilt at cracking the animated British Sitcom. I had a go in the 90’s when I Executive Produced Carl Gorham’s ‘Stressed Eric’ with Absolutely Productions. It burned very brightly for its 13 episodes on BBC2 but really we wanted it to be still running now, like The Simpsons or Southpark or American Dad. That’s the prize – a long running show that somehow captures the zeitgeist and is taken to the public’s hearts.

That hasn’t happened in the UK yet despite several credible attempts. The general feeling now is that may never happen, the conditions and opportunities in the UK TV market just don’t exist to support the creation of a long running animated adult sitcom.

Part of the challenge is economics. Animation is generally expensive and slow to produce and the slots for long running narrative shows in the UK just don’t come up that often. Soaps and panel shows take up all oxygen and can be produced quickly and far more cheaply than animation and on an industrial scale. For successful shows in the US, orders of 20+ episodes per year are commonplace, bringing economies of scale and giving shows the chance to find and keep an audience.

The characteristics of the US shows that we all admire and seek to emulate are reasonably simple to grasp: the shows are incredibly relatable – usually centering around family units living in un-extraordinary circumstances with recognizable social and personal structures – only Futurama really ditched that formula which is what in many people’s view made it into niche, sci-fi fare. There are really no examples of shows featuring talking animals (as the main cast) or which are set in fantastical worlds that have taken off in the mainstream.

The writing on the US shows is extraordinary and those writing teams attract the best minds in the US to them. The pace of the episodes is relentless, Southpark fizzes along so fast that some of us can barely keep up. All have great central characters, often a patriarchal figure, they all have kids in them and there is enough in the stories for kids to relate to (usually laughing at the parents) but the shows are never childish despite their huge following amongst the young.

 

To read the full article click here…

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