Last night I had the pleasure and privelege of being a judge at the Sitcom Trials, the show that I invented ten years ago, stopped doing three years ago, and Declan Hill & Simon Wright now keep themselves very busy running. It was the first show of this season I've been able to make and I was delighted with what I saw.
They run two shows every Wednesday. A 5pm showcase where industry representatives cast their votes on the 4 sitcoms in competition, then a 7pm re-performance where the public vote. I was in the 5pm session with fellow judges Jaqui Sinclair from RDF's Comedy Unit, George Poles writer from Mock The week & HIGNFY, Steve Keyworth of Eastenders and this afternoon's Radio 4 Play fame, and Carole Smith Radio 4 comedy producer of legend.
We watched 4 sitcoms, all of which are produced and staged to the highest standard. In my day we used to stand, radio-style, with scripts in hands, but these guys are totally off-book and well directed, all for just two performances. And, not to say anything nasty about anyone or anything, two of the scripts were brilliant. And as for the casts, tonight's show had John Le Mesurier's grand-daughter and Lee off of Steps in, how's that for impressive?
The winning scripts were The House on Cedar Street by Julie Bower, a flat share comedy which had a level of exciting new writing that made you want to see anything that writer comes up with, and The Boot Room by John Gradwell which is a consistently funny and well constructed sitcom set in a football club, crossing Hi De Hi with The Damned United to very promising effect.
As is my wont, I doodled on my notes, little cartoons of most of the actors. You can see those here, if I've cracked this uploading lark.
I'd encourage anyone interested in sitcom to come along to these weekly shows, as they race through the tournament towards the final in May. They're at the Leicester Square Theatre every Wednesday.
UPDATE from the future: - October 2012
The next Sitcom Trials show is
The Sitcom Trials Manchester
Fri 21st Oct 2011, 7.45pm
The Lass O Gowrie, 36 Charles Street, Manchester M1 7DB Tel 0161 273 6932