BBC1 sitcoms are too focused on “middle class suburbia”, the corporation’s annual report said today.
The BBC is famous for sitcoms which document middle-class life, like Keeping up Appearances, Fawlty Towers, My Family, and suburban comedy The Good Life.
But the corporation’s annual report, published today, has called for more BBC1 sitcoms to paint a picture of life for other groups.
Governors at the BBC – whose recent comedy hits include The Office and Little Britain – also said BBC1 sitcoms compared poorly with US exports.
The report said: “Another important genre prioritised for additional investment is British comedy.
“It is extremely risky, expensive to produce and unpredictable in its results.
“When the BBC gets comedy right, the rewards in terms of audience appreciation are high.”
But the report added: “This is well illustrated by Little Britain, the most successful programme to transfer from BBC3 to BBC1.
“However, our review found some evidence of a legacy of dissatisfaction with BBC1 sitcoms seen as ‘too focused on middle class suburbia’ and which compared poorly with sophisticated US imports.
“There is ground to be made up here, but we are encouraged by the quality of the new BBC comedy starting to come on screen.
BBC Chairman Michael Grade joked at today’s press conference that there would not be sitcoms without middle class suburbia.
He said: “It’s inevitably a part of what writers want to write about.
“Alan Ayckbourn (the playwright) has made a pretty good living out of it over the last 30 years.
“Television is no different. The question is... there is a sense in which if you go on presenting the safe white, middle-class suburbia as a subject in the context of sitcoms, are you missing out other innovative, more exciting areas?
“But that’s not to say that there isn’t rich pickings in middle class, white surbubia,” he added.
BBC Director General Mark Thompson said although the middle class were “one of its targets” in Little Britain, it was “not Terry and June” (the middle-class sitcom which starred Terry Scott and June Whitfield.
BBC governors were encouraged by the new breed of comedies on BBC3, Mr Thompson added.
Last year governors pointed to the failure of The Crouches in their annual report, BBC1’s first black family sitcom.
The Crouches was panned by critics and New Nation editor Michael Ebbed said it was “about as funny as being cracked“.
The first series of the show was written by a white Glaswegian, Rab C Nesbitt creator Ian Pattison.