Warning: this post is both smug and pointless. You have been warned.

In the Wikipedia entry for Joking Apart (with a proper reference, so it’s definitely true), Robert Bathurst says this about the delay in transmission of the series:

“Every so often, I’d get a call from the producer saying, it’s going out at this time. The publicity people would be alerted, then we’d get a call saying no, it’s not, it’s been put back. That happened six times, I think, altogether – seven reschedules in a year or so… It was extraordinary and inexplicable, and just one of these things that happen. I mean, a lot of shows are left on people’s desks and they hardly get seen, and Joking Apart was certainly one of those. Meanwhile, they were making about four series of The Brittas Empire, and you thought, “Bloody Hell! Come on, surely…?” To my mind, our show was a very superior product, and it upset me that other shows, which I, personally, felt were broader and less interesting, were getting precedence.”

Now, you could argue all day as to whether Joking Apart or Brittas was the better sitcom. Much as I absolutely adore Joking Apart (in fact, I’m just rewatching the first series at the moment), I would say that Brittas is far better – indeed, I think it competes on Joking Apart‘s own turf by being a better farce – but that isn’t really the point. It’s just that it seems really odd that out of all the sitcoms that the BBC were making at that time – and there was a hell of a lot of crap – that he picks Brittas to slag off.

And I dislike the jibe about “broader and less interesting”. Yes, Brittas is broad, there is no denying it – but since when was being broad a bad thing in itself? Besides, there’s a hell of a lot going on with Brittas, especially with characterisation, if you actually bother to look at it properly. I was going to just say that Brittas is probably easy to misjudge… but really, is it that easy? Robert’s clearly seen an episode of it, otherwise he wouldn’t have dared to make the comparison – but surely, if you’ve sat through an episode of Brittas, you would be able to judge it a bit better than that?

It’s not the fact that he doesn’t like it that bothers me, really – it’s the fact that I think there are far more deserving targets, and I don’t think his criticisms of the show hold water in the slightest. Feel annoyed about what happened to Joking Apart by any means – the scheduling was a travesty, and a brilliant sitcom suffered hugely because of it. But that’s no reason to pick on another show just because it’s successful.


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  • Clearly this is a case of sour grapes..
    Here’s a man that appeared briefly in Red Dwarf and was killed off in episode 1, he also failed to make the cut in Blackadder. Chris Barrie on the other hand, continued on in two popular BBC programmes. He obviously felt unwanted amd envious of Mr Barries stardom at the time…
    OK, I probably made all that up…

  • Reading this back, it really does look like I’m overreacting here. And I probably am. Well, definitely am.

    It just really, really annoyed me for some reason. It just seems so… well, unfair.

  • You have to give Robert Bathurst a break, Joking Apart was absolutely brilliant (sorry, but it was a million times better than the catch-phrase ridden Brittas empire), and RB acted his ass off in it… but it never got any recognition (outside of the critics loving it). Also, Joking Apart wasn’t a farce, it turned into something quite moving by the end. I still remember the classic line that he was searching for, and the final delivery when all was said and done… heartbreaking really.

  • Oh, I think Joking Apart was absolutely brilliant too – and I think Bathurst is absolutely amazing in it. Whether it’s better or worse than Brittas isn’t really the point – it’s the fact that his criticisms of Brittas don’t hold water, and that out of *all* the sitcoms that he could have chosen to mention, the choice of Brittas is really, really odd. It all carries a bit of a bitter note, slagging off something totally undeserved. I feel very sorry for what happened to Joking Apart – but that’s no reason to lash out at Brittas.

    I hugely disagree with you that Joking Apart wasn’t a farce, though. As much as anything else, Moffat repeatedly states that it’s a farce on the commentary. Just because it’s moving, it doesn’t mean it can’t be a farce.

    Also, you can’t just dismiss Brittas as “catchphrase ridden”. There are catchphrases (although they’re hardly the bulk of the show!), but then some of the best sitcoms ever made have catchphrases – including most of David Croft’s work.

  • I know this is ‘pariah material’, but I’ve never really found Brittas to be that funny. But then again, I haven’t watched Joking apart.

  • Bear in mind that you may have caught the last couple of series of Brittas, which aren’t nearly as good as the other ones. The earlier series make us cackle like maniacs, and awestruck at the finely-constructed farce. Farce is such an under-rated device; it makes me annoyed that it isn’t given the respect it deserves.

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