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.