The Sitcom

A group of comedy writers is hastily assembled to rescue a sitcom on the verge of cancellation following the death of its creator.

  1. Meet the writers
  2. Finding the problem
  3. How about...
  4. Women aren't funny
  5. Get a grip
  6. Breakthrough

Click the images to play each of the six parts.

Written by James Aylett and James Lark.
Directed by Jon Croker.
Starring Sarah Campbell, Danielle Fenemore, James Aylett, James Lark, Bill Cronshaw, Danny Swanson and Laura Stewart.
Additional crewing by Matthew Hasler and Kimberley Latos.


The Sitcom started off like most other television comedy pilots: we wrote it, we sent it to people, and it was politely rejected on the grounds that the characters weren’t sympathetic enough.

We did think about rewriting it to make the characters more sympathetic. We pondered a draft in which they said encouraging things to each other, held open doors for people and were broad-minded, liberal and accepting.

Then we remembered that our characters were writers. You can stretch credibility to a certain extent, but nobody who knows the writing industry would even begin to believe in a comedy about a group of writers being nice to each other. Comedy writers don’t even laugh at each others’ jokes in case they inadvertantly bolster somebody’s self-esteem. They certainly aren’t polite, and if they’re broad-minded it’s only about issues that don’t actually concern them.

In short, writers are bastards. We know – we are writers, and we continually upset each other. One of the only times we’ve actually bonded as writers is in a writers’ room with a lot of other writers, all of whom thought they were better than us so our teaming up seemed tactically like a good idea. Indeed, it was that experience that inspired The Sitcom in the first place, and unlike the real thing, our characters do at least have some redeeming features.

But nevertheless, we were clearly stuck with a concept that wouldn’t lend itself the kind of likable, sympathetic characters found in all successful British comedies (like Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, The League of Gentlemen and the bubbly sympathetic loveliness of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps). So we made it ourselves. We drafted in some deeply unsympathetic actors (actors are all bastards as well), an unsympathetic director (bastard) and balanced them with some sympathetic people willing to hold boom mikes and make us coffee (spineless pushovers), and in one weekend we put down all the writers’ room scenes as a demonstration of how the final product might look.

Sadly there’s nobody very sympathetic in the world of television, so we couldn’t persuade anybody to watch it. Thankfully, in the 21st century there is a much broader audience available to us via the internet – they’re not always sympathetic either, but at least in short, bitesized chunks aimed at people with short attention spans, there is a hope that some people will see this at last, and might even be sympathetic to our intentions.

There is more of it than this. There are the scenes we didn’t film because they required more complicated locations. There are the other five episodes. We weren’t paying our actors for the pilot and were working with limited time, which is why – as yet – the rest of our (very fine) scripts, in which some of the characters even occasionally exhibit sympathetic characteristics, remain unfilmed.