But first a quotation from an excellent article in Grantland about the world's supposedly most hated bands, Nickelback and Creed. The writer of that article is trying to understand why people hate them so much . here is my favourite paragraph about Chad Kroeger, the lead singer of Nickelback:
"It's hard to get inside the existential paradox of Kroeger's life on tour: Every day, he gives interviews to journalists and radio DJs who directly ask him why no one likes his band. Every night, he plays music to thousands of enraptured superfans, many of whom love him with a ferocity that's probably unhealthy. Every concert ends with a standing ovation; if he feels motivated, he spends the remainder of the night partying with forgettable strangers who will remember him for the rest of their lives. Eventually, Kroeger falls asleep. And then he wakes up in a beautiful hotel room, only to read new articles about how everyone in North America hates his band."So let us return to the article in the esteemed and much loved Guardian. The headline reads: "As Lee Mack returns for a sixth series of Not Going Out, Leo Benedictus asks if a British standup comedian has ever made a really good sitcom." This would seem to be a bit of a Kroeger problem. A more honest headline would be: "As Lee Mack returns for a sixth series of his BBC1 Sitcom Not Going Out, Leo Benedictus asks why Lee Mack has failed to write a successful sitcom." It's rather puzzling. Many sitcoms don't make it past the first series. Many give up after two. This is series coming is number six. That's quite a lot, isn't it?
The writer shows his hand, of course, when he writes "Lee Mack returns to BBC1 with a sixth series of Not Going Out, which – let's give it time – may yet show that the first five were just a lengthy warm-up." It seems the problem is that the writer doesn't like Not Going Out. Aaah, now that's a different thing from it being unsuccessful. I don't like Holby. It's a drama. I do not find it terribly dramatic. But my mum does. And I can see that it's a successful show. Not Going Out isn't quite Steptoe or Hancock, but it's doing okay.
The rest of the article continues to make this error, confusing personal taste with objective success. What are the British shows fronted by a stand-up comedian? Lead Balloon is cited as being 'an interesting but rather dreary simulacrum'. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds bad. But Lead Balloon was quite good, wasn't it? And some critics liked it too. Even AA Gill and he detests the very act of laughter. And there's Grandma's House - which has done okay too, hasn't it? Some liked it. Some didn't. Got some awards for some of the performances.
He also claims that Dinnerladies and Ideal were down there with Lab Rats in being unsuccessful self-penned vehicles for comedians. Hand on heart, I've never seen Dinnerladies (pronounced 'dinnerladies') but I've just looked it up on wikipedia. It says that "series 2 peaked with "Minnellium", which aired on 31 December 1999 and reached 15.33 million viewers." You know, I'd settle for those viewing figures. I also never watched Ideal. But it did SEVEN series. And, ahem, it actually isn't penned by Johnny Vegas, but by Grahan Duff. So it doesn't really count anyway, does it? That information was also easily available from Wikipedia.
And then there's Phoenix Nights, an excellent show that I loved written by Dave Spikey and Peter Kay - both stand-up comedians and the latter being one of the most successful stand-up comedians of recent times. Surely that would qualify? Nope. Peter Kay isn't really a proper stand-up comedian, apparently. Our correspondent has "always found Peter Kay to be stronger on parochial fondness than he is on jokes." So even the classification of being 'a stand-up comedian' thing is a matter of taste to then.
But this article isn't really going to get bogged down in categories. After all, in the opening paragraph, Sue Perkins, of Heading Out, is effectively cited as a stand-up comedian - when she isn't really, is she? She was part of a double act. (*sigh* fondly remembers Light Lunch) But Sue Perkins is no more a standup comedian than Miranda Hart, who's show is, I would argue, successful. (But them, I'm obviously biased.) And yet Miranda is curiously left out of the article altogether. And there was a very successful stage/comedy show that isn't quite stand-up either, but has run in theatres all over the country but a man pretending to Mrs Brown. That show's doing quite well now too and even won a BAFTA - although, as with all comedy, it is not to everyone's taste.
Moreover, the TV shows our correspondent likes, being The Royle Family and Alan Partidge, have strong central performances from Caroline Ahearne and Steve Coogan respectively who cut their teeth on the stand-up circuit. This is all very confusing.
So when the author of the piece writes "Now I've thought about this carefully and I'm happy to be corrected", I would argue that he hasn't thought about this all that carefully. And hope this correction brings the happiness that has been promised.