I can't remember where, or when, but I read somebody - don't know who, probably a "pundit" - complaining that many of today's young writers lack the ambition to do anything more than write a sitcom. "The nerve!" I said, then for emphasis I said it again, this time as the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz: "The noive!" What, I wondered, was so bad about wanting to write a sitcom?
Granted there are loads of terrible sitcoms, but there are plenty of great ones too. I like a laugh, me, and while a list of my favourite shows would include such dramatic fare as The Sopranos and The Wire, most of the list would be sitcoms of one sort or another: The Simpsons, Seinfeld, The Office (UK), I'm Alan Partridge, Black Books, to name some of the more obvious examples.
A few years ago, a friend and I were going to co-write a sitcom in which a middle-class book group meeting in the basement of a community centre managed to survive a nuclear holocaust. The guiding principle was: there ain't nothing funnier than THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT! Also: mutants. Think First Tuesday Book Club meets The Road. Think Jennifer Byrne and Jason Steger and Marieke Hardy discussing the charms of the latest (and - an upside of Armageddon - last) Ian McEwan novel whilst scrounging for food, fighting off cannibals, and (in the movie spin-off) careening down the abandoned blacktop in a customised V8 Falcon, a la Max Rockatansky. Fuck-ing hilarious.
It was a great idea until we sobered up. Several years down the track I am once more thinking that writing a sitcom is something I'd like to try. So far I have: no concept, no setting, no characters, no jokes, no title, no ideas. Things can only get better.