Thursday 6 February 2014

Scrotal Recall: does the title of this new comedy cross the line?

via The Guardian:

Scrotal Recall: does the title of this new comedy cross the line?

The naming of a TV programme is becoming an increasingly salacious business, but are these provocative titles more off-putting than enticing?
E4's Beaver Falls.
E4's Beaver Falls. Photograph: Charles Fearn/Channel 4sn
Let me put it all out there – it takes balls to call your sitcom Scrotal Recall. This week, Channel 4 announced they'd ordered a full six-part series of the show after scrutinising an (unaired) pilot episode and deciding it was definitely their bag. The pitch is high-concept with a dose of low humour: a man is diagnosed with chlamydia and has to track down everyone he's ever slept with to share the unfortunate news. It's My Name is Earl with an STI twist, and one of those rare comedic premises that has built-in long-term prospects. By dealing with a new old flame every episode – literally, a case of the week – this one could run and run.
In many ways, the title deserves a clap: Scrotal Recall is thematically appropriate, pop culture-savvy, funny in and of itself, and provocative enough to cut through the noise. It practically screams: "This is how you name a sitcom in the age of Reddit." And yet, it also feels like a rubicon has been crossed, that the salacious terminology pioneered by Channel 5 and BBC3 shock-docs has splashed about and infected everything else. Even the (purposefully funny) Channel 4 Press Twitter account couldn't quite say the S-word when it confirmed the commission.
Perhaps it's the inevitable drift into conservatism that comes with ageing, but there have been an increasing number of recent comedies I've struggled to embrace, primarily because of what they're called. Shows such as BBC3's gymslip-mum sitcom Pramface (more warm-hearted than that title suggests) and retired sketch show Tittybangbang. I can just about handle Psychobitches on Sky Arts, but a part of me is still always thinking: do we have to call them bitches? Even Fresh Meat – a sitcom I watch, enjoy and admire – causes an unpleasant shiver every time it pops up on the EPG. (There's a predatory charge to that title, or perhaps I'm just squeamish about meat.) Thankfully, it was possible to skip E4's Beaver Falls without feeling as if you were excluding yourself from the wider cultural conversation.


In the US, the smart thing to do seems to be to play it safe. In the rare situation where they're not named after key talent, the comedy hits and warhorses tend to have quite bland names: Taxi, Cheers, Friends. Of the current crop of US sitcoms that have thrived or even just survived – shows such as Modern Family, New Girl and The Millers – boundary-pushing titles do not seem a major feature. The last time a US network rolled the dice on something with a potentially pathbreaking name, it was adapting popular Twitter account Shit My Dad Says, though someone's shift key must have been stuck, since it arrived on-screen as $#*! My Dad Says. Astonishingly, that particular William Shatner vehicle was not one for the ages.
For as long as Courteney Cox's cabernet-powered sitcom Cougar Town has been on air, creator Bill Lawrence has publicly wrestled with the long shadow of its awful name, a crass clunker of a title that now has zero bearing on the characters or content. Meanwhile, on US cable, a long-running sitcom that contains the worst, most transgressive, hypnotically hateful characters on TV goes by the deceptively saccharine handle It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, when it could – and perhaps should – have been named Drunk Selfish Assholes Who Despise Each Other.
There is clearly an art to coining just the right title. The apparent banality of The Office turned out to be the key to universality. In their own apposite ways, Men Behaving Badly and Curb Your Enthusiasm are perfect synecdoches of their subject matter. Hebburn sums up that show's community-minded vibe perfectly, and is also just fun to say. And a recent BBC3 sitcom had enough sex and slobbishness to justify a salacious title – "coming up next: Sticky Sheets" – but ultimately went with Him & Her, a casual declaration of implied familiarity that hinted at the heart buried somewhere under all the pizza boxes and dirty washing.
Were things different in the old days? Viewed through the telescope of history, Only Fools and Horses sounds like an evocative and wise title. But the 9 milllion or so viewers who tuned in to the first series in 1981 had no idea what it actually meant – the BBC only used writer John Sullivan's self-composed theme tune, with explanatory lyrics, from series two onwards. Perhaps in 30 years we'll be talking about the first series of Scrotal Recall with the same respect and reverence.
Are there sitcom titles that have put you off watching? Let us know in the comments below.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Sitcom Trials April 4th - enter now! Deadline Feb 28th


The Bristol team will be staging a Sitcom Trials show at the Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol, on Friday April 4th, and we're welcoming script submissions. At least THREE scripts from this competition will be performed by the team.

THE BRIEF for submission to The Bristol Sitcom Trials.

The Sitcom Trials wants situation comedy scripts that a small group of actors can perform in a live environment with minimal stage in front of an audience, who will hopefully laugh. Ideally these sitcoms will be so marvelous that the TV & radio industry representatives in the audience (should there be any) will snap them up immediately.


Your script must have a first 'half' of less than 8 minutes.
This first half should end in a cliffhanger, or something that leaves the audience wanting more.

It must then have a final scene of 2 or 3 minutes long. This will be performed only if your sitcom is the winner on the night

Scripts should come in at around 12 pages.

Your script must have NO MORE THAN 4 CHARACTERS. (We're flexible on this, but it's good to keep it focused on just a few characters)

The sitcoms we are to test out in our regular pub theatre shows with an eye to them being developed for TV must be PERFORMABLE LIVE (ie no filmed or location inserts)

Think in terms of a radio script.

Please put your name, email address, and the title of your sitcom on the first page of your script, and send it as a PDF file.


Upload your entries to the appropriate folder in the files section of the egroup. You will need to join the free egroup to do so:

The folder is named "Bristol April 2014"

And you can find a handy VOTE and REVIEW thing on the spangly Sitcom Trials website:

Deadline for entries - midnight Friday 28th February, 2014
Deadline for voting - midnight Sunday 9th March, 2014

The read-through with the Bristol team will be on Saturday 15th March, after which we'll announce which scripts have made it through.


All members of the SitsVac egroup/British Comedy Guide Sitcom Trials thread, you included, will be invited to read, review, and vote on all scripts in contention. Vote YES, MAYBE or NO as to each one's potential and add a short one paragraph review. Your votes will not be counted unless you include a review.

Send reviews to the SitsVac TV group message board, or to the Sitcom Trials thread at the British Comedy Guide Forum.

SitsVac group:

British Comedy Guide Forum:

Writers are welcome to vote on their own scripts.

Votes are then totalled thus; Yes = 2 points, Maybe = 1 point, No = minus -1 point. This way we draw up a shortlist for a script reading, from which we select the items to go into the stage show.


The top ten entries (as voted by you) will be read by the team, from which we'll select at least THREE scripts to be performed on Friday April 4th at the Wardrobe Theatre, St Michael's Hill, Bristol. The other two scripts will possibly come from the Bristol team (it might be that we pick five from this batch of entries, if we can't come up with anything as good as the top five scripts).

This will be a rehearsed-reading/script-in-hand/radio-style affair, though we're not averse to using the odd prop or two. These sitcoms will be in competition with each other, the winner to be decided an audience vote.

There is no set theme this time round (such as the Halloween/Eurovision/Sci-Fi Trials) - you're free to come up with absolutely anything you want.


We're in the process of setting up the Radio Sitcom Trials, and we'll offer the writer of the winning sitcom the chance to have their script recorded as a full-cast audio play (with music and FX) and then hopefully broadcast on BBC local radio sometime this year.

Any questions?

Happy scribbling

Vince Stadon

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