The BBC are announcing a live episode of Mrs Brown's Boys, as part of their Landmark Sitcom Season, commemorating 60 years of TV sitcom. Reading between the lines, the inference is that this will be the first live TV broadcast of a sitcom since the 1950s. But, of course it won't.
The Sitcom Trials TV series was live.
From February to April 2003, every Friday night at 11.30, ITV broadcast The Sitcom Trials live from their HTV studios in Bristol. In each of the 8 episodes, two brand new mini-sitcoms were performed, then the audience voted, during the ad break, for which one they wanted to see the ending of.
Episodes included a pair of improvised sitcoms by the Comedy Store Players, a solo sitcom by James Holmes (who went on to co-star in fellow Sitcom Trials alumnus Miranda Hart's eponymous sitcom), a historical themed pair of comedies, two set behind the scenes in the TV biz (one written by Roland Moore, who went on to create BBC's Land Girls), a sitcom devised by the schoolkids of the HTV Television Workshop, and in the final week two sitcom scripts sent in by viewers. In all 16 new sitcoms were piloted in the competitive head to head format.
In the days before social media, the voting was done by phone and text, and we learned very quickly that you don't get very many phone calls through the system during a 4 minute ad break. So it was a very small, and quite possibly unrepresentative sample, that decided which sitcom would have its final few minutes performed and be declared that week's winner. Don't worry, whenever we do a second series we'll make sure that doesn't happen again.
Many of the sitcoms from The Sitcom Trials live TV series can be found on YouTube here.
The next Sitcom Trials takes place in Manchester on October 24th and is a Halloween Special. Scripts are welcomed from any budding sitcom writers, and the Sitcom Trials is free to enter (as always). The deadline for scripts is October 10th. Details are here.
If you would like to create the next great British situation comedy, The Sitcom Trials is an opportunity for your sitcom to be seen live.