It's a crazy idea, but...

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The Independent Culture
Think of the most unlikely comedy setting you can. Chances are, it's already been done. The rag-and-bone business (Steptoe and Son); the Catholic priesthood (Father Ted); the efforts of the French Resistance in World War II ('Allo, 'Allo) are among the weird situations that have been considered full of comic potential in their time. Even undertaking has been assessed for comic mileage (in a show which kept Thora Hird off the streets until Songs of Praise took her on).

Much of sitcom supremo Carla Lane's previous (and best) work - Butterflies, The Liver Birds and, in its early days, Bread - has centred on relationships in families or between friends, aspects of life that are easy for viewers to relate to and identify with, staple sitcom fare. But tonight sees her branching out, in the first of a new series, Searching (9.30pm ITV), which is set in a voluntary therapy centre.

Though an unusual choice, even this setting has been explored before (see late Reggie Perrin shows for details). This time, however, Prunella Scales is at the helm (looking greatly aged compared with her Sunday-night appearances as Sybil Fawlty) as the religious host of five disturbed residents, who are getting to know themselves as well as each other. Lane is said to be nervous about how the series will be received. Maybe she's worried that she's tried too hard to break out of her mould.

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