John Lloyd, the brains behind some of Britain's most successful comedy shows of the past 40 years, is planning to use his QI production company to challenge broadcasters online because of his despair at the "moribund" state of television commissioning.
The producer behind Spitting Image, Blackadder and Not the Nine O'Clock News accused timid broadcasting executives of stifling the best young British comedic talent and said he wanted to produce his own short form comedy on the Internet.
The current comedy commissioning process is "moribund", Lloyd told The Independent. "It simply doesn't work," he said. "It doesn't produce better programming than the old system, it's slow, frustrating and expensive. There's a lot of sucking of teeth, changing of things and fiddling about. Then the show either doesn't go on air or it is unrecognisable from the original idea."
He said QI, makers of the successful BBC panel show presented by Stephen Fry, could branch out into broadcasting online comedy so that television executives could see shows that were made as the producers originally intended them. The venture would give a platform to upcoming comedy talent. "The idea with QI is to do it online to test interesting and funny stuff so that it's much easier for a commissioning editor to look at."
QI, starring comedians Alan Davies and Bill Bailey, is one of the BBC's most popular and distinctive panel shows and has run for ten series. It is currently shown on BBC2. Asked about Lloyd's criticism of the commissioning process last night, a BBC spokesperson said: "This is not something we would comment on."
Lloyd, 61, will be making his comedy debut at the Edinburgh Fringe this August. He is a critic of the lack of creative experience of many of those involved in commissioning television comedy. In comments to the recent Chortle Comedy Conference, he said: "I don't want to boast but I've been doing this for 40 years and I've been involved in some pretty good things across a huge variety of genres but I've still got to sit and listen to someone who's never done five minutes of stand-up, who's never written a funny line, who's never produced a sitcom," he said.
He claimed that there had been a transformation in the commissioning process since the days of Spitting Image and that today's broadcasters were risk averse and unwilling to put their faith in creative talent. "There were no development departments in television companies in the Eighties. A producer had an office and a PA and you sat in your office and every so often you had an idea - about twice a year, usually - and you'd rush into your head of department and say: "I've had this brilliant idea, or I've got this script," he said. "It used to be the creative people driving the bus and the administrative people enabling them, not the other way around."
Lloyd applauded Netflix for its hands-off approach to commissioning, by hiring "good people and saying 'you do it'".