BBC axes 'bruised' Ben Elton's TV flop 'The Wright Way'

BBC2 sitcom Heading Out has also been dropped

Adam Sherwin
Thursday 11 July 2013 16:57
High-vis low comedy: (from left) Luke Gell, David Haig, Mina Anwar and Toby Longworth in 'The Wright Way'
High-vis low comedy: (from left) Luke Gell, David Haig, Mina Anwar and Toby Longworth in 'The Wright Way'

Ben Elton’s BBC1 sitcom The Wright Way, which received a brutal critical mauling, has been axed after the writer said he felt “bruised” by the response.

The series, starring David Haig, set in a local council’s health and safety department, was criticised for its reliance on dated gags and “lazy gender stereotypes”.

The show, watched by fewer than two million viewers, was called the “worst TV sitcom ever” by one critic.

Shane Allen, the BBC's controller, comedy commissioning, said the comedy, Elton’s first for the corporation since 2005, would not be returning.

Allen told the Broadcasting Press Guild: “He set out to write an old-fashioned mainstream comedy and he did exactly that. Ben Elton was really bruised by the reception. He felt ‘If people aren't loving this I am not going to put myself through it again’.”

He added: “We are not going to bring back The Wright Way but I’d give him (Elton) another chance on something else if it felt right and was compelling.”

Allen, responsible for guiding the series to air, added: “People are quite quick to judge and to crucify these days.” He said the show was a “good effort at trying to do something quite mainstream and slightly old-fashioned, but deliberately so.”

Allen, who joined the BBC from Channel 4 six months ago, added that Sue Perkins’s BBC2 sitcom Heading Out had also been dropped.

The executive warned that top writers were being put off creating mainstream prime-time comedies because of the immediate vitriolic reaction from social media that a new series can receive.

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“They see what happened to The Wright Way or Vicious (ITV comedy about gay flatmates starring Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi). They see that things can get slaughtered quite quickly. Comedy provokes massive reactions.”

Allen also promised another return for longstanding BBC favourite, Absolutely Fabulous.

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