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Flops lead Five to review drama and comedy output

Five is reviewing its drama and comedy output after a string of flop programmes failed to make an impact in 2007.

In a review printed today about its performance last year, Five said it was reconsidering its “whole approach” to drama and would be ditching scripted comedy in favour of new entertainment formats in 2008.

Outlining its plans for drama going forward, the broadcaster said it was reviewing its approach to the genre after shows like Kitchen, a two-parter about a celebrity chef starring Eddie Izzard, attracted an audience averaging less than 500,000.

It said: “Over the last two years we have invested significantly in a number of single dramas and mini-series, but irrespective of their merits, none has gained a significant audience. We concluded that viewers will not come to Five to watch one-off original dramas, because we are not able to establish a reputation for them on the basis of occasional productions.”

The broadcaster said it was looking to commission long running drama series instead of single dramas and mini-series, claiming these will have “sufficient shelf life to attract and build and audience over time”.

But it added: “The lead times involved mean nothing is likely to reach our screen until 2009.”

In comedy, the broadcaster said it had screened two home-grown comedy series in 2007: the second series of Suburban Shootout and a new comedy by Sharon Horgan called Angelo’s.

Five said: “Although both were distinctive original series, neither managed to garner a sizeable audience. We are reviewing the sort of comedy and entertainment we will be offering in the future.”

It added: “Although we have moved away from scripted comedy for the present, we may return to it in the future.”

All commercial public service broadcasters are required under the Communications Act 2003 to publish annual statements setting out their policy in relation to public service content for the coming year, and reviewing the past year’s performance.

ITV today said it had enjoyed a “particularly strong year” in terms of drama and pointed to shows such as Doc Martin and My Boy Jack.

It said “high quality, UK-produced drama will remain at the heart of the ITV peak time schedule” in 2008 and it will provide a “range of drama that provides something of interest to everyone”.

Channel 4 said its drama output in 2007 had “tackled issues rarely addressed on UK television” and pointed to shows such as Boy A and The Mark of Cain.

Going forward it said “challenge and ambition” will characterise its drama output in 2008 and added: “Series will have an emphasis on subversive fun, and the event pieces will be designed to challenge audience perceptions and prejudices”.