Who’d write a sitcom? The fine line between a comedy and a calamity is treacherous for even the most experienced writers. To try and find the right balance between an engaging storyline, along with relatable characters and of course, the comedy is a challenge that only the brave and ambitious should accept. But recently, I was lucky enough to be treated to a preview of the highly anticipated and long awaited sitcom that is Not Suitable For Broadcast. Devised and imagined by Lancaster University students, Ishan Ganjoor and Andrew ‘Chuck’ Sharp, it is fantastically witty and surprisingly impressive considering that this is their writing debut.
A familiar environment for both Ish and Chuck is Bailrigg FM – Lancaster University’s student radio station, and so it is fitting that this is where they chose to set the scene. A student radio station is a peculiar place. It is a habitat where interesting, expressive and yet slightly bizarre people tend to congregate and the charmingly eccentric ambience of the station has been captured marvelously by the duo.
Although I am a fan of what they have created, I feel as though the four-part series takes just a little bit too long to get going. It was only during episode 2 that I really started to feel as though I could just relax and enjoy it. Episode 1 spends too much time dwelling on average quality jokes and lacks any sort of engaging narrative that makes me want to listen. A radio sitcom, due to the lack of the visual aid that comes with television which is arguably a vital component of comedy, has an obligation to ensure that the audience isn’t lost or bewildered. If they are, then it’s over.
But what I must emphasize is that firstly, despite the fact that it is the weakest of the episodes, episode 1 is essential to the sitcom as it allows you to build a relationship with the characters and become familiar with their quirks and foibles. And the second, and most important point, is that beyond episode 1 lies a banquet of brilliance and I encourage you to feast upon it to satisfy your comedy cravings. It’s almost like dating. Episode one is the awkward ‘getting to know you’ first date that is necessary before you fall madly in love with each other. So stick with it and give it a chance. It’s worth it, trust me.
‘Not Suitable For Broadcast’ is very much character led. Although the story is important as it gives a reason for the character’s existence, it is driven by the way in which they interact and go about their lives and how each individual has their unique, relatable persona that, in a way, makes it real; makes it something more than just fiction. The protagonist isn’t obvious and the writers may have their own ideas as to whom it is but this isn’t a problem. The way I see it is that the protagonist is the radio station itself. Although silent and inconspicuous, it is the one constant in all of the character’s lives that allows them to flourish and be who they are.
Now, when you tune in to listen to the sitcom, you will begin to warm towards your favourite characters. For me, it’s a toss-up between Michael and Snots. As with all of the characters in ‘Not Suitable For Broadcast’, they’re inspired by and based upon past and present members of Bailrigg FM and this gives them a sense of authenticity that the piece really benefits from. When Ish and Chuck set out to write it, they understood the importance of creating 3D characters and to give them a sense of depth in order for them to be truly appreciated and overall, they achieved this. Michael, well, he’s simply adorable.
His unfortunate attempts to try and become part of the group are noble and despite being ignored for most of the time, he is quietly resilient and as described by Ish, “he is the sweetest sounding guy you know.” But the biggest laughs come from the sports correspondent, Snots. Very loosely based on a previous member of Bailrigg FM, his casual racism and shear ignorance is fantastically funny. He is the definition of political incorrectness. There is no malice in what he says and the intention is to make you laugh, not to offend. We only get to hear from Snots in small doses but this works as it is a real treat when we receive the Snot treatment.
What is evident from this piece is that we have two writers who are prepared to push the boundaries and include material that is just about suitable for broadcast. One of the lines is “Ofcom can do one!” and at times you are left wondering whether the writers meant this literally. Every episode will have you stumbling across the odd expletive, a possible sexual innuendo and they even slip in a cheeky “penis” every now and then. But without these risqué jokes, ‘Not Suitable For Broadcast’ would lose its relatable spirit and personality which is vital to its success.
It sprouted from the imaginations of two students and now, nearly two years later, the time for the world premiere of Not Suitable For Broadcast is finally here. It is a triumph of comedic excellence and everyone involved should be proud. From speaking to the writers, I know that this project, although cliché, really was a team effort and they are incredibly grateful to everyone that has helped make this a reality. And now they would be even more grateful if you could take just an hour of your time to relax, get a drink and enjoy a bit of new and original comedy. Do they have a future in writing? Who knows, maybe – if they want it? But wouldn’t it be cool to say that you were there at the very start? Give it a listen – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And for a first attempt, it’s pretty damn good!
Catch Not Suitable for Broadcast on Bailrigg FM 87.7 on Monday Week 21 from 4pm.