Chickens And Big Bad World: Time To Bring Back The Live Studio Audience?

Chickens is like the unfunny bastard child of Horrible Histories

In the week when Beyoncé dropped a cool £1,500 in her local Nando’s, Sky kept the poultry theme going with the premiere of Chickens, the “brand new World War I comedy” (yes, you read that right) from Inbetweeners stars Joe Thomas and Simon Bird plus their old Cantabs buddy Jonny Sweet.

Sounds promising, right? Unfortunately Chickens was a clunker. Visually, it was Ripper Street goes to Cranford but without any violence, heaving bosoms or humour

Seriously: why was Sweet dressed as Captain Homer Jackson?

The jokes weren’t funny. The “humorous” graffiti daubed on the trio’s house wasn’t big or clever, and the anachronistic in-on-it nods to the audience — “It’s World War I you idiot” — were simply tedious.

Watch Horrible Histories instead. It’s much, much funnier.

Comedy Central
Comedy Central

The same night TVClaw watched the premiere of fellow Inbetweener Blake Harrison’s new show, Big Bad World.

It’s got a better cast and had a much more promising opener, but still hits some bum notes. (And not just the shock of seeing Caroline Quentin playing the mother of a bona fide grown up. Gary’s off making babies with the hot chick on Doc Martin, but Dorothy’s mother to a 35-year-0ld. Go figure.)

Lots of TV shows — most famously Seinfeld — got off to clunky starts and low ratings, but gradually found their rhythm and voice. It all got us thinking:  would Chickens and Big Bad World have benefited from being filmed in front of live studio audiences?

Lack of pace and poor timing from the actors is often minimised by hearing someone in the audience just getting the joke or groaning at how bad it is. Can you imagine The Young Ones or Black Adder without people cracking up in the background?

More importantly, if you’re performing crap jokes badly, in front of people who aren’t laughing, you know you have a problem to fix before the show airs.

The knowing, to-camera smiles and tics done so brilliantly in The Office don’t work for every show, so let’s stop pretending they do and bring back the audience.

It’s got to be cheaper than unleashing Bird et al. on the Cranford set and hoping for the best.

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