Cue the dramatic music. It’s time to name the winner of our Sitcom Search
Back in late August – a distant, innocent time when Gangnam Style was a mere internet curio and Kate Middleton’s sunbathing habits hadn’t become a political talking point – we started our Sitcom Search. The idea was simple and the prize was, if we say so ourselves, tantalisingly impressive.
As well as the opportunity to have an excerpt of their script published in the magazine, we were offering one budding comedy writer (or writing team) a £5,000 development deal with Big Talk and Comedy Central UK in exchange for an outrageously funny sitcom idea and script sample.
Simply put, all you had to do was make our judging panel – ShortList editor Martin Robinson, Big Talk CEO Kenton Allen, MD of Comedy Central UK Jill Offman and Friday Night Dinner creator Robert Popper – laugh to earn the chance to transform that idle funny notion you’d had in the pub into an actual TV show.
We thought we’d have a few hundred entries to sift through. We couldn’t have been more wrong: 2,136 10-page script samples had been submitted by the time the competition closed at the end of September. It was an overwhelming response that – to the voluble annoyance of a number of nail-chewing entrants – meant we had to extend the judging process.
After weeks of reading scripts about everything from lazy security guards to retired super villains, our judging panel cut it down to 40, then five scripts. These finalists – Laura Fountain (Dumped), Martin Holmes (Siblings), Daniel Hobden (A Month Of Sundays), Abby Woolf (The Motherhood), and Nathan Thomas and Daniel Berg (Hated) – were then whisked off to workshop their ideas and hone their scripts alongside star comedy writers Tom MacRae (Threesome), Jon Brown (Fresh Meat), Stefan Golaszewski (Him & Her), James Wood (Rev) and Jack Thorne (The Fades). They resubmitted final versions of their scripts and our judges were locked in a room with several buckets of strong coffee before they came to a decision. Not a simple task considering the panel spotted real promise in the scattered stacks of A4.
Arguments were smoothed over, biscuits were sent for and, hours later, the judges reached a consensus. Which means that we’re happy to usher in an entirely theoretical drumroll and announce the winner of our Sitcom Search….
And it’s Daniel Hobden (picture 1) with his script A Month Of Sundays, an autobiographical sitcom pitch about a young lad from Hull called Dan (well, it works for Larry David) who’s desperately searching for a job and an escape from the city. It has a realistically portrayed love interest, it has bad dancing, it has a great bit about the inherent awkwardness of the male fist bump.
The judges felt that Daniel’s entry was funny, fresh and had a distinctive take and voice. “It has good observations about what life is really like,” noted Kenton Allen. “Daniel clearly has an ear for comedy.” Robert Popper praised the script’s “attitude” and Martin Robinson saluted the “truth and accuracy” of the jokily morbid East Yorkshire dialogue. “Daniel had a real, personal take on a common situation,” said Jill Offman. “And he knows funny. I’m keen to hear more of his ideas and help him develop them.”
Daniel, a 27-year-old civil servant from Brough, was bowled over when we told him the news. “It’s amazing,” he said. “They always say write what you know, so that’s what I did. Before this, the only thing I’d written was a best man’s speech. I have a few ideas and can’t wait to get working on it.”
He’ll now be invited into Big Talk and Comedy Central’s top secret incubator (well, London offices) to script a full episode of A Month Of Sundays, hone his craft and talk through his ideas with their respective development teams. We can only hope it will be the beginning of an exciting, Bafta-snaffling career. But before that, here’s a short sample of he script that won our inaugural Sitcom Search...