The Sketch Show (ITV1, 2001-2004)
The great comedy show where a quality quintet of performers came together to create a lot of laughs. There were no recurring characters or sketches, and no catchphrases, it was just a fast-paced show with lots of funny sketches. The cast had been in a few comedy shows before The Sketch Show started, and did go on to further success.
The cast for both series were Lee Mack, who had hosted a comedy show on Channel 4 and went on to have his own show on BBC1 who also wrote most of the sketches, the very funny Tim Vine who has appeared on a lot of shows, Jim Tavare who had his own show on BBC2 and Channel 5, and Karen Taylor who among other things went on to have her own show on BBC3.
They were joined in the first series by Ronni Ancona who left to concentrate on her work with Alistair McGowan, and she was replaced in the second series by the Australian actress Kitty Flanagan. Lee and Tim are also great stand-ups and went on to have further success in more recent years when they appeared in the BBC1 sitcom Not Going Out.
As is the nature of sketch shows the quality of the material did vary throughout the episodes but there were good performances by the cast all the way through, and the end of every episode featured a extended sketch featuring all five cast members. There were a few versions of the show made in other countries, including one in America in 2005 that featured Kelsey Grammer and Lee Mack from the original British version among the cast but it wasn’t a big success and it was dropped from the screen with a couple of episodes unaired.
I always liked watching The Sketch Show but unfortunately it was treated rather shabbily by ITV1 who didn’t really know what to do with comedy shows at the time. There were two series but the scheduling was very erratic with the show appearing in various timeslots. It seems that they didn’t even show the final two episodes as the ratings slumped which is very disappointing. The show hasn’t even been released on DVD in the UK either.
On the more positive side though, the first series did win a Bafta in 2002 for being the comedy show of the year and a few of the best sketches have turned up on YouTube which seem to be popular with viewers which is great.