Baddiel’s Syndrome (Sky One, 2001)
David Baddiel is a comedian who has been popular over the years, but his career had reached a difficult point. He had previously had success in a double-act with Rob Newman, and they were at the forefront of the “comedy is the new rock ‘n’ roll” movement, even appearing on the cover of music magazines, where the rock stars once used to be. He then went into a double-act with Frank Skinner that also did well.
But those days are now behind him. One day when he is at home, he walks into his front room, and there are some people sat on his sofa who he doesn’t recognise. There is a posh Englishman called Peter, along with the American Ethan. There is also Eva, who is from Slovenia or Latvia or some such country, who knows. He is just trying to live an ordinary life, including spending a lot of time in his local pub, but he has become trapped in a world full of zany comic actors.
They talk in unnatural ways and do rather bizarre things, only taking a break for a brief musical sting accompanied by a shot of a staircase between scenes. He begins to feel rather uncomfortable about all of this, so he decides to do the decent thing, and go and talk to someone about it. #britaingettalking His therapist is unseen, but is voiced by Stephen Fry (not that I am suggesting that he was probably too in-demand to appear in person, so he probably dashed off all of his dialogue in one session, even though I am).
What eventually becomes clear in these conversations is that David had a nice person from Sky One go up to him and wave a cheque with a rather big number on it, in the hope that he would write and appear in a sitcom for that satellite channel, following on from their other home-made comedy shows, including The Strangerers, Time Gentlemen Please, and Harry Enfield’s Big Load Of Nonsense (I think that’s what it was called).
Well he is very happy to oblige, and comes up with this 13 episode sitcom, which really does come across as an uncomfortable mix of Baddiel’s deadpan style and everyone else carrying on like a fifth-rate George Costanza. Oh, and Dave Lee Travis made a guest appearance in the first episode, and everything went downhill from there really.
He didn’t do it all by himself though, other writers included his brother Ivor and Jonathan Ross. Despite all of this, it’s fair to say that the response to Baddiel’s Syndrome was mixed. One critic whined “I’m truly angered by the effrontery of it all”. After this effort, Sky One practically gave up on making comedy, and went back to the tried and trusted imports in the schedule.