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Inn Mates

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David Thair | 17:25 UK time, Monday, 2 August 2010

John Warburton and Jon MontagueJohn Warburton and Executive Producer Jon Montague

Inn Mates is the first of three comedy pilots by new writers about to be shown on BBC Three. Here, creator John Warburton tells about one tricky hurdle of sitcom writing...

"Write what you know." That's what they tell us writers. Which is all bloody good and well as long as what you know hasn't already been written.

What if you were raised in a parochial house on a deserted island and worked summers in a book shop run by an angry drunken Irishman before going on to manage a Torquay hotel.
What are you going to write about then? Because lets be honest, Father Ted, Black Books and Fawlty Towers have all beaten you to it.

Of course, sitcom writing isn't about place, it's about character. That's another bit of gold from the people who tell us to write what we know. It's good advice and it's true. Sort of. No, that's not fair. It is true. Just that... well, you try pitching a sitcom set in a smoking room or a rag and bone yard and, regardless of the characters and see how far you get.

That's how I felt writing a sitcom set in a pub. I grew up in a pub. I loved it. I loved the regulars who came in each day with news of the problems, complications or victories which defined their lives. Loved the strangers who would sit mysteriously alone, loved the groups of friends who would go silent whenever you approached. I loved the fact that every single table had its own little world made up from the people sat around it.

But the pub sitcom is something which Cheers and Early Doors had already done so well. I wanted to write what I knew. I wanted to write about the people who come to pubs. But I wanted to make it unique. Then I had an idea whilst... in a pub. How about a pub sitcom where you never saw the bar?

The idea was simple: it was set at Sunday lunchtime in a sort of low class carvery type pub, and the whole show would just be dipping into the worlds of the people who were there, learning why they were there. It would be a single camera show, taking us from table to table. Every table of people would have an issue which needed resolving before the end of the episode.

I wrote it for the BBC College of Comedy, a scheme I was very proud to be involved with and which gave me the chance to be mentored in the writing of a script and then to have it performed to an industry audience at Television Centre.

I wrote it, we read it and I was very proud of it. There were a couple of problems. Mainly the fact that there were 21 characters in the cast and that the station I aimed it at - BBC Two - didn't have any slots available this side of the heat death of the universe.

BBC Three liked it, but wanted to see more. They wanted to see if the characters could live outside of the pub as well. So they commissioned a second script.

The second script is pretty much what we filmed. Although the Brian (Neil Morrissey) and Josh (Joe Tracini) scenes were from the first script, and we had to - for reasons of time and money - lose two old ladies who sit outside in the smoking area and insult everyone. Which was a shame, because they were really good insults.

For reasons of sanity we had to lose a lot of the other characters too. So what we were left with was a group of friends coming to terms with a quarter life crisis, two PCSOs who are desperately in love but lack the courage to confront their feelings, a mad man in a wheelchair, a sexually predacious landlady and a sperm donor dad who is being emotionally blackmailed by a son he never wanted.

And you also get to see the bar.

I hope you enjoy it. It's a sitcom set in a pub.

Watch Inn Mates - immediately!


  • Comment number 1.

    Loved the cat joke....hopefully the characters are kept real....Thought the Dad (Neil Morrissey) was off the mark....want to watch the next episode....Oh... an gisajob!

  • Comment number 2.

    The original idea about flitting between the tables of a low-class carvery establishment had promise.
    How many times have you sat at a table in a bar/restaurant and listened in on the conversation of the people at the next table?
    I liked the concept of 'Sunday Lunchers' and thought it would be a great opportunity to create a mosaic of characters and situations.
    Sadly after watching the pilot it appears to be less 'Early Doors' and more a sub 'Two Pints' immitation.
    Obviously someone interferred and destroyed the original vision - shame.
    Reading the above blog, I personally would have kept in the two old ladies and dumped some of the drunken loutish twenty-somethings. In fact a sitcom about two old women who sit outside a pub putting the world to rights and slagging off the regulars seems like it could be comedy gold - thanks...I'm off to start writing!


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