Big School: Writing with comedy greats

Thursday 15 August 2013, 11:41

The Dawson Bros The Dawson Bros Writers

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Collaboration was at the heart of Big School, a sitcom conceived by David Walliams (the swimmer turned actor who also plays Mr Church) but written, from the very first draft of episode one, by four people: David himself and us Dawson Bros (who can neither act nor swim).

The Dawson Bros are Andrew and Steve Dawson, the brothers, and Tim Inman their professionally adopted sibling - and we’ve been collaborating with each other now for 21 years.

Admittedly at the beginning we were just kids mucking about with Dixons' cheapest video camera making bad comedy that no one but our friends ever saw (thankfully YouTube didn’t exist) but it still technically counts as collaboration.

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Mr Church's (David Walliams) attempt to make science fun blows up in his face

The upshot is we three have a pretty developed way of working together and are fortunate to have writing partners very much on the same wavelength (or for the youngsters reading, ‘wifi network’).

It’s great! We share the same reference points, we’ve been through the same experiences together, developed the same shorthand and have heavily overlapping senses of humour.

And while working as a three has its disadvantages versus solo/duo writing (principally that we have to work enough to pay three mortgages) it also has its advantages: debates can easily be settled with a two-one majority.

So what happened to this finely honed comedy writing dynamic when we were asked to collaborate with the multi-award-winning comedian and estuary paddling Roald Dahl plagiarist David Walliams?

Well we spent an incredible six months sitting together in a small rented office making each other laugh, exactly as the three of us had done when we made our home videos two decades ago.

To our newly formed quartet David brought years of comedy experience, a world class understanding of character and killer dialogue. We brought the biscuits.

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Miss Postern (Catherine Tate) makes an impression at her first assembly

But the collaboration doesn’t end there. In later drafts Catherine Tate, a comedy writing genius in her own right, worked with us four to refine her character Miss Postern.

So it was actually a quintet. And throughout the whole process we were expertly guided by script notes from comedic oracle David Baddiel. Sextet?

And we haven’t even gone into the essential contribution of the dream cast, elite producers and talented behind the scenes crew who brought Big School into existence. About 10 nonets (thank you Wikipedia).

As you can hopefully tell by now making a sitcom is a hugely collaborative process. So if you watch Big School and don’t like it remember absolutely loads of people made it not just us, OK?

But if you watch it and love it then, you know, it was kind of basically all down to us three.

Collaboration!

The Dawson Bros (Andrew Dawson, Steve Dawson and Tim Inman) are the co-writers of Big School.

Big School begins on Friday, 16 August at 9pm on BBC One and BBC One HD. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

More on Big School
The Independent: Remains of the school day: David Walliams and Catherine Tate in Big School

WalesOnline: It's an education teaching at the school of hard knocks for comic actor Steve Speirs

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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Comments

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 21.

    So Dawson Bros, no apologies for slagging off the Welsh character with the utterly disgraceful reference yet again ( It happened very recently in New Tricks too) of Welsh people being "sheep shaggers". I know of not one person who has ever done that but sad to say I do have a daughter who teaches and she no longer tells her students that she's from Wales because the reaction has mirrored the scene in your "comedy". It wasn't funny when it happened in real life and with this "comedy" you are doing nothing more than helping to perpetuate exactly that kind of attitude. Bottom line is would you have made a reference to let's say someone of Asian appearance as a bomber? You bet your life you wouldn't AND if you had you would never have got away with it.
    Good comedy does not need to continually get laughs at other peoples expense.
    Finally, as an excersise in school bullying it was undoubtedly invaluable.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 22.

    Having been away on holiday I have just watched Big School on catch up. As a teacher in a Secondary school I thought it was fantastic! I

    Like all the best comedies all the characters are recognisable although larger than life.

    I laughed out loud so much that one of my sons came to find out what I was laughing at. He said that he had watched Big School and also found it funny.

    I am really looking forward to Friday's episode. Well Done!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 23.

    I have just seen the second show (thanks to a contact at the BBC) and I must say it's the best one so far. The characters are starting to find their feet, the humour is spot-on (I laughed out loud at one point and that rarely happens) and theres a nice running gag involving one of the characters who is pretending to be something he isn't. (I think there's also a dig at Simon Cowell at one point, I'll have to watch it again to be sure) Anyway, congrats to all involved

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 24.

    My husband and I really enjoyed it and having insisted that my friend watch it on i-Player yesterday she agrees. We all can't wait for the next episode. I have to say that I am really surprised at some of the comments. Yes it's not intellectual comedy but as a refreshing change it really cheered us up.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 25.

    Ooh, what a disappointment. I don't think it's anything to do with being thoroughly researched. It just wasn't funny.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 26.

    For the first 10 minutes I thought it was a gentle drama. It turns out it's supposed to be a comedy. I was amazed how bad this was. It was almost devoid of anything resembling comedy. Two things I kept thinking whilst watching it were; how did no one see how bad this was when they read the script, and, what a total waste of a stellar cast (including a very sexy Catherine Tate).

    Maybe it was commissioned by the same executives who thought 'The Wright Way' was comedy gold?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 27.

    Love it or loath it so it would seem. But why are most of those who loath it so angry and vitriolic with their comments? The implication is that their anger is getting in the way of their enjoyment of what, at the end of the day, is just a bit of irreverent nonsense.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 28.

    I loved 'Big School', very funny and great acting. I will definitely be watching again. Well done for making a good comedy show that takes me back to my youth.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 29.

    I do like it, and find rather funny, well done. I would like to start writing comedy sketches and wonder if you could tell me the format a script should be written in, or send me a sample of a script, so I can get the layout right. don't worry, I think your jobs will be safe for quite some time..

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 30.

    It was said that it took 6 months to write the script. This was 6 months better spent. "Bad Education", "Some Girls" and "The Inbetweeners" are far better.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 31.

    I too was surprised at the nastiness of the previous comments. Ok it wasn't quite what I expected from the amazing cast but, it made me laugh & I came back for the 2nd episode. It's light & frothy & very watchable. I will be watching all the rest of the series too & what more can you say for a half hour of comedy that has just started?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 32.

    Before the first episode seeing that David Walliams was to play "Mr Church" made me have to watch it and see how much like me the character is. The main similarity is the love of Chemistry though I am a trainee in the primary sector so I know the Dawson brothers haven't been stalking me haha. Though it is funny as if I went to secondary I would be a chemistry teacher!
    Whilst it does indeed demonstrate poor behaviour management skills that would fail training, it is comedy meant to be larger than life but Waterloo Road also demonstrates similar characteristics in a more realistic programme and should be more accurate. Before training I would have imagined myself as a Walliams like teacher before I learnt that you need to be assertive (though I do aim to develop appropriate humour in my teaching).
    Finally just to add that it was very funny.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 33.

    David Walliams is rubbish.I can't think of anything he has done that is funny.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 34.

    Bloody great comedy. To the writers: don't listen to the naysayers. Bleeding grumpy gits.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 35.

    Big School is not a disappointment, far from it. Watching both episodes so far, there are so many laugh out loud moments. The characters are believable and are settling in well. For those viewers that have never worked in a senior school: yes there are teachers like that, some that have egos bigger than the curriculum and that get into situations far worse than we the audience have been given an insight into.
    Dawson Brothers, you've done a great job with David and everyone else that were privileged to have an input. My friend and colleague, and I have recently taken early retirement from a senior school and have emailed David, via his agent, to congratulate him on Big School, and to let him know that we have a wealth of research ideas for him, (and of course you, the Dawson Bros now we know) for the next series - all taken from real situations, unbelievably funny and perfect for Big School.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 36.

    As someone who works as a teaching assistant in a large comprehensive, I particularly enjoyed episode 2. The portrayal of the kids is incidental & true to life unlike that of the teachers, however the characters are hilarious. At times I laugh out loud, such as the French teacher who hasn't been to France but who would perhaps one day just drop everything & take a day trip there. The headmistress is outrageous.
    Looking forward to rest of series

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 37.

    I would never normally be part of a blog community but just had to be part of this blog as I am going to be laughing for weeks to come after watching Big School. Absolutely amazing David Walliams and Catherine Tate at her best. Can't wait for the next episode. If you need a pick me up this programme will not disappoint. The scene with the kid in detention was the best I nearly fell of the chair.laughing. TV at it's finest.Well done every one involved in making this.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 38.

    I am shocked at some of the negative comments, I feel I want to rant, these are some of our finest comedy actors/writers of this time!!! I laughed for 30 minutes, shed a few tears too, its classic british comedy at its best.
    For the rant, no need.

    6.Team_Armchair "we fans will be laughing at them, for not getting it" ... exactly.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 39.

    Second episode started promisingly unfortunately the talent show idea didn't work in my view.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 40.

    Loved it, laughed throughout show the relationship in the love triangle is hysterical the Headmistress making everyone stand in her room is nothing short of genius

 

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