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
    -5

    Comment number 4.

    This was awful. It made me cringe, it was so unfunny. Individually I usually enjoy David Walliams and Catherine Tate but I certainly will not be watching again.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 2.

    When i saw the cast list i thought this would be a cracker, how wrong can one be. Funny... this is not. won't be watching again, i see this being dumped very quickly, what a wast of money and time.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 3.

    Oh dear. That was painful to watch. Talented actors given corny and old fashioned lines. Predictable characters and a concept seemingly stolen from Please Sir. And the blog above is excruciating too (the wi fi joke .....really?)

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 9.

    Great cast
    About as funny as a public hanging .After ten minutes I was wishing there where adverts didn't last to 12 minutes watched a repeat on quest

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 18.

    Why do TV writers insist on portraying teachers as pathetic, desperate, child-fearing fools, and students as N-Dubz loving, slang-speaking, education-hating cretins? The first episode of BBC1’s new comedy ‘Big School’ had me weeping into my Favourite Teacher mug as I endured the oldest entries in the Big Book of Teaching Jokes, namely that teachers have no control over children; that British schools are made up of classes of half a dozen students (oh for this to be the case!) all called Champagne & Brooklyn; and that PE teachers are imbeciles who can’t tell their arse from their tennis elbow.
    Can’t the illustrious writers of the BBC comedy department come up with anything better than these hackneyed platitudes? We all love to reminisce about the good old days when class sizes were smaller, behaviour management was an unknown necessity and teachers lived in tweeds, but that really hasn’t been the case for a good while now and the TV world needs to move on.
    Personally I would much rather see writers draw comedy from the real experiences of schools today, such comedic goldmines as the frantic, nausea-inducing façade that is an Ofsted inspection, or the hilarity of the slightly more mature staff members trying to master electronic progress-tracking systems and the wonder that is email. The only programme in recent production that has given any insight into what school life is really like is Channel 4’s fantastic ‘Educating Essex’, which only managed this feat by recording hours and hours of real footage – in a real school. In this we saw the truth: teachers who are highly educated and highly skilled, who will do anything – and I mean anything – to help kids get the grades they deserve. We were introduced to hard-working students who aspire to be the best they can be. We were shown that students who disrupt learning are in fact in a very small minority, and that the majority are actually delightful, funny, wildly entertaining human beings who make our jobs worth doing. Having taught in a pretty average secondary school for the last five years I can guarantee you that the characters portrayed in Greybridge School just don’t exist in teaching today, most of all because they wouldn’t last! We on the inside know that teachers need to be made of stronger stuff than the pathetic Mr Church, and that students work damn hard to get the grades they achieve. It’s high time everyone else knows this too. BBC, I implore you – write something funny about teaching, because with this show you’ve embarrassed me, and you’ve embarrassed yourself.

 

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