The BBC College of Comedy was established in 2008 to select a group of writers early in their careers and accelerate their development through workshops with and mentoring by comedy experts. The college year ended with a showcase in March 2009, and of the scripts developed under the scheme, Sunday Lunchers by John Warburton made a real impact.

It was a show with a large cast, set in a pub at, oddly, Sunday lunchtime, and the script visited the various dramas taking place around the tables and in the booths. Among the cast was Joe Tracini from Coming of Age, playing the product of a sperm donation desperately in search of a father.

The piece was warmly received by the audience, and there was enthusiasm first from Lucy Lumsden, then the BBC's comedy commissioner, and subsequently from Danny Cohen, the Controller of BBC3.

However, Danny felt that the all-in-one-place, Sunday lunchtime setting was a bit limiting, and suggested that the show should get out and about more, following people's lives. We discussed with John a smaller cast so that the audience could focus on a more manageable group of people, and where physically the show might be set. We also focused on what the show was about in an overall sense, and what it should be called.

And that was the beginning of the journey which turned Sunday Lunchers into The Inn Mates, taking as the basis that it's a show about friendship, about relationships, and about finding your place in the world.

John first had a go at rewriting the original script, but it seemed to make more sense for him to write another one to the new brief rather than making the old one fit. The second script seemed so fresh and funny that we decided to import one strand from the original and make the second script the pilot.

We knew that we wanted Joe Tracini to reprise his role, but we also needed an unexpected and interesting actor to play his 'father'. It was gratifying both that Neil Morrissey liked it, and that he was free for our filming dates in May. Meanwhile, our casting priority was to find fresh, funny actors who, like the writers in the college, had done a bit but not a lot.

The results are now out in the world (online at with a TV transmission at 9.30pm on Monday 9 August) and it's over to the audience to tell us how we did, and whether they would like to see more. The point of a pilot is to test things out, to see what works and what might not work, so we'll be eagerly waiting for comments.

Meanwhile, the second year of the college produced some excellent writing, some interesting projects, firm interest in the writers, but no pilot, although that would have been the icing on the cupcake.

Now, in its third year, we're running the scheme in a different way, with three targeted initiatives being planned. We're close to having everything in place, and I'll announce what's happening here as soon as I can.


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  • Comment number 20. Posted by Micheal Jacob

    on 30 Aug 2010 10:35

    Sorry not to respond, CURBLD, I've been on holiday.

    I'll announce the third thing as soon as I can.

  • Comment number 19. Posted by CURBLD

    on 19 Aug 2010 19:50

    Micheal, congratulations on getting Inn Mates to the screen - hope you manage a full series.
    I was looking forward to this year's College of Comedy but - from what I've read so far - the two competitions are not for me. I hope the 3rd strand is going to be more flexible and chilled out. Any chance of an exclusive?

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  • Comment number 18. Posted by Micheal Jacob

    on 10 Aug 2010 12:41

    Thanks for that, Mrs Malaprop. Interesting and useful points.

  • Comment number 17. Posted by denbocheatalot

    on 10 Aug 2010 11:26

    There was a good writer hidden under a visual onslaught of a fast paced kaleidoscope of warhol-like colour.The protagonist - Morrissey was swamped by the other characters - few is okay but less is special. There were lots of good 'jokes' and sketch-like qualities to it but the jokes were lost on characters (any one of them could have told them) and the sketches symptomatic of no STORY to tell. The gay dad/nerdy son is a strong plot line and I thought the 'scatty' girl behaving badly was a great subplot line - the old 'men behaving badly' story with an interesting twist. With Morrissey in a lead role and the scatty girl it would make an instantly recognizable comedy that (because of what's gone before) would also be memorable. It smelt a bit like two pints of lager... Still, just to reiterate, a good writer, a good idea.

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  • Comment number 16. Posted by Micheal Jacob

    on 10 Aug 2010 09:13

    @Juggles - thank you for that. I hope we can build on the pilot, but that's out of our hands.

    @Mrs M - electronic is fine.

  • Comment number 15. Posted by mrs_mourinho_i_wish

    on 10 Aug 2010 08:02

    That would be very helpful indeed, Micheal. Thank you so much for offering.

    I'm in the midst of a re-write currently but aim to be finished within the next fortnight. What would be the best way of getting it to you - email it or via writersroom?

    Kind regards,
    Mrs M

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  • Comment number 14. Posted by juggles

    on 10 Aug 2010 06:34

    John Warburton must be over the moon about going from College of Comedy to pilot. Inn Mates is not for 'us' oldies but I thought it a good production and can see how a young audience would go for it. A lot was fitted into the half hour and a lot of characters but I liked them all particularly the 'nerd' and his dad. In my younger days I would have been belly-laughing, particularly when Blue snorted the short and fell flat on her back; but ones humour must change over the decades and so that only raised a chuckle for me. The 'cops' could have played it straighter, I thought, but guess that's a nitpick.
    Anyway, well done and I do hope there's a series to follow.

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  • Comment number 13. Posted by Micheal Jacob

    on 9 Aug 2010 10:32

    @Piers - greetings from Miniluv.

  • Comment number 12. Posted by Piers

    on 9 Aug 2010 10:22

    I don't know what you can possibly be talking about, Micheál.

    There has never been an advert for Hair Straighteners on this blog. And we have always been at war with Eurasia.

  • Comment number 11. Posted by Micheal Jacob

    on 9 Aug 2010 09:43

    No worries Juggles - it's a laid-back blog, though I'm not sure that I really need hair products. Somehow I feel this post might be disappearing!

    I hope Jose enjoyed grilling the supper sardines, Mrs M, while you worked. I'd be happy to look at your script if that would be helpful.

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