25 March 2011
I've never met anybody who likes My Family, but the show has been absolutely massive for the BBC. It's one of those programmes lapped up by the silent majority, the people who don't go on forums, write blogs, use social networking facilities or read the TV criticisms in newspapers.
I reckon I've seen about six episodes in total, and all back in its earliest days when Daniela Denby-Ashe was learning how to deliver punchlines after a few years as an archetypally morose teenager - and a religious nut to boot - on EastEnders.
My only reliable memory is of how good the then unknown Kris Marshall was. Maybe he was the best thing in it, despite the obvious pedigree of the duo that play the parents. Robert Lindsay is one of our outstanding actors, of course, but in interviews I've always thought him somewhat humourless, and maybe this feeling carries over into his sitcom work. I certainly remember people starting to go off My Family when Marshall, a natural comic actor who played the eldest child and a giggling, spaced out hoon with ludicrous ambitions, quit.
I haven't seen it for years so I can't comment on whether today's news of its demise is a good thing. The comments I read do, of course, welcome its exit. But then again the "gentle" sitcom depicting ordinary life has always been undervalued by the sector of audience that wants to be challenged by television all the time, and people from that sector tend to dominate the opinion-forming in this country. If they didn't, then Ever Decreasing Circles would be up there with Porridge and Only Fools And Horses as one of the best British sitcoms ever. And, to my huge regret, it isn't.
The actors all in My Family will get work and the audience will get a new sitcom of pre-watershed ubiquity. The sneerers who cheer today's decision will undoubtedly get another show to target for its safety and unchallenging nature for their Friday evenings when, in truth, they should be out on the town or at the very least watching something else that does suit them. The simplest way to air your disappointment or disapproval in a programme is not to watch it in the first place, rather than watch it and then whine about it. You're still contributing to the viewing figures that way, and prolonging its life!