Lizzie and Sarah, The BBC’s Secret Sitcom

On Saturday night at the odd time of 11.25pm on BBC Two the pilot of a new comedy aired. The show was Lizzie and Sarah which was written by and starred Jessica Hynes and Julia Davies. The pilot was… quite good.

British comedy these days is an odd thing, most shows either falling into classic sitcom formats that ultimately don’t satisfy or are quite dark and disturbing experiences that alienate most viewers. Lizzie and Sarah was the latter. I did like the show but for the most part didn’t really see it as a comedy, at least not entirely. The greater part of the episode was taken up with showing the dire state of the lives of the leads, which was admittedly done really well and was genuinely moving. It seems that if you present something that is both emotionally effective and a bit surreal it has to be classed as a comedy. Psychoville was similarly a bit genre-confused.

Obviously the pilot was designed to set up an, as yet uncommissioned, series and so can’t be fully appreciated until that series is made. The weirdest thing about the whole debacle was that it was broadcast so late on a Saturday night; it’s not the best place to test out a new comedy as it takes a lot of effort to watch. Even odder is the complete lack of promotion which made sure that no one would know to watch it and the late time slot ensured no one would stumble across it.

I imagine the BBC thought these two comedy queens, who have brought us Spaced and Nighty Night, would write a great comedy together then got cold feet when they saw the dark humour that was produced. To look like they were giving it a fair chance they aired the pilot, but hid it sufficiently so it would get few enough views to not have to pick it up for a series. Personally I’d prefer a bit more Lizzie and Sarah and a bit less Big Top-esque comedy.

You can watch Lizzie and Sarah on BBC iPlayer, but I’ll warn you it won’t suit everyone.