Aaron Ryan’s story about Australian drama and the ability of networks to claim
drama points for sketch comedy is interesting (yesterday, item 22). My company is producing both
drama and sketch comedy at the moment.

Ryan poses the question whether
there is “any meaningful sense in which sketch comedy could be considered

The reason it was included in the quota in 1995 is still relevant
today. Sketch comedy is fully scripted and employs actors, writers,
wardrobe, art departments and has the same post production requirements
as a pure drama program. The union and guild representing actors and
writers supported the 1995 inclusion of sketch in the drama definition
because the only difference between sketch and series drama is that the
stories are much shorter. There are many more costume changes and
locations used. But it is still fully scripted and employs the same
production techniques as pure drama.

Elitists in the drama area always mount the same arguments as you
have published. But why should a show that simply has a continuing storyline
be better than a fully scripted sketch comedy series? There is not much real
cost difference to the networks in commissioning drama v sketch comedy – but
more people will watch a sketch comedy show at 10.30pm than a drama. The quality
of the audience is better and comedy normally skews to a younger audience. If
comedy is the way to get more young Australians watching our productions, then
surely that is good news?

Personally I am just as proud of our sketch
show for Ten, the Ronnie Johns Half Hour, as I am of our drama – the telemovie
series BlackJack which screens on Ten and BBC1 in the UK. They both attract a
loyal audience and are great fun to make. In fact in many ways the sketch show
is harder to make than the drama.

I wouldn’t want to see the
screens dominated by one style of drama but as long as there is a balance between
serial and series drama, high end telemovies and miniseries and sketch comedy,
there is no reason to remove sketch comedy from the quota, especially given that
many of our most highly regarded performers like Gina Riley, Eric Bana, Jane
Turner, Glenn Robbins, Magda Szubanski and Shaun Micallef and creative teams
like Working Dog all came from sketch comedy backgrounds. If sketch turns out
talent like this, the networks should be rewarded for taking the risk on a new
generation of sketch comedy talent. That is what inclusion in the drama quota