In the early 2000s, Sky One was attempting to simulate the US sitcoms of the time a little more than other channels. Baddiel’s Syndrome was shot to resemble one, and was given an extended run to find its feet. It was being pushed by the PR types as Britain’s answer to Seinfeld, as if that show was asking a question of us. I think it was an unfair framing, and probably didn’t really help Baddiel’s Syndrome.
‘I am not a very good actor,’ says David Baddiel, … ‘but there has been a tradition in America of taking people who have got successful stand-up personas and just giving them legs – putting them in dramatic and narrative situations. Seinfeld, Roseanne, Bob Newhart … That hasn’t happened much in this country, rather oddly.’The Guardian
David Baddiel wrote the series, alongside Pete Bradshaw, with a team of writers adding to each script.
Bradshaw, too, is excited by the American comedy model. ‘It’s more intensively farmed,’ he says. ‘I mean, take a British sitcom like Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies. I’ve got no problem with it; I think it’s quite amusing. But it’s very gentle, and it just lies there, and you just have to go up and cuddle it, basically. Whereas with American sitcoms like Friends or Seinfeld, every line has been crafted to punch or gouge out a laugh.ibid
Using dinnerladies to highlight this point is an interesting one, because dinnerladies was also borrowing elements from the US pipeline, using two recordings and on set rewrites to craft a better show as it went along.
Syndrome was initially a pilot with ITV, who passed on it, before Sky snapped it up for £5m.
There’s a little bit of (probably engineered snootiness) in the promo for this sitcom. A whole US sitcoms are better than UK ones by default, even citing Last Of The Summer Wine as vomit-inducing, again something which didn’t endear me to the project at the time, even though I did watch it to begin with.
They made 13 episodes, which aired in the first quarter of 2001. Ultimately, it feels like what it is – a show trying to be something else rather than it’s own thing.