I am an unashamed fan of US sitcoms. From mainstream behemoths like Friends through to the more esoteric but still brilliant Community, I love a broad spectrum. In fact, situation comedy seems to be a field where Americans are streets ahead of us, which should be unlikely for saying we created the likes of Fawlty Towers and Dad’s Army. Yet it seems to be the case that over the pond, both the quality and quantity of comedy is high.

One big reason for this, in my view, is that American writers are a lot less scared of allowing their sitcoms to have a heart-warming centre. I find it hard to think of many current British sitcoms where the characters offered warmth. Count Arthur Strong is one exception and (if reports are to be believed) Catastrophe is another. Other than that, there seems to be a competition to between British comedy writers to make their characters as despicable as possible.

This need for bleakness doesn’t pervade US comedy as much, with a few exceptions. By and large, Americans lack of fear of schmaltz endows their programmes with genuine cheer. Take Brooklyn Nine-Nine for example. Andy Samberg plays a brilliant but cocky cop. He is surrounded by a bizarre ensemble of co-workers, ranging from incompetent to perfectionist to terrifying. But, and here’s the crucial thing, they all like each other.

Perhaps the second reason that US sitcoms seem so strong is their long season lengths. Give a show 22 episodes and it is not surprising that the characters get to become more nuanced, and long-running storylines can be employed. Again Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a prime example. Peralta’s crush on Santiago only became a thing a good two-thirds into the first season, and was allowed to develop slowly over time, rather than rushed through in a couple of episodes. Likewise, Diaz and Boyle’s odd friendship slowly bubbles away in the background until the plot of a particular episode foregrounds it.

This is not to say that Britain must start aping its American cousins. When the ingredients come together British comedy still gets it just right – take for example Gavin & Stacey, which gave the warmth and depth we deserve. But this felt like a rare gem, and it shouldn’t. We need to stop being afraid of creating something too ‘nice’. Because when we aren’t so afraid, we have a reputation of making something really rather special.

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