Ricky Gervais has held talks with Sky1 about two potential new shows for the channel.
Sky1 controller Stuart Murphy revealed that he had discussed the programme ideas over dinner with Gervais, co-creator of Sky1′s Karl Pilkington travel series An Idiot Abroad, in Edinburgh on Friday night.
He hinted that Gervais is keen to work with an (un-named) comedian on one of the shows. The second series would be based on an “unacceptable and un-PC character”.
“[It is] perfect and would go straight to series,” said Murphy, in an interview conducted by Richard Bacon at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival on Saturday. “There doesn’t need to be a discussion. On my side he is pushing against an open door.”
He said that while details such as the “shape” of the show and financing needed to be worked out, he was quite happy to commission Gervais “on the basis of a one-line brief”.
Murphy, who will have control of a £600m commissioning budget by 2014 for Sky1 and other BSkyB entertainment channels including Sky Atlantic, said that Sky already spends more on comedy programming than Channel 4 and will overtake the BBC next year.
Bacon pitched a question posed on Twitter about Sky’s “poaching” of talent including Davina McCall, James Corden and David Walliams – who present Sky1′s Got to Dance, A League of their Own and Wall of Fame respectively – from rival broadcasters.
“‘Poach’ is quite a strong word,” said Murphy, who nevertheless admitted he tried to “nick” Gavin & Stacey stars Corden and Ruth Jones, with whom he worked in his previous role as controller of BBC3.
“I didn’t realise Davina, Corden and Walliams were exclusive to one channel. That is an immature view. I don’t see it as poaching other channel’s talent,” he added.
After failing to land Gavin & Stacey, Murphy said that he “picked off the cast one by one” with commissions for shows on Sky.
He said that he would look to adopt a similar strategy with the cast of The Inbetweeners after failing in a bid to take the show wholesale from Channel 4.
“I tried to nick The Inbetweeners at Sky but it didn’t happen,” he added. “I really want to work with them. I’m going to make sure it happens.”
He said that it was harder to make a hit using “unknowns”, adding that discovering new talent is more in the remit of the licence fee-funded BBC. Sky’s strategy was more to leverage “established talent”.
He admitted that Walliams’s recent Sky1 series, panel show Wall of Fame, had not been the success he had hoped for.
“It didn’t rate as highly as I wanted it to rate,” he said, adding that he had not spoken to Walliams about whether the show would return. “It is pointless banging on about taking risks and when it is a failure you run away from it.”
He said that there were two sides to Walliams: the “Gucci, Prada, art gallery visiting sophisticat” and the “David in a dress who mucks about and looks ridiculous”.
Wall of Fame made a mistake using “Prada David” and stranding him motionless behind a desk, Murphy admitted.
“It’s like handicapping one’s talent,” he said. “I kicked myself that he was sitting down.”
Murphy also outlined a wish list of types of shows that he would like to see appear on Sky, including a comedy similar ITV1′s Benidorm – which he said he has no intention of poaching – and a live entertainment format that marries elements of Channel 4′s The Million Pound Drop Live and ITV’s The Cube.
In factual entertainment he said that he “looked at admiration” at shows such as MasterChef and The Apprentice.
While he said that Sky probably would not look for a format based in the business world, if he did it would need to have “genuine jeopardy” well beyond the low-risk applicants of The Apprentice.
He also said that Sky is on the hunt for something pre-watershed at 8pm that was “different, naughty family, edgy” and will set the broadcaster apart from Doctor Who on the BBC.
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