Sharon Horgan is a bigger fan of the UK TV pitching system than the U.S., to say the least.
“No one lies to you [in the UK],” she told a BBC Comedy Festival keynote this afternoon. “You don’t get bullsh**ted. I’ve been in U.S. [pitching] rooms where they tell you a show is happening, you leave the room, and then get told 30 minutes later that they’re not going to do it.”
The creator of Apple TV+’s double-BAFTA-winning Bad Sisters said things have improved in U.S. pitching since Covid-19 begat the Zoom revolution, however, as she considered how in the past there was a “drama and theater” to pitching that has died down.
“Your pitch now has to be a maximum of 20 minutes so you have to be condensed,” she added. “Whether it’s IP or a new format, you just have to do it really succinctly and not prattle on.”
Horgan, whose Merman TV shingle has a UK and U.S. slate, also praised the UK practice of taking a hands-off approach to note-giving, compared with execs across the pond.
“I’ve always felt like you get notes [in the UK] when you need them, not for the sake of it,” she added. “There’s real trust for your original vision. Whereas in the U.S. studio system, the studio is pre-empting what your network will say, so you have this extra barrier. It’s frustrating.”
At BAFTA last weekend, where Bad Sisters won for Best Drama Series and Best Supporting Actress, Horgan revealed she has joined the writers strike for her U.S. projects but is continuing to work on Season 2 of Bad Sisters.
Breaking down barriers
During a one-hour Comedy Festival keynote in which she talked the Cardiff audience through her decorated career, Horgan spoke about her approach to breaking down barriers between comedy and drama.
“The great thing about doing a drama is the realization that comedy is still really important,” said Horgan, flagging huge TV successes with funny beats such as Succession and Breaking Bad. “You’ve got to make time for comedy.”
On Bad Sisters, Horgan “never thought ‘well this is a drama so I have to approach it in a different way’ – it’s the same old shit,” she added.
Given that the show is comprised of 10 one-hour episodes, Horgan said the main difference from a comedy was the time it took to complete. The writers room, which spanned the Covid-19 period, featured 10 scribes, all of whom had different skills.
Although she had the Flemish original to use for “working out cliffhangers” and other beats, Horgan said the team wanted to “go our own route” with Bad Sisters.
“When you’re adapting something, you really want to make it your own or find your voice,” she added.
One of those routes was filming in her native Ireland.
“Making Bad Sisters in Ireland was a dream come true,” she explained. “I’d been wanting to film there for a really long time. Something in the atmosphere made me think it would translate best there.”