Jimmy Akingbola, the host of ITV’s new panel show Sorry, I Didn’t Know, has criticised the use of the term “black comedy” as a genre.
The actor made the comments in a Radio Times article about how he struggled to get his series, which focusses on black history, commissioned by any major broadcasters.
Akingbola said the idea had originally been rejected when a pilot was made in 2016, with executives saying it did not appeal to audiences. However, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, ITV’s director of television, Kevin Lygo, gave it the green light.
“I don’t feel that audiences have changed that much,” Akingbola wrote. “But the need to serve them properly has increased exponentially in no small part due to the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent outcry from communities bringing a spotlight to the lack of inclusion, access and, quite frankly, the rise of racism.”
He added: “We don’t call QI a show about ‘white’ history. Although very few people of colour appear on its panels or within its questions, it’s just a history show. A damn good one.
"On the other side of the spectrum, shows such as Desmond’s or In the Long Run, of which I’m proud to be a part, are labelled as ‘black’ comedies, even though Only Fools and Horses or The Office are never referred to as ‘white’ ones.”
Akingbola said he hoped that Sorry, I Didn’t Know, which will air on ITV throughout Black History Month, would pave the way for more diverse commissioning in British TV. “With the show we want to challenge this perception that black content does not appeal to mainstream audiences,” he said.
“We hope that it can be the beginning of more of this type of content. I hope to see non-tokenised shows throughout the year.”
Sorry I Didn't Know will start at 10:45pm on ITV on Tuesday, 6 October.