EP50 – Graham Smith – Former Commissioning Executive for Channel 4 and Channel Five

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EP50 – Graham Smith – Former Commissioning Executive for Channel 4 and Channel Five

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Total run time: 1 hour 08 mins 58 secs.

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About Graham Smith…

Graham (@mrgrahamksmith) has been an Executive Producer for the BBC and a Commissioning Executive for Channel 4 and Channel Five. He has also run his own successful independent production company.

He’s currently the co-founder and owner of Grand Scheme Media (@grand_scheme).

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Here’s a list of questions we covered…

Head of Comedy & Entertainment – Channel 5…


  • What do you think makes a good TV pitch?
  • Do you think it’s about playing the game and playing to their tone of voice? [6 mins 52 secs]
  • Do you think TV shows break comedians still? Iain Coyle doesn’t think it does. [9 mins 18 secs]
  1. Nick Helm – Uncle
  2. Josh Widdicombe
  3. Joe Lycett – his episode of the podcast


  • Do you think channels are becoming risk adverse? Has this changed since you were a commissioner?  [12 mins 34 secs]
  1. Might Boosh
  • Do you think plus one channels are now outdated because of on demand players? [16 mins 41 secs]

Channel 4

  • Spaced – if we take that as an example, can you talk me through how long that took to get made and what the pitch process was like? [4 mins 8 secs]

TV Production…

  • What do you think of sites like YouTube which give creators the power to build their own fan base? [8mins 10 secs]
  • How do you help mould ideas for TV? Does a person come to you with an idea and you talk them through the best places to pitch?
  • Is it harder to work with comedians with or without agents given there’s more people involved I’d imagine it would be harder.

Other TV Questions…

  • What do you think of NetFlix investing in more original content and TV shows?
  • You’ve worked for Channel 5, the BBC and Channel 4. Where do you see the future of terrestrial broadcasting going for comedy? [24 mins 34 secs]
  • Do you factor in the viewer’s second screen experience in your design for a TV show? [22 mins]
  • Can advertising sustain TV? Or do we need a new system to fund shows and support shows? [32 mins]
  1. Mid Morning Matters
  2. Alan Partridge
  3. Stewart Lee
  4. Amanda Palmer – Dresden Dolls
  5. Louis CK
  • What do you think of Twitter and hashtags for TV shows? [18 mins]
  1. Last man on Earth
  2. True Detective
  3. Breaking Bad
  4. Transparent
  5. Inside No 9
  6. The Midnight Beast
  7. Joe Charman’s Episode
  8. Anne’s Podcast

TV Development…

  • At what stage should someone approach Grand Schemes if they have an idea? [0 mins 28 secs]
  • What programs do you not like to work on? [45 mins 24 secs]
  • What comedy programs do you like to work on? [45 mins 24 secs]
  • What deal breakers do you have when working with someone?  [45 mins 24 secs]

Everything Else…

  • What are the best books on comedy, writing, stand up etc you’ve read? [49 mins 35 secs]
  1. John Yorke – Into the Woods
  2. Simon Pegg – Spaced.
  3. Matt Lucas & David Walliams – Little Britain
  4. Alan Davies – As Yet Untitled
  • What’s the best show you’ve ever worked on and why? [50 mins 50 secs]
  1. Jonathan Ross
  • What’s the worst show you’ve ever worked on and why? [52 mins 23 secs]
  1. Tim Vine – Fluke
  2. Angelos
  3. The Inbetweeners
  • What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made and how did you get over it? [53 mins 40 secs]
  • Who do you think is the most underrated person in your industry? [55 mins]
  1. Tom Meeten
  2. Neil Edmond – The Consultants Sketch Group


  • What do you think is the biggest problem in the comedy industry and how would you go about solving it? [55 mins 16 secs]
  1. Michael McIntyre
  2. John Bishop
  3. Jason Manford


  • Best bit of advice you’ve ever been given? [56 mins]
  1. Paul Jackson
  2. Tony Orsten
  • Best bit of advice you would give a comedian who wants to make a career in comedy? [56 mins]








Simon Caine is a comedian, author, podcaster, writer and social media manager. He's the host of the Ask The Industry Podcast (iTunes link) , writer of jokes for Twitter and teller of gags on the London comedy scene. He's also the person writing this and it is taking all his willpower not to make a "Simon Says" joke.
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