Every week we sit at home watching our favorite British comedy probably not thinking of the thousands of hours of preparation and effort that goes in to making the “situation” part of the comedy real. In the case of the 2010 series, Whites, the British comedy series set in the kitchen of an English country house hotel, the “situation” revolves around the trials and tribulations of the head chef (Alan Davies) and his long-suffering sous chef (Darren Boyd). With a culinary genius of a head chef that, in foodie terms, is several days past his sell-by date, Whites mixes grand ambitions of the elusive Michelin star chef with a predictable chef’s disdain for vegetarians, the “situation” is simple. The kitchen.
As Oliver Lansley writes for BBC Comedy Blog, both the food and the kitchen were very important to both he and co-creator/writer, Matt King. Having worked in a kitchen, King was very aware as to what makes up a “working kitchen”. According to Lansley, “…the kitchen in effect an extra character in the show and we felt that if we could get this right and make this real, then it would give us much more freedom to focus on our characters and their stories. I think that’s something that follows through with situation comedy as a whole, the more authentic and clear the situation the more you can forget about it and focus on the comedy.”
Authentic kitchen and real food – two ingredients for laughter in Whites
Now that the kitchen was “authentic”, the focus turned to the food. Real chefs were hired on as consultants, reading scripts and flagging anything that may call into question a lack of kitchen knowledge. An on-set chef prepared all the food cooked on the show in order to get the look and design of food prep down, while all actors spent a day at the training academy at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant to get the feel of being in a kitchen. While none of the cast will ever make a living in the kitchen, it’s obvious, just as it was in Chef! that the principles do know their way around the kitchen enough to be dangerous.
Inexplicably, Whites was not renewed by the BBC for a second season so six episodes is all you are going to get. I know, it’s been 8 years, I need to get over it but when I see the likes of Two Pints of Lager and a Package of Crisps get 10 series, you have to wonder what goes through the minds of comedy commissioners. 99.9% of the time it’s money. In the case of Whites, the £3 million cost for the one series might have been just a bit too much to justify a second series. Whatever the reason, the six episodes that exist are brilliant.
So, next time you sit down and enjoy your favorite comedy whether set in a kitchen, department store or small town parish, you can now appreciate the great lengths producers go to for both authenticity and laughs.