Two years after the BBC's director general, Greg Dyke, labelled it "hideously white," The Crouches is a concerted attempt by BBC1 to extend its appeal among an ethnic minority audience.

It has been trumpeted as the BBC's first black sitcom, but when the credits rolled after the first episode on Tuesday all eyes were on the identity of the writer - Glaswegian Ian Pattison, creator of the BBC2 sitcom stalwart, Rab C Nesbitt.

Using a white writer to script the black sitcom brought accusations yesterday that the corporation was ignoring ethnic minority talent. The black commentator and New Nation editor, Michael Eboda, said the comedy was "about as funny as being carjacked".

Mr Eboda said the last high-profile, all-black production, BBC2's drama Babyfather, worked because it was by a black writer, Patrick Augustus, born and brought up in the community he wrote about. This time the BBC had got it wrong, because details of char acters would jar with black audiences. "For example, in the average black household a teenage daughter would never snog her gangsta boyfriend at the dinner table in front of her mum, dad and grandparents. And black children do not regularly swear at their parents.

"Sadly, with The Crouches we have not moved on far from ITV's Love Thy Neighbour of 30 years ago."

His comments were echoed by a star of the show. Danny John-Jules, best known as Cat in Red Dwarf: "No one disputes Ian is a good writer, but is the BBC saying that in 20 years it has never had a good enough script from all those black guys to make a black show?"

Ratings for the first episode held up, however - it attracted 3.2m viewers, compared with 2.7m the previous night for Billy Connolly in the same slot.

The BBC said criticism of the show lacked understanding of how TV comedy was developed. Executive producer Kenton Allen, whose credits include The Royle Family, said: "Ian [Pattison] decided he wanted to write the show and he brought it to the BBC. We thought it was very funny so we commissioned it."

Mr Allen said the all-black cast, including Robbie Gee and EastEnders star Rudolph Walker, had "immense input" into the script.

"Traditional sitcoms are out of favour with critics, who like things like Phoenix Nights and The Office. That's where we disagree. Since time immemorial every hit comedy has come on air and got a pasting for its first series, from Fawlty Towers onwards. It's a national sport."

· Rudolph Walker, 63 and born in Trinidad, was honoured last night at the Screen Nation film and television awards for black actors.

Walker, who plays Patrick Trueman in BBC1's EastEnders, received the Trailblazer award. He found fame in the 1970s sitcom Love Thy Neighbour - the first British TV show to feature a major black character. The show was later dropped as politically incorrectbecause of its white characters' overt racism.

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