It's a pity then that someone hadn't imparted this wisdom to BBC and Baby Cow executives who, for reasons best known to themselves, not only considered, but actually produced and aired Up the Women on BBC2 last night. Had somebody managed to mark their cards, this whole sorry saga might have been avoided.
The premise of writer Jessica Hynes' show was hardly anything to set the pulse racing: A bunch of suffragettes in Edwardian England, based on recognisably stock characters all making dire puns.
That was about the long and tall of it. It was time for a brave man or woman to step forth. But where a resolute 'Thanks, but no thanks," was required the suits wimped out with: "Wonderful Jessy! A suffragette sit-com! How marvellous! Just what the world has been waiting for! How much would you like for it?"
By now you've probably realised that I didn't care too much for Up the Women - at least the five minutes that I actually managed to sit through. If you stayed the distance, respect. I mean it. It opened with a barrage of cheese puns (no kidding) that would have made your average xmas cracker joke seem sophisticated ('The leaning tower of cheesia!!!). I guess downhill was the only possible direction it could go after hitting such comedic heights. It did not disappoint on that score.
It was an odd creation, a sort of throwback to Dad's Army, but without any of the subtlety or finesse of a Perry/Croft script. Apparently the incessant laughter was genuine, prised from a studio audience. But boy did it feel forced. BBC hospitailty had obviously been sent to work: "Another G and T sir? It's on the house. Go, on have a double!" "Don't mind if I do.."
I have a suggestion. The next time BBC Human Resources are planning their staff training, they ought to book their people on a course entitled How to Say No. If nothing else it would look nice on the old CV.
Anyway at least Miss Hynes is happy. And that's what really matters. And the suits are happy too. No awkward explanations. You scratch my back.
I have no doubt that this alleged 'comedy' will end up with others of its ilk, swept under the BBC carpet of duds and favours. There it will join the likes of Celeb, Big Top and Eyes Down and many others. Remember them? Me neither. All this on a meagre budget of 5 billion pounds a year of licence fee cash.
There is a solution however. A very simple way for the corporation to avoid comedic output that has frankly become embarrasing. But it's a radical one. And one not for the feint-hearted. Miss Hynes will almost certainly not be amused - well she'll know how it feels then, won't she? The solution is simple:
Just say No.
1/10 (for the costumes)