Lee, 55, has written and starred in the BBC comedy series – which returned for a 13th series earlier this year – since 2006.
The comedian – who plays Lee alongside Sally Bretton's Lucy in the series – opened up about some of the criticism the show has faced over the years ahead of Not Going Out's upcoming Christmas special, which will mark its 100th episode.
Speaking about being “at the height of the dark comedy movement” when the show hit screens in 2006, Lee said: “Yeah, we weren’t trendy. The night before the pilot, there was a documentary on ITV called The Sitcom is Dead about how the studio sitcom is in the past.
'There were a lot more studio sitcoms back then – Goodnight Sweetheart, My Family, Birds of a Feather… I think there might just be us and maybe Mrs Brown's boys now.'
He added, referring to some comments from critics: “They often say this type of sitcom is from the seventies. I always find that strange because if you ask people to list their favorite comedies, they're all from the Seventies – Fawlty Towers, Dad's Army, Steptoe & Son.
“There’s something unique about a British studio sitcom with a live audience. And look at the continued success of Friends on streamers. The main thing I learned was to increase the number of jokes – American sitcoms have a lot more jokes.'
The Guardian's Sam Wollaston has been among the critics who have commented on the sitcom over the years, calling it “unoriginal and wholly undemanding” in 2017, despite admitting that it was “not entirely unfunny.”
The show – which reached peaks of up to six million viewers – was previously canceled in 2009 but was brought back amid outrage from viewers.
Admitting that it was the third season and that fans were coming up to him on the street to praise him on the show, Lee said of the cancellation: 'It was canceled perfectly at the right time because the internet was starting.
“Nowadays you’re asked to sign something weekly, but it was quite unusual at the time and that’s when I realized I was making an impact.
'People would come up to me in the street and say thank you just for making them laugh – I realized it's really important to make people laugh.'
Speaking at the screening of the upcoming Christmas episode, Lee also spoke about the future of the show, insisting that “discussions are ongoing” with the BBC about more episodes, Radio Times reported.
He said, 'We're talking about it now. I would love to do more, I love doing it, it's a lot of fun, I love the cast, but […] It's not always my decision, that sort of thing. I just hope someone says, “There’s a bag of money, go ahead.”
The show has changed a lot over the years and Lee admitted they “don't know” what they're “going to do with the future.”
Not Going Out's 2023 Christmas special airs on December 24 at 10pm on BBC One.
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