“The cinematic rom-com has gone into a bit of a decline”. That was the line taken by Rhidian Davis, director of public programmes at the British Film Institute, who yesterday introduced its new Love season at BFI Southbank.

He compared the famous diner scene in When Harry Met Sally with a diner scene in Knocked Up.

“Instead of Sally,” he said, “We now get Seth [Rogen] in the diner making a website compilation of Meg Ryan's nude scenes from... In The Cut”.

He sees this as “the tip of a slightly grim iceberg... it's not rom-com, it's wrong-com. The poster boys are geeks, freaks and 40 year old virgins and romance has been drowned in irony”.

Davis was not all doom and gloom however. He was sure that one of the panellists in the following discussion, Man Up-writer Tess Morris, “proves there is a bit of hope for the British rom-com”.

The BFI’s Love season runs from October 19 to the end of the year and features around a thousand events taking place all over the country.

The line-up includes Q&As with directors such as Stephen Frears and screenings of classic movies, in particular rom-coms.

At the launch, a panel hosted by Radio 4’s Jenni Murray and including Rhidian Davies, the BFI’s Laura Adams, Tess Morris and Four Weddings and a Funeral director Mike Newell discussed the future of the genre.

“Who now is taking over from Hugh Grant and is the next great male lead?” Murray asked of Newell.

“Oh, I don't know that” the director replied matter-of-factly.

Davis agreed. “It's a problem,” he said. “I think there's a bit of a gap there”.

Tess Morris said: “For me there is constantly new, interesting leading men... this whole leading man thing can get a little bit confusing... I don't think we should be looking for a leading man, I think we should be looking for a leading person”.

Morris pointed towards Kristen Wiig and her female/female dual lead in Bridesmaids.

Davis suggested “the balance between male and female has been slightly lost” and that audiences have been “taken towards puerile male representation”, but Morris disagreed pointing towards As Good As It Gets, Silver Linings Playbook and the criminally under-seen Enough Said.

Newell mused further: “It's interesting watching people fishtail around the unavailability of really dominant leading men”

“The dominant at the moment is leading women, [but] that wonderful guy who plays the surgeon in [Trainwreck] is tremendous”.

That actor is Bill Hader, an American comic actor. Jenni Murray is not sold on the idea.

“He's not good-looking,” she said. “He's not Richard Burton, let's face it.”

Is the concept of the romantic leading man dead? Is the rom-com in decline? Tell us what you think on our Facebook page – facebook.com/SLdnVibe.

Find out more about BFI’s Love season at bfi.org.uk/love