The BBC today announces a landmark sitcom season to mark 60 years since Galton and Simpson’s Hancock’s Half Hour started on BBC Television.
The season of programming across BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four will celebrate the heritage and legacy of BBC comedy by revisiting some of Britain’s iconic sitcoms alongside launching brand new comedy shows.
Shane Allen, Controller of BBC Comedy Commissioning, says: “The British sitcom is a huge part of our national identity and cultural heritage. This season is about celebrating the BBC’s rich legacy at a time when British comedy is as popular as ever. Classic comedy is evergreen, as we know from the eight million people who watch Still Open All Hours; our audiences have deep affection and nostalgia for iconic shows. Alongside the celebration of key comedies through homage, rediscovery and revivals involving established and new talent, we’ll also be making a raft of new sitcoms to complement them, and boost the BBC’s commitment to nurturing the hits of tomorrow.”
Charlotte Moore, Controller of BBC Channels and iPlayer, says: “Comedy has such a wonderful, rich tradition on the BBC, and I’m committed to continuing that across all the channels. The landmark sitcom season will celebrate our very British sense of humour by reimagining hits of the past and giving a platform for new talent.”
The sitcom season will kick off this summer on BBC One with a special live episode of Brendan O’ Carroll’s multi-award-winning comedy phenomenon Mrs Brown’s Boys. Mammy’s back and anything could happen! The show will be filmed in front of a live studio audience in Pacific Quay, Glasgow.
BBC One will also mark our enduring affection for all the great comedy characters we have met over the 60 years by enlisting the biggest names in British comedy writing and performing to revisit much-loved classics including Are You Being Served? Porridge, Up Pompeii! and a special prequel to Keeping Up Appearances.
Are You Being Served? will pick up where Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft’s classic comedy left off and a new script written by the award-winning Derren Litten (Benidorm, The Catherine Tate Show) will bring Grace Brothers back to life with a brand new all-star cast. It’s 1988 and Young Mr Grace is determined to drag Grace Brothers into, well, 1988, but he has a problem on his hands. Mr Humphries, Captain Peacock, Mr Rumbold and Mrs Slocombe all seem to be stuck in another era. A new member of staff, Mr Conway, joins the team – but will he help shake things up or will he just put a pussy among the pigeons?
The new cast, which has already been announced, includes Bafta-award-winning Jason Watkins (The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies), who will play the role of Mr Humphries; Sherrie Hewson (Benidorm, Coronation Street), who will play Mrs Slocombe; John Challis (Only Fools And Horses), who will play Captain Peacock; Roy Barraclough (Coronation Street), who will play Mr Grainger; Arthur Smith (comedian and writer), who will play Mr Harmon; Justin Edwards (The Thick Of It), who will play Mr Rumbold; and Niky Wardley (The Catherine Tate Show), who will play Miss Brahms.
As well as the original favourites, there will be some new characters joining the show. They are Mathew Horne (Gavin & Stacey), who will play Young Mr Grace, the original Young Mr Grace’s grandson; Jorgie Porter (Hollyoaks), who will play Miss Croft; and newcomer Kayode Ewumi, who will play the character Mr Conway.
It is a BBC In-house production and will be produced by James Farrell (Mrs Brown’s Boys, Flat TV) and directed by Dewi Humphreys (Vicar Of Dibley, My Family, Still Open All Hours). The executive producer is Stephen McCrum (Josh, Bluestone 42, Mrs Brown’s Boys).
Porridge, the classic prison sitcom, returns nearly 40 years after Norman Stanley Fletcher served his time. The legendary Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who created the 1970s series, will write the one-off special episode, which sees Fletch’s grandson, also known as Fletch, imprisoned for a series of cyber-crimes. Fletch finds himself beholden to prison bad boy Richie Weeks and forced to use his hacking skills to get Weeks off the hook. The problem being that wily prison officer Meekie has got his beady eye on Fletch – he knows a wrong ’un when he sees one.
It is a BBC In-house production and will be produced by Richard Webb (Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, The Kennedys, House Of Fools) and directed by Dominic Brigstocke (Tracey Ullman’s Show, I’m Alan Partridge, Green Wing). The executive producer is Gregor Sharp (The Rack Pack, Boomers, Count Arthur Strong).
The comedy sitcom Up Pompeii!, which ran from 1969 to 1970, will also return with a new script written by Paul Minett and Brian Leveson, who also wrote the revival Further Up Pompeii in 1991.
Keeping Up Appearances, the popular 1990s classic sitcom featuring Britain’s favourite social climber Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) has since become BBC’s most popular TV export around the world. For the forthcoming sitcom season, the original creator Roy Clarke will write a special one-off prequel called Young Hyacinth. In the programme, set in the late 1950s, Hyacinth has an instinctive urge to take charge once she, her sisters and her father are left by their mother, Daddy’s wife (don’t ask for the marriage certificate). As the elder of the sisters, her style is bossy and fussy, but Daisy, Violet and Rose all know how much worse things would be without her. Hyacinth is an alpha female. Get used to it.
It is a BBC In-house production and will be produced by Sarah Hitchcock and directed by Sandy Johnson (Jonathan Creek, Benidorm, Cradle To Grave). It will be executive produced by Gareth Edwards (That Mitchell And Webb Look, Still Open All Hours).
Furthermore, on BBC One, there will be a new comedy panel show called We Love Sitcom hosted by comedian and actor Ben Miller. Produced by Phil McIntyre Television, it will look at the different generations of sitcoms and feature familiar faces from the comedy world.
Over on BBC Two, there will be the launch of five brand new sitcom pilots from the very best of comedy talent both on- and off-screen. The New On Two sitcoms will include Home From Home and Motherland.
Home From Home is about a family man, played by comedian Johnny Vegas, who has long cherished the dream of buying a lodge in the Lake District. When he finally achieves his ambition, the years of scrimping and saving all feel worth it, but that’s until he meets the neighbours. Just be careful what you wish for! Home From Home is written by Chris Fewtrell and Simon Crowther and will also star Joanna Page, Emilia Fox and Adam James. It is a BBC In-house production and will be produced by Rebecca Papworth and executive produced by Gregor Sharp.
Motherland is a show all about navigating the trials and traumas of middle-class motherhood, and is written by Graham Linehan, Sharon Horgan, Helen Linehan and Holly Walsh. It is a co-production between Merman Films and Delightful Industries and will be produced by Richard Boden and directed by Graham Linehan.
Further details on the New On Two strand will be announced in due course.
On BBC Four, there will be recreations of three classic Lost Sitcoms. The scripts for these shows still exist but the original recordings have vanished from the archives. The Lost Sitcoms are Hancock’s Half Hour ‘The New Neighbour’, written by Galton and Simpson featuring Kevin McNally as Tony Hancock and Robin Sebastian as Kenneth Williams; Steptoe and Son ‘A Winter’s Tale’, also written by Galton and Simpson’; and Till Death Us Do Part ‘A Woman’s Place is in the Home’, written by Johnny Speight. Each sitcom will be recreated with a brand new cast and filmed in a theatrical-style presentation in front of a studio audience. The Lost Sitcoms are a BBC In-house production and will be produced by Owen Bell and executive produced by Steven Canny.
Also on BBC Four, British Sitcom: 60 Years Of Laughing At Ourselves will celebrate British sitcom and take a look at the social and political context from which our favourite sitcoms grew. The film will also show clips from the nation’s most loved sitcoms and provide insight from those who made them, including Steve Coogan, James Corden and Richard Curtis. It will be produced and directed by Breid McLoone and executive produced by Steven Canny.
The landmark comedy sitcom season will air across BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four in the summer.