Nic Wright

BBC sitcom season details revealed

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The BBC has announced details of its landmark sitcom season, marking 60 years since Hancock’s Half Hour first aired.

The season of programming across BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four will celebrate the heritage and legacy of BBC comedy with the return of some of Britain’s most iconic sitcoms alongside the launch of five brand new pilots.

The season will kick off this summer on BBC One with a special live episode of Brendan O’ Carroll’s Mrs Brown’s Boys, filmed in front of a live studio audience in Pacific Quay, Glasgow.

BBC One will also be 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, with a new script written by Derren Litten of Benidorm and The Catherine Tate Show fame, bringing Grace Brothers back to life with a new cast.

Set in 1988 the show will see Young Mr Grace determined to drag Grace Brothers into the present, while Humphries, Captain Peacock, Mr Rumbold and Mrs Slocombe all seem to be stuck in another era.

The new cast includes Jason Watkins as Mr Humphries; Sherrie Hewson as Mrs Slocombe; John Challis as Captain Peacock; Roy Barraclough as Mr Grainger; Arthur Smith as Mr Harmon; Justin Edwards as Mr Rumbold; and Niky Wardley as Miss Brahms.

The original characters will be joined by Mathew Horne as Young Mr Grace, the original Young Mr Grace’s grandson; Jorgie Porter as Miss Croft; and newcomer Kayode Ewumi, as new member of staff Mr Conway.

Also returning to the screen is Porridge. Almost 40 years since the prison sitcom ended, creators Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais will write a one-off episode, which sees Fletch’s grandson imprisoned for a series of cyber-crimes.

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.

Representing the comedy of the 1990s, Keeping Up Appearances creator Roy Clarke will write a one-off prequel entitled Young Hyacinth. In the programme, set in the late 1950s, the young Hyacinth Bucket takes charge when her family are left by their mother.

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.

Alongside the returning shows, New On Two will see five brand new sitcom pilots from the likes of Johnny Vegas, Graham Linehan and Sharon Horgan.

Home From Home will see Johnny Vegas’s family man have his long-held dream of buying a lodge in the Lake District threatened by nightmare neighbours.

Written by Graham Linehan, Sharon Horgan, Helen Linehan and Holly Walsh, Motherland is a show all about navigating the trials and traumas of middle-class motherhood.

Over on BBC Four, The Lost Sitcoms will resurrect episodes of three classic sitcoms whose original recordings have been mislaid. Lost episodes of Hancock’s Half Hour, Steptoe and Son and Till Death Us Do Part will be recreated with a brand new cast and filmed in a theatrical-style presentation in front of a studio audience.

Finally 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 classic 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.

Shane Allen, Controller of BBC Comedy Commissioning, said: “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, said: “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.”