The BBC is going for laughs by the dozen, commissioning 12 new comedy pilots including an animated BBC Three entry starring Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley. The pilots fall under three umbrellas and are spread across three platforms: Comedy Playhouse on BBC One; New on Two on BBC Two; and Comedy Slices at online outlet BBC Three.
They’re part of what BBC Comedy Controller Shane Allen calls the broadcaster’s “passion and drive… to spot, nurture and provide a platform for the UK’s world-class comedic talent.”
The original Comedy Playhouse ran on BBC One from 1961 to 1975 and spawned such series as Are You Being Served?, Last Of The Summer Wine and Steptoe And Son. It was revived by Allen in 2015, while New on Two was launched last year and saw two pilots move to series which will debut this year.
BBC Three’s Comedy Slices are in the 5th year and aim to develop the next generation of British on and off-screen talent. Previous entries have gone on to become returning series including People Just Do Nothing, with other series projects A Brief History Of Tim and Man Like Mobeen both currently in production.
New to BBC Three is animated sitcom pilot Sticky. Starring Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley (Peaky Blinders), it’s about four best friends who go to college in London’s mythical borough of Shatford. There, all forms of life depend on having a Wi-Fi connection. So, when the internet suddenly disappears, the world is thrown into chaos and the pals (played by Hardy, Riley, Phoneshop’s Javone Prince and Fonejacker’s Kayvan Novak) set off on a mission to get to the bottom of the heinous web crime.
Created, directed and produced by Ed Tracy (Fonejacker), it’s written by a team led by Steve Burge — and promises cartoon guest appearances by the likes of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
Tony Way (Game Of Thrones), Tom Davis (Murder In Successville) and Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who) also star in the Too Tall Productions project.
Here’s a snapshot of the other pilots to come, with air dates yet to be set:
BBC One, Playhouse
– Mister Winner: Spencer Jones (Upstart Crow) stars in the relationship comedy as a hapless chap prone to landing himself in unusual and somewhat dangerous situations. Aimee-Ffion Edwards (Peaky Blinders), Shaun Williamson (Extras) and Dorothy Atkinson (Call The Midwife) also star. Matt Morgan (Hospital People) is writer of the BBC Studios production.
– Tim Vine Travels Through Time: Billed as a sort of “Doctor Who with puns,” the Baby Cow production sees Vine travel back to the days of Robin Hood in a quest to mend a golden arrow, and a broken heart. Vine and John Archer are writer/creators.
– Static: Comedian Rob Beckett stars in and co-writes the family sitcom with Shaun Pye (A Young Doctor’s Notebook). Beckett plays a twentysomething guy who quits his life in London to move back in with his parents — only to find they have sold their family home and moved to a trailer park. Zeppotron produces.
BBC Two, New on Two
– Famalam: From BBC Studios, a no holds-barred sketch show. Vivienne Acheampong (The Aliens), Gbemisola Ikumelo (Sunny D), Roxanne Sternberg (Emerald City), Samson Kayo (Youngers), John Macmillan (Dark Knight Rises) and Vine’s Tom Moutchi star.
– The Other One: Narrative comedy about two girls each named Catherine Walcott who discover they are sisters after their father suddenly dies. Downton Abbey’s Siobhan Finneran stars with Rebecca Front (The Thick Of It), Ellie White (Inside No 9), Lauren Socha (Catastrophe) and Amit Shah (Hospital People). Cave Bear and Tiger Aspect produce.
– The Pact: Twenty years after Amy and Andy promise to get married if neither is already hitched when they reach 35, the former best friends run into one another, sparking soul-searching and questions about the future. The comedy drama from BBC Studios stars Bridget Jones’s Baby’s Sarah Solemani and Derek’s Brett Goldstein. James Britton and Rick Laxton are writers.
BBC Three, Comedy Slices
– Chinese Burn: A stereotype-smashing sitcom about three ‘normal’ Chinese girls as they negotiate the trials of modern life in London. Yennis Cheung and Shin-Fei Chen are co-writers and also star with Yuyu Rau in the Roughcut production.
– Hailmakers: From writer Jon Macqueen and BBC Studios, the working-class comedy stars Akemnji Ndifornyen as Saz and Samson Kayo as Sol, low-rent entrepreneurs who find out there’s nothing harder than easy money.
– Celebrity Voicemail: Adapted by Kayvan Novak from his Radio 4 comedy, the series imagines what it would be like to listen to messages left on famous folks’ phones. The pilot episode eavesdrops on missives that might have been meant for George Lucas during the first phase of shooting on the first Star Wars movie. A BBC Studios production.
– Wannabe: A former member of a teenage girl group, who’s now a middle-aged music manager, stages a comeback, bringing ‘Mum Pop’ to the masses. Lily Brazier (People Just Do Nothing) stars and co-writes the Bullion production with Ben Murray.
– Enterprice: Created by Kayode Ewumi (#HoodDocumentary), the pilot follows two young entrepreneurs, friends who often butt heads, in the early stages of rolling out their home delivery service. Ewumi stars with Daniel Ezra (Undercover), Ivanno Jeremiah (Humans) and Femi Elufowoju, Jr (Borgen). Fudge Park produces.