North American SVOD service Acorn is developing a biopic of irreverent British comedian Benny Hill. The digital platform is working up a 2 x 90-minute series about the comic, best known for his wild slapstick shenanigans, with Midsomer Murders writer Caleb Ranson.

Lonely Boy: The Benny Hill Story will follow Hill’s life from the mid-1930s through his tragic death in the 1990s and will explore his early career as well as his rise to fame and tragic decline in the late 80s. It will follow the journey of a cripplingly insecure young boy with a desire to make people laugh, through the dying last days of variety as well as the double-standards of the tabloid press.

The series is produced by British production company Free@Last, which produces Ashley Jensen-fronted Agatha Raisin, which became Acorn TV’s first sole commission. It is being written by Ranson and Hilary Bonner, who was the co-author of the Benny Hill biography Benny & Me, is a series consultant.

It is the company’s latest move into originals following the order of British drama London Kills as well as partnerships on seasons three of Detectorists, Kay Mellor’s Girlfriends and Australian comedy Sando.

Ranson said, “When I was a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s I loved Benny Hill, his skits and wordplay and especially his songs. Then as I got older, like the rest of the country, I fell out of love with him. Why was that? What happened? Around the world he’s still revered but here in the UK, he’s all but forgotten. A punchline to a bad joke. I want to reclaim him from the comedy dustbin of history, to explore the Benny nobody knows, the ahead of his time comedy genius of the 50s and 60s and why in his twilight years he fell so hard and so quickly out of favour.

Shane Murphy, Managing Director, Acorn Media Enterprises, added, “After developing a great working relationship with Barry and David during the first series of Agatha Raisin, we’re excited to embark on a different project with them. Benny Hill remains one of Britain’s most well-known comics but his tumultuous and often heart-breaking life behind the scenes has never been told. Caleb has written a fascinating first few episodes and the series is sure to attract a stellar cast, led by the multi-layered role of Benny.”