A David Tennant-fronted comedy drama, a multi-character sitcom from the writer of Paddington 2, a comedy crime thriller featuring Episodes’ Daisy Haggard and a raft of new talent form part of the BBC’s latest comedy drive.
The British public broadcaster has unveiled its new slate of comedies across its channels BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three and BBC Four. This comes as BBC comedy chief Shane Allen tells Deadline that by making shows that are quintessentially British, they are increasingly traveling to the U.S. and internationally without the need to be remade.
On BBC One, Paddington 2’s Simon Farnaby and his colleagues behind Horrible Histories and Yonderland are producing Ghosts, a multi-character sitcom. Farnaby, Mathew Baynton, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond are working with Monumental Television on the six-part horror comedy, which follows a group of restless spirits squabbling in a crumbling country house. It is exec produced by the creators and Alison Carpenter, Debra Hayward and Alison Owen and will be directed by Tom Kingsley and Matthew Mulot.
Also, on BBC One is Lenny Henry’s 60th Birthday Special (working title), which will see the British comedian look back on his career and his favorite characters from Theophilus P. Wildebeeste to Delbert Wilkins, Deakus to Mister Lister. It is produced by BBC Studios and Henry’s own Douglas Road Productions.
Doctor Who star Tennant is starring alongside Spaced’s Jessica Hynes and newcomer Miley Locke in There She Goes for BBC Four. The five-part series is about a severely learning disabled 9-year-old girl Rosie and is drawn from the real-life experiences of comedy writer Shaun Pye. The series is produced by Sharon Horgan’s production company Merman, which she runs with Clelia Mountford. Filming will begin in July.
Episodes’ Daisy Haggard has written, alongside Laura Solon, Back to Life for BBC Three. The six-part series, which is produced by Fleabag indie Two Brothers Pictures, follows Miranda “Miri” Thomas (Haggard), a woman who committed a terrible crime many years ago and returns home after 10 years in prison and explores whether in a small town where her crime is the most dramatic thing that has ever happened, will anyone let her move on.
Allen tells Deadline that the show, where the audience does not know what the crime is, is not a linear story. “It’s not a concept that you’ve seen before, it’s got quite an elliptical world. In the boxset world, those stories are more hooky now, it’s an interesting thing for us to dip our toe into,” he said, adding that it is considering dropping all episodes at once.
In terms of new comedy, BBC Three is launching three new “Comedy Slices.” Diary of a Hounslow Girl (working title), which is produced by CPL Productions, follows three young Muslim girls growing up. It is written by and stars Ambreen Razia, based on her play.
In My Skin is a darkly comic coming of age story about Bethan Gwyndaf, a 16 year old girl who tells a lot of lies. Written by Kayleigh Llewellyn, it is produced by Expectation Entertainment, Tim Hincks and Peter Fincham’s BBC Worldwide-backed firm. Nerys Evans exec produces.
Tash and Ellie (working title) features writer-performers Natasia Demetriou and Ellie White taking the most familiar cultural stereotypes and completely making them their own. The series is also produced by CPL Productions and is produced by Harry Hill and Mobashir Dar.
Interestingly, the new slate of comedies, unlike much of the BBC’s drama slate, is largely funded by the license fee rather than international partners. Allen, Controller of BBC Comedy Commissioning, told Deadline that by making his shows even more British, they stand a greater chance of traveling globally.
“We have done things in the past like The Wrong Mans and Episodes that have been co-commissions with U.S. partners, but the thing is our comedy is traveling the world,” he said. “Because there are more cable platforms and SVODs in America that will now take a run of British comedies with six or eight parts, shows like Fleabag and Catastrophe will travel the world. As long as we have the center of gravity of a British portrayal or setting, that’s the key bit, we don’t want things that look like acquisitions because there are enough other channels doing that. There’s shows that you would have previously written off as parochial that are now finding audiences.”
“In a world where there’s more competition for established talent from an array of competitors we want to broaden and cement our commitment to finding the very best of new wave talent and how we’re going to achieve that is through a comprehensive talent ladder to provide opportunity to an array of emerging voices and performers,” he added. “We believe in a British talent first and foremost approach, and are here to grow the stars of tomorrow through the hit shows of today.”
Elsewhere, a number of existing titles are returning for more episodes. Inside No. 9, the anthology series created by and starring Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, is returning for a Halloween special on BBC Two. The 30-minute special, which is produced by BBC Studios, will air in October. Motherland is also coming back for a second season; the series, which is written by Horgan, Helen Linehan and Holly Walsh, is produced by Merman and Delightful Industries. Vlogger comedy Pls Like, which is produced by Shiny Button, has also been handed a second run of six, 15-minute episodes.