The BBC has revealed details of a sitcom season to mark 60 years since Galton and Simpson’s landmark comedy Hancock’s Half Hour started on BBC Television.
The season will celebrate the corporation’s comedy heritage and legacy by revisiting iconic sitcoms and launching brand new shows.
“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,” said Shane Allen, Controller of BBC Comedy Commissioning. “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.”
It was revealed in September that the “landmark sitcom season” will kick off with a special live episode of Brendan O’Carroll’s beloved Mrs Brown’s Boys, which will be filmed in front of a studio audience in Glasgow and aired on BBC1.
Brendan O’Carroll will lead a live version of Mrs Brown’s Boys (Ian West/PA)
A few weeks ago, we revealed plans for a remake of Are You Being Served? which picks up where Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft’s comedy left off. Set in 1988, Young Mr Grace is determined to bring department store Grace Brothers up to date, but he faces a big problem when he realises his staff – Mr Humphries (Jason Watkins), Captain Peacock (John Challis), Mr Rumbold (Justin Edwards) and Mrs Slocombe (Sherrie Hewson) – are stuck in their ways. Can a new member of staff, Mr Conway shake things a bit?
An all new cast for Are You Being Served? including Mathew Horne and Jason Watkins has been announced (BBC/PA)
Other cast members include Catherine Tate Show star Niki Wardley as Miss Brahms and former Corrie actor Roy Barraclough as Mr Grainger.
Also revisited is Porridge, the prison sitcom which starred Ronnie Barker as inmate Norman Stanley Fletcher. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who created the 1970s series. Nearly 40 years after Norman, known as Fletch, served his time at Slade prison, the one-off episode will see his grandson imprisoned for a series of cyber-crimes.
Ronnie Barker, Fulton Mackay and Richard Beckinsale Porridge (PA)
Frankie Howerd’s historical sitcom Up Pompeii!, which ran from 1969 to 1970, will also be revisited with a new script written by Paul Minett and Brian Leveson.
And everyone’s favourite social climber Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) will make a return to TV, albeit as her younger self in a prequel to Keeping Up Appearances, the sitcom’s creator Roy Clarke will write a one-off special following a young Hyacinth in the 1950s. It shows Hyacinth taking charge of the family when she, her sisters Daisy, Rose and Violet, and her father are left by their mother.
Hyacinth Bucket will be back Keeping Up Appearances (John Stillwell/PA)
In addition, BBC4 will present recreations of three classic Lost Sitcoms. Although the recordings have been lost from the archives, scripts of episodes of Steptoe and Son, Hancock’s Half Hour and Till Death Us Do Part still exist.
The recordings of the shows as they initially aired did not survive, so they will be recreated by a brand new cast.
Steptoe and Son, originally starring Wilfrid Brambell and Harry H Corbett, will be returning too (PA)
The season will also include a new comedy panel show called We Love Sitcom hosted by comedian and actor Ben Miller, the documentary British Sitcom: 60 Years Of Laughing, and five pilot episodes of new sitcoms.
Among the New On Two comedies is Motherland which explores the trials and traumas of middle-class motherhood and is written by Father Ted co-creator Graham Linehan and Catastrophe co-writer Sharon Horgan, Helen Linehan and Holly Walsh.