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BBC Launches Sitcom Season

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The BBC has launched its sitcom season, which will take place across the BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four channels this summer. The season marks 60 years since 'Hancock's Half Hour' started on BBC Television.

The season will begin with a live episode of Brendan O'Carroll's 'Mrs Brown's Boys' on BBC One. The special will be filmed in front of a live studio audience at Pacific Quay, Glasgow.

BBC One will also be home to a new comedy panel show, We Love Sitcom, which will be hosted by comedian and actor Ben Miller. It is produced by Phil McIntyre Television and will look at the different generations of sitcoms.

On BBC Two, there will be five new sitcom pilots. The 'New On Two' sitcoms include 'Home From Home' and 'Motherland'. Home From Home is about a family man (played by Johnny Vegas) who has dreamed of buying a lodge in the Lake District. He finally fulfils his dream, but then he meets his neighbours. Written by Chris Fewtrell and Simon Crowther, Home From Home also stars Joanna Page, Emilia Fox and Adam James. It is a BBC in-house production, produced by Rebecca Papworth and executive produced by Gregor Sharp.

Motherland, meanwhile, is written by Graham Linehan, Sharon Horgan, Helen Linehan and Holly Walsh, and delves into the trials and traumas of middle-class motherhood. It is a co-production between Merman and Delightful Industries, and will be produced by Richard Boden. It is directed by Graham Linehan.

Further details on the New On Two strand will be announced at a later date.

The comedy season will also see the return of some of the BBC's best-known and well-loved sitcoms for one-off specials.

For example, 'Are You Being Served?' will pick up from where writers Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft left the show. The new script has been written by Derren Litten and brings new life to the Grace Brothers department store with a new cast. In this special, the year is 1988 and Young Mr Grace is still determined to bring his company into... 1988. However, he faces a challenge from employees Captain Peacock, Mr Humphries, Mr Rumbold and Mrs Slocombe. New staff members are also introduced to shake things up.

The 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 new characters include Mathew Horne as Young Mr Grace, the original Young Mr Grace's grandson; Jorgie Porter as Miss Croft; and Kayode Ewumi as Mr Conway.

A BBC in-house production, it will be produced by James Farrell and directed by Dewi Humphreys. The executive producer is Stephen McCrum.

'Porridge' also returns, almost 40 years after Norman Stanley Fletcher served his time at HMP Slade Prison. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who created the 1970s series, return to pen the one-off episode, which sees Fletch's grandson – who is also known as Fletch – banged up for a number of cyber-crimes. Fletch finds himself bound to prison bad boy Richie Weeks and forced to use his hacking skills to get Weeks off the hook. However, prison officer Meekie has his eye on Fletch.

Another BBC In-house production, it will be produced by Richard Webb and directed by Dominic Brigstocke. The executive producer is Gregor Sharp.

The comedy sitcom 'Up Pompeii!', which aired from 1969 to 1970, will also return with a new script written by Paul Minett and Brian Leveson. They wrote the revival Further Up Pompeii in 1991.

'Keeping Up Appearances' is the BBC's most popular TV export around the world since it first aired in the 1990s and followed the life of social climber Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced 'Bouquet') and her long-suffering husband, Richard.

This one-off special will be written by the sitcom's original creator Roy Clarke and is intended as a prequel to the hit show. Called 'Young Hyacinth', it will be set in the late 1950s and sees Hyacinth's instinctive urge to take charge kick in after she, her sisters and their father are left by their mother, Daddy's wife – just don't ask for the marriage certificate.

It is a BBC In-house production and will be produced by Sarah Hitchcock and directed by Sandy Johnson. It will be executive produced by Gareth Edwards.

Elsewhere, on BBC Four there will be recreations of three classic Lost Sitcoms. The scripts for these shows still exist but the original recordings have disappeared from the archives. The Lost Sitcoms are Hancock's Half Hour 'The New Neighbour', written by Galton and Simpson featuring Kevin McNally as Tony Hancock and Robin Sebastian as Kenneth Williams; Steptoe and Son 'A Winter's Tale', also written by Galton and Simpson; and Till Death Us Do Part 'A Woman's Place is in the Home', written by Johnny Speight.

Each sitcom will be recreated with a new cast and filmed in a theatrical-style presentation in front of a studio audience. The Lost Sitcoms are a BBC In-house production and will be produced by Owen Bell and executive produced by Steven Canny.

Also on BBC Four, British Sitcom: 60 Years Of Laughing At Ourselves will look at British sitcom and at the social and political context from which the country's favourite sitcoms grew. The film will also show clips from the nation's most loved sitcoms and provide insight from those who made them. It will be produced and directed by Breid McLoone and executive produced by Steven Canny.

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, added: "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."

The comedy sitcom season will air across BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four in the summer.


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