ITV orders Vicious Christmas special before series has started
ITV has demonstrated strong faith in one of its new sitcom formats today by ordering a Christmas special before the series has begun airing.
A six episode series of Vicious has just completed filming and is due to begin on ITV at the end of the month. The sitcom is part of a drive by the commercial broadcaster to commission a raft of its own original comedy series.
The network today confirmed that it has ordered an additional episode of the comedy, written by Gary Janetti, an American whose previous credits include Will & Grace and Family Guy, for broadcast in its Christmas schedules - possibly in a prestigious Christmas Day slot.
Due to the high profile nature of Christmas specials, they are normally only granted to sitcom formats that have already built up strong and loyal followings, suggesting that ITV expects the series to be a big hit.
The show - which stars highly respected actors Sir Derek Jacobi and Sir Ian McKellen as an elderly gay couple living in Covent Garden - is a studio audience sitcom, written by Janetti based on a concept by playright Mark Ravenhill.
It tells the story of ageing partners Freddie and Stuart, who have lived together in a small Covent Garden flat for nearly 50 years. Freddie was a budding actor and Stuart a barman when they first met but their careers are now pretty much over and their lives now consist of reading books, walking their dog and bickering.
The programme was originally titled Vicious Old Queens, but McKellen has said he asked for the title to be changed. The 73 year-old jokingly commented "What on Earth do you mean? I'm most offended - I'm not old!"
Vicious also stars Frances de la Tour as the duo's feisty best friend Violet, and Misfits star Iwan Rheon as Ash, the young man who moves in upstairs.
Feedback from the recordings at ITV's London Studios has been overwhelmingly positive, reporting "loud, raucous laughter". One audience member posted the following in the British Comedy Guide's forums: "Whip smart writing and killer performances from the whole cast, particularly McKellen and Frances De La Tour. The crowd went absolutely mental for it."
Speaking to BroadcastNow at international TV sales conference MipTV, producer Gary Reich said that ITV's decision to broadcast the show during its prime-time schedule indicates that the network is confident in the series.
"They've got faith it will play into that ITV heart - it is about heart - and they love the fact that there is a bit of mischief in there. It's not anodyne, whitewashed or trying to flatten things out for the family. It's got more things you can grab hold of."
Writer Gary Janetti told reporter Lisa Campbell: "I'd rather people really loved or really hated it than felt mildly about anything. It doesn't feel so much a thing you would really hate. To me, it feels very mainstream and very inclusive."
The schedule date for Vicious will be announced soon. The British Comedy Guide will be publishing a full guide to the show, including cast interviews, on Tuesday 23rd April.
Vicious isn't the only new sitcom ITV is launching this year. Ancient Rome-based comedy Plebs is currently broadcasting on ITV2, and The Job Lot - a sitcom set in a job centre which features a cast including Russell Tovey and Sarah Hadland - is also due to start within the next month. Further new comedy commissions are expected to be announced soon.
Below are some preview clips from Vicious:
Newspaper reports suggest that Peter Kay is working on bringing his hit sitcom Phoenix Nights back for some live shows for Comic Relief.
Bill Kerr, who played Tony Hancock's dim-witted Australian sidekick in Hancock's Half Hour, has died at the age of 92.
Frankie Boyle has blasted TV commissioners for not taking risks, and criticised Mock The Week for no longer talking about important topics.
The results of the prestigious Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2014 have been announced. John Kearns, Alex Edelman and Phil Ellis are the winners.
BBC One has ordered a comedy drama series based on Emma Kennedy's best-selling book, The Tent, The Bucket and Me.
BBC One has ordered Mountain Goats, a sitcom about a mountain rescue team. The comedy was piloted earlier this year under the title Miller's Mountain.
Win a copy of Series 1 of Cuckoo on DVD, the sitcom starring Greg Davies and Andy Samberg. Enter
Thom Tuck talks Munnery, Bambi, expensive dross at the Fringe, piles of rubbish on BBC3, and more. Read
BBC Radio Comedy will be running comedy writing information sessions in London and Manchester. Read
David Walliams, Catherine Tate, Philip Glenister and Frances de la Tour talk about Big School Series 2. Read
Lord Alan B'Stard, First Marquess of Haltemprice, has died at the age of 58, it has been confirmed. Read
Lucy Beaumont talks about how she got started in comedy, and what she misses about leaving Hull. Read
Musical comedian Aidan Strangeman has won the 2014 So You Think You're Funny? new act competition. Read
A photo gallery providing an intimate insight into the pre-gig routines and notes of some of comedians. Read
The shortlists for the prestigious Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2014 is here: Read