John Shuttleworth extends his radio sitcom record

ExclusiveWednesday 19th January 2022, 5:30pm by Jay Richardson

  • Radio 4 has recommissioned The Shuttleworths for two more specials, to air later this year
  • The order means the series has been on Radio 4 for close to three decades
  • Meanwhile, Shuttleworth and creator Graham Fellows have made their third film, Father Earth, to be released this autumn
The Shuttleworths. John Shuttleworth (Graham Fellows). Copyright: BBC

John Shuttleworth is poised to extend his record of having the longest-running sitcom on radio made exclusively by the same creator, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal.

The Shuttleworths has been recommissioned for two more, as-yet-untitled Radio 4 specials to air later this year, even as Graham Fellows' enduring creation appears in his third film, Father Earth, released this autumn.

"I'm very proud to be approaching my 30th year of broadcasting on the snooty channel" Shuttleworth told BCG. "I didn't realise I'd been recording the goings on of the Shuttleworth family for so long, but it does explain why my bottle of tapehead cleaner is getting low!"

First broadcast in 1993, The Shuttleworths has run for five series, ten specials and three related series, Radio Shuttleworth, John Shuttleworth's Open Mind and John Shuttleworth's Lounge Music.

Over the course of its 29 years, Fellows has made the show entirely alone in his own studio, creating every line through improvisation, voicing his keyboard playing alter-ego and all of the other characters himself.

The mild-mannered rolling stone of South Yorkshire has already far surpassed what was previously generally regarded as the longest-running sitcom, The Navy Lark, which ran for 244 episodes on the BBC Light Programme and Radio 2 between 1959 and 1977.

The mild-mannered rolling stone of South Yorkshire has already far surpassed the previous longest-running sitcom, The Navy Lark, which ran for 244 episodes on the BBC Light Programme and Radio 2 between 1959 and 1977.

But The Shuttleworths has a considerable way to go to become the nation's longest-running radio comedy.

Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy spanned a period of 1978 to 2018 on Radio 4, with the final series broadcast exactly 40 years after the first.

Based on the sixth novel, And Another Thing..., written by Eoin Colfer after Adams' death in 2001, it featured unfinished ideas and dialogue from Adams, as well as several members of the original cast.

Meanwhile, panel show Just A Minute has broadcast since 1967 on the station, with Sue Perkins taking over the chairperson role last year following the death of original host, Nicholas Parsons, in 2020.

Alongside his radio output, Shuttleworth has appeared in several television series, including the 1997 BBC Two four-part "rockumentary" 500 Bus Stops, and two films, 2006's It's Nice Up North and its 2009 sequel, Southern Softies.

Largely shot in 2010, abandoned in 2012 but returned to in 2020, Fellows' latest feature, Father Earth, chronicles his efforts to convert a derelict church in Orkney into an eco-friendly recording studio. As part of the film, he drives a cramped, G-Wizz electric car with a top speed of 25mph and need to recharge every 30 miles from the English capital to the Scottish island.

Previewed at several festivals last year, the film also features him as Shuttleworth on his A Man With No More Rolls tour, the comedian's father Derek and children's television puppet legends Sooty, Sweep and Sue. Screenings will take place in conjunction with Q & A sessions with Fellows.

You can watch the Father Earth trailer here:

The John Shuttleworth's Back Again! Live tour begins on 22nd March at the Kendal Brewery, travelling around the UK until May 25th.

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