BBC to revive sitcoms including Keeping Up Appearances

Monday 16th November 2015, 12:57pm

Are You Being Served?, The Good Life, Up Pompeii!, Porridge, Keeping Up Appearances

BBC One is reportedly looking to revive at least five classic sitcom formats as part of its forthcoming Landmark Sitcom Season.

Trade magazine Broadcast reports that executives are looking at The Good Life, Are You Being Served?, Up Pompeii!, Keeping Up Appearances and Porridge as programmes that could possibly return for specials.

Broadcast says: "The projects are at a variety of stages and are being overseen by BBC Productions comedy executive producer Ben Farrell, who is in discussions with writers and talent."

If the plans come to fruition each show would come back for a one-off 30-minute special, but with the potential to then continue on to a series if the episode proves popular.

This would follow the same pattern as Still Open All Hours, which - following the warm reception to a 2013 Christmas special - was granted a full series. Following strong ratings, the show is now set to return this Christmas with a second full series.

The Landmark Sitcom Season was announced by the BBC in September. The Corporation explained at the time: "BBC One will mark our enduring affection for all the great comedy characters we have met over the [last] 60 years by enlisting the biggest names in British comedy writing and performing to revisit loved classics alongside launching new shows in a landmark comedy season."

It is thought the season will begin in July 2016, timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the TV version of Hancock's Half Hour. Aside from the revival of classic sitcoms, the season will also include Dad's Army making-of drama We're Doomed!, and a new episode of Mrs. Brown's Boys which will be broadcast live.

As reported yesterday, Porridge co-creator Ian La Frenais has confirmed that he and Dick Clement are working on a script for a spin-off from the much-loved Ronnie Barker sitcom. The special would focus on Fletcher's grandson, who is in prison for computer hacking.

It has been revealed today that James Corden was approached to take on the central role in this new spin-off, but had to turn the part down due to his ongoing US chat show commitments. Johnny Vegas has also reportedly been linked to the role.

Whilst none of the programmes have officially been commissioned, it is understood that writer Roy Clarke is set to work on the new Keeping Up Appearances special.

Notably, all but Porridge have been hits overseas, particularly in the US.

Although not mentioned today, it has previously been reported that a new episode of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em could form part of this season too, with Michael Crawford and Michele Dotrice both in talks to return to their characters.

For the new specials to work, the shows will need to either be modern spin-offs featuring new characters or see some central roles re-cast. Here are profiles of the five shows involved, with details on the status of the writers and stars:

Are You Being Served?. Image shows from L to R: Mrs. Betty Slocombe (Mollie Sugden), Miss Shirley Brahms (Wendy Richard), Mr. Dick Lucas (Trevor Bannister), Mr. Cuthbert Rumbold (Nicholas Smith), Mr. Mash (Larry Martyn), Mr. Ernest Grainger (Arthur Brough), Mr. Wilberforce Humphries (John Inman), Captain Stephen Peacock (Frank Thornton). Copyright: BBC

Are You Being Served?

The department store sitcom from producer-writer David Croft (Dad's Army) and actor-writer Jeremy Lloyd ('Allo 'Allo!) is one of the BBC's biggest sitcom hits of the 1970s and 80s, but almost didn't make it to air. The Comedy Playhouse pilot was disliked by executives and only shown when a massacre at the 1972 Olympic Games left screen time to fill.

In the end, the show ran for 69 episodes over 10 series until 1985, with a sequel - Grace & Favour - reuniting the main cast members in 1992 for a further two series. Both Croft and Lloyd are dead, with the only surviving members of the cast being Nicholas Smith (Mr Rumbold) and Mike Berry (Series 8-10's Mr Spooner).

The Good Life. Image shows from L to R: Tom Good (Richard Briers), Barbara Good (Felicity Kendal), Jerry Leadbetter (Paul Eddington), Margo Leadbetter (Penelope Keith). Copyright: BBC

The Good Life

Running for four series from 1975 to 1978, The Good Life follows self-sufficiency strivers Tom and Barbara Good, and their often exasperated next-door neighbours Margo and Jerry Leadbetter. Written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey, the sitcom starred Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington, and was a favourite of The Queen. Last seen on air in June 1978, only Kendal and Keith survive.

Keeping Up Appearances. Image shows from L to R: Hyacinth Bucket (Patricia Routledge), Richard Bucket (Clive Swift). Copyright: BBC

Keeping Up Appearances

A timeless comedy of suburban snobbery, Keeping Up Appearances is one of the BBC's big 1990s hits. Starring Patricia Routledge and Clive Swift as snooty battleaxe Hyacinth Bucket and put-upon husband Richard, it also featured Josephine Tewson and David Griffin as next-door neighbours Elizabeth and Emmet, with Judy Cornwell, Geoffrey Hughes and Mary Millar as Hyacinth's sisters and brother-in-law.

Series creator Roy Clarke is the writing powerhouse behind Last Of The Summer Wine, Open All Hours and Still Open All Hours. Sadly, Geoffrey Hughes died in 2012, whilst Mary Millar, who played Rose, died in 1998. However, the rest of the core cast and original Series 1 Rose actor Shirley Stelfox survive.

Porridge. Fletcher (Ronnie Barker). Copyright: BBC


Created by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (The Likely Lads), Porridge is a showcase for the talents of the late Ronnie Barker. Originating as a one-off episode in anthology series Seven Of One - which also gave birth to Open All Hours - the show remains one the BBC's most-loved sitcoms of all time.

Running for just 21 episodes from 1973 to 1977, Barker played genial house-breaker Norman Stanley Fletcher, incarcerated in HMP Slade with cell-mate Lenny Godber (Richard Beckinsale). A film adaptation was released in 1979, whilst a TV sequel series, Going Straight, was broadcast the previous year. Of the regular ensemble cast, only fellow detainees Christopher Biggins (Lukewarm) and Tony Osoba (McLaren) survive. Both Nicholas Lyndhurst and Patricia Brake, who played Fletch's children, Raymond and Ingrid, are still working.

Up Pompeii!. Lurcio (Frankie Howerd). Copyright: BBC / London Weekend Television

Up Pompeii!

A vehicle for comedy legend Frankie Howerd, Up Pompeii! is a period sitcom based around the comic's trademark rambling stand-up persona, with the star talking directly to both the camera and the studio audience.

Howerd played Lurcio, a British slave in Roman Pompeii. Dreamt up by BBC executives Michael Mills and Tom Sloan, the series was penned primarily by Carry On scribe Talbot Rothwell, with Sid Colin, both of whom died during the 1980s.

Like Are You Being Served?, the original pilot for this format was not favoured by executives and almost never made it to air. In the end, the sitcom ran for two series in 1970, returning for a special five years later. It also had a feature-film adaptation, which in turn inspired two further films, and the format was revived in two further TV series.

The show was resurrected by LWT for an ITV special during one of Howerd's many career resurgences, broadcast in December 1991, just 4 months before the comic's death. See our Up Pompeii! family guide for more details.

Whilst Howerd has passed away, many of the supporting cast are still alive. David Walliams, who played Frankie Howerd in the 2008 biopic Rather You Than Me, may be a front runner for this role should the project be a re-make.

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