Hugh Bonneville & Karen Gillan lead ITVX comedy from Steven Moffat

ExclusiveFriday 17th November 2023, 9:30am by Jay Richardson

Douglas Is Cancelled. Image shows left to right: Douglas (Hugh Bonneville), Madeline (Karen Gillan)

Hugh Bonneville and Karen Gillan are to star in a new ITVX comedy drama about cancel culture written by Steven Moffat, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal.

Airing next year, Douglas Is Cancelled will be former Doctor Who showrunner Moffat's first television comedy in two decades. Filming begins shortly in London on the four-part series.

It will be directed by The Inbetweeners' Ben Palmer and co-star Ben Miles, Alex Kingston, Nick Mohammed and Simon Russell Beale.

W1A and Paddington star Bonneville plays Douglas Bellowes, a respected newsreader and raconteur who loves the life he's created with his newspaper editor wife, Sheila, portrayed by Kingston.

Despite being an experienced broadcaster, greying, middle-aged Douglas surprisingly needs constant reassurance behind the scenes on Live At Six, from his sharper, younger, tech-savvy and social media aware co-presenter Madeline (Gillan), who seems able to wrap him around her little finger.

A national treasure who can seemingly do no wrong, Douglas enjoys his privileged status. Until that is, he makes an ill-advised joke at his cousin's wedding, overheard by a fellow guest, who threatens to expose his comments on social media.

Echoing the scandal surrounding Huw Edwards' suspension as the BBC's flagship news and events anchor this summer amidst accusations of sexual misconduct, Douglas' alleged indiscretion is dissected, analysed and blown out of all proportion in the subsequent digital storm.

Can Douglas count on the support of his agent and colleagues or will he become a victim of "cancel culture"? And just what is Madeline's motivation for posting socially on his behalf?

Douglas Is Cancelled. Image shows left to right: Douglas (Hugh Bonneville), Madeline (Karen Gillan)

"Working again with a director like Ben, on Steven's acidly witty script, with an ensemble of this calibre, is as daunting as it is exciting" said Bonneville, who recently shot The Completely Made-Up Adventures Of Dick Turpin with Palmer for Apple TV+, in which he plays the "Thief Taker General" Jonathan Wilde alongside Noel Fielding as the notorious highwayman. 

"To torment a man, let alone a man named Douglas, for four episodes - armed with the writing of Steven Moffat - is a great privilege that I'm going to enjoy every minute of" added Scottish actor Gillan, who before making the leap to Hollywood in blockbusters like The Guardians Of The Galaxy and Jumanji films, starred in Doctor Who as the companion Amy Pond between 2008 and 2013 when Moffat was head writer.

Kingston also had a recurring role as the companion River Song during Moffat's stewardship of the BBC science-fiction series, while Bonneville guest starred in a 2011 episode with Gillan and Matt Smith as the Doctor.

Adding to the sense of a reunion, Miles previously starred in Moffat's BBC Two ensemble sitcom Coupling, with Jack Davenport, Gina Bellman, Sarah Alexander, Richard Coyle and Kate Isitt.

Likened to a British version of Friends, Coupling ran from 2000 to 2004 and was Moffat's final television comedy before his high-profile stints writing-producing Doctor Who and Sherlock, in a career that includes creating the BBC comedy Joking Apart, starring Robert Bathurst as a tortured stand-up comic, and writing for Murder Most Horrid.

Most recently, he penned the dark comedy play The Unfriend, which became Mark Gatiss's directorial debut in 2022, originally with a cast of Reece Shearsmith, Amanda Abbington and Frances Barber. The latter returns alongside Alexander and Lee Mack for its revival at the Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End next month.

Moffat executive produces Douglas Is Cancelled with his wife, Sue Vertue (Gimme Gimme Gimme), for Hartswood Films (Men Behaving Badly, Rosie Molloy Gives Up Everything), the production company founded by her legendary agent-producer mother, Beryl. Director Palmer, who additionally helmed Breeders and Back, also has an executive producer credit.

Steven Moffat

"I just sat down and wrote this - didn't even tell anyone what I was doing" Moffat said. "And now it's all happening, thanks to the amazing Sue Vertue (renowned TV producer and in a rare moment of weakness, my wife). I can't quite believe we've managed to get the mighty Hugh Bonneville involved as Douglas and that we've lured my old friend Karen Gillan back from Hollywood, to play Madeline.

"And like that's not enough, we've got Ben Miles, Alex Kingston, Nick Mohammed and Simon Russell Beale. It's the kind of cast that makes you terrified about stepping into the room."

Produced by Lawrence Till (Shameless, The Young Offenders) for Hartswood, in association with SkyShowtime and BBC Studios's distribution arm, who are set to sell the mini-series internationally, it was commissioned for ITVX by Polly Hill, ITV's head of drama.

"Douglas Is Cancelled is a razor sharp, and insightfully witty drama from Steven Moffat, which takes such a clever look at gender politics, social media and being cancelled" she said. "I'm really delighted to be working with Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue and the team at Hartswood Films, to bring this wonderfully contemporary story to ITVX.  It's testament to Steven's brilliant scripts that it has attracted such an incredible cast."

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