Although BBC Three’s primary comedy channel has moved to an online only streaming platform, it is BBC One that is making all the moves to bring new types of comedy to 2016. Earlier this year it brought Comedy Playhouse back to life, the wonderful anthology comedy series that aired in the 1960s and 1970s.
The pilot was set in a hospital, with comedian and actor Tom Binns playing a number of characters, including an ambitious hospital manager, a spiritualist, an enthusiastic priest and hypochondriac. He has previously played in The IT Crowd, Drifters and Boyz Unlimited.
The episode was in the classic mockumentary style of some of the greatest comedy shows of recent times. The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Thick of It, Modern Family, and Trailer Park Boys, as well as several others. The production to coin the term and set the style to some extent was the classic film This is Spinal Tap, with the producer using the term in interviews, and the film playing like a documentary, with everything scripted and fictional.
Ash Atalla is the executive producer for the series, and stated that with the pilot he hoped to bring a marriage of the terms ‘hospital’ and ‘comedy’, something not often seen, apart from a few comedies like Scrubs. The company he is representing is Roughcut Productions, who have been given the role of producing the series by the BBC.
Ash Atalla most famously worked on The Office and Extras. A wheelchair bound person himself, he will appreciate the comedy of a hospital. And his working partner Ricky Gervais never shied away from using Atalla’s condition (polio) for comedy, Atalla always seeing the funny side. You couldn’t pick a better producer for a comedy episode about a hospital, it seems.
The episode was filmed in the hospital of Hartlepool University. The crew said they loved the experience of filming there and it went smoothly according to all involved. Tom Binns recently posted photos of the set to his Facebook page. Alongside him in the episode ‘Hospital People’ will star Harki Bhambra, Liz Kingsman, Mandeep Dhillon, Aidey Pugh and Maggie McCarthy.
The other pilots were ‘Broken Biscuits’ and ‘Stop/Start’. The former followed the lives of disparate groups of people, while the latter followed three marriages in complete disrepair.
The series has a phenomenal rating on IMDB since the new episodes were aired, with a 9.5 total. Though this is only based on a little over a dozen reviews, it still shows there are avid fans of the series out there only too happy to see it return.
The original series was also a sort of comedy showcase, experimenting with different ideas and characters, to see which ones resonated well and which ones flopped. Many of the most loved episodes went on to get their own full series. These include Steptoe and Son, Me Mammy Till Death Us Do Part, All Gas and Gaiters, Up Pompeii!, Not in Front of the Children, Meet the Wife, That’s Your Funeral, The Liver Birds, Are You Being Served? and Last of the Summer Wine. Last of the Summer Wine was the most successful of these, running from 1973 to 2010.
The series has clearly resonated with some as evidenced by its great rating on IMDB. We’re hoping that BBC One continue to showcase new ideas using the #CP format and style. The network has been responsible for some fantastic dramas over the last few years, and could do with some new ground-breaking comedies to even it out. What’s been your favourite episode so far, including the old series?
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