UKTV’s renewed push into scripted comedy on Gold is now firmly underway. More than six months after announcing that, as part of said push, Gold would pick up five new scripted comedies, the channel has unveiled their first three commissions, with further series orders to be announced later this Summer.
The comedy focussed channel has handed out three episode orders to Royal comedy Henry IX, from Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais – both of whom previously collaborated with UKTV on Porridge: The Inside Story; Marley’s Ghosts, a high concept single-camera sitcom from Daniel Peacock; and Bull, a new studio sitcom, which is being penned by first-time sitcom writers Gareth Gwynn and John-Luke Roberts.
“The first three of our new commissions for Gold offer a fantastic range of different stories and comic styles. Between them they will start to establish a new tone of voice for our originations”, said UKTV’s Director of Commissioning Richard Watsham. “We’ve deliberately targeted scripts that play to Gold viewers’ known love of classic British sitcom but they’re also modern, sharply-written pieces which deliver on our promise of high quality, world class comedy.”
Henry IX is set in the fictitious, contemporary court of Henry IX, King of the United Kingdom. This is the almost universal story of a middle-aged man trapped in his life… except this one just happens to be the reigning monarch. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais are penning the scripts for the three-parter, which is a co-production between Retort and Serious Comedy. The executive producers are Jon Rolph and Tarquin Gotch.
Created by Daniel Peacock, Marley’s Ghosts is a “distinctive and original” ensemble piece about a woman who has a rare gift that comes with mixed blessings. She can talk to the dead, which sadly now includes both her husband and her lover – awkward. All3Media’s John Stanley Productions are producing, with Layla Smith serving as the executive producer.
Bull, which is also set up at John Stanley Productions, is described as “a studio comedy with a unique and quirky sense of humour” which follows the eponymous Bull, a man who attempts to run his antiques shop aided and hampered in equal measure by his team of dysfunctional staff. Layla Smith is the executive producer. Production on all three series gets underway this Summer for transmission later in 2015 and early 2016.
The series orders for these project have been a long-time coming. UKTV has been gradually increasing their investment in originals over the past three years, which on the scripted side has seen them pick up such efforts as You, Me & Them – also for Gold. The commercial network initially sent out a brief to independent production companies to pitch distinctive scripted comedies for this renewed comedy push on Gold last Summer.
These pick ups also come mere days after UKTV unveiled their financials for 2014 and revealed that original series such as these fuelled the broadcaster’s unprecedented growth story, which has seen their ratings, SOCI and, in turn, profits hit a record high. That success is being funnelled back into the business with the content budget set to “increase significantly” from the £123 million allocated and spent in 2014.
“It is a testament to UKTV’s continued growth in the broadcast market that these new commissions have attracted the very best new and established writers and producers”, said Steve North, General Manager of Gold. “They showcase an eclectic and original range of comedy that will ideally complement Gold’s archive selection of Britain’s best-loved sitcoms whilst at the same time bring a freshness to the comedy Gold offers.”
“These commissions demonstrate our commitment to working with the brightest and the best, ranging from welcoming the legendary Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais back to British TV, to exciting emerging writers, all of whom have produced classic stand-out comedy characters placed firmly in the 21st century”, added Commissioning Editor Simon Lupton. “We are offering our audience refreshing and enticing shows they can relate to and fall in love with. It genuinely feels like we have something for everyone, and we can’t wait to share them with our viewers.”