It’s official: Porridge is returning to BBC One as a fully fledged series.
A little more than a month after the one-off sequel to the classic series aired as part of the BBC’s Landmark Comedy Season, BBC One has handed out a six episode series order to the project.
Set in the modern day, the new Porridge follows Nigel ‘Fletch’ Fletcher (Kevin Bishop), the grandson of Ronnie Barker’s Norman Fletcher, as he is banged up in Wakeley Prison for a series of cyber-crimes. The one-off episode/backdoor-pilot was penned by original series creators Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who are returning to pen the six new episodes. “We’re in a state of disbelief that Porridge is coming back after all these years, but Kevin Bishop is a worthy successor to Ronnie Barker. So even though we feel like recidivists, we’re more than happy to go back inside.”
At present the only cast member confirmed to be returning for the full series is Kevin Bishop as Fletch, with the BBC stating that further casting will be confirmed at a later date. Cast members from the one-off also included Mark Bonnar as Officer Meekie, Ralph Ineson as Richie Weeks, Dave Hill as Joe Lotterby, Dominic Coleman as Officer Braithwaite, Harman Singh as Aziz, Jason Barnett as Shel and Ricky Grover as Scudds.
“It was an honour to be asked to play Fletch although I never thought it would go further than just the one off homage”, Kevin Bishop said in a statement confirming that he would reprise his role in the show’s first season “To be welcomed back by Porridge fans and the BBC to make a full series, is one of the proudest moments in my career. Dick and Ian are true sitcom masters and I know they’re going to write a brilliant series.”
For it’s part Porridge becomes the second classic sitcom to be revived in the form of a sequel, following in the footsteps of Still Open All Hours – though in that case the show did bring back original cast members, something that is not possible here. Both were initially piloted as one-off before being picked up to series after drawing big ratings. TVWise has confirmed that the BBC will not be moving ahead with full series of Goodnight Sweetheart, Keeping Up Appearances prequel Young Hyacinth or their Are You Being Served? sequel.
This new take on Porridge is produced for BBC One by BBC Studios and is penned by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Richard Webb (Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, House Of Fools) is the series producer, while Dominic Brigstocke (Tracey Ullman’s Show, Green Wing) is the director. Production on the six episode first season is set to commence in January 2017 for a premiere later in the year. “With Porridge we have two writing legends putting a modern spin on their masterpiece, proving that their fingers are very much still on the comedy pulse”, said the BBC’s Controller of Comedy Commissioning Shane Allen, who ordered the full series.