Motherland to return in diverse BBC comedy lineup

Subject matter ranges from a child with learning disabilities to a group of Muslim girls

The hit comedy Motherland is to return for a new series, the BBC has announced, as it unveiled its most diverse lineup of new comedies to date.

Other shows include There She Goes, a comedy drama about a nine-year-old girl with learning disabilities, starring David Tennant and W1A’s Jessica Hynes, and Diary of A Hounslow Girl, about three Muslim girls.

The BBC’s controller of comedy commissioning, Shane Allen, said he aimed to “grow the stars of tomorrow” and promote “more and more diversity”.

Alongside new outings for favourites such as Alan Partridge – who returns in a new guise this winter – and Sir Lenny Henry in a special programme hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald to mark Henry’s 60th birthday, the BBC will air a comedy about mental health issues, BBC Three’s In My Skin, and a new female sketch show called Tash and Ellie.

Allen said the “female comedy story” had been transformed. “When you look at the top writers you want to work with, it’s Sharon Horgan, it’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge, it’s Holly Walsh.”

Walsh and Horgan are among the writers of BBC Two’s Motherland. The new series will reunite the cast of characters who hit a chord with audiences last year, including Julia, played by Anna Maxwell Martin, who has still not sorted out her childcare and whose husband “has decided to step up the mark and train for Ironman”.

Also returning is the critically acclaimed series Inside No 9, for a live Halloween special, alongside new BBC One comedies Ghosts – a sitcom created by and starring some of the lead cast of Horrible Histories – and Mister Winner, a physical sitcom starring the Upstart Crow actor Spencer Jones that echoes the accident-prone Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em.

“The hardest thing to do is pre-watershed family pieces – anything without swearing is hard to do,” Allen said, adding: “I really believe in the studio sitcom.”

He said the time had passed when having “quite a male-dominated selection process” led to “a lot of male, middle-aged middle-class comedy”.

Although he was “not saying we wouldn’t have any more posh people on telly”, Allen called for more shows from outside the traditional white Oxbridge elite. “We get excited by the stories that haven’t been told and the voices we haven’t yet heard, which is why you’ll see more and more diversity of all kinds of output over the next few years as we break new ground,” he said.

BBC Three’s Diary of A Hounslow Girl is one such example. Written by and starring Ambreen Razia, it follows three west London Muslim students, in what the BBC called a “bold, provocative new comedy”. There have been few Asian comedies on television, and one of those, the BBC One hit Citizen Khan, is not due to return, although there are talks about a film.

With Netflix and Amazon picking off talent developed by the BBC, such as Ricky Gervais, it is no surprise the corporation is focusing on finding new stars. However, many big names still choose to work with the BBC.

Asked whether Peter Kay – whose Car Share finale was watched by more than 6 million people – would return, Allen said: “It is up to Peter [but] the door’s open.”


Tara Conlan

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Why Tracey Ullman’s late-night return to UK TV is no laughing matter
Off-peak slot for comedian’s new BBC series revives concerns that executives have lost confidence in the genre

Paul Revoir

17, Jan, 2016 @6:45 PM

Article image
The Night Manager named Radio Times show of 2016
BBC1 spy drama starring Tom Hiddleston tops list of 30 best programmes of the year

Jasper Jackson

27, Dec, 2016 @12:01 AM

Article image
BBC axes Ben Elton's The Wright Way after Twitter mauling
Comedy chief warns against 'crucifying' of new shows on social media, as corporation also drops Sue Perkins's Heading Out. By John Plunkett

John Plunkett

09, Jul, 2013 @3:33 PM

Article image
BBC's Motherland to return as full series
Sharon Horgan and Graham Linehan’s parenting sitcom will be back alongside more episodes of Porridge reboot and Tim Renkow’s A Brief History of Tim

Jane Martinson

06, Oct, 2016 @7:30 AM

Article image
Tracey Ullman to return to UK screens with BBC comedy series
Comedian and actor to host six-part series bearing same name as US show that introduced The Simpsons to the world

04, Mar, 2015 @9:00 PM

Article image
Fawlty Towers among subjects banned by Mastermind as questions run out
Father Ted and Roald Dahl also no longer allowed as specialist subjects on BBC Two quiz show

Graham Ruddick Media editor

30, Jan, 2018 @6:01 AM

Article image
Bringing us sunshine: BBC images celebrate Morecambe & Wise
Broadcaster releases 140 photos to mark 50th birthday of duo’s comedy show

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

31, Aug, 2018 @11:01 PM

Article image
BBC biggest winner at Baftas as Happy Valley and Damilola head award roll call
Comedy laurels go to newcomer Phoebe Waller-Bridge for Fleabag, as The Crown fails to live up to expectations for Netflix

Hannah Ellis-Petersen

14, May, 2017 @9:40 PM

Article image
BBC lines up six sitcom pilots

BBC1 to adapt US series It Takes a Village and shoot Mark Watson sitcom, while BBC2 shows include Ed Bye comedy. By John Plunkett

John Plunkett

31, Oct, 2012 @8:05 AM

Article image
Bafta TV prize eludes Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch
Marvellous, The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies and Ant and Dec pick up two prizes at television awards ceremony in London

John Plunkett and Hannah Ellis-Petersen

10, May, 2015 @9:33 PM