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.”

Contributor

Tara Conlan

The GuardianTramp

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