Flying the comedy flag

Hopes are high at BBC One for Millers MountainHopes are high at BBC One for Millers Mountain
Hopes are high at BBC One for Millers Mountain
Its sister channel, BBC Two, doesn’t seem to have any problems with making the nation guffaw - Rev recently ended a very funny run, as did W1A, and The Trip is keeping viewers hooked, to name just three excellent sitcoms.

Even BBC Three chips in with the likes of Bluestone 42 and Pramface, while BBC Four has the sublime import Parks and Recreation on its books.

Perhaps those at BBC One have been looking on enviously at the broadcaster’s other stations, because finally, the powers that be have decided to do something about the dearth of decent comedy in its ranks.

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Like many a desperate soul before them, they’ve gone back to the drawing board and examined how such classic series as Steptoe and Son, Till Death Us Do Part, Last of the Summer Wine and The Liver Birds were born.

All were originally one-off, half-hour plays broadcast as part of the Comedy Playhouse strand, which began in 1961 and ran for the next 14 years.

The first two series were written entirely by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, with others chipping in later on. The programmes that proved the most popular with viewers were then turned into full-length series, with the rest discarded, rarely to be seen ever again - in fact, several episodes are lost forever, wiped from the BBC archive like many other shows from the same period.

Now Shane Allen, controller of BBC comedy commissioning, is hoping the three programmes being broadcast in this new, 21st-century version of Comedy Playhouse, can live up to their predecessors.

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“This season revival reflects our commitment in mainstream to do new and daring projects,” he says. “We want BBC One to fly the flag of British comedy and want this dedicated space to promote tomorrow’s classic comedy today.”

The run began last week with the TV-related Over to Bill, which starred Hugh Dennis and Tracy-Ann Oberman, while next week it will be Monks, which features James Fleet and Mark Heap, that takes centre stage.

This time, it’s the Scotland-set Miller’s Mountain under the spotlight.

“With memorable comedies such as Still Game and Rab C Nesbitt, there’s a brilliant tradition of laugh out loud Scottish sitcoms,” claims its executive producer, Mark Freeland. “That’s a high bar, but with its infectious joyousness, I so hope Miller’s Mountain can scale those heights. Crampons on and let’s see.”

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The sitcom focuses on the antics of Jimmy Miller and his fellow Mountain Rescue volunteers.

Veteran Jimmy takes new volunteer Conor under his wing, introducing him to dog-obsessed Bill, chirpy head of operations Bernie, and Jules, the local pub barmaid.

All seems to go well until somebody actually needs to be rescued from the nearby mountain...

Jimmy Chisholm, Kevin Guthrie and Sharon Rooney head the cast.

Will we see it again in the future as a series? Only time will tell...

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