After a couple of weeks of increasingly oblique teasers, we now have some solid details about Doug’s new sitcom. Firstly, confirmation that the project in question is indeed Over To Bill, a project that Doug has had in development for a number of years, and of which a pilot was shown a couple of Dimension Jumps back. It’s being produced as part of a revival of the BBC’s Comedy Playhouse strand, previous graduates of which include Steptoe and Son, Last of the Summer Wine, Till Death Us Do Part and Are You Being Served?. So no pressure, then.
This Chortle report has all the relevant details:
In Over To Bill, [Hugh] Dennis plays Bill Onion, a meteorologist fired after cracking an innocuous gag about the south of England being better than the north. This sets in motion a blackly farcical train of events begins which ends in his humiliation in front of a prospective employer from another network.
Co-starring Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey as Onion’s best friend Jez, Tracy-Ann Oberman as his wife and Helen George as Jez’s frosty partner and Bill’s nemesis, Over To Bill was written and directed by Red Dwarf co-creator Doug Naylor and produced by his son Richard. The pilot is a co-production between their recently formed production company Three Feet Productions and Baby Cow.
A previous version of the pilot, which was finally shot in Surrey this weekend, has been with the BBC since 2010.
Naylor said: ‘Richard and I are absolutely thrilled to be working with such a wonderful cast with all the great support we’re getting from Baby Cow. We think the show is going to be something really special but then again we both thought Man Utd were going to win the league this year.’
It is indeed a very decent cast. From the various Twitter accounts, the shoot seemed to go very well and surprisingly quickly – it seems the Naylor production curse only extends to Red Dwarf. Hopefully the use of the Comedy Playhouse brand is a genuine commitment from the BBC to invest more time and money into original comedy, rather than just a nostalgia-based PR move, but either way, I’m very much looking forward to see what Doug can do with a whole new bunch of actors and characters.