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BBC Studios lands five BBC pilots

The BBC has commissioned a dozen comedy pilots across three of its channels, with the revamped BBC Studios working on five of them.

Shane Allen

Chris Sussman, who was named head of comedy at the pubcaster’s newly commercial production arm in March last year, is overseeing five of the projects which are spread across BBC1, BBC2 and streaming service BBC3.

The BBC Studios projects include Mister Winner, directed by Ben Palmer (The Inbetweeners) and produced by Michelle Farr (Bluestone 42) for BBC1. It tells the story of an accident-prone and unfortunate man, played by Upstart Crow star Spencer Jones.

Famalam, meanwhile, is a BBC2 sketch show, directed by Tom Marshall and exec produced by Sussman alongside former Channel 4 head of comedy entertainment, Ben Caudell.

The Pact follows two teenagers who make a pact to marry at 35 if they are still single. The comedy drama is directed by American actor, film producer and director Tony Dow. Sarah Solemani (Bridget Jones’ Baby) and Brett Goldstein (Derek) star.

Written and produced by Jon Macqueen, Hailmakers follows two characters, played by Akemnji Ndifornyen (Ackee & Saltfish) and Samson Kayo (Timewasters), on their mission to make easy money.

The fifth BBC Studios pilot, Celebrity Voicemail, is based on a show that previously aired on BBC Radio 4. The pilot is based on Bafta-winning Kayvan Novak’s radio show which considers what it would be like to hear celebrities’ voicemails.

BBC Studios, launched in April last year to allow the BBC to compete with indies and produce for non-BBC channels, is also responsible for the production of Strictly Come Dancing, Doctor Who and Planet Earth II.

Shane Allen, the BBC’s controller of comedy commissioning, additionally unveiled seven other pilots being produced by indies.

BBC1 has picked up two of these to revive the 1960-70s Comedy Playhouse strand that was regenerated in 2015. The original series, consisting of unrelated sitcoms, was the starting point for classics such as Are You Being Served?, Last of The Summer Wine and Steptoe & Son.

Baby Cow is producing Tim Vine Travels Through Time, while Endemol Shine-owned Zeppotron is working on Static from comedian Rob Beckett and Shaun Pye (A Young Doctor’s Notebook).

Poldark actor Phil Davis and Gavin & Stacey’s Alison Steadman are set to star in the family sitcom which follows jobless Rob (Rob Beckett) on his journey back to work.

BBC2’s The Other One, from Tiger Aspect and Cave Bear, was announced earlier this week.

The BBC3 slate is led by Chinese Burn from Roughcut, which aims to smash Asian stereotypes and share true, universal experiences from writers and actresses Yennis Cheung (Skyfall) and Shin-Fei Chen (Doctor Who).

Sticky, meanwhile, is an animated sitcom from Too Tall Productions, starring Taboo actor Tom Hard and revolving around four college friends embarking on their internet mission.

Bullion’s Wannabe, from the writers of Bafta-winning People Just Do Nothing, Lily Brazier and Ben Murray, is also lined up for BBC3. The show sees a failed music manager attempting to make her comeback and stars Brazier.

The final comedy for BBC3 is Enterprice, from Fudge Park Productions and director Nida Manzoor. Written and created by Kayode Ewumi, it follow the exploits of a home delivery service.

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