Outnumbered may have come to an end last week but its star Hugh Dennis will be back, as a hapless TV weatherman in new BBC1 sitcom pilot Over to Bill.
The comedy, written by Red Dwarf co-creator Doug Naylor, sees Dennis’ character Bill Onions fired after cracking an innocuous gag about the south of England being better than the north which leads to “a blackly farcical train of events”.
Also starring are Tracy-Ann Oberman as Bill’s "generally supportive" wife Faith, Neil Morrissey as his best friend Jez and Helen George as Jez’s frosty wife Selina.
The commission is one of three new half-hour one-off specials which see a return of the BBC's legendary Comedy Playhouse strand, which helped launch classic shows Steptoe and Son, Till Death Us Do Part, Are You Being Served? and Last of the Summer Wine.
The second pilot show, which will also be aired on BBC1, is Miller’s Mountain, a Scottish studio sitcom set around the antics of a group of Mountain Rescue volunteers starring Jimmy Chisholm, Sharon Rooney, Kevin Guthrie, David Ireland, Kath Howden, Jonathan Watson and Sheila Reid.
The third comedy is Monks, an audience sitcom about idler Gary Woodcroft (Seann Walsh) who joins his local monastery rather than face prosecution for benefits fraud. James Fleet, Mark Heap, Justin Edwards and Fergus Craig co-star.
Shane Allen, the BBC’s controller of comedy commissioning, said of the new shows: “BBC1 delivers enormous audiences for comedy and this season revival reflects our commitment in mainstream to do new and daring projects. We want BBC1 to fly the flag of popular British comedy and want this dedicated space to promote tomorrow’s classic comedy today.”