Upstart Crow, Ben Elton’s William Shakespeare sitcom, is coming back for a second series on BBC2, RadioTimes.com can reveal.
The BBC’s acting director of programmes Charlotte Moore was sufficiently impressed with the first series of the comedy which saw David Mitchell play a bemused bard with a loving wife (Liza Tarbuck) and a difficult daughter (the fabulous Helen Monks) to ask for more.
Six more episodes plus a Christmas special will air in 2017.
Series one of the comedy followed the life and times of Will Shakespeare as he starts to make a name for himself in London, whilst trying to balance life as a husband, father and son for his family in Stratford-upon-Avon. Beyond his wife Anne, daughter Susannah and mother and father (Paula Wilcox and Harry Enfield), other characters included his servant Bottom, his friends Kate and Marlowe, his theatrical troupe and his rival Robert Greene (Mark Heap).
Tonight’s final episode used the Merchant of Venice as its inspiration with Kate taking the Portia role to save Will in a courtroom scene which also saw the return of Bob (Gabrielle Glaister), a favourite from Blackadder 2.
Most of the episodes have used plots from Shakespeare’s work for their inspiration – the exception being one instalment focusing on his sonnets – with the second series expected to continue in the same vein, including characters like Othello and Falstaff and plays like Henry V and The Taming of the Shrew.
The news is a great boon for Elton and the BBC comedy department.
Elton’s last BBC sitcom, 2013’s The Wright Way, was deemed one of the Beeb’s least successful while Upstart Crow has drawn comparisons with one of its best – Blackadder 2 – which of course was written by Elton and Richard Curtis.
BBC controller of comedy commissioning Shane Allen said of the recommission: “What with the brilliant response to Ben’s re-imagination of Will Shakespeare’s world and the uniquely entertaining cast, it would be madness not to bring Upstart Crow back for a second series.”
Ben Elton added: “Making a sitcom for the BBC is the holy grail of British comedy writing. I am absolutely thrilled that Upstart Crow has earned a second series and am sorry for some of the things I thought about the Bard while studying for my English Lit O Level.”
Mitchell said he was “thrilled” by the news of the series’ return.
Ben has worked as a professional journalist specialising in TV and the arts for nearly twenty years. After a two year stint on local newspapers in the mid 1990s, he spent more than 5 years as the broadcast reporter at the Stage newspaper. Following that he enjoyed staff reporting positions at the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Times breaking stories and writing features before settling as a full time freelance writing for an array of newspapers and magazines - but mainly for the Guardian, Evening Standard, Broadcast, Independent and the New Statesman where he wrote a column.