Sky 1 is aiming to showcase bolder and edgier new comedies in a new 10pm slot as part of a refresh for the channel.
The broadcaster is starting its push with two new shows, one written by and starring An Idiot Abroad’s Karl Pilkington, and another by comedian Romesh Ranganathan.
They will air in a new 10pm half hour slot dedicated to what the broadcaster calls “edgier and more mischievous comedies”.
Pilkington’s new series, Sick of It, is his first scripted comedy and sees the erstwhile Ricky Gervais collaborator take on two roles – himself, and the voice inside his head – as he muddles through the mundane life he may have led if he hadn’t met Gervais and Stephen Merchant and been propelled to fame.
A middle-aged man recently ditched by his long-term girlfriend, "Karl" (below) now lives with his elderly Auntie; his closest companion is the voice in his head, a misanthropic alter ego who takes the form of his doppelgänger. The uncensored true version of Karl says what he really thinks without the risk of offending others.
Pilkington said, “For most people the inner self is there to help make decisions, but mine mainly confuses me and pushes me in the wrong direction. I’d say that doing this series was inner self’s idea. I’ve only just realised that I’m playing myself twice but only being paid once. Like I say, my inner self doesn’t really look out for me.”
Meanwhile Romesh Ranganathan, the stand-up and star of the BBC’s comedy travelogue Asian Provocateur, will take the lead role in his own show The Reluctant Landlord (working title).
In it, his character runs a pub he doesn’t really want after his mischievous father left it to him in his will; his mum feels it is the only way to keep his dad’s legacy alive.
The comedy will also star Car Share’s Sian Gibson as his wife, Natasha, and Nick Helm as best mate Lemon.
The story is actually semi-autobiographical. While he was a fledgling comedian, Ranganathan ran a gig at his father's pub in East Grinstead - and he and his brother briefly tried running the business after their Dad died.
He said: “After my father passed away and I was forced to run a pub a few years ago I remember thinking: ‘The best way to turn this into a positive would be to write a sitcom based on the situation for Sky 1.’
“I am delighted to finally see this very specific long term plan to fruition. The production team and channel have both been incredibly supportive. I say this both because it’s true and so that they can’t distance themselves from the project if it’s a failure.”
Jon Mountague, Sky’s head of comedy, said: “Working with Karl Pilkington and Romesh Ranganathan is a dream; their shows are shot through with an authenticity that brings a unique, more grown-up comedy edge to Sky 1.
“Evenings are going to be all about laughs on Sky 1 – with our biggest line-up of new comedy coming up, including hour long comedy dramas at 9pm and something a bit more mischievous at 10pm. Coming soon are shows starring Jack Whitehall, Philip Glenister, Lesley Sharp, Rupert Grint and Nick Frost. As a comedy obsessive I’m thrilled to be walking amongst such giants – brilliant talent telling surprising and sometimes challenging comic stories.”
Other new shows coming up on the channel include Living the Dream, a six-part series from the makers of Cold Feet starring Philip Glenister (Outcast, Mad Dogs) and Lesley Sharp (Scott & Bailey, Paranoid) as an English family attempting to live the American dream.