New series to show how comedy reflected changing Britain

The Comedy Years will revisit favourite shows and feature contributions from the actors who starred in them.


Ricky Gervais as David Brent in The Office (PA)
Ricky Gervais as David Brent in The Office (PA)

A new series that looks back at how comedy shaped and defined specific years has been commissioned by ITV3.

The Comedy Years will mix clips from classic comedies with social history and pop culture nostalgia,

Each episode in the four-part series will revisit a different year – 1979, 1984, 1998 and 2003 – and show how the comedy reflected a changing Britiain, from the Thatcher-era satire of Not The Nine O’clock News and Spitting Image to groundbreaking comedy series like The Royle Family, The Young Ones and The Office.

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The cast of The Royle Family (Matt Squires/BBC)

The hour-long shows will feature interviews with comedy stars including John Thomson, Omid Djalili, Cannon & Ball, Shappi Khorsandi, Joel Dommett, Jon Culshaw, Debra Stephenson, Leslie Ash and Dom Joly.

The 1979 episode will look at the northern club scene and the new breed of alternative comedians making a name for themselves on screen that included Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones and Rowan Atkinson.

The 1984 episode will feature Spitting Image and The Young Ones, against the backdrop of the miners’ strike, while 1998 will look at The Royle Family and Goodness Gracious Me at the height of New Labour.

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Goodness Gracious Me stars Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal (Yui Mok/PA)

The 2003 episode will look back on Trigger Happy TV, as well as Bruce Forsyth’s hosting duties on Have I Got News For You and the end of Cold Feet and The Office.

Mark Scantlebury, executive producer at production company Shiver, said: “No TV comedy exists in a vacuum. Each is a product of the times, reflecting what is going on in the outside world – whether it’s a satirical sketch show like Spitting Image or a sitcom like The Young Ones.

“In this series we’ll enjoy some classic comedy moments, but we will also explore the circumstances that led to each of them appearing on our screens.

“As we’ll see, politics, world events, changing views on what is and what isn’t acceptable and even technology – like Dom Joly’s use of the mobile phone – all had parts to play in what has made us laugh over the years.”

Satmohan Panesar, commissioner of ITV3, said: “The Comedy Years is a great new original commission for ITV3 which will be entertaining, informative and nostalgic for our viewers.”

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