BBC Announces New Comedies for 2023, Including Catherine Tate’s 'Queen of Oz'
British comedies, by and large, have been the province of white male writers. From Monty Python to The Outlaws, most hit comedies from across the pond haven't featured much in the way of diversity, and what little has made it over to American shores, like Starstruck (created by Rose Matafeo, co-written with Alice Snedden, directed by Karen Maine) and I Hate Suzie (created and written by Lucy Prebble and Billie Piper) haven't been marketed very well. Hopefully, that's about to change, as the BBC has unveiled a new slate of comedies for 2023 that put the voices of women and Black comedians front and center.
When asked by Deadline about the slate, BBC Comedy Director Jon Petrie claimed that no one in programming had deliberately planned for the lineup to be so diverse; this was merely happenstance of the best series being put forward coming from artists like Caroline Moran (Hullraisers), Akemnji Ndifornyen (Famalam), Sian Gibson (Inside No. 9), and Adjani Salmon (Doctor Who). And to be fair, none of these shows were greenlit or put to pilot at the same time -- most of them have been in the works since 2021 -- so this may indeed be a happy coincidence borne of the BBC's overall expansion of voices.
The biggest series is the one headed up by the best-known comedian in the group, Catherine Tate. She was already famous for her eponymous comedy series, The Catherine Tate Show, before she became a Doctor Who companion to David Tennant's Tenth Doctor, and has since gone on to star in The Office, plus her own series, Nan and Hard Cell, where she plays multiple characters. Her new series, Queen of Oz, is a topical comedy about the royal family, in which a fictionalized version of the King of England abdicates rule of Australia in order to give his wastrel daughter, Princess Georgina (Tate), something to do with her life.
One of those longest in development comes from Kat Sadler, best known for her work as part of Mel Giedroyc's writing team on the reality comedy Unforgivable. Her series, Such Brave Girls, was originally put to pilot back in 2021, and comes from the then-newly formed Camden Productions. Billed as an autobiographical comedy, Sadler stars alongside her real-life sister Lizzie Davidson, for whom this will be her first major role. It features single mother Deb and young adult daughters, Josie and Billie, abandoned by their narcissistic father. Sadler and Davidson play Josie and Billie, with Louise Brealey (Sherlock) as Deb, trying to hold her girls together.
Dreaming Whilst Black started as a short-form online comedy in 2018, originally developed over at BBC Three during its years confined to streaming. Created and starring Adjani Salmon, who Americans may remember from the 2022 Doctor Who New Year's Special, "Eve of the Daleks," the award-winning sketch show was picked up for co-production by indie darling A24 in 2022 to create and distribute a full-length season. Loosely inspired by Salmon's experiences in the industry, Salmon stars as an aspiring filmmaker Kwabena, trying to make it in "Babylon. The problem is he’s broke, Black, and born into a Jamaican family who wishes he was an accountant."
Henpocalypse! is the series the BBC led off with along with Tate's show, bringing a first-look photo and full cast list along with the confirmation the show would air later in 2023. An apocalyptic comedy from Caroline Moran, the series begins during working-class West-Midlands bridezilla Zara's hen-do, which is interrupted by the apocalypse. She, her besties, and their stripper are forced to struggle for survival in a Wales holiday cottage while society breaks down. The cast features Elizabeth Berrington (The Responder), Lucie Shorthouse (We Are Lady Parts), Callie Cooke (Cheaters), Lauren O’Rourke (Drifters), Kate O’Flynn (Landscapers), and Ben McGregor (The Tuckers).
The "high-concept" comedy-thriller Black Ops was put into production in mid-2022, a "genre-busting" series from the mind of creator and producer Akemnji Ndifornyen, who Americans may recognize from his on-screen turn in Netflix's The Queen's Gambit. From the logline, this looks like a satire of the traditional British police procedural featuring two Community Support Officers in East London who accidentally find themselves assigned to deep cover infiltration. Ndifornyen stars in the series alongside Gbemisola Ikumelo (A League of Their Own) and Hammed Animashaun (The Wheel of Time); the BBC is actively shopping the series to American streamers.
And finally, there's Sian Gibson's 1990s-era period piece comedy Undoing Martin Parker, with co-writer Paul Coleman (Car Share). Gibson co-stars alongside Conleth Hill (Vienna Blood), the titular Parker, a self-made impresario with a chain of electrical stores bearing his name. But with the end of Thatcher, times are changing, and "his complicated private life" is catching up with him. The series also stars Rosie Cavaliero (Gentleman Jack), George Costigan (Happy Valley), and Sheila Reid (Call The Midwife, but she'll always be Mrs. Buttle in Brazil to me), and with a cast like that is destined to cross the pond.
None of these shows have firm release dates as yet, only that they will all debut in 2023. Hopefully, they'll all find homes on American streaming soon.