Everything to Know About PBS' 'Funny Woman'

Leo Bill as Tony Holmes, Matthew Beard as Bill Gardiner, and Gemma Arterton as Barbara Parker/Sophie Straw backstage at the Jim & Barbara Show in 'Funny Woman'

Leo Bill as Tony Holmes, Matthew Beard as Bill Gardiner, and Gemma Arterton as Barbara Parker/Sophie Straw in 'Funny Woman' 

© Potboiler Productions; © Sky UK Limited

Since the winter of 2021, PBS has centered its January premieres around All Creatures Great & Small. Based on the book of the same name, the series tells the real-life story of James Herriot, a Scottish veterinarian who was transplanted to Yorkshire in the 1930s and wrote about his experiences. All Creatures' main lead-in (save for winter 2022) has been Miss Scarlet & the Duke, a series about the first female private detective in London, which is not based on a novel or a true story, though many viewers assume it is. With the arrival of January's newest debut, viewers are naturally curious: Is Funny Woman based on a true story?

Funny Woman is, in many ways, a perfect mix of the two shows it will join on PBS Sunday nights in January 2024. A period drama set in the 1960s, it has the same themes as Miss Scarlet about a woman determinedly making her way in a man's world, despite most of the women around her assuming she will fail and the men assuming she can't possibly be capable of succeeding in the first place. And like All Creatures, it is about a lead character who transplants from their hometown for a new job and is a complete fish-out-of-water, but one who is bringing new and modern ideas as the world rapidly changes around them.

Also, like All Creatures Great & Small, Funny Woman is based on a book. However, it is not a true story. It's based on the 2014 fictional Nick Hornby novel Funny Girl and is meant as much as a love letter to the early 1960s-era British sitcom as it is a story of Barabara Parker's success in it.

Here's the series synopsis:

It’s the height of the swinging 60s, and Barbara Parker has just been crowned Miss Blackpool – but she’s certain there has to be more to life than being a beauty queen in a seaside town. With the bright lights of London calling, Barbara packs her bags and heads off to the city where she looks to take on the male-dominated world of comedy by storm.

Funny Woman stars Gemma Arterton (Lost in Austen) as Barbara Parker, who eventually goes on to take the name Sophie Straw when she breaks into TV. The ensemble series includes a stable of British A-listers, including Alexa Davies (COBRA) as her BFF, Marj Harrison, Rosie Cavaliero (Gentleman Jack) as Auntie Marie Parker, Rupert Everett (The Serpent Queen) as her agent, Brian Debenham, Morwenna Banks (Peppa Pig) as his wife, Patsy Debenham, David Threlfall (Dodger) as the man back home who wants to marry her, George Parker, Tom Bateman (Beecham House) as her love-interest-in-London, co-star Clive Richardson, Alistair Petrie (Why Didn't They Ask Evans?) as BBC chief Ted Sargent, and Arsher Ali (Ackley Bridge), Matthew Beard (Vienna Blood), Leo Bill (Becoming Elizabeth), and Clare-Hope Ashitey (Doctor Foster) as her BBC co-workers.

Oliver Parker (The Importance of Being Earnest) directed all six episodes, penned by Banks, with Hornby also credited. Banks is also credited as executive producer along with Arterton and Hornby, plus Andrea Calderwood, Gail Egan, Tilusha Ghelani, Jessica Malik, Jon Mountague, and Jessica Parker. The series has already been renewed for a second season.

Funny Woman will premiere on Sunday, January 7, at 10 p.m. ET on most PBS stations, with all six episodes premiering on PBS Passport for members on premiere day. As always, check your local listings.

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Funny Woman

Barbara Parker heads to London to take on the male-dominated world of comedy by storm.
Funny Woman: show-poster2x3


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on BlueSky and other social media of your choice: @anibundel.bsky.social

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