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Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell in Steptoe And Son

BBC Four unveils new drama season



Phil Davis, Trevor Eve, Jason Isaccs and Ken Stott are to star in a season of new one-off dramas for BBC Four revealing the stories behind some of Britain's best loved television entertainers, and their achievements.

 

The four-part season will explore the extraordinary lives of Hughie Green, Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd and the two actors who played Steptoe And Son: Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell.

 

Hughie Green was the avuncular front man of the hugely successful family TV shows Opportunity Knocks and Double Your Money. But behind the scenes he lived a very different life.

 

Hughie's professional rivalry with Stars On Sunday presenter Jess Yates and serial womanising ultimately produced an explosive celebrity secret – Green was the real father of the late TV personality Paula Yates.

 

With Trevor Eve (Waking The Dead) as Green, Hughie Green, Most Sincerely is a parable about the destructive power of success and celebrity, but also an exploration of what family and fatherhood meant to this iconic character.

 

Based on the inside story from Green's family, friends and peers, it is being made by BBC Drama Production and is written by Tony Basgallop (Hotel Babylon, To The Ends Of The Earth), directed by Dan Percival (The State Within, Dirty War), and produced by Ben Evans (Kenneth Williams: Fantabulosa!, Fear Of Fanny).

 

Steptoe And Son remains a landmark in the history of British television. It gave birth to the modern sitcom and transformed its actors – Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell – into national treasures.

 

The sitcom told the story of two rag-and-bone men trapped together for all eternity. But behind the scenes, out of the public eye, an even stranger story was playing out. The Curse Of Steptoe uncovers an unexpected and incredible tale of life imitating art.

 

Starring Phil Davis (Five Days) as Wilfrid Brambell and Jason Isaacs (The State Within) as Harry H Corbett, The Curse Of Steptoe is both a hilarious romp through the land of Sixties sitcom and a poignant story of two men, yoked together, unable to escape their inner complexities and desires, or for that matter, each other.

 

How their personal problems and antipathy helped the show achieve success is one of the most revealing stories from the annals of BBC light entertainment history.

 

Writer Brian Fillis (Fear Of Fanny) delivers a sharp, witty and moving script based on interviews with colleagues, friends and family of Harry and Wilfrid, and Steptoe writers, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.

 

From BBC Drama Production, this 1 x 60-minute film is being directed by Michael Samuels (Our Hidden Lives, The Falklands Play), and produced by Ben Bickerton (The Afternoon Plays).

 

Frankie Howerd is to this day an enduring and celebrated icon of British comedy, and his "thrice nays" and "titter ye not" have been immortalised in the canon of comedy catch-phrases.

 

However, during Howerd's lifetime his popularity and his moods went up and down more often than a well-placed innuendo. Behind the scenes was a man riddled with professional doubts, conflicted by his homosexuality and wracked with depression.

 

Still to be cast, Frankie Howerd: Rather You Than Me is the moving, humorous and poignant story of Howerd's fight with his inner demons, as seen through the eyes of his long-term partner Dennis Heymer.

 

This is the first time that the true story of Howerd's inner life has been told, as he kept his sexuality and relationship with Dennis secret until his death in 1992.

 

The writer Peter Harness has constructed this story from intimate interviews with Dennis himself. Peter's credits include: BBC Four's A View From The Hill and, currently in production for BBC Films/Heyday Films, Is There Anybody There?

 

Frankie Howerd: Rather You Than Me, a 1 x 60-minute film being made by BBC Drama Production, is directed by John Alexander (Shadow In The North; Sense And Sensibility) and produced by Ben Evans.

 

As announced by the BBC last week, Ken Stott (Rebus, Messiah) is to play troubled comic genius Tony Hancock in Hancock & Joan, which will also form part of the season.

 

Also starring Maxine Peake (Cinderella, Shameless) as Joan, the drama charts the final year of Hancock's life and the love affair with his best friend's wife, his battle with drink and his final fateful series in Australia.

 

Only months after her marriage to Dad's Army favourite John Le Mesurier, Joan Le Mesurier fell in love with his best friend, the godfather of British sitcom, Tony Hancock.

 

Tony was fresh out of rehab and desperate to resurrect his career with the offer of a new series in Australia. John stood by as Joan and Tony embarked on an obsessive and passionate love affair. Though clearly besotted with Joan, Tony was struggling with drink and violent depression.

 

After months of turmoil, Joan gives him a final ultimatum – if he makes a go of Australia and keeps off the booze for a year, she will leave John and marry him. Tony left for Australia determined to win Joan over. But tragically he never returned.

 

Based on Joan Le Mesurier's autobiography, Lady Don't Fall Backwards, and Edward Joffe's Hancock's Last Stand, this moving 1 x 90-minute film tells the story of Hancock and Joan's love affair and its tragic end.

 

Hancock & Joan is being made for BBC Northern Ireland by World Productions. It has been written by Richard Cottan, directed by Richard Laxton and produced by Simon Heath. Patrick Spence is Executive Producer for the BBC.

 

George Entwistle, Acting Controller, BBC Four, says: "The season celebrates some of the most enduring icons from the history of British television. The dramas show a different side to the various personalities – sometimes funny, sometimes sad – always surprising and fascinating."

 

Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction, adds: "The casting for the dramas is outstanding and coupled with wonderful writing and first-rate production values we're delighted to bring more bold and imaginative drama to BBC Four."

 

Frankie Howerd: Rather You Than Me, Most Sincerely, Hughie Green, Hancock & Joan and The Curse Of Steptoe were commissioned by Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction.

 

John Yorke, Controller, Drama Production Studios, is executive producer for Frankie Howerd: Rather You Than Me, Most Sincerely, Hughie Green and The Curse Of Steptoe.

 

The season, to be screened in Spring 2008, follows in the footsteps of acclaimed BBC Four dramas Kenneth Williams: Fantabulosa!, Fear Of Fanny and the recent rumbustious Fanny Hill.

 

CD2

 

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Category: BBC Four; TV Drama; Northern Ireland
Date: 28.11.2007
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