20 Jun 2011
BBC Four has announced that it has commissioned a new one-off, 90-minute comedy drama, Holy Flying Circus for transmission this Autumn. It is the first production to come out of Hillbilly Television Ltd, a joint venture with talkbackTHAMES.
Written by Tony Roche (In the Loop, The Thick of It) Holy Flying Circus is a fantastical re-imagining of the controversy surrounding the release of Monty Python’s 1979 film Life of Brian. Witty and humorous in tone, the comedy drama incorporates surreal cutaways including puppetry and animation in telling its narrative.
Richard Klein, Controller BBC Four says: “This is a smart and witty take on both the nature of censorship and the world of Monty Python. Tony Roche's script is both bold and entertaining, a wonderfully warm homage to one of the most original of British comedy teams.”
An ensemble cast piece, the drama features: Darren Boyd (Case Sensitive for ITV1, Green Wing) as John Cleese, Charles Edwards (currently to be seen in Much Ado About Nothing at The Globe) as Michael Palin, Steve Punt (Punt and Dennis, Would I Lie To You?) as Eric Idle, Rufus Jones (The Dutch Elm Conservatoire, Katy Brand Big Ass Show) as Terry Jones, Tom Fisher (Kingdom) as Graham Chapman and Phil Nichol (winner of the prestigious Edinburgh Comedy Award - formerly Perrier - 2006) as Terry Gilliam.
Directed by Owen Harris (Misfits, Secret Diary of a Call Girl), filming begins this month for four weeks, and will feature locations in and around London. Co-produced by Polly Leys and Kate Norrish for Hillbilly Television Ltd, the executive producer is Matthew Read for the BBC. Holy Flying Circus was commissioned by Richard Klein, Controller, BBC Four and Ben Stephenson, Controller BBC Drama Commissioning.
Hillbilly Television and Holy Flying Circus co-producer, Kate Norrish comments:
“Holy Flying Circus takes a moment from our recent past to shed light on the present. When Palin and Cleese were called to defend Life of Brian, they were fighting not just for the future of their film but for their artistic credibility. It was a moment when freedom of speech was pitted against religious belief and is a debate that is just as precariously balanced today.”
Jamie Laurenson, BBC Commissioning Editor adds: “BBC drama is constantly looking for bold and challenging stories to tell, following recent dramas on BBC Four including Women In Love and Lennon Naked. Holy Flying Circus by Tony Roche is a funny and truly original look at how Monty Python struggled with censorship in the release of Life of Brian.”
Holy Flying Circus is a talkbackTHAMES/Hillbilly Television co-production for BBC Four.
For talkbackTHAMES - Susan Wilks Tel: 020 7691 6137 firstname.lastname@example.org
For BBC Four - Michelle Osborn Tel: 020 8225 6124
Sam Almon Adeluwoye, BBC Pictures
Tel: 020 8225 8517
Notes to editors:
Hillbilly Films & Television was set up by Polly Leys and Kate Norrish and has an overhead and development deal with talkbackThames and Fremantle Media. In addition to Holy Flying Circus, Hillbilly is completing production on Random, a single drama for Channel 4 written and directed by acclaimed playwright Debbie Tucker Green which will be broadcast later this year. In development, Hillbilly is working on Life’s Too Short, an original contemporary romantic comedy drama series commissioned by Sky and written by Rachel Bennette (Bel Ami, Lark Rise to Candleford). On the film slate, the company is under commission to Film Four for Debbie Tucker Green’s next film as well as All Our Christmases by Aschlin Ditta (Scenes of a Sexual Nature, The Catherine Tate Show) which is in development with BBC Films.
Leys and Norrish have a strong track record of working with both established and new talent. In 2007 they produced C4’s Coming Up strand for Channel 4 working with talent such as Jack Thorne, Debbie Tucker Green, Kate Hardie, Yann Demange, Tom Harper, Tom Shkolnik, Ben Gregor and Alecky Blythe. Reviews said the dramas were ‘terrific’ (Time Out), ‘the standard is impossibly high’ (The Times) and ‘quite possibly the best thing Channel 4 have shown this year’ (The Observer). Leys previously worked at Redwave Films where she co-produced The Full Monty amongst others. Norrish, meanwhile has developed a raft of innovative shows such as Channel 4’s Bollywood Star whilst head of development at Maverick Television.
talkbackTHAMES is one of the UK's most successful production companies providing award winning programming for all major terrestrial and digital channels. With an unparalleled range of programming including - The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Celebrity Juice, Take Me Out, Over The Rainbow, to Grand Designs, Great British Railway Journeys, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, The IT Crowd, QI, The Rob Brydon Show, Four Rooms to The Apprentice - talkbackTHAMES has aired over 450 hours of programming on terrestrial TV in the past 12 months alone.
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