As we start our five-day screening marathon in Liverpool at BBC Showcase, we start with comedy.
The BBC Showcase
The Showcase is an annual gathering where the British public broadcaster rolls out their best programming for approximately 700 TV buyers — like Bill, who’s the television VP at North Texas public media station KERA — from around the world.
In my telly diary, Martin Clunes (Men Behaving Badly, Perrin, Doc Martin, Manhunt) is dangerously close to entering the Nicola Walker (Spooks, Scott & Bailey, Last Tango in Halifax, Inside Men)/Keeley Hawes (Spooks, Ashes to Ashes, Durrells in Corfu, Upstairs Downstairs, Line of Duty, Bodyguard) waters these days in that I would blindly watch anything they are associated with.
His upcoming comedy series, Warren, is the most recent example worthy of binge watching.
In Warren, Clunes returns to his early days of pure comedy as Warren Thompson, who has to move from the south to Preston when his partner Anne’s father becomes ill. Warren suddenly finds himself living in an area he doesn’t like, looking after two teenage stepsons he never wanted and taking a job as a driving instructor he’s not emotionally cut out for.
No wonder he is now going through life thinking the world is against him. Like his career predecessor in Portwenn, Warren has a way of always knowing best and speaking his mind, which inevitably leads to conflict, chaos and disaster.
Clunes’ career-defining comedy role came early on in his career in the Simon Nye sitcom, Men Behaving Badly, starring Harry Enfield, Neil Morrissey, Leslie Ash and Caroline Quentin. As Dr. Martin Ellingham, the long-time Portwenn village physician with an ill-timed phobia for blood who apparently skipped the Bedside Manner 101 class in medical school, Clunes demonstrated his ability to carry a comedy/drama to perfection.
In the recent Manhunt series (more on that later in our forthcoming interview with Manhunt series executive producer Philippa Braithwaite), Clunes left his comedy roots behind and was brilliant as DCI Collin Sutton as he doggedly worked to solve the real-life murders of Marsha McDonnell, Amelie Delagrange and Milly Dowler in the early 2000s.
At first look, Clunes has masterfully returned to his Men Behaving Comedy comedy roots. Let’s hope it connects with audiences to warrant a second series commissioning from the BBC in the not-too-distant future.
Warren begins Monday, February 25, on BBC One with, hopefully, a public television premiere in 2019.