‘Up Pompeii’ — looking back and, hopefully, looking ahead
Up Pompeii, starring the late, great Frankie Howerd, ran for only two short seasons back in 1969-1970, was written by and starred a number of Carry On film alumni. While it would probably have a hard time being broadcast today with its endless series of double entendre and sexual innuendos, Are You Being Served still manages to find a home on public television stations in the States to a good degree of success.
A rumor recently surfaced from a comment made by writer Brian Leveson where he revealed that the idea of a reboot has resurfaced with a female lead. Rumor has it that the BBC first announced its intention to remake the Frankie Howerd sitcom in 2016 with Miranda Hart in the lead. Reportedly, the Miranda and Call the Midwife star pulled out of the project and it was abandoned. Leveson, who wrote the 1991 OTO special, Further Up Pompeii, confirmed that the potential for a new series set in a pre-eruption Pompeii with a female lead is back on the table.
With some of Howerd’s inspiration for the series coming from the film A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the greatness of it centered around Howerd’s ability to depart from the script and play it up to the camera (which would have made Miranda Hart perfect for the lead role) along with some extremely politically incorrect character names like Senator Ludicrus Sextus, his promiscuous wife Ammonia, daughter Erotica and his forever virginal son, Nausius.
The fun thing about each episode of Up Pompeii was to see who popped up in each episode in the bit parts. For the ‘Ides of March’ episode, anyone recognize a couple individuals whose day job was working at Grace Brothers Department Store? At least they feel at home with the innuendos.
The original concept to bring the series back came about in 2016 when the BBC embarked on a year-long celebration of the 60th anniversary of their comedy heritage from a broadcast standpoint. Ultimately, reboots of Keeping Up Appearances (in the form of Young Hyacinth), Are You Being Served and Porridge were made. While chances are somewhere between slim and none, here’s hoping that Miranda Hart can be talked into at least considering what we call ‘a 21st century version of Up Pompeii‘.