In a move that traditionally tends to defy any conceivable valid explanation, the BBC has cancelled the Ben Elton comedy Upstart Crow after three critically acclaimed and highly successful series. David Mitchell was brilliant as a young William Shakespeare which spanned three series, several specials and an incredible limited run at both the Gielgud and Apollo Theatres in London’s West End.
Ben Elton’s most recent effort in series 3 saw Shakespeare busy at work and home as he struggled to juggle his roles as father, husband, commuter and literary genius. Audiences also saw Shakespeare put on the first ever performance of Julius Caesar, as well as the world’s first charity fundraising benefit as he continued to try and make it as a playwright in London while managing that pesky family life with his loved ones in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon.
Prior to series 3, the first series followed the writing and preparation to stage Romeo and Juliet after The Bard gained some early career notoriety for his poetry, Henry VI and Richard III. Series 2 finds Romeo and Juliet finally finished but in need of a cast while Shakespeare puts the finishing touches on The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
For series 3, Harry Enfield, Paula Wilcox, Liza Tarbuck, Helen Monks and Gemma Whelan returned alongside Mitchell, known to audiences for his 10+ years starring with long-time comedy partner, David Webb, on The Peep Show, which ran for 9 series (54 episodes) from 2003-2015. Series 3 will see a bit of added pressure for Shakespeare when real-life Shakespearean legend, Sir Kenneth Branagh, stars as a ‘mysterious stranger’ in an upcoming episode.
In keeping with the tradition started in series two where Emma Thompson (Brideshead Revisited, Love Actually, Harry Potter, Howards End, Fortunes of War) and Noel Fielding (The Mighty Boosh) joined the cast of Upstart Crow, the Ben Elton (The Young Ones, Blackadder) comedy added Ben Miller (Death in Paradise, I Want My Wife Back), Sir Kenneth Branagh (Wallander, Dunkirk, Harry Potter, Murder on the Orient Express), Lily Cole (St. Trinians), Nigel Planer (The Young Ones) and Adrian Edmondson (Bottom) as guest stars in series two.
Hopefully, there is always the possibility of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Mitchell told Lorraine Kelly on her ITV morning show that he would “love” to make more episodes. “But at the moment we lack a broadcast partner” he added. “At the moment, no-one’s saying they’ll pay to make it so we can make some more. I’m not pointing the finger at the BBC, there are other broadcasters. They could all get in touch.”
Elton, who also wrote Thin BLue Line, Blessed and co-wrote The Young Ones and Blackadder, spoke fondly of his work on Upstart Crow, “Upstart Crow was a beautiful part of my life. I loved working on a sitcom with David Mitchell. It was a success critically and in popularity.”
Upstart Crow currently airs on many public television stations in the U.S.