John Cleese to make BBC sitcom comeback

In 2015, John Cleese said there was “no way” he’d work at the BBC. Now, though, he appears to have changed his mind.

Almost 40 years on from Fawlty Towers, the 77-year-old is to make a new BBC sitcom that will reunite him with his Clockwise co-star Alison Steadman.

In Edith, they’ll play old flames whose rekindled romance hits the buffers when her 50-year-old son moves back in.

According to Cleese, Charles McKeown’s “are the most enjoyable scripts I’ve been sent in the last 100 years”.

He said in a statement: “It will also be particularly nice to work with Alison again since we joined forces in Clockwise all that time ago.”

It’s actually been 31 years since Cleese and Steadman played husband and wife in that 1986 film comedy about a punctuality-mad schoolmaster whose journey to a conference is beset with disasters.

And it’s been even longer since he shared the screen with McKeown, who played a supporting character in the famous Fawlty Towers episode involving a dead body.

McKeown played the man discovered blowing up the sex doll when Basil and Manuel entered his room carrying a corpse.

McKeown maintained his connection with the Monty Python team by co-writing several of Terry Gilliam’s films, among them Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

Jason Watkins, recently seen in Line of Duty, plays Edith’s grown-up son Roger, while his W1A co-star star Jessica Hynes plays his abandoned wife Wendy.

Anne Reid, James Cosmo and Peter Egan are also part of the “amazing cast” Steadman says she is “thrilled” to be working with.

Shane Allen, the BBC’s controller of comedy commissioning, said the ensemble was “not far off… your fantasy BBC One comedy cast”.

Cleese has been no stranger to US sitcoms since putting Basil to bed in 1979, having popped up in the likes of Cheers, Will & Grace and Third Rock from the Sun.

‘No idea what they’re doing’

Yet he has been withering of the BBC in the past, complaining in 2014 that the corporation had “thinned down and become something very different” from the one that green-lit Python.

“There’s no way I want to work in TV, especially at the BBC,” he told Shortlist magazine the following year.

“I have a nasty feeling a large proportion of the commissioning editors have no idea what they’re doing.”

Filming on Edith will begin in the summer and it is hoped the show will air on BBC One by the end of the year.


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