Wednesday 26 September 2012

Our very own Cuckoo

Having watched and to a degree enjoyed BBC Three's Cuckoo starring Andy Samberg & Greg Davies last night, I was immediately reminded of The Sitcom Trials' very first success, which was with its very own cuckoo-in-the-nest sitcom.

The BBC Radio Theatre recording of the cuckoo-in-the-nest sitcom Come Together, nee Yikes It's Jesper. Left to right: Ben Miller, Melanie Hudson, Arabella Weir, Kevin Eldon

Yikes It's Jesper was a sitcom created by the first incarnation of The Sitcom Trials, Situations Vacant, way back in 1997. Written by Kev F Sutherland and Ken Elkes, including a character created by Inbetweeners creator Iain Morris, then a student at Bristol University, and with a title coined by stand-up James Dowdeswell, Yikes It's Jesper featured a foreign student who befriends a girl on a backpacking holiday then follows her home and becomes, like the eponymous Cuckoo, an unwanted house guest.

The Bristol SitsVac team team wrote and performed two episodes of Yikes Its Jesper on stage at The Bristol Flyer, after which a script was sent, blind, to BBC Radio. We immediately received a phone call from BBC producer Jon Rolph who simply said "yes, I think we can do something with this." So it was that, 12 months later and with some significant changes, not the least of which being the removal of Iain's character which he no longer wanted in there, the pilot episode was recorded, under the name of Come Together, in front of a studio audience at the BBC Radio Theatre.

Left: our BBC radio producer Jon Rolph. Right: Arabella Weir, Ben Miller and co-writer Ken Elkes enjoy after-show drinks

Starring Ben Miller, Arabella Weir, Melanie Hudson and Kevin Eldon, Come Together was a well received pilot that, sadly, never got commissioned as a series. Meaning the BBC had to wait nearly 15 years before finally getting round to having a cuckoo-in-the-nest / foreigner-met-on-a-backpacking-holiday sitcom of their own.

An audio recording still exists, and once I can work out how to digitise an old-school cassette tape, it may well find itself online. Likewise the video of the original Bristol SitsVac performances are on a VHS tape somewhere. World, don't hold your breath.

You are invited to vote in the Halloween Sitcom Trials script selection - deadline Sept 29th - and to enter your scripts for the Sci Fi Sitcom Trials - deadline Nov 4th. All entry and participation is free. Join us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

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