Upstart Crow (BBC2, 2016-present)
I am not usually that interested in shows that have an historical setting, but this one attracted me because it was a sitcom that had a good cast. The launch of Upstart Crow coincided with the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, the Great Bard no less, who knew a thing or two about writing a great story that would be read by people for centuries to come.
The show was written by Ben Elton, who has worked on several comedy shows throughout the years as a performer and writer, and it was rather brave of him to attempt another sitcom following the hugely-criticised The Wright Way which lasted for only one series (“don’t get me started!”), but thankfully this one was much better received by viewers and critics.
One thing that helped was that the cast was rather impressive, with Shakespeare being played by David Mitchell (in his first sitcom since the long-running Peep Show ended), and he was well cast because he really, really, really, looked like Shakespeare. Also among the cast were Liza Tarbuck as his wife Anne, Paula Wilcox as his mother Mary, and Harry Enfield as his father John.
And also featuring was none other than Mark Heap as Shakespeare’s nemesis Robert Greene. The amount of comedy shows that have been enhanced by Heap’s performances really is remarkable, and he delivered again here. There have also been a huge amount of guest stars playing various historical figures, including Adrian Edmondson, Noel Fielding, Ben Miller, and Nigel Planer.
The show begins in the late-16th century in Stratford-Upon-Avon, when Shakespeare is planning a stage version of Romeo And Juliet, and is also trying hard to come up with some more ideas for his plays, if only he could remember where he left his quill. Some have said that the situations and dialogue can be compared to Blackadder, which is no coincidence as Elton was one of the writers of that sitcom too.
There have been three series of Upstart Crow so far, including a couple of Christmas specials, and about a year ago there was a stage version of the show that also starred Mitchell, and that seemed to go down rather well too. All of the series have also been released on DVD, but they contain no extras. Hopefully there is a chance that there will be another series coming soon.