Interview: Hull Daily Mail Jan 2015

Cult comedy hits BBC One big time

By Hull Daily Mail  Posted: January 05, 2015

From radio to TV, cult comedy Count Arthur Strong has maintained an enthusiastic fan base, but can the comedy thrive now it’s on primetime?

When it comes to comedy, nobody does it quite like the BBC.

In fact, over the festive period, they promised a better-than-ever line-up of telly greats – and they weren’t exaggerating; the Beeb most definitely delivered.

This particular offering is up there with the best of them for good old belly laughs, as it returns for a second series, this time bumped up to BBC1 viewing (after the first series aired on BBC2 last year). Then again, with a cast including the likes of Steve Delaney and Rory Kinnear, you wouldn’t really expect anything less.

The shift over to BBC1 is a move well-made by the broadcaster, given that based on the strength of the first series, it picked up several British Comedy Award and Bafta nominations, so it’s little wonder the big bosses are grinning from ear to ear.

Gregor Sharp, commissioning editor for BBC Comedy says: “Count Arthur Strong is a true comedy original and we’re delighted to welcome him to BBC One. We hope he doesn’t break anything.”

Meanwhile, writer of the show, Graham Linehan, says: “BBC Two has been wonderful in nurturing the show and kind in letting us transfer to BBC One, which I think will suit this big, silly, brilliant character even better.”

For the uninitiated, the series follows the misadventures of former variety star Arthur Strong (Steve Delaney), as he embarks on ill-thought-out scams and schemes, most of the time aided and abetted by his former comedy partner’s bookish son.

Rory Kinnear has enjoyed a fantastic few years, career-wise, what with roles in the latest Bond films, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, and hard-hitting drama Southcliffe – all alongside his many successful theatre roles.

He remembers the early days of putting this comedy together, saying: “I met Graham Linehan when they were doing a read of the pilot script in front of the big wigs at the BBC. It was in very different shape, but still the idea was that Michael was writing a book about his father, Arthur’s ex-comedy partner. I liked Graham and I liked Steve but I didn’t know if it was going to be picked up, I just thought it would be a fun way to spend a couple of days.”

Count Arthur Strong was originally a Radio 4 show, starring of course the brilliant Delaney in the title role, and bringing it to the small screen was a risky decision, given the sitcom’s loyal army of followers, but it was one that paid off.

Rory explains: “I didn’t know [the radio show] at all but I have a few friends that are mad Count Arthur fanatics and when I mentioned the show was happening they were beside themselves with joy. I watched a few of his live shows and I loved it and I could see what attracted Graham to work with Steve to bring it into the visual medium.”

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