Acorn Media Enterprises and Free@Last TV in Development on Benny Hill Biopic
Marking his first ever scripted biopic,
the four-part drama follows the tumultous and lonely life of Britain’s legendary comic
Silver Spring, MD; May 31, 2018 – Acorn Media Enterprises (AME), the UK-based development division for the Acorn TV brand of RLJ Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ: RLJE), has partnered with Free@Last TV to develop the first ever scripted biopic of legendary comic Benny Hill, who despite immense popularity led a lonely life. The series is in development as 2 x 90 minutes/4 x 45 minutes with Caleb Ranson (Midsomer Murders, Distant Shores) writing the series. The biopic will follow Benny Hill’s life from the mid-1930s through his tragic death in the 1990s.
Earlier this year, Acorn Media Enterprises with Free@Last TV announced Acorn TV’s first sole commission with the return of Agatha Raisin, Series 2 starring Ashley Jensen (Love, Lies & Records, Catastrophe), which begins filming this summer.
“Lonely Boy: The Benny Hill Story” is an original drama that spans the life and times of Benny Hill from his early days as a part of a double-act to his heady height of fame as the most-loved British prime-time comedian lauded on both sides of the Atlantic. The series will chart his tragic decline and fall in the late 80’s as a new generation of rising stars usurped his shtick.
Lonely Boy will follow the journey of a cripplingly insecure young lad with a single-minded desire to make people laugh, through the dying last days of variety and who is ultimately saved from obscurity by television. The series will also examine the double-standards of the tabloid press.
Helping him achieve his goal will be a surrogate family; a ‘brother’ in comedy writer and lifelong friend Dave Freeman and a ‘father’ in producer/director Ken Carter – and later Dennis Kirkland. These men believe in Benny when no-one else does. They help him, hone him – emotionally and professionally.
An uplifting, deeply moving story with a universal truth at its core; how our parents, for good or bad, shape who we are.
‘Lonely Boy’ takes its name from one of Benny Hill’s classic 1960’s hits and was developed by Free@Last TV’s David Walton in partnership with writer Caleb Ranson.
The series consultant is Hilary Bonner who was the co-author of the Benny Hill biography ‘Benny & Me’ with Benny’s long-term TV collaborator Dennis Kirkland.
Barry Ryan, Creative Director of Free@Last TV noted, “Benny Hill is a lost national treasure and a much-misunderstood man. Our drama will reignite his legacy and address some of the misconceptions about the man and his material while also chronicling the dying days of variety entertainment and the birth of television”.
Writer Caleb Ranson said, “When I was a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s I loved Benny Hill, his skits and wordplay and especially his songs. Then as I got older, like the rest of the country, I fell out of love with him. Why was that? What happened? Around the world he’s still revered but here in the UK, he’s all but forgotten. A punchline to a bad joke. I want to reclaim him from the comedy dustbin of history, to explore the Benny nobody knows, the ahead of his time comedy genius of the 50s and 60s and why in his twilight years he fell so hard and so quickly out of favour”.
Shane Murphy, Managing Director, Acorn Media Enterprises, said, “After developing a great working relationship with Barry and David during the first series of Agatha Raisin, we’re excited to embark on a different project with them. Benny Hill remains one of Britain’s most well-known comics but his tumultuous and often heart-breaking life behind the scenes has never been told. Caleb has written a fascinating first few episodes and the series is sure to attract a stellar cast, led by the multi-layered role of Benny.”
Free @ Last TV was founded in 2000 by Barry Ryan and David Walton. The company has produced over 450 hours of television for a variety of channels including Gina Yashere: Gina Las Vegas, Martina Cole’s Lady Killers and the comedy-drama Agatha Raisin. The company has a full development slate including Reginald Hill’s thriller ‘Death of a Dormouse’, ‘The Charles Paris Mysteries’ and ‘Spilsbury’ written by award-winning writer and actress Nichola McAuliffe. http://www.freeatlasttv.co.uk
Acorn Media Enterprises commissions, co-produces and acquires a diverse slate of international dramas for Acorn TV, North America’s most popular streaming service for British and international television. This news follows Acorn Media Enterprises and Acorn TV’s recent commission announcements for the straight-to-series order of British drama London Kills Series 1 and 2 as well as a co-production announcements for Aussie comedy Sando and Irish comedy Finding Joy from Amy Huberman, as well as the licensing of hit British police procedural No Offence, Jack Irish, Season 2 starring Guy Pearce, and Welsh drama Hidden. Read recent announcements at https://www.rljentertainment.com/press-room/
In 2018, Acorn Media Enterprises has already featured five North American co-productions and Acorn TV Originals with Series 3 of universally adored BBC comedy Detectorists starring Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones; Kay Mellor’s ITV drama Girlfriends starring Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey), Miranda Richardson (Stronger, And Then There Were None), and Zoe Wanamaker (Agatha Christie’s Poirot); Irish legal drama Striking Out, Series 2 starring Amy Huberman; record-setting Welsh thriller Keeping Faith starring Eve Myles (Torchwood, Broadchurch); and Aussie family comedy Sando.
Called “Netflix for the Anglophile” by NPR and featuring “the most robust, reliable selection of European, British, Canadian and Australian shows” by The New York Times, Acorn TV exclusively premieres several new international series and/or seasons every month from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, and other European countries.
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About RLJ Entertainment
RLJ Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ: RLJE) is a premium digital channel company serving distinct audiences primarily through its popular OTT branded channels, Acorn TV (British TV) and UMC (Urban Movie Channel), which have rapidly grown through development, acquisition, and distribution of its exclusive rights to a large library of international and British dramas, independent feature films and urban content. RLJE’s titles are also distributed in multiple formats including broadcast and pay television, theatrical and non-theatrical, DVD, Blu-ray, and a variety of digital distribution models (including EST, VOD, SVOD and AVOD) in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Additionally, through Acorn Media Enterprises, its UK development arm, RLJE co-produces and develops new programs and owns 64% of Agatha Christie Limited. For more information, please visit RLJEntertainment.com, Acorn.tv, and UMC.tv.
Acorn TV Press Contact: Chad Campbell, firstname.lastname@example.org