The writers of hit comedy series “Peep Show” (pictured) and “Fresh Meat” have teamed up with a pair of well-known British commissioning executives to create new independent production company Various Artists Limited.
Writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong and ex-Channel 4 commissioning execs Phil Clarke and Roberto Troni have set up the new company with backing from BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, which has a 20% stake and is expected to sell Various Artists content internationally. The new indie will specialize in comedy and comedy-drama as well as straight drama.
Bain and Armstrong are among the best-known comedy writers in the U.K., working with Clarke on several Channel 4 projects. Clarke’s commissions while at the broadcaster included the pair’s latest series, “Back,” as well as Sharon Horgan’s “Catastrophe.” Clarke also worked with the writers while at Objective, the All3Media producer that makes “Peep Show.” Troni worked on shows such as Paul Abbott’s “No Offence” and acclaimed drama series “This Is England.”
The news had been expected after Clarke’s departure from Channel 4 earlier this year, and was made official Thursday. “We are delighted to have BBC Worldwide as our backer,” Clarke said. “They are incredibly supportive, understand the realities of producing scripted television and the editorial strategies and timescales required, as well as the commercial challenges of running a new production company.”
In a statement, Armstrong and Bain added: “We’re excited to have the backing of BBC Worldwide, [which has] a great track record in backing both comedy and drama. What’s more, as their name suggests, they have access to the whole wide world.”
Several attempts have been made to make a U.S. version of “Peep Show.” Fox was developing a U.S. show at one point, cable net Spike piloted a version, and premium cabler Starz has also tried to work up a U.S. series.
BBC Worldwide has been actively investing in British independent producers. It has stakes in companies including Lookout Point, 72 Films, Two Cities, and Mighty Productions.
“Phil and Roberto’s flawless track records in comedy and drama, coupled with the opportunity of a first look over television projects created by Sam and Jesse, makes this a particularly exciting creative and commercial opportunity for BBC Worldwide,” said Jonathan Blyth, commercial director, comedy, at BBC Worldwide.