Black family to star in new BBC sitcom

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The Independent Online

BBC executives have commissioned the first sitcom featuring a black family to be shown on the corporation's main channel.

The Crouches, which will be shown in a prime evening slot on BBC 1 later this year, marks an important breakthrough in multicultural television.

It will star established black actors and has been scripted by Ian Pattison, the writer who created the Scottish comedy character Rab C Nesbitt.

BBC executives revealing details of the series were at pains to emphasise that the show had been commissioned on the quality of the script and not as a deliberate exercise in diverse programming. Kenton Allen, the BBC's editor of comedy, said the show was "in the tradition of great BBC family-based situation comedy".

The Crouches is the story of an extended family living in south London. It stars Robbie Gee, a veteran of the Channel 4 comedy Desmond's, which was set in a Guyanese barber-shop. Mona Hammond, best-known for her role as Blossom Jackson inEastEnders, will appear as a live-in grandmother in a show that aims to explore the tensions between different generations of the same family. It will also featureDon Warrington, who appeared in the comedy drama series Manchild.

BBC executives stressed that the show would not seek to highlight race issues but would simply be a portrayal of the 'trials and tribulations' of family life in contemporary Britain.

* Steve Coogan has been called in to try to help rescue the digital channel BBC 3, which is 100 days old today but has been a ratings disaster.

The Alan Partridge creator has been asked to make a seven-part series for later this year, featuring his low-life characters Paul and Pauline Calf.

The call to Coogan comes as Stuart Murphy, the BBC 3 controller, prepares to revamp the channel by theming its weekday evenings to drama, comedy, films, current affairs and leisure in an attempt to attract more viewers.