Sugar to be given Jerry Springer opera treatment

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The Independent Online

Their last offering for television resulted in thousands of complaints, pickets and charges of blasphemy brought at the High Court. By those standards Kombat Opera, the producers of Jerry Springer: The Opera have a tough act to follow with their new series starting on BBC2 later this month.

Six mini-musicals, written and created by Richard Thomas, will feature well-known television actors sending up some of the most successful television formats including documentaries, reality TV and a highbrow arts show.

The series will deliver an operatic take on The Apprentice, Question Time, The South Bank Show, Panorama and Wife Swap.

Each 30-minute show imagines the on- and off-screen lives of presenters and contestants, with fantasy song and dance sequences. The Apprentice becomes The Applicants, with John Thomson taking on the Alan Sugar role. The contestants have to design a new look for the Church of England and risk being told "you're fired" in "spectacular, bloody fashion".

In Spouse Change, a downtrodden Alabama wife swaps her trailer-park home for a life of domestic bliss with a Philadelphian interior designer. In turn, his partner runs the gauntlet of Bible Belt homophobia in the Midwest.

In the spoof documentary based on the BBC's Panorama, Manorama Special presenter Hugh Dennis reports from a night out in Nottingham, with a cameo appearance from Robin Hood, which concludes with the town being swamped by sewerage.

In Question Time Out, Jon Culshaw strives to attract more viewers by broadcasting from a lap-dancing club and an ice-rink.

The final episode features the thinly-disguised South Bragg Show, with spoof presenter Kevin Eldon, who looks at how language has "evolved since" the Stone Age. Primitive villagers are introduced to language by a "Wordbringer" but they find that the innovation leads to strife, throw him out and return to a world in which communication is conducted in grunts.

Jerry Springer: The Opera was written by Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas, based on the US television show. It was critically acclaimed both at its original outing at the Battersea Arts Centre and at the Edinburgh Festival in 2002. But the musical, which featured a tap-dancing KKK troupe, contained 8,000 obscenities and portrayed Jesus as gay, proved more controversial when the BBC screened last year.

Starring David Soul as Springer, the musical attracted 55,000 complaints before it was even screened on BBC2 and a further 8,000 after broadcast.

The organisation Christian Voice led street protests against the screening at nine BBC offices and announced their intention to bring blasphemy charges, due to the depictions of the Judaeo-Christian characters. The Christian Institute tried to level charges against the BBC, which were rejected by the High Court. Nine theatres originally scheduled to host the show pulled out after Christian Voice threatened to picket them.The Arts Council England later turned down a bid for funding on commercial grounds.