Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are taking their gastronomic comedy series The Trip to Sky Atlantic after the acclaimed show became the latest victim of budget cuts at the BBC.
The BBC2 series, in which Coogan and Brydon play fictionalised, bickering versions of themselves whilst undertaking a fine dining restaurant tour, has proved a major success with viewers and critics.
Created and directed by Michael Winterbottom, The Trip will relocate to Spain for its third run, which will air on Sky after the satellite network swooped for the show.
The BBC said it had decided “not to continue” with The Trip, which has been edited into two feature-length films for international audiences.
The corporation is seeking to make cuts of more than £550m a year to cover decreases in licence fee income and the cost of providing free TV licenses for the over 75s.
Sources indicated that the broadcaster was could not compete with the financial resources which Sky Atlantic was able to commit to The Trip.
“There were discussions about a third series but this time negotiations with the various partners became more complicated and it was decided not to continue. It became less viable for us,” a BBC source said. The Trip is a collaboration between Winterbottom’s Revolution Films, Baby Cow, Coogan’s production company and Brydon’s Small Man Productions.
The defection follows Coogan’s decision to take Alan Partridge to Sky - the next series of the spoof DJ’s Mid Morning Matters begins on Sky Atlantic on 16 February - raising concerns that an increasing number of programmes nurtured by the BBC will end up on pay-TV. When Sky has poached popular BBC shows, like Mad Men, overnight viewing figures have crashed.
A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC thanks everyone involved in the making of award winning series The Trip for BBC Two and wish them well on their next adventure.”
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The BBC said it had a strong line-up of comedy set to hit screens including a new series of Inside No. 9, the dark anthology series and Upstart Crow, starring David Mitchell as William Shakespeare.
Sky, which is seeking prestige productions to lock-in subscribers rather than overnight ratings, focused on the “creative freedom” it promises talent freed from the BBC’s more bureaucratic structures. Zai Bennett, Director of Sky Atlantic, said The Trip was a “perfect fit” for the channel, which builds on “our continued investment in top-flight original comedy.”
Bennett said: “The Trip is as close to perfection as you get in comedy. It’s a rare chance to watch comic masters, totally authoring their work with creative freedom.”
Coogan said: “Having thought long and hard about yet another sojourn into culinary distractions and middle age, I have reluctantly agreed to Eviva Espana. I have a hole in my diary, there will be free food and accommodation and Rob Brydon is surprisingly good company. I also like Michael.” Brydon said: “I’m looking forward to reuniting with Steve and Michael for The Trip to Spain.”
Launched in 2010 with a gastronomic tour around the north of England, The Trip returned four years later with a sunnier instalment in which Coogan and Brydon sought to outdo each other’s screen impersonations during an investigation into Italy’s culinary delights. The director and screenwriter Richard Curtis described The Trip as one of the greatest television programmes of all time.
The Trip to Spain will take the comic duo through Cantabria, the Basque region, Aragon, Rioja, Castile-La Mancha and Andalusia.
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