BBC comedy Scarborough's director says show may be the 'first comedy soap' - just don't expect a new Benidorm

Established television comedy writer and director Derren Litten says he is terrified.

His new show, Scarborough, will come to BBC audiences soon and marks a departure from the "brash and colourful" humour seen in his ITV hit Benidorm.

Derren Litten. Picture: Getty Images.

Derren Litten. Picture: Getty Images.

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Speaking to The Yorkshire Post from San Rafael - where he lives just a short drive away from the main Spanish resort - Hull-born Mr Litten said he has "no idea" how viewers will react to the six-part series.

He is feeling, he says, "obviously terrified", because when Benidorm hit screens in 2007 there were no expectations.

"I assume people think this is going to be Benidorm in the UK, and it's not at all," he said.

"I guess there is more of a sense of realism about it.

The title screen for the BBC's Scarborough.

The title screen for the BBC's Scarborough.

"Over 10 years, Benidorm got quite cartoon-y at the end really, but it was good fun and we ended the series with great viewing figures."

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He admits there are "not as many jokes" in the new show - at least not in a set-up-and-punchline sense - and it is more about character relationships.

"When I started writing, the first thing I got back was, 'it's a bit soap-y', which I took as a genuine compliment," he said.

"Soaps run for 30 to 40 years."

Later, he adds: "I suppose I thought I was writing the first comedy soap."

Although set in the seaside town of Scarborough, North Yorkshire, the show will not focus on the tourism industry like Benidorm did.

It follows the ordinary lives of Mike (comedian Jason Manford) and Karen (Coronation Street star Catherine Tyldesley), a pair of nearly-40-somethings who are giving their relationship another go five years after they separated.

Mr Litten said: "He does work in an amusement arcade, but there's no hotels, it's not ice creams and donkey rides, it's more people meeting up in the local pub and talking about their relationships."

That pub being The Good Ship - better known to real locals as the Newcastle Packet Inn, where the scenes were filmed - where Mr Litten himself played the landlord.

His original idea was to set the show in a village, the type of place where people gossip and know everyone else's business within 10 minutes of it happening.

"The first place that sprang to mind was Scarborough. Photographically, it's beautiful, the old town, the seafront, the castle. I used to go there as a kid."

He added: "Scarborough's a place where everybody knows the name but unlike Benidorm, I don't think people have preconceptions about what it's like."

The series, which is compiled of half-hour episodes, features "amazing aerial shots of the old town," said Mr Litten.

"This is a show called Scarborough, set in Scarborough. I'm very, very mindful of respecting the people who live there and to show the place in the best possible light, which is not difficult because we had great weather and the place is beautiful."

Mr Litten, 48, worked as professional magician - he is still a member of the Magic Circle - but moved to the south of England after being offered a place at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

From 1993 he became a regular face on numerous television shows including French & Saunders, Spaced, Eastenders, Doc Martin, Green Wing and many TV commercials.

In 2002 his best friend from drama school, Catherine Tate, asked him to write for her Edinburgh sketch show, having never written comedy before.

Then when she was offered her own TV series on BBC Two, Mr Litten became a main writer and also performed in the show.

He said: "I didn't have a clue, I just learned on the job.

"I've got no qualifications from school, not got an O Level or GCSE to my name."

That is not something he would advocate, he said, but adds: "Because I didn't know the rules of writing...I was was not constricted by them."

In 2005 he was nominated for a BAFTA Craft Award for The Catherine Tate Show in the New Writer category, but after two series and a Christmas special he decided it was time to concentrate on his own projects and turned down the offer to be involved in a third outing.

His first project was a half-hour comedy set on Spain’s Costa Blanca and was commissioned by ITV purely on the strength of two scripts.

The project – Benidorm – proved a huge hit with ITV audiences and in series three, the episodes were extended to 60 minutes.

It finished last year, and he comes back to discussing the differences - and similarities - between Benidorm and his new show.

He said: "Benidorm's first series is very, very different to how the show evolved, that's naturally how I write [in the first series]. As Benidorm progressed and the characters got bigger the show sort of evolved into what it became. It's very popular and I'm very proud of it."

He adds: "But I genuinely think that the show that we wrote in the first place, it was more that the funny lines came from the characters rather than somebody doing a set up and a punchline."

It was "brash and colourful", he said, but adds that "I don't want to sound like I'm doing Benidorm down" - it was an experience which led to friendships, great times and success.

The first two episodes of Scarborough will be shown for the first time at a premiere at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the coastal town itself on Thursday September 5. Locals won tickets through a ballot process.
Mr Litten is flying in from Spain especially for the event, and though apprehensive, naturally hopes it will be a hit with locals and viewers around the country.

"I would love to explore this show a bit further, fingers crossed."