Fourteen years after its last series, ground-breaking sketch show Goodness Gracious Me (opens in new tab) (BBC2, Monday, May 26) is back for a one-off episode. Co-writer and creator Meera Syal tells us what it’s like to reunite the cast…
How did this reunion come about?
"It was a call out of the blue from the head honchos at BBC2 who invited some of their iconic shows to do one-off specials to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield have also done one, and the Fast Show."
The original cast is back – including Nina Wadia, and of course your husband Sanjeev Bhaskar. Was it an immediate ‘yes’ from you all?
"I think it was. We’re all asked on a regular basis why isn’t it coming back. I think the only worry was would we have enough material, but in fact we had far too much!"
What can viewers expect from the new show?
"I hope the perfect blend of old favourites and new satire. There’s sketches like the Delhi Mail, and the homage to a Monty Python Sketch. Hopefully it’s a great blend of the old stuff people love and new stuff that will make them laugh as well."
Was it hard to choose which characters you brought back and which you didn’t?
"Yes it was really hard. In fact we did record a Smita Smitten Showbiz Kitten sketch, which didn’t make final cut, just because of time. I’m hoping BBC are going to be smart and put all the stuff that was shot, but not shown, online so people can see it."
It’s 16 years since the first series screened. Did you feel any pressure to modernise the show?
"We’re all a bit creakier; we’re 20 years older! So to pretend you can still play teenagers is embarrassing for all concerned. We acknowledged time has moved on, for example the competitive mothers are now the competitive grandmothers. It seemed organic actually, once we sat round the table. What we’ve always done was sit together and chat about what was making us laugh, on our minds or what was going on in our families."
This show is part of BBC2’s 50th celebration, what does BBC2 mean to you?
"The first thing big I ever wrote for television was on BBC2 , called My Sister Wife, way back in 1992. It was a huge calling card, and I can’t think of any other channel that would have commissioned it. So I’m really aware that this channel took risks on stuff that would never have happened on the other channels at that time. I feel I owe them a lot."
Would you be up for making a full-length series again?
"I think if we were asked we’d all be up for it, just because sadly there’s been nothing else like it. I really thought we’d be passing on that comedy baton. There are so many more stories to tell. For me, so long as we feel we’ve got stuff to say and we can make it funny, it would be a pleasure to do."
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Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.
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