Funny Woman on Sky Max will take you back to the world of comedy in the Swinging Sixties which was of course thoroughly male-dominated. Most British stand-ups were in the mould of Bernard Manning telling their old-fashioned and crude mother-in-law jokes in smoke-filled theatres, pubs, and working men's clubs, and the majority of TV sitcoms had male leads too. Think Steptoe and Son, Till Death Do Us Part and legendary Tony Hancock.
Back then it would have been near impossible for a woman to become the biggest star in comedy, yet that's just the journey talented Barbara Parker, played by Gemma Arterton, takes in Funny Woman. Based on the bestselling novel Funny Girl by Nick Hornby, the story follows the amusing and emotional adventures of Barbara Parker from Blackpool as she hits the big time and achieves unlikely comedy success in the 1960s by becoming a major TV sitcom star.
So here's all we know so far about Sky Max's comedy-drama Funny Woman...
Funny Woman release date
Funny Woman launches on Sky Max and NOW on Thursday February 9 at 9pm in the UK for 2023. We'll of course update you with US and international air dates, channels and news on Funny Woman when we hear. NBCUniversal Global Distribution will handle international sales of the series on behalf of Sky Studios.
Is there a Funny Woman trailer?
Yes a teaser first look trailer for Funny Woman has now been released by Sky and it's wonderful to see all the 1960s comedy glory. The costumes and music are spot on for London in the Swinging Sixties and Gemma Areterton looks like she's having a hoot. Take a look below...
What is the plot of Funny Woman?
In Funny Woman you'll enjoy a wild journey through the 1960s as a beauty queen battles to become a big sitcom star in this colourful comedy drama. The six-parter sees Gemma Arterton play glamorous, quick-witted Barbara Parker, who’s crowned Miss Blackpool Belle 1964. But Barbara has bigger plans, so waves goodbye to her loved ones, including supportive dad George (David Threlfall), and tries to find fame in London.
"She is a bit of a doofus but she's ambitious and knows she is capable of more,’ says Gemma. "She goes into things naively and has no idea about London, although she knows how to be funny."
But Barbara’s showbiz aspirations are initially thwarted, as she ends up working in a department store, and even when she lands herself an agent, flamboyant Brian Debenham (Rupert Everett), and a stage name, Sophie Straw, she faces sexism due to her looks. "It’s hard for her to be taken seriously," explains Gemma. "In America then, they had Lucille Ball but we didn't have those equivalent queens of comedy in the UK for a long time."
Barbara eventually proves her comic credentials, however, when she auditions for a groundbreaking sitcom about a mismatched young couple and she develops a sizzling chemistry with both suave co-star Clive Richardson (Tom Bateman) and kindly producer Dennis Mahindra (Arsher Ali).
"At first she thinks Clive’s a wally because he’s stuck up, but he brings out something in her,’ reveals Gemma. ‘And Dennis believes in her and sees she’s special… "
Funny Woman cast — Gemma Arterton on playing Barbara Parker
Gemma Arterton stars in Funny Woman as Barbara Parker — bold, brash, beautiful, and a force of nature who's ready to take London by storm, going from a Blackpool beauty queen to a TV comedy superstar.
Being a woman in the largely male environment of British comedy in the 1960s has many challenges, but as Barbara ‘finds her funny’ she re-defines the prevailing attitude to funny women and in the process, reinvents herself.
Gemma Arterton says: “It’s a heart-warming story of an ambitious woman with a dream of making people laugh – it’s going to be something special. It’s an honour to be working with such an incredible team and be reunited with my first ever director, Oliver Parker.
"Barbara Parker is very relatable to and I can relate to her a lot. She's quite silly. She's got a lot of comedy in her bones, and yet, you know, she's quite glamorous. She's a real clown, but a real working class girl. You know she's not perfect, although she's very ambitious, and sometimes it takes a lot out of her. But the audience is just going to love her. She's so very lovable."
For Gemma, getting the chance to immerse herself in the Swinging Sixties was a dream come true. "I love that period, it's my favourite time for fashion," she smiles. "We used a lot of vintage clothes and there were genuine pieces from Mary Quant. I tried to be careful wearing them!"
* Gemma got her big breakthrough as a Bond girl in the 2007 film Quantam Of Solace alongside Daniel Craig as 007. She then went on to star in major films such as Tamara Drewe and Clash of The Titans in 2010. She's also an acclaimed stage actress and had a big hit with the west End musical production of Made In Dagenham.
Funny Woman — who else is starring
Joining Gemma Arterton in Funny Woman are Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding, Adult Material) as Barbara’s agent Brian Debehnam, David Threlfall (Shameless) as Barbara’s father, George, and Behind Her Eyes star Tom Bateman as dangerously charming actor Clive Richardson.
Clare-Hope Ashitey (Doctor Foster), Arsher Ali (Ackley Bridge, Informer, The Missing) and Alexa Davis (White House Farm, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!). Also look out for Emily Bevans (Temple, Grantchester), Leo Bill (Becoming Elizabeth) and Matthew Beard (Vienna Blood). As well as adapting the series, writer Morwenna Banks will also be starring.
* See below for more details on the main characters...
Funny Woman characters — who's who in the story
Here's our brief lowdown on all the main characters in Funny Woman...
The wide-eyed northerner dreams of making her name as a comedy star, but her new life in London throws some curveballs.
The flamboyant agent works with wife Patsy (Morwenna Banks) and spots Barbara’s talent – but wants her to take roles based on her looks.
Married comedy producer Dennis realises that Barbara has star quality and fights her corner. But are his feelings for her merely platonic?
Cocky, debonair Clive stars opposite Barbara in their new comedy and sparks soon fly between them.
Barbara’s kind-hearted dad, who raised her after her mum left, works with her in a Blackpool rock factory and shares her love of comedy.
Fiery Marie loves her niece Barbara, but thinks she has made a mistake leaving Blackpool and has got ideas above her station.
Barbara’s first job in London is at a department store where she befriends plain-speaking Marjorie and becomes her flatmate.
Funny Woman — behind the scenes
Funny Woman was adapted from the Nick Hornby novel Funny Girl by comedy actress Morwenna Banks. Director of Comedy for Sky Studios, Jon Mountague, says: “With Morwenna Banks’ brilliant script, this was the perfect opportunity to bring a contemporary take on this inspiring story. Funny, smart and revealing — exactly what a Sky Original comedy should be, and we can’t wait.”
Funny Woman is directed by BAFTA nominee Oliver Parker. Among its executive producers are Gemma Arterton, Nick Hornby, Morwenna Banks, Andrea Calderwood, Gail Egan, Jessica Parker, and Jessica Malik. The series was commissioned by Zai Bennett, Managing Director of Content at Sky, Jon Mountague, Director of Comedy at Sky Studios and Tilusha Ghelani, Commissioning Editor for Comedy at Sky Studios. It's produced by Potboiler and Rebel Park Productions, in association with Sky Studios.
* More guides to top dramas on Sky are below...
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I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.