ITV3 is to broadcast a retrospective on comedy years over the Easter weekend.

Roy Barraclough and Les Dawson entertained millions on his YTV shows in the 1970s.

“The Comedy Years is a great new original commission for ITV3 which will be entertaining, informative and nostalgic for our viewers.” – ITV3 Commissioner, Satmohan Panesar

The Comedy Years will, over four episodes, look back at how comedy shaped and defined specific years over the past 4 decades. The four years covered will be 1979, 1984, 1998 and 2003.

Each of the hour-long shows will mix classic comedy archive with social history and pop culture nostalgia. They will show how each year’s comedy reflected a changing Britain – from the Thatcher era of satire of Not The Nine O’clock News and Spitting Image to ground breaking comedy series like The Royle Family, The Young Ones and The Office.

The Comedy Years features interviews with stars of comedy past and present, all revealing the funny moments that inspired them, as well as telling us about the roles they themselves played in some classic TV series. Highlights include interviews with James Bolam, John Thomson, Omid Djalili, Clive Anderson, Cannon & Ball, Shappi Khorsandi, Joel Dommett, Mark Heap, Peter Egan, Jon Culshaw, Debra Stephenson, Leslie Ash, Brian Conley and Dom Joly.

Duty Free was the holiday sitcom which only once left YTV’s Leeds studios.

The 1979 episode will look at the northern club scene, which was dominating telly at the time with the likes of Les Dawson and Cannon & Ball. It’s also the year that saw a new breed of alternative comedians making a name for themselves on screen that included Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones and Rowan Atkinson.

Les Dawson, who found fame on ITV’s Opportunity Knocks talent show, became one of the network’s biggest comedy stars across the 1970s with a number of sketch series produced at Yorkshire Television. His best-known characters from this era are housewife gossips Cissy and Ada; which he performed alongside Roy Barraclough.

Thomas Cannon and Robert Ball, better known and Tommy and Bobby or as their LWT series noted, Cannon & Ball, were like Les Dawson club circuit comedians who at the end of the 1970s were given their own sketch vehicle for ITV. Over on BBC Two however things were being taken down an ‘alternative’ route with Not The Nine O’Clock News bringing a mix of social and political comedy to screens.

Spitting Image and The Young Ones will feature in the 1984 episode against the backdrop of the miners strike. More mainstream comedies like Duty Free and Russ Abbot’s Madhouse are also covered. Russ Abbott was at this time still with LWT brining a team of funny-faces to screen in comedy music performances and sketches. Regulars included Dustin Gee, Les Dennis, Bella Emberg and Sherrie Hewson. ITV at this time were also airing the equally quaint but amusing Duty Free – the Benidorm of its day. The difference between the two holiday sitcoms however was Duty Free – apart from one Christmas Special – was shot entirely in Yorkshire Television’s studios in Leeds.

Margaret Thatcher became a brutal dictator in Spitting Image.

ITV were also offering up political satire, entertainment mocking and social commentary with puppet show Spitting Image. Produced in Birmingham at Central Television the series took aim at big names of the day including PM Margaret Thatcher, Paul Daniels and his wig, an insane Jimmy Saville and The Royal Family.

In 1998 it was a different kind of ‘Royal Family’ viewers were watching as ground breaking new comedies started to appear on TV which included The Royle Family and Goodness Gracious Me. The Royle Family took sitcom to an entirely new place – one house. Reuniting Brookside favourites Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston as the figureheads of the everyday family the series was devised and starred Craig Cash and the late Caroline Aherne.

Trigger Happy TV features in 2003 as TV viewers enjoyed the hidden prank antics of Dom Joly on Channel 4 while over on BBC One Bruce Forsyth’s hilarious hosting duties on Have I Got News For You gave his career a boost having been axed by ITV the previous year. 2003 was also the time we said our fond farewells to Granada comedy-drama Cold Feet and BBC Two work place amuser The Office.

“No TV comedy exists in a vacuum. Each is a product of the times, reflecting what is going on in the outside world – whether it’s a satirical sketch show like Spitting Image or a sitcom like The Young Ones. In this series we’ll enjoy some classic comedy moments, but we will also explore the circumstances that led to each of them appearing on our screens.” – Mark Scantlebury, Shiver’s Exec Producer

The Royle Family brought a new style to sitcom.

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