“Saturday Night Live” is a comedy institution in America — and now the BBC wants a slice of the action in the UK.
Following a nine-month pitch process, a BBC source told Business Insider that BBC2 has shortlisted three ideas in the hope of capturing the spirit of NBC’s 41-year-old brand for British audiences.
Hat Trick Productions, the production company behind “Have I Got News For You,” is in the mix with a format titled “That Thing On Friday Night.”
Spelthorne Community Television, the production outfit co-owned by Ali G star Sacha Baron Cohen, has been shortlisted with an show called “That’s It For The Week.”
Finally, “Sunday Brunch” producer Princess Productions is hoping to win the BBC over with “Live From White City.”
Although the BBC insider denied it has a favoured idea, three TV industry sources told us there is a clear frontrunner: Hat Trick’s “That Thing On Friday Night.”
The BBC declined to comment on the process.
The Hat Trick show will feature a team of comedians performing new and returning sketches, often with a topical twist. Like “Saturday Night Live,” they will be joined by a celebrity guest each week, who will also perform in the sketches. The idea is that they create moments that can go viral online.
They are unlikely to perform live, however, with Hat Trick preferring to hone its shows in an edit. It has applied this process to “Have I Got News For You” for more than 25 years, filming the programme the day before it airs on BBC1.
Hat Trick to partner with BBC Studios
“That Thing On Friday Night” will be co-produced by the BBC’s in-house production arm BBC Studios and will be executive produced by “Room 101” showrunner Stu Mather.
TV industry sources said Hat Trick is smart to partner with BBC Studios because this could increase its chances of winning a full commission. BBC Studios currently sits within the BBC’s licence fee-funded operations, but is expected to become a commercial operation next year and will be under pressure to secure business.
Little is known about the other two shows shortlisted by the BBC. If Baron Cohen’s Spelthorne gets “That’s It For The Week” over the line, it will be one of the company’s first pieces of business since it was established last year.
The BBC first set out its plans to find a “Saturday Night Live”-style show in January. Acting head of entertainment Alan Tyler told producers at a commissioning briefing that he wanted “disruptive, opinionated formats,” featuring “smart, distinctive, funny talent.”
Tyler will be replaced as the BBC’s entertainment boss by BBC Worldwide executive Kate Philips next month. Sources told us she is committed to the “Saturday Night Live” project.