Sky One has chosen to ridicule the brave men who were willing to stand up to their peers and refuse to fight in World War One in Chickens, a six-part sitcom starring Joe Thomas, Simon Bird and Jonny Sweet and due to start on Thursday 22 August 2013. The programme also features Barry Humphreys as the village headmaster.
Chickens: Sky One comedy goes for easy targets
Joe Thomas, Simon Bird and Jonny Sweet star in and wrote Chickens, a six-part sitcom due to start on Sky One on Thursday 22 August 2013.
Joe Thomas, Simon Bird and Jonny Sweet in Chickens
Photo from Sky One
Arguably, the bravest people in the First World War, or in many other wars for that matter, were not those who fought and died in the trenches – after all, they didn’t really know what they were getting into – but those who chose not to go, the conscientious objectors who risked being ostracised and worse from their peers for their courageous decision not to take part in the killing. That is why Sky One’s latest comedy – Chickens, due to start on Thursday 22nd August 2013 – leaves a little bit of a bad taste in the mouth as it sets out to poke fun at these people.
Governments round the world will probably love the idea. If potential soldiers see these three weak-willed characters as examples of how the world views those who refuse to go to war, then the recruiting officers should have a field day. The three men in question are George, Cecil and Bert, played respectively by Joe Thomas, Simon Bird and Jonny Sweet, who between them also wrote the six half-hour episodes.
The first episode starts in November 1914 and the women are trying to decide who should be the Guy they burn on Bonfire Night. Frustrated by the absence of a bomb factory in the village, Cecil is forced to join the Needlework Guild to demonstrate his commitment to the war effort. George, irked by Cecil's new hobby, resolves to up his anti-war activities.
Actors in Chickens
Joe Thomas is best known for playing Simon Cooper on The Inbetweeners from 2008 to 2010. He studied at Pembroke College at Cambridge University, and was a member of Footlights, the university’s dramatics club. More recently, he played Kingsley in Fresh Meat.
Fellow The Inbetweeners star Simon Bird picked up a Bafta nomination for his role as Will McKenzie in the show as well as two British Comedy Awards. He also played Adam in the TV series Friday Night Dinner.
Though not known for being in The Inbetweeners, Nottingham-born Jonny Sweet did appear as Dean in one episode – “Night Out in London” in 2009, the same year that he won the Edinburgh Comedy Award for best newcomer. His television roles have included playing David Cameron in When Boris Met Dave and Giles Stone in Popatron.
Thomas, Bird and Sweet have known each other for a long time and once shared a flat together in south London. “We did a couple of Edinburgh Festival sketch shows when we were living together just after university and that's when we started to talk about doing a sitcom,” said Bird.
Barry Humphreys plays the local headmaster who enjoys telling the three men how pathetic he thinks they are. Sarah Daykin plays George’s fiancé Winky, who is embarrassed by George’s decision not to fight. Emerald Fennell plays Cecil’s sister Agnes. Louise Ford plays Agnes’ best friend Gracie, Amy Dawson is barmaid Dot, Vicki Pepperdine is village matriarch Hesta, Eileen Davies is pensioner Gladys, Emma Fryer plays young mother Nellie and Sally Phillips is Miss Trimble, the village outcast whom George invites for dinner much to the disgust of Cecil and Bert.
Guest stars include Olivia Hallinan, Jessica Barden, Ellie Kendrick, Dan Renton Skinner and Tim Key.
Team Behind Chickens
Chickens was made for Sky One by Big Talk Productions, the company best known for the comedy zombie film Shaun of the Dead. The programme was directed by Ben Palmer and produced by John Rushton.
“We were trying to make period programming, which is normally the exclusive domain of drama, on comedy budgets,” said Rushton. “Straight away, you knew it was going to be a challenge, but, at the same time, you wanted to rise to the ambition and make it on a scale that hadn't been seen before in comedy.”