There are a lot of different types of comedies in the TV landscape, but British TV network Channel 4 isn’t going a typical route with its latest project. Instead of choosing a basic family comedy or workplace comedy, Channel 4 is looking at a different sort of topic for its next sitcom. The network has commissioned a script for Hungry, a comedy about the Irish famine which plagued households between 1845 and 1852. Because potato blights are usually a barrel of laughs.
The project is being written by TV writer Hugh Travers, who formerly penned a play called Lambo. Hungry is not the only TV project Travers has in the works. He’s also working on a project called The Players, although Hungry is more interesting, for obvious reasons. Making the whole thing even weirder, Travers told the Irish Times that Hungry will be a version of “Shameless in famine Ireland.”
I think he’s trying to say that it’ll be about a dysfunctional family dealing with the day to day ins and outs of surviving during a tough period. But even Shameless doesn’t totally have to deal with death or dying related to hunger, and can be a little more amusing about its poverty. So, how did Channel 4 come up with a comedy about the Irish famine? Apparently, they gave Travers free reign to write about whatever he wanted.
“Any idea I wanted – which was a massive opportunity and at the same time, seriously daunting.”
The potato blight hit Ireland and other parts of Europe in the 1840s, but hit Ireland especially hard, thanks to a good chunk of the population relying on the potato for food while other crops were exported. The Great Famine eventually led to more than a million deaths. Additionally, a slew of Irish citizens immigrated elsewhere. The historical event is a big enough deal that elementary aged schoolchildren around the world know about Ireland’s famine, and the famine is occasionally mentioned in TV shows and movies, including a Fraggle Rock episode, which cheekily has a “Great Radish Famine” referencing the real-life Ireland tragedy.
Still, a cheeky reference isn’t the same thing as a full-on comedy based around a tragic event. That particular famine clearly happened so long ago now that no one’s feelings could possibly be personally hurt by a comedy about the time period, but in order to make it work, it will have to be pretty dark. We’ll have to wait and see if Hungry ever actually makes it onto the airwaves, but for now at least it gets brownie points for an outside-the-box premise and description.