Channel 4 scraps plans for controversial comedy set during Great Famine

A controversial sitcom set around the Great Famine will not make it to TV screens, it was confirmed yesterday.

Channel 4 said it had no plans to screen Hungry, despite commissioning a script from Dublin-based writer Hugh Travers.

The idea for a comedy based on the devastating Famine caused controversy last year, with 40,000 protesters signing a petition demanding the series not to be given the green light.

Smaller demonstrations were even held outside Channel 4’s London offices after it emerged a sitcom was being developed.

Critics, including the historian Tim Pat Coogan, had argued that a sitcom set around the Great Hunger was no laughing matter.

Mr Coogan stated at the time: “Murder, genocide, people dying, retching, with their faces green from eating weeds, their bowels hanging out of them — no passage of time will make that funny.”

However, Channel 4 chiefs confirmed yesterday there were no plans to develop the commissioned scripts into a TV series.

Donna Matthews, group publicity manager for the British station, was reported as saying “there were no plans to air it”.

She added: “We were very clear a year ago about Hugh Travers’ script, that this was a script commission — not a pilot or a series. Nothing’s changed.”

More than 1m people — nearly one-eighth of the entire population of Ireland at the time — died from starvation and disease during the Famine, which lasted from 1846 until 1851.

More than 2m people emigrated in that period, when mortality rates of 30% on the coffin ships were common.

Mr Travers has previously defended his decision to write a sitcom based on one of the most tragic periods in Irish history, stating: “I don’t want to do anything that denies the suffering that people went through, but Ireland has always been good at black humour. We’re kind of thinking of it as Shameless in Famine Ireland.”


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