Check Bishop having a ball as DJ in Pantoland
Tonight, 9pm, ITV1
IN the great pantomime tradition, women play men, men play women, the script is packed with double entendre and the audience is invited to heckle.
All this, as well as the larger-than-life cast and characters, was enough to inspire comedian John Bishop to write his first TV script.
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The 46-year-old has joined forces with Gimme Gimme Gimme and Coronation Street writer Jonathan Harvey to write Panto!, a one-off comedy drama which is perfect for the season.
Set behind the scenes at the Grand Theatre Lancaster's production of Dick Whittington, Panto! tells the tale of local radio DJ Lewis Loud (played by John) making his pantomime debut alongside soap star Tamsin (Sheridan Smith), who's better known as her "mad Mindy The Axe Murderer" alter ego.
Bishop describes Lewis as someone who puts his work – and thirst for fame – ahead of anything else in his life.
He says: "He desperately wants to be famous and sees his radio show as a stepping stone to becoming this person."
Bishop should be able to relate, in some ways, to Lewis because, before the days of his own headline tours, DVDs and book deals, one of his first jobs in showbiz was in pantomime.
Just before quitting his job in pharmaceutical sales to give his performing career a proper go, Bishop dipped his toe by performing stand-up in various comedy nights in the North West and, in Christmas 2005, appeared in Snow White in Liverpool.
"I was playing Herman The Henchman," he recalls. "But as it was over the Christmas period I had a lot of other comedy gigs to honour so I couldn't focus properly on being Herman. I basically didn't end up doing the first two weeks so when I did go on I felt like it was a bit of a shambles."
He's since starred in other pantomimes, including one alongside The One And Only singer Chesney Hawkes. The two have remained mates and, as a result, Hawkes pops up in Panto!, playing a one-hit wonder.
It all meant that filming Panto! was as fun for Bishop as he hopes it will be for viewers.
He says: "We really had such a laugh filming this. There was a scene with me trying to be really angry with my son while one of the panto characters was preparing to go on stage. I found it so funny I actually couldn't get the words out of my mouth. We had several moments like that."
These high spirits are fitting for the subject matter. Pantomime is a form of entertainment which is highly valued by Bishop, not only because it draws people to the theatre who wouldn't usually go, but because he has his own vivid memories of going with his grandmother as a boy.
"My overriding memory is of how bright it was. I remember thinking, 'This place is completely full of glitter'. But I also felt it was full of people letting themselves go, letting their guard down and enjoying every minute," he says.