|Written by||Ben Elton|
|Directed by||Matt Lipsey|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||21 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer||Myfanwy Moore|
|Running time||30 minutes (series), 40 minutes (Christmas specials)|
|Original network||BBC Two|
|Picture format||16:9 1080i|
|Original release||9 May 2016 –|
Upstart Crow is a British sitcom which premiered on 9 May 2016 at 10pm on BBC Two as part of the commemorations of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Its title quotes "an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers", a critique of Shakespeare by his rival Robert Greene in the latter's Groats-Worth of Wit.
The show is written by Ben Elton and is set from 1592 (the year of Greene's quotation) onwards. Shakespeare is played by David Mitchell; his wife, Anne Hathaway, is played by Liza Tarbuck; and Greene himself by Mark Heap. The first series was directed by Matt Lipsey, with subsequent series being directed by Richard Boden.
The first series follows the writing and preparation to stage Romeo and Juliet after William has gained some early career notoriety for his poetry, Henry VI and Richard III. Events in each episode allude to one or more Shakespeare plays and usually end with Will discussing the events with Anne and either being inspired to use, or dissuaded from using, them in a future work. Along with the many Shakespearean references (including the use of asides and soliloquies) there are also several references to the television shows Blackadder and The Office. There are running gags in many episodes: the casual sexism towards Kate's attempts to become an actress, Shakespeare's coach journeys between London and Stratford which refer to modern motorway and railway journey frustrations, and are delivered in a style that references the 1970s sitcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Shakespeare (and in one episode Marlowe) demanding ale and pie from his servants or family, and Shakespeare frequently claiming credit for common turns-of-phrase that predate Elizabethan times (many of them now commonly misattributed to Shakespeare).
The second and third six-episode series were broadcast in 2017 and 2018, as well as two Christmas Day specials.
A 2020 Christmas special, "Lockdown Christmas 1603", depicted William and Kate during the plague of 1603, making references to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in Britain during the year of broadcast.
Main article: The Upstart Crow
In September 2019, a stage play adaptation was announced for the Gielgud Theatre, City of Westminster, also written by Elton and with Mitchell and several others reprising their roles. The play opened on 7 February 2020 under the title The Upstart Crow: Elton commented that it was "an entirely original excursion, not a 'TV adaptation' ".
Main article: List of Upstart Crow episodes
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||6||9 May 2016||13 June 2016|
|2||6 (+1)||11 September 2017||16 October 2017|
25 December 2017 (special)
|3||6 (+1)||29 August 2018||3 October 2018|
25 December 2018 (special)
|S||1||21 December 2020|
The theme music is a 17th-century English country dance tune called "Jamaica". This was first published in the 1670 4th Edition of John Playford's The Dancing Master, after Shakespeare's death.
Upstart Crow was positively received by critics. The acting by David Mitchell and supporting cast including Harry Enfield, Liza Tarbuck and Mark Heap has also received praise.