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NICK MOHAMMED as Morgan,BEN MILES as Toby,SIMON RUSSELL BEALE as Bently Cassok,HUGH BONNEVILLE as Douglas,KAREN GILLAN as Madeline and ALEX KINGSTON as Sheila in DOUGLAS IS CANCELLED

© Hartswood Films/ITV

All about Hugh Bonneville's 'dark' new ITV cancel comedy: from inspiration behind story to star-studded cast

The Downton Abbey actor plays national treasure news presenter Douglas Bellowes

Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
June 18, 2024
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Hugh Bonneville is back on our screens later this month in ITV's new cancel culture drama, Douglas Is Cancelled

Set in the world of television news, the four-parter follows national treasure Douglas Bellowes, whose broadcasting career is jeopardised after a sexist comment he made at a wedding is leaked online. Intrigued? Keep reading for all we know about the series, including the inspiration behind the story and the star-studded cast.

WATCH: Hugh Bonneville stars in ITV’s new cancel comedy Douglas Is Cancelled

What is Douglas Is Cancelled about? 

The series follows "middle-aged and greying" current affairs news anchor Douglas Bellowes, who "loves the life he's created with his newspaper editor wife, Sheila". 

Despite being a respected and experienced broadcaster, Douglas needs constant reassurance from his sharper, younger co-anchor Madeline, who "appears to be able to wrap him around her little finger". 

HUGH BONNEVILLE as Douglas and KAREN GILLAN as Madeline in DOUGLAS IS CANCELLED

© Sally Mais
Hugh Bonneville as Douglas and Karen Gillan as Madeline

The synopsis continues: "His life is privileged as he's regarded as a national treasure and apparently, can do no wrong, until he makes an ill-advised joke at his cousin's wedding, which is overheard by a fellow guest, who threatens to expose his comments on social media.

"Speculation is rife and during the ongoing hysteria and digital storm, Douglas's alleged indiscretion is dissected, analysed and blown out of all proportion. Everyone appears to have an opinion and Douglas is struggling to escape the controversy.

NICK MOHAMMED as Morgan,BEN MILES as Toby,SIMON RUSSELL BEALE as Bently Cassok,HUGH BONNEVILLE as Douglas,KAREN GILLAN as Madeline and ALEX KINGSTON as Sheila in DOUGLAS IS CANCELLED
© Hartswood Films/ITV
The series is set in the world of television news

"It's a chaotic and unmanageable situation, but can Douglas count on the support of his agent and colleagues? What will Douglas do next? Is he a casualty of 'cancel culture'? With 2 million followers, what is Madeline's motivation to social post on Douglas’s behalf? Friend or foe? That is the question."

Who is Douglas Is Cancelled based on? 

Creator Steven Moffat said that the drama is "absolutely not" based on any real-life media scandals. "It's not based on any actual incident," he told ITV. "I first wrote it as a play several years ago before the #MeToo movement had even begun. At the time I wrote it, we would have pointed to a different set of examples of bad behaviour. 

"This is a story that keeps repeating itself. So yes, people will compare this drama to real-life incidents, but there are honestly no comparisons to be made. However, the drama does exist in a world in which all that has happened. Douglas will remember that those people have got into trouble recently and worry that he could be next."

HUGH BONNEVILLE as Douglas and KAREN GILLAN as Madeline in DOUGLAS IS CANCELLED
© Sally Mais
The four-part series follows news presenter Douglas and his co-host Madeline

While Douglas' story may remind viewers of real broadcasters who have been "cancelled" in recent years due to their conduct, including Phillip Schofield and Huw Edwards, Steven began writing the script long before the two presenters were embroiled in their respective scandals. 

"I wrote the first version of this – as a stage play that didn't get put on – five years ago, long before the cases you mention," he told The Guardian. "It doesn’t matter which period you put this story in: there will be somebody who fell from grace in TV."

Who stars in Douglas Is Cancelled? Meet the cast

Hugh Bonneville leads the cast in the role of Douglas. 

Speaking about the drama ahead of its premiere, the Downton Abbey star revealed that it was the script that drew him to the project. "It made me roar with laughter but, as with all good satire, the laughter gradually turned to ice as the questions raised by the comedy became more stark… harsher.

HUGH BONNEVILLE as Douglas in DOUGLAS IS CANCELLED© Sally Mais
Hugh said the twists and turns are "toe-curlingly funny"

"Some of the twists and turns are toe-curlingly funny, but by the end, the lights have gone out, the fun has evaporated and we're into dark territory."

Hugh stars alongside Doctor Who's Karen Gillan, who plays Douglas' savvy co-presenter Madeline Crow. 

KAREN GILLAN as Madeline© Sally Mais
Karen said her performance isn't inspired by a particular TV personality

When asked if she took inspiration from any particular TV personality in her portrayal of Madeline, Karen said: "I didn't take inspiration from any particular person. She is just a cocktail of all the women on British television I watched growing up."

ALEX KINGSTON as Sheila in DOUGLAS IS CANCELLED© Sally Mais
Alex Kingston plays Douglas's wife Sheila

Rounding out the main cast are Ben Miles (The Crown) as Douglas's producer Toby, Alex Kingston (Doctor Who) as Douglas's wife and newspaper editor Sheila, Nick Mohammed (Ted Lasso) as comedy writer Morgan, Simon Russell Beale (Mary & George) as agent Bently Cassock, and Madeleine Power (The Last Kingdom) as Douglas's daughter Claudia. 

NICK MOHAMMED as Morgan in DOUGLAS IS CANCELLED
© Nick Wall
Nick Mohammed plays comedy writer Morgan

Douglas Is Cancelled release date

The series will air on Thursday 27 June at 9pm on ITV1 and ITVX.

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