Archive by Author

Coogan In New Comedy Documentary

31 Aug

346MLC_CooganA new feature-length comedy documentary, which includes a bevy of top drawer comedy faces – including our very own Steve Coogan, will be hitting UK cinemas on Friday 4th September.

The UK release of Misery Loves Comedy follows the film’s US release earlier this year and its premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June.

Directed by Kevin Pollak (The Usual Suspects, Casino), it features more than 50 (primarily American) comedy legends – including Tom Hanks, Matthew Perry, Judd Apatow, Jimmy Fallon, Jon Favreau, Lisa Kudrow, Whoopi Goldberg, Stephen Merchant, Martin Short and Larry David, who candidly explore the motivations and inspirations behind their comedy careers. From a TVO perspective, in addition to an appearance from Coogan, the film also features Catastrophe’s Rob Delaney.

Misery Loves Comedy provides an opportunity to hear comedy icons dissect the art of stand-up and explore how a joke can operate as a blunt tool, a social weapon, or even as a personal elixir.

Reviews of the film on its US-release were a tad mixed, but if you have an interest in comedy it’s sure to contain at least a few gems. Check out the trailer below for a flavour of what to expect. And if you don’t get to see it on the big screen, Misery Loves Comedy will be available to purchase on DVD from Amazon in October.

For more information about the movie, check out the film’s Facebook page.

The Ape Man Cometh: AAAAAAAAH! Review

28 Aug

unnamedOne of the things that distinguishes the artists that we write about at The Velvet Onion is their ability to think differently and to make waves in a sea of entertainment mediocrity. At their best, they conjure up ideas and dream of worlds so creatively vibrant that they force us, the audience, into a different headspace ourselves. In this respect, Steve Oram‘s AAAAAAAAH! (always written with eight ‘A’s) totally nails it.

The premise of the film is simple: it shows us what human beings would be like if we conformed to the natural behaviour patterns of apes. AAAAAAAAH! presents us with an everyday world that looks like ours but where society has been reduced to little more than factions of fighting, fucking, shitting beasts.

Although I’m no primatologist, I’m fairly sure David Attenborough has said that our simian relatives are more complex than this. But given that the impact of AAAAAAAAH! comes, in large part, from the consistent and gaping absence of anything recognisably ‘human’ in the behaviour of the human forms on screen, let’s embrace the film’s freewheeling approach to natural history.

First things first: the idea upon which the film is built is strange, brave, funny and thought-provoking (more of that later). Conceptually, it’s one of the most interesting films I’ve seen in a long while. The cast are astonishingly good – within minutes you forget that nobody is actually speaking; their grunts, whoops and gestures tell you everything that you need to know about the film’s narrative (as an aside, Tom Meeten told us that the cast were actually given scripts to follow. Wonderful stuff!). Of particular note is the perfectly-observed unspoken camaraderie between Steve Oram and Tom Meeten, the boorish mateyness of Julian Rhind-Tutt and Sean Reynard, and the emotional fragility of a garden-bound Julian Barratt.

It’s also a real pleasure seeing so many of ‘our lot’ working together on a project like this. Proof, if any were needed, that they are a group bound by a shared love of what can best be described as creatively out there. And thank goodness for that!

unnamedBe warned though, it’s not all comedic complexity and anthropological insight. AAAAAAAAH! makes for pretty visceral viewing, sometimes bordering on the gratuitously gross – although it’s generally done for humorous effect, not to offend. The screen is frequently awash with body fluids and body parts, chunks of half-eaten food and unpredictable bloody violence. Within moments of the film starting two key characters defecate in their kitchen, and aggressive, often uninvited sex is never more than a couple of scenes away. Let’s just say it’s probably not a film to take your Mum to.

unnamed-3The overall sense of visual unpleasantness is reinforced by the depiction of a shabby, urban working class existence (I don’t know why, but I suspect that a rural middle-class monkey life might be easier on the eye), and the general look of the film, which is raw and ungraded.

With movie audiences now more used to the anaesthetising effect of Insta filters, it’s actually quite unnerving to watch a film which looks like it might have been shot on video tape.

Perhaps this was a decision born out of budgetary necessity, but by looking less cinematic AAAAAAAAH! feels more real, more immediate. This realism nudges it away from being an artistic concept on a cinema screen, towards a depiction of an authentic world that any of us could easily be part of.

And this is where the film gets really interesting: after watching it I half-expected violent chaos and beastial shrieks to erupt on my tube journey home. The fact that it didn’t, and that every day we unconsciously navigate our way around other people, mindful even of the rights of the strangers in our midst, suddenly seemed astonishing. AAAAAAAAH! provides a fascinating glimpse into what our society could be like if we didn’t follow the intricate set of social rules that have been defined and refined by several millennia of cultural evolution.

unnamed-1Watching people (like us) behave like apes has the effect of re-setting one’s internal gauge of what a ‘normal’ society should be like. We share 99% of our DNA with apes; how incredible it is then that we live in such close proximity to each other, but we rarely fall back on our basic animal instincts to deal with those around us.

AAAAAAAAH! makes you question the validity of the cultural codes by which we live. It forces you to acknowledge how strangely unnatural, transient and man-made our modern lives are. If we were to strip away these superficial social conceits, then really we’re no different to the apes that preceded us. We too are horny, violent, disgusting creatures. It’s no wonder that the news is full of bloodshed and war.

And that’s why I relished AAAAAAAAH so much: it made my brain whirr. It isn’t necessarily lovely to look at and it’s not perfect – indeed, it seems to flaunts its flaws with a strange sense of pride, but it really makes you think – for long after the end credits have rolled – and for that it deserves to be applauded. With the lions’ share of ‘entertainment’ served up for our online/on-screen pleasure these days unlikely to create the smallest cognitive ripple, anything that forces us to sit up and take notice should be celebrated. AAAAAAAAH! is punk cinema at its best: crude, rude and brain fizzingly provocative. Go see!

The next screening of AAAAAAAAH! Takes place at Picturehouse Central in London on 4th September, and includes a cast Q&A. For tickets for this and for updates on other screenings please visit the Lincoln Studios website.

 

Onion Talking: Messing With Colin Hoult

8 Aug
© machcomedyfest.co.uk

© machcomedyfest.co.uk

If any of you are lucky enough to have experienced Colin Hoult live, you’ll know why we’re getting a bit over-excited that he has a new show starting next week at Soho Theatre. Messing about with Ouija Boards is described by the theatre as “the terrifying true tale of what happened when Colin Hoult’s mum made contact with the spirit world.” 

Sounds pretty intriguing, huh? Indeed, our curiosity was sufficiently piqued that we simply had to ask Colin all about it. Here’s what he had to say:

Some of your previous live shows have taken audiences to fantastical nether-worlds, while others are semi-autobriogaphical. Where does ‘Messing with Ouija Boards’ sit on the spectrum?

It’s a ‘ha-ha-bonk’ exploration of my family and background. Sort of Colin Hoult – year one, an origin tale! It’s loads of little stories that revolve around the time we all did a Ouija Board on Christmas Day and something genuinely weird happened. (Spoiler: we didn’t get Jesus).

It’s also about Nottingham where I’m from, and loads of bits about horror movies and spooky stuff that I love. Its also about dealing with illnesses of the mind and hopefully gives a bit of courage and comfort for that.

It’s my first proper stand up show. Having flirted with it in the past – I’m going the whole hog as myself (with Anna Mann popping out in the event of hecklers), but fear not, I use a lot of characternesses as well.

What was your inspiration behind the show?


Mainly my family and brain for the actual stories, but in terms of this type of show probably a few different stand ups: Greg Davies’ amazing story-telling, also Rhod Gilbert and others. Richard Pryor for his jumping in and out of character, and Dave Allen for his calm relaxed manner. Not that I’m like any of these greats, just I think they’ve filtered in a bit.

Visually, I’m sort of going back to my first show, Carnival of Monsters, and embracing a bit of that Victoriana spooky, but in a more subtle way – Buster Keaton, and all that lovely silent world.

Do you have any plans to take the show on tour, given your fan base extends well beyond zone 1?

I’m not sure yet – it’s a bit different doing it this way, as in the past I’ve done Soho Theatre after an Edinburgh run. I’m really proud and excited about the show, so I’d definitely want to take it further – whether I’ll be able to do Edinburgh next year I’m not sure.

Who creates your props and costumes?


My amazing wife, Kat, always helps to design my shows, She’s actually responsible for a lot of what made my first shows do well. I’ve been lucky to have some great help from arty friends in the past; I think it’s a lot more interesting to use people from outside the comedy world. This show is going to be very much stripped back, so won’t use much design – but might develop that way later.

BBC

© BBC

You have many strings to your bow: you write and perform live comedy, you’re a successful TV comedy actor and a stage actor; what do you prefer doing?


That’s a tricky one! I love the thrill of live comedy probably better than anything – I think the moment when I’m connecting with an audience and conveying something funny or interesting, and they get it, is the sweetest of joys!

That said, this year I’ve been doing a lot of different things – I’ve just finished doing a run of the Seagull by Chekhov – and it’s been great to really go back to acting, which is where I started. But I don’t think I’d ever want to give up live comedy.

The last time we chatted you told us that your latest ambition was learning to dance. Has it changed?

No I still want to do more dancing! My biggest dream is to do Shakespeare. This may seem an odd way to go about it, but I swear to you you will see my Dane!

How difficult is it for a comedian to break through to the mainstream, and do you think it’s the big deal that it’s made out to be?

© Colin Hoult

© Colin Hoult

I don’t know really – it’s probably all a bit of an illusion. I think I’ve had lots of little breakthroughs that have eventually amounted to me being able to do what I love and survive on it.

It’s the kind of thing you can waste years worrying about – as I have in the past. Nowadays I try to be more philosophical about it all; I think as long as you are really enjoying and believing in what you do then you’re luckier than a lot of people.

There’s no point thinking ‘is this my breakthrough?’ It’s all about a lot of factors you can’t control, so just make sure your own work is saying what you want to say, how you want to say it.

Thanks, Colin. Before we finish, is there anything else you’d like to tell us that we haven’t asked?

Yes. Life is Beautiful. Also check out a man called Dave Edwards in Edinburgh this year – he’s a living legend.

You can see Colin’s new show Messing about with Ouija Boards from Thursday 13th – Saturday 15th August at Soho Theatre, with performances starting at 9.15pm. Tickets are £10 (Thurs), £12.50 (Fri – Sat). Further information and tickets are available here.

Many thanks to Colin for taking the time to answer our questions, and we wish him the best of luck for the Soho Theatre run!

Andy Hollingworth’s Exhibition Opens Next Week

6 Aug

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If you’re a comedy fan, chances are you will be familiar with many of photographer, Andy Hollingworth’s images. Indeed, some of the most iconic images of the artists who we write about at TVO have been taken by him.

From 13th August you can see a selection of Andy’s photographs of comedians in his first ever London Exhibition, Running From Greenbaum. The show will feature images from Andy’s huge archive complied over nearly two decades visually documenting the careers of some of our best-loved and infamous laughter-making acts.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 23.20.50The show will run until 19th September at Snap Galleries at 12 Piccadilly Arcade SW1Y, which is famous for exhibitions by photographers specialising in rock music.

Andy has said of the venue, “I’m incredibly excited to be displaying my work in the same building that has featured shows by my heroes: Gered Mankowitz, Chalkie Davies, Pennie Smith, Art Kane, Barry Feinstein… the list goes on!”

Yesterday, friend of TVO, Bruce Dessau, published a piece that told the story behind Andy’s photos of Rik Mayall and Rowan Atkinson, which you can read here. Wonderful stuff!

In case you’re still in any doubt whether this exhibition is going to ring your bell (seriously??), take a look at just a few of images from Andy’s archive which feature ‘our lot’ that we’ve included here: Matt Berry, Noel Fielding, Waen ShepherdJohn HopkinsRichard Glover, Dave Brown and Stuart Silver & Kim Noble.

There’s no guarantee that these will feature in the show itself, but many of the artists that we’ve included here will be up on the wall somewhere! Recommended.

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Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 23.23.20

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Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 23.23.33

 

 

 

AAAAAAAAH! On Tour

30 Jul

unnamedThe excitement is mounting…. As we’ve mentioned previously, AAAAAAAAH!, the new film by Steve Oram, which features a bevy of TVO faces, will be getting its world premiere next month at Film 4 FrightFest at Leicester Square! But for those of you who can’t make it there, don’t despair – because the film may be coming to a screen near you!

Additional screenings of AAAAAAAAH! include:

Picture House Central in London’s West End on 4th September (+ cast Q&A)
End of the Road Festival (Dorset), 4th-6th September
Mayhem in Nottingham, 15-18 October

Plus more dates to be announced soon. Sign up or check here for screening updates and general AAAAAAAAH! news.

Rook Films

Rook Films

For anyone out there who isn’t familiar with AAAAAAAAH! (how??), Steve’s debut features the entire cast behaving as apes – speaking in grunts and gibberish, in an anarchic, disturbing and touching look at the human condition. It stars Julian Barratt, Toyah Willcox, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Steve Oram, Lucy Honigman, Tom Meeten and Sean Reynard. The supporting cast includes Noel Fielding, Holli Dempsey, Shelley Longworth, Alice Lowe, Tony Way and Waen ShepherdBen Wheatley is also executive producer.

What’s more, AAAAAAAAH! is already receiving rave reviews; here are a few choice comments from the critics:

“Terrifyingly funny, hilariously sick and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Easily the cult movie of the decade” – Alan Jones Film4 FrightFest

“Steve Oram’s AAAAAAAAH! made me question humanity.” – Adam Woodward, LWL’s

“Deeply offensive in all the right ways. Marks its strange, humorous territory with originality and style.” – Phelim O’Neill

Excited yet?

Dolly In Zombie Literary Classic

26 Jul
© Quirk Books

© Quirk Books

Dolly Wells will be part of the cast in the forthcoming Zombie movie Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

The horror-comedy is based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 fanfic of the Jane Austen classic. In the alternative version a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton, and the dead are returning to life. Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of Mr. Darcy.  Expect romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses…

So far it’s not clear what role Dolly will be playing, but we’ll let you know as soon as we know. The film stars Lily James, Sam Riley, Matt Smith, Lena Headey and Charles Dance and will be released on February 5, 2016.

Hate Mail & The Art of Perfect Fundraising

13 Jul

44dfcd736fe44aedb130fe55ea223ff4_originalWe’ve been writing in superlatives about Mr Bingo‘s inspired Hate Mail art project since its inception. Heck, one of us is lucky enough to own one of his abusive illustrated postcards. But he has just surpassed himself with his new Kickstarter project.

My Bingo is funding the publication of his forthcoming Hate Mail book, The Definitive Collection, via the crowd funding site. And because he’s taken the trouble of making his Kickstarter campaign absolutely blooming brilliant – from the perfectly awesome promotional video to the rewards he’s offering to supporters, he reached his target amount in just a few hours.

With 19 days to go, he’s more than doubled his original £35K target, and many of the rewards available have been snapped up. However, you can still pay for a Wetherspoons date with him (a snip at £150), meet him for a pint in 5 years’ time (only one out of four left at £200) or for £5,000, you can even be his friend.

If you haven’t read his Kickstarter page in full, we urge you to take a look. It’s brilliantly funny! And then back the book.

Fielding In Just For Laughs 2014

13 Jul

At the weekend our friends in Canada were treated to a TV broadcast of last year’s Montreal Just For Laughs festival, featuring Noel Fielding. And now, thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web, we can all enjoy it!

Noel’s stage performance, plus a brief pre- and post-behind the scenes can be viewed below. The wonders of modern technology…

 

Stuart Silver Goes Behind The Double

13 Jul

Ever since Stuart Silver totally killed it in his support slot for The Mighty Boosh at Soho Theatre a couple of years ago we’ve had a special soft spot for him. So it was rather lovely to come across this short film in which he talks about his role in Richard Ayoade’The Double.

It’s only 5 minutes long, but that’s plenty of time for Stuart to apply his deadpan humour to Jessie Eisenberg, to Jessie’s body double (we’re still not entirely sure if he’s in on the joke or not…), and to the character of “waiter”, whom Stuart plays in the movie. What’s more, you get a fascinating, if fleeting, glimpse behind the scenes of The Double – which is pretty awesome in itself.

Have a look at the video below. Top stuff:

Paul Foot Retrospective

5 Jul
© Mog

© Mog

Paul Foot is one of our most prolific giggers. In fact, it’s rare to find a week when he’s not previewing or performing something somewhere. And now he’s giving his fans the chance to revisit some of his older shows in a special mini tour.

Paul will be performing a retrospective of three of his past shows: By the Yard, Still Life and Kenny Larch is Dead. No Ash in the Attic, sadly. He will perform them across consecutive nights at each venue. The tour starts in Leicester in October and culminates in December in Brighton.

Here’s what Paul had to say about his one-of-a-kind live project: “This year I really want to revisit three of my favourite shows from the past and perform them side by side, one night after another. While this might seem an unusual idea, I want to do this because all three of these shows are very different from one another and were all created in a short period of time (2009-2012).”

“I didn’t necessarily intend to create three such different shows; I think they turned out the way they did simply because of an urge on my part to experiment with all aspects of a comedy show,” He explained. “One is a show about structure with an unexpected ending, one is built around fantasies of my mind, whilst the other has two pieces which are uncompromising and extreme, but in different ways. They have all become shows I am very proud of and that I would love to share with my audiences today.”

For more information about where and when the gigs are taking place and to buy tickets, visit Paul’s show diary.

And don’t forget you can keep tabs on all of our artists’ live shows via our new funky gig listings page.

 

World Premiere & Q&A For Aaaaaaah!

5 Jul

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 12.47.33As our regular readers will be aware, we’ve been getting more than a little over-excited about Aaaaaaah! for some time – and now the details of the World Premiere have been announced.

Steve Oram‘s directorial debut comedy horror, about a world inhabited by apes in human form, will star a cavalcade of comedic TVO-connected talent (and post-punk icon Toyah Wilcox), including Julian Barratt, Noel Fielding (or “Noah Fielding” according to this site), Alice Lowe, Tom Meeten, Steve Oram, Sean ReynardWaen Shepherd, John Hopkins and Tony Way.

The film premieres at Film 4 FrightFest at Leicester Square – and you can be there to experience it on the big screen in person! What’s more, the event will feature a Q&A with some of the cast. Steve and Toyah are confirmed for this, but there’s on news yet as to which other cast members will be there.

The film will be screened at 18:35 on Friday 28th August on the Discovery 1 screen. A festival pass costs £185 (eek) and day passes for the Friday are £60 (still eek) – these are available here. Single tickets at £13.25 per film will go on sale on 25th July, but unfortunately there are no guarantees what will be available then. Festival and day passes went on sale yesterday and it looks like demand so far has been very high.

In the meantime, to remind yourself how flipping exciting this is (and it really is!), take another look at the Aaaaaaah! trailer below:

Julia Davis Joins Edinburgh TV Festival

27 Jun
© The Gentlewoman

© The Gentlewoman

Julia Davis has been confirmed as one of the speakers at this year’s Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival.

The Festival takes place 26th- 28th August and offers a range of keynote talks, lectures, Q&As, meetings and networking opportunities for people in TV.

Julia will be there to present the first episode of the two-part special of Hunderby, the latest chapter in the dark world of the award-winning comedy, which returns to Sky Atlantic later this year. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Julia and other cast members, although we don’t have any information as to whether this will include Rufus Jones.

Access to the festival doesn’t come cheap, unfortunately – in fact, even the Early Bird pass (which available until 20th June) costs a whopping £580+VAT and booking fees. Ouch!

Ticket information and prices can be found here, and for more information about the festival in general take a look at the event website.

Wow! Alice Lowe Joins Clark’s Comedy Night

27 Jun
© Amy Wilson

© Amy Wilson

It’s Saturday – and that means one thing at TVO Towers: our thoughts turn to what we’re doing next Saturday, and this week we’re pretty darned excited. Because in exactly 1 week’s time Alice Lowe will be on the bill at Dan Clark‘s Wow Wow Show at Soho Theatre. That’s two of TVO faces in one go!

The Saturday 4th July show will be the last Wow Wow Show according to Dan (sniff), so for those of you who haven’t encountered it yet, it’s best described as a British take on the American late night talk show, with Dan playing host to a night of stand up and sketches, set pieces, a house band and special guests.

With Alice spending more of her time on her film work, this provides a rare opportunity to see her live – so grab yourself a ticket while you can. Also on the bill are Anna Morris and Oliver Maltman.

The show starts at 9.30pm and tickets are £15 (£12.50 conc.); they can be procured here.

Barratt & Farnaby Team Up For New Film

24 Jun
© Holy Moly

© Holy Moly

Rumours have been circulating for a while about this one, but the details of Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby‘s feature film, Mindhorn, have now been made public.

Written by Julian and Simon, and directed by award-winning theatre director Sean Foley (who will be making his feature debut), Mindhorn is produced in association with production company Baby Cow – who are responsible for many of the shows we write about at TVO. Filming starts on July 27th on the Isle of Man.

The narrative for the film sounds brilliantly bizarre: the story revolves around Bruce Mindhorn, a MI5 Special Operative who was captured in the late 1980s. For reasons not yet entirely clear, at the time of his incarceration Mindhorn’s eye was replaced by a super-advanced optical lie detector, which means he can literally “see the truth.” He subsequently escaped from his captors and fled to the Isle of Man to recuperate in the island’s temperate microclimate, and is now serving as the top performing plain-clothes detective on the island. Oh yes.

There’s still no word yet on casting – although, like you, we’re very much hoping that the two co-writers take a role in front of the camera as well. As soon as we hear any more – including the planned release date, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Edit: We’ve managed to find out a bit more information about the movie: It seems that Mindhorn is actually a fictional detective, who will be played in the film by Julian. His acting career is on the rocks until a real killer killer tells the police that he’ll only speak to the Mindhorn.

We’re not entirely sure how this new narrative ties into the version that’s described in our main article (which is being reported in the wider press)…but at least we now know that Julian will be appearing in the film as well as co-wtiting it.

A Field In England Prints For Sale

18 Jun
© Richard Wells

© Richard Wells

Graphic designer Richard Wells has created a set of lino prints of the key characters from Ben Wheatley‘s psychedelic civil war film A Field In England.

The beautifully-crafted ‘A Merry Band’ series consists of five images plus a ballad sheet on white parchment paper. The five main images are printed with black oil based ink on A5 handmade 150gsm paper.

The pack can be ordered for £65 from here. Individual prints from the series are available here for £13.

Ben himself was seriously impressed with the lino prints when he saw them, tweeting: “Wow this just dropped through my letter box. Thanks @Slippery_Jack ! Amazing #afieldinengland”.

We say get your mitts on them before they sell out!

 

Horgan & Delaney Q&A At Leicester Square

16 Jun
© Marie Claire

© Marie Claire

Catastrophe couple, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, will be appearing as the guests at Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast on 6th July.

Herring returns to the stage with a new run of five shows of the award winning Podcast, in which he chats with a bevy of well-known names in comedy. Each episode appears on iTunes and the British Comedy Guide, but if you go along to watch the show in person you get the chance to interact with the featured comedians, and maybe even ask your own questions.

The 90-minute show starts at 7.30pm and tickets cost £15.50. To find out who else is appearing at each show, and to procure tickets for Sharon and Rob’s show click here.

Please note that there’s a further guest appearing with the pair on 6th July, as yet unconfirmed. For updates on guests, follow Leicester Square Theatre on twitter.

An Early Catastrophe for Comedy On 4

14 Jun
© Newstalk

© Newstalk

Channel 4 has announced its top comedy shows for their all-important Autumn schedule, and it involves accelerating the production of series 2 of Catastrophe.

The second series of the critically-aclaimed show, co-written by and co-starring Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney as a couple on a transatlantic fling who find themselves pregnant, was originally scheduled for early 2016. But the popularity of Catastrophe has been such Channel 4 are bringing it forwards to October 2015. A source from the channel has said, “Viewers have told us they can’t wait a year for the show so they won’t have to.”

US comedian Delaney has now made the move over to the UK, so hopefully writing and producing series 2 will be a a little easier – and quicker.

Catastrophe will be joined on the schedule by a third series of Matt Berry‘s award-winning Toast of London, as well as the final series of both Peep Show and Fresh Meat. Channel 4 is looking to “own” the Autumn season of comedy, according to the channel.

Seek Out The New Series

14 Jun
© BBC

© BBC

The second series of Seekers, which was recorded at the end of last year and which features Tony Way and Steve Oram amongst its cast, is now being broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Penned by series 1 writer, Steve Burge, the six part radio series follows the familiar group of characters who frequent an Essex job centre. Seekers also features Matthew Horne, Daniel Mays and Zahra Ahmadi.

Episodes 1 (‘So What did I Miss?’) and 2 (‘The Wedding Crushers’) of the new series are available to listen to on iPlayer, and the next episode (the marvellously-named ‘I kissed a Bear and Liked It’) airs on Radio 4 at 11pm on 18th June.

Don’t forget to tune in on Thursday!

 

Humans: A Glimpse Behind The Cyborg Adverts

3 Jun

There’s been quite a hoo-ha about Humans, the new Channel 4 sci-fi series which starts in a couple of weeks.

The show is set in an alternate present day world in which owning your own Synth – a highly-developed robotic servant – is the height of fashion. It features an impressive ensemble cast, including Katherine Parkinson, Rebecca Front, Gemma Chan (Submarine, The IT Crowd, Doctor Who), Tom Goodman Hill (Ideal, Dead Boss, Spy), Colin Morgan (Merlin, The Fall), William Hurt (Damages, The Incredible Hulk) and Will Tudor (Game of Thrones, In The Club). Another TVO face, Dan Tetsell, also features.

The recent promotional campaign for Humans attracted a lot of media attention, masquerading as bona fide advertising for a company called Persona Synthetics, selling realistic cyborgs that could be used to perform household chores:

There were also ebay listings for the robotic home helps, and even a real life shop on London’s Regent Street, which generated a huge amount of debate on social media, with people wondering if it was for real.

We spoke to the Nik Windsor at Channel 4, part of the team behind the advertising, to find out how the show inspired them to create one of the most talked-about campaigns of the year:

Nik, welcome to The Velvet Onion. There’s been a lot of hype around Humans, which is a co-production between Channel 4 and AMC (Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Walking Dead), and UK production company Kudos (Broadchurch, Utopia). What can you tell us about the development process behind the promotional campaign – do you generally get to see shows before creating them?

It really varies on the brief, but with dramas we’re usually briefed just as they’re about to shoot, so we have no footage to work with. We have Q&A sessions with marketing, the commissioning editors and the production company involved to give us an idea on the premise of the show. They’ll also give us confidential copies of the scripts to read. On occasion, during the tail-end of creative development or the shoot, we’ll get a sizzle reel of snippets of stuff that’s been shot. But it’s very rough.

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

How do you decide whether to promote a new show by showing clips from it, or whether to develop a creative concept for the campaign (like this one)?

Again, it depends again on the programme. On dramas, if it’s a returning series clips usually do most of the heavy-lifting, as people are more likely to be aware of the programme brand, its spirit and characters. New shows tend to get conceptual promos.

Also, as a creative department we prefer to come up with big ideas; but given we’re a broadcaster and our audience are telly-lovers, we know that TV will be a big part of any campaign.

What gave you the idea for the campaign for Humans?

Humans is set in an alternate reality: a parallel universe that’s much like our own, but where these synthetic humans are a very real part of everyday life. We thought it would be both thought-provoking and visually arresting if we treated synths as a very real possibility in the world that we live in today. How would people react? Would they be excited? Or outraged? Or would they take it for granted that this kind of technology is inevitable someday?

Did you have any concerns about misleading the public via this campaign?

We’re lucky to have a risk-taking marketing department and very brave lawyers. As we were using our own promo air-time for the TV there were less concerns than if we were to run it in commercial air-time. However, the intention was always to create a campaign that would lull people into thinking synths had arrived and were for sale. That said, the public were always just one-step away from finding out it was for a TV show. If you searched ‘Persona Synthetics’ you would be taken to a microsite which gave the game away it was for a new TV show on Channel 4.

Was there anything you wanted to do but weren’t allowed?

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

We always try and push things and our lawyers are brilliant at facilitating what’s possible within the law, but on this campaign we were lucky that we got the majority of work away.

One element we weren’t able to pull-off was a mini-protest outside the Regent Street store. We were looking to employ a group of disgruntled ‘Humans’ who were anti-synths; that people’s jobs would be at stake and that the beginning of the end was here. But, unfortunately the powers that look after Regent Street were against it; but they were great with securing the store.

How do you feel about the media/public reaction to the campaign?

Far better than we could have hoped for. We were sure some people would be fooled into thinking that synths were here, but not to the degree it manifested. Reading daily Twitter comments after the faux-TV spots ran was brilliant. And the fact we had the store, fake-press ads pushing to the store and a listing on ebay really closed the loop. Our social guys were all over it. The public were very complimentary when they realised it was an ad campaign; as were the trade press and the wider media.

Many thanks to Nik for taking the time to answer our questions. 

Humans will premiere in the UK on Sunday the 14th of June, at 9pm, on Channel 4. It will air on AMC in the US on Sunday the 28th of June.

Gadget Man Returns

26 May

As we mourn the sad demise of a much-loved BBC TV series (sob!), the return of  a channel 4 favourite next week is helping to soften the blow.

Gadget Man is back for series 4 on Monday night, with Richard Ayoade reprising his role as host.

The first episode looks at how technology can be used to make the most of a weekend – from helping with chores and assisting with a workout, to a night out and the journey home. TV presenter Steve Jones joins Richard to review the tech, before Al Murray and Sara Pascoe arrive to test out gadgets in the pub.

It all kicks off at 8.30am on Monday 1st June on Ch4. And here’s a trailer to whet your appetite…

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