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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.

 

Tony On The Wall

26 Aug
© Dave Brown

© Dave Brown

Tony Law will join fellow comedians early next month for a special one-off comedy show on Hadrian’s Wall!

Hadrian’s Wall Live:Comedy Evening with Magna Laughter is actually at Housteads Roman Fort, so the acts won’t be in danger of falling off anything.

The evening is MC’d by Ben Van der Velde whose interest in history inspired Magna Laughter’s creation. Other acts include John Henry Falle and Gordon Southern,

The show is on Saturday 5th September from 7.15pm to 11pm and tickets can be bought by calling the Ticket Sales Team on 0370 333 1183 (Mon – Fri 8.30am – 5.30 Sat 9am – 5pm).

More details can be found on the English Heritage Website.

Top Coppers

15 Aug

Next week sees the launch of a new BBC Three comedy series which features a smattering of TVO connections.

© Rough Cut / BBC

© Rough Cut / BBC

Top Coppers follows two uncompromising detectives in the fictional Justice City: John Mahogany and Mitch Rust, as they attempt to rid the city of its deranged criminal underworld.

Starring John Kearns and Steen Raskopolous, the show is a spoof of 70s/80s cop shows set in no specific time or country, and is the brainchild of writer/director Cein McGillicuddy (who previously worked in the Star Stories production team) and comedy editor turned writer Andy Kinnear.

Each week, a different crisis hits Justice City and its up to Mahogany and Rust to fight it out with their JCPD colleagues. From drug lords, 1980s computer hackers, mad scientists, evil twin brothers and retired science fiction actors, there’s a whole host of villains to fight – and that’s where TVO comes in.

Alongside the likes of James Fleet (The Vicar of Dibley) and Danny John-Jules (Red Dwarf), these villains include Simon Farnaby and Kayvan Novak. Both can be glimpsed in the official  extended trailer above, which follows a shorter variant which has been doing the rounds on BBC TV for the last week.

And that’s not all, with Rich Fulcher in a ‘Featuring’ role as Mayor Grady, who is confirmed as being in the first episode’s cast, and other unknown episodes. You can see a selection of images of Rich in the role – a rare UK excursion for him since he moved back to the US – below.

TVO hasn’t had chance to see a preview before this article went to press, but consider us intrigued. We can all find out for ourselves what it’s like when the first episode airs on Wednesday 19th August at 10:00pm via BBC Three.

Roar With The Lion!

15 Aug
© Justin Edwards

© Justin Edwards

Justin Edwards will be reviving his Jeremy Lion character at a star-studded live show in aid of the Zoological Society London.

Back for its fourth year, Roar With Laughter takes place at the Eventim Apollo, London on Friday 9th October 2015, and features Nick Helm, Marcus Brigstocke, Rich Hall, Robin Ince, Miles Jupp, Dominic Holland and Greg Burns alongside Mr Lion – a washed up children’s entertainer who has been a favourite on the standup circuit for many years.

With more acts to be announced over the coming months, and tickets on sale now, it makes sense to grab a ticket while you can. Prices start at £15, and its all for a good cause too, so get in! If you’re still not sure, here’s a vintage Jeremy Lion clip to whet your appetite.

Oram’s Webb

11 Aug

Steve Oram co-stars in a new independent British film, set to hit selected cinemas this Friday.

© Marathon Films

© Marathon Films

Captain Webb tells the true life story of the first person to successfully swim the English channel in 1875. The titular role is played by Warren Brown (Luther, Dead Set) while Oram portrays rival swimmer and mentor, Professor Beckwith.

Rounding out the cast are Hannah Tointon (The Inbetweeners, Mr Selfridge), Georgia Maguire (6 Degrees), and several faces familiar to long-time TVO readers. First up: Terry Mynott, who appeared in The Morgana Show and Very Important People, and was most recently seen in Toast of London, portrays Captain Paul Boyton.

Also on board is Tom Stourton, most recently seen in Horrible Histories and Murder in Successville, but who has also clocked up appearances in Count Arthur Strong, Up The Women, The Cariad Show and Common Ground, portrays J.B. Johnson.

And finally, lovers of Ant Muzak will be pleased to know this film reunites Oram with his co-star (and that short’s writer) Tim Plester. Tim was also responsible for writing Blake’s Junction 7 and World of Wrestling, and also appeared in It’s All Gone Pete Tong, No Heroics, Doctor Who, Cuban Fury and infamously kick-started the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones with THAT stabbing. Oh, Tim, how could you…

© Marathon Films

© Marathon Films

The connections continue behind the camera too: screenwriter Jemma Kennedy wrote the 2012 adaptation of The Prince and the Pauper for Unicorn Theatre, which featured the music of Antony Elvin, while co-producer Muireann Price has previously worked on Very Important PeopleThe Morgana Show, The Inbetweeners and Mongrels.

The director, Justin Hardy, has no previous TVO connections to boast about, but we’ve always had a soft spot for his directorial debut (which he also co-wrote), A Feast At Midnight, which gave the late great Sir Christopher Lee one of his last leading man roles back in 1994, long before George Lucas and Peter Jackson came a-calling.

All in all then, a talented bunch behind a great looking film – and you don’t have to wait long to see it: if you live close enough to one of the cinemas showing it from Friday, that is.

The film opens at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in central London, with a Q&A featuring Steve Oram, Terry Mynott and one of the producers on opening night. It will also be showing at Curzon Bloomsbury between 14th and 20th August.

After that, the film is set to roll out elsewhere periodically, with plans for runs in Wallingford, Worcestershire and Dover confirmed, and more plans to be announced. International deals are also in place via Miramax, with theatrical and television broadcast plans ahead, so keep your eyes peeled on Marathon Film’s official site for more info. In the meantime, you can view the trailer below.

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

 

 

 

In and Out of the Kitchen returns

3 Aug

Following a brief sojourn on television earlier this year, In And Out Of The Kitchen returns for a fourth audio series on Radio 4 this week.

© Gary Moyes / BBC

© Gary Moyes / BBC

Written by and starring Miles Jupp (The Last Sparks of Sundown, Spy, The Thick of It) as celebrity chef Damien Trench, the show co-stars Justin Edwards as his partner Anthony.

The last time we heard from the duo was via a three-part television adaptation for BBC Four, which aired throughout March of this year.

Now back on Radio 4, Jupp has prepared another round of Damien’s diaries brought to life though narrative, dialogue and recipes, every angle of the character’s day-to-day life is unflinchingly on offer, and regular co-stars Philip Fox and Brendan Dempsey are along for the ride, alongisde Alex Tregear, Jessica Turner and Stephen Critchlow.

You can hear Episode One of the new six-part run on BBC Radio 4 at 11:30am on Wednesday, 5th August. The first three radio series are available now in a box-set for just £21.01 via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

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?

CrackaMOREy! Dave’s anthology series to return for Series Three

27 Jul

Crackanory – the anthology show for adults featuring a host of famous faces reading short tales, which are re-enacted by top notch comedy talent – is to return for a third series in the Autumn.

© UK TV / Tiger Aspect

© UK TV / Tiger Aspect

Back to the Future legend Christopher Lloyd joins the likes of Simon Bird, Sarah Millican, Greg Davies and Tamsin Grieg as some of the guest narrators for the new run, which will once again feature two stories per episode brought to life via a mix of narration, live action and animation.

Confirmed writers for the series include Kevin EldonNico Tatarowicz, Holly Walsh and Toby Davies, and given the show’s current standing as one of the most TVO-connected shows of the last few years, we wouldn’t be surprised if they’re joined by a few more names along the way.

Series One narrators: © UK TV / Tiger Aspect

Series One narrators: © UK TV / Tiger Aspect

Across the first two series, the stories were brought to life with an impeccable cast of comedy talent, including our very own James Bachman, John Willie Hopkins, Alex Kirk, Alice Lowe, Cariad Lloyd, Tom Meeten, Lucy Montgomery, Steve Oram, Tony Way and Katy Wix.

And all of this was enhanced by big name guest narrators, with the full run so far featuring Stephen Mangan, Sally Philips, Sharon Horgan, Hugh Dennis, Jessica Hynes, Harry Enfield, Jack Dee, Sarah Solemni, Charlie Higson, Kevin EldonRebecca Front, Richard Hammond, Vic Reeves, Simon Carllow, Ruby Wax, Sue Perkins, David Mitchell, Ben Miller, Katherine Parkinson, Meera Syall, Warwick Davis, Emilia Fox, Johnny Vegas and the late, great, Rik Mayall in his last on-screen role.

Series Two narrators: © UK TV / Tiger Aspect

Series Two narrators: © UK TV / Tiger Aspect

The connections extended behind the scenes too, with Eldon, Way and Nico Tartarowicz writing instalments, Gareth Tunley directing several and the entire run featuring the music of Waen Shepherd, whose haunting melodies will be heard again in the third season.

Also returning on production duties for Series Three is Arnold Widdowson (Grandma’s House), who previously wrote for Sorry I’ve Got No Head, School of Comedy and Horrible Histories and was script editor on Beehive and Roman’s Empire way back when.

Naturally, we’ll bring you more news on Crackanory‘s return as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can catch up on the previous 12 episodes via UKTV Play right now.

Bad Education in the Summer Holidays

17 Jul
© Cave Bear Productions / Tiger Aspect Productions

© Cave Bear Productions / Tiger Aspect Productions

In most cases, the kids break up from school this week, for 49 days of freedom. We don’t need no education, indeed. (Yes, we know we just used a double negative.)

What we will need, however, is some Bad Education – as the hit BBC Three sitcom which starred Jack Whitehall, Mathew Horne, Michelle Gomez and Harry Enfiled amongst others, returns as a fully-fledged movie across UK cinemas.

The show – which closed its doors for the last time at the end of its third series last October – was never a favourite with the critics, yet has a very large and very loyal following eagerly awaiting its big-screen debut, and there’s a trio of TVO names making cameo appearances in the film to prick our interest, too.

And so, in the cleverly titled The Bad Education Movie, Alfie Wickers (Whitehall) continues to be probably the worst teacher to (dis)grace the English education system, but no one cares about their pupils quite as much as Alfie does. Having completed their GCSEs, Alfie is keen for his class to join him on one last hurrah and what follows is a coming of age story like no other… the best school trip ever!

You can see the trailer for the film below.

So far, so ‘only-vaguely-TVOy’, but the film features cameos from Tom Davis (reprising his role as Big Tom from an episode of the series), Steve Oram (as Officer Rowe) and Richard Glover (as a tour guide).

In fact, dig a little deeper, and there are more TVO connections to be found. Over the last year, Jack Whitehall, has made guest appearances in Cockroaches, Psychobitches, Inside No. 9 and The Life of Rock with Brian Pern, whilst one of his earliest appearances was in cult favourite Beehive. The movie also stars Iain Glen (Game of Thrones), Talulah Riley (The Boat That Rocked), Steve Spears (Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire), Marc Wootton (Inside No. 9, La La Land) and Sheila Reid (Psychobitches).

Also along for the ride are regular cast members from the series: including Joanna Scanlan (The Thick of It), Mathew Horne (Gavin & Stacey, Roman’s Empire, Hey Diddly Dee), Sarah Solemni (Psychobitches) and Harry Enfield (Ruddy Hell it’s Harry & Paul, Star Stories, and a genuine comedy legend!).

This stuff extends behind the scenes as well. Director Elliot Hegarty returns from the Bad Education series, but previously directed Zimbani, Lizzie and Sarah, FM, Star Stories and Roman’s Empire. Co-writer Freddy Syborn also wrote for Cockroaches and Psychobitches, whilst producer Pippa Brown is also a Psychobitches veteran – and produced both Julian Barratt and Julia Davis’ Little Cracker episodes.

There’s a bit of a pattern emerging here too, as fellow producer Ben Cavey also worked on Psychobitches, Zimbani and Roman’s Empire. And if that’s not enough, the film is also made by his new production company, Cave Bear Productions – who recently made Dead Air. Neat, eh?

You can see The Bad Education Movie in cinemas from 21st August.

Comedy Feeds Return Tonight

13 Jul

This evening sees the launch of the latest batch of Comedy Feeds on BBC iPlayer, and naturally, there are plenty of TVO links making the shows worth your attention.

The Comedy Feeds started life as a method of showcasing potential future series. Launched in 2012, previous one-offs have included: Dawson Bros. Funtime (featuring Cariad Lloyd); For the Win (featuring John Hopkins, Richard Glover and Rich Fulcher); The Cariad Show (featuring Cariad Lloyd and Tom Davis); Fried (featuring Katy Wix); Parents Evening (featuring Kayvan Novak); The Vodka Diaries (featuring Cariad Lloyd and Aisling Bea); In Deep (featuring Paul Kaye); and Otherworld (from the minds of Adam Miller and Nico Tatarowicz).

Whilst none of these, sadly, have been migrated to a full series commission, the scheme has led to Impractical JokersPeople Just Do Nothing and Nick Helm’s Heavy Entertainment getting full runs on BBC Three, so our hopes are high for many of this year’s outings, which are as follows:

Dead Air

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

Radio 1 DJ Greg James makes his writing debut with this self-starring sitcom pilot, developed in collaboration with Mark Chappell & Shaun Pye (The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, A Young Doctor’s Notebook). James stars as late-night commercial radio DJ Jake Cross, who is unexpectedly given the opportunity to inherit the coveted breakfast slot when the previous presenter dies on air.

With an idiotic best-friend (Richard David-Caine, Skins); a sleazy, do-anything-that-moves agent (Tom Davis); a neurotic producer (Olivia Poulet, The Thick of It) and a very enthusiastic fan (Nico Tatarowicz), Jake must battle his own ego, the whims of those around him, his affection for the breakfast show host’s widow (Montserrat Lombard, Ashes to Ashes), and the attention of his bitter rival (stand-up veteran Jared Christmas) to maintain his credibility in the face of selling out.

TVO connections extend behind the scenes too. The show is the first fruits from Cave Bear Productions, set up by Psychobitches producer Ben Cavey, whilst production duties fall to Arnold Widdowson (Crackanory, Sorry I’ve Got No Head). Both Widdowson and direct Simon Gibney have worked on Horrible Histories, and the score for the show comes from none other than Waen Shepherd. Get in.

To read our exclusive in-depth interview with Greg James about Dead Air, click here.

Fishbowl

© Bwark Productions / Mark Johnson

© Bwark Productions / Mark Johnson

Fishbowl is a comedy from Bwark Productions about a university dropout who goes back to stay with her weird family.

It features Katherine Rose Morley (Last Tango in Halifax) alongside Mark Benton (Inside No. 9, Early Doors), Sally Lindsay (Mount Pleasant), Felicity Montague (I’m Alan Partridge) and TVO regular Michael Smiley.

Written by Andrew Mettam, who previously wrote for Scallywagga featuring Steve Edge, its producer is Rhianna Andrews in her first producing job following many years as a producer’s assistant and later associate producer on The Inbetweeners and its spin-off movies.

People Time

© BBC

© BBC

People Time is a character comedy sketch show written by and starring a ‘new wave’ (see how that’s catching on?) of Britain’s comedy writers and performers.

Many of these names will be familiar to those who follow the live circuit, but one in particular stands out for us: Ellie White of House of Fools fame.

Ellie, who played Erik’s deadpan girlfriend Rachel in the madcap sitcom’s second series earlier this year, will be joined by Jamie Demetriou (Sun Trap, Cockroaches, Bill).  Also on board is Jamie’s older sister, Natasha Demetriou, who previously wrote for E4’s The Midnight Beast and, like her brother, is a stand-up in her own right. The cast is rounded out by Liam Williams (Uncle), Claudia O’Doherty (The Inbetweeners 2), Alastair Roberts and Daran Johnson.

Ben Farrell (who previously worked on Toast of London before moving to the BBC) is executive producer on the project, with Andrew Gaynord directing and In and Out of the Kitchen‘s Sam Michell on producing duties.

Radges

© BBC / Des Willie

© BBC / Des Willie

Set in a pupil referral unit in Scotland, Radges stars Miranda‘s Sarah Hadland and a string of relative newcomers including Lois Chimimba, Lauren Lyle, Nick Preston, Samantha Foley and Ryan Paterson as the youngsters trying to negotiate being ‘weirdos’ in small town Scotland.

Written by stand-up comic Fern Brady and directed by Simon Hynd (Bob Servant), Radges is produced by Sam Bryant, whose previous successes on radio include I, Regress with Matt Berry, and Alice Lowe’s sublime Alice’s Wunderland.

Sunny D

© BBC / Des Willie

© BBC / Des Willie

Sunny D is a vehicle for stand-up comic Dane Baptiste, who writes and stars in the pilot as an exaggerated version of himself: he’s 29, ambitious, frustrated and very funny. Still living with his parents in a cramped box room he shares with his Mum’s cleaning equipment, he is desperate to follow his dream and break away from his privacy-free homelife and the boss he hates. And today could finally be the day when everything is about to change.

Co-starring Liz Hume-Dawn, Sasha Frost, Gbemisola Ikumelo and Tommy Rowson, Sunny D also stars two veterans of comedy: The Fast Show‘s John Thomson and Rising Damp‘s Don Warrington, and is directed by Rich Hall’s regular collaborator Chris Cottam.

Fun & Gamez

© BBC

© BBC

In a first for Comedy Feeds, Fun & Gamez is a family-friendly comedy game show. Written and hosted by comic Phil Ellis, the laughs are more important than the prizes as happy families join Phil and his gang in a series of simple but somewhat twisted games and challenges, all played out in front of the studio audience.

Ably assisted by Bonzo the Dog (Janice Connolly), Jim the Elf (Will Duggan) and the rather more unsavoury Uncle Mick (Manchester stand-up legend Mick Ferry), Phil surprises unsuspecting audience members and even treats one lucky family to a surprise holiday… but what will they have to go through to get there?

Interestingly, Fun & Gamez is produced by Lisa Clark, whose previous credits include House of Fools, Matt Berry Does…, Shooting Stars, Steve Coogan: The Inside Story, Catterick and Spaced. Directing the pilot is none other than John L Spencer, who is a veteran of Never Mind the Buzzcocks and was responsible for several episodes of seminal 90s comedy Fist of Fun, so its safe to say this one is worth the adults watching as much as the kids!

All six pilots will be available on iPlayer from this evening, and last year’s pilots are still available until the end of the week. To view them all, click here.

Return To Yonderland

12 Jul

This week sees the long awaited return of Yonderland to television, as the family-friendly comic fantasy series starts its second run on Sky1.

© BSkyB / Lee Binding

© BSkyB / Lee Binding

For the uninitiated, Yonderland focuses on thirty-something stay-at-home suburban mum, Debbie Maddox (Martha Howe-Douglas), who is whisked off to the magical realm of Yonderland by an elf through a portal in her cupboard. Yonderland is under attack from the evil Negatus (Simon Farnaby), and Debbie is apparently ‘The Chosen One’ who can save them all… if anyone can remember what exactly it is she’s meant to do.

Designed as a vehicle for the original team behind Horrible Histories, the show also features the rest of the team: Jim Howick, Mathew Baynton, Ben Willbond and Laurence Rickard. Also on board are fantastical puppets bringing to life some of the stranger inhabitants of Yonderland, helping to make the show a visual treat as well as a downright funny one. The series also features Dan Skinner as Debbie’s husband, Peter, and if you haven’t seen it yet, the whole run is available via Sky Boxsets, Now TV and on DVD via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store. And the good news is, if you’re curious – you can watch the first episode of Series 1 now via the handy link below!

But back to the present: Series Two begins with a double bill on Monday 13th July starting at 8pm, exclusively on Sky 1.  In the first episode, Panic in the Streets of Yonderland, Debbie has to quell the chaos when Imperatrix’s presence brings rioting to the streets and sends the elders into lockdown. Back in her own world, a strange old man sends her a bizarre package from his deathbed that promises to change everything.

With a guest appearance from Mackenzie Crook, and the return of one of TVO’s most elusive regulars, Clare Thomson as Gossiping Glenda, this would certainly be enough to satiate our Yonderland needs, but the good folk at Sky have a second episode at 8:30pm for our enjoyment. in The Winging Detective, there’s a murder at the Meadowlands Festival, which calls for the skills of Yonderland’s finest – and only – detective. Meanwhile, Negatus endures the imperial equivalent of an Ofsted inspection from Imperatrix’s second in command, and Peter starts to suspect that something very strange is going on in his house.

To celebrate the return of Yonderland, we’ve got a gallery of images from the first two episodes for you to savour below.

Onion Talking: Greg James on Dead Air

11 Jul
© BBC / Ray Burmiston

© BBC / Ray Burmiston

Monday, 13th July sees the launch of the latest batch of BBC Comedy Feeds – taster pilots for potential new shows launched exclusively on BBC iPlayer.

Naturally, there’s a whole host of TVO talent involved on both sides of the camera, with the likes of Michael Smiley, Ellie White, Alice’s Wunderland producer Sam Bryant and House of Fools producer Lisa Clark involved in various productions across the set.

The biggest TVO conglomerate however, is in Dead Air – Tiger Aspect’s sitcom featuring Radio One DJ Greg James alongside TVO regulars Tom Davis and Nico Tatarowicz, and music by Waen Shepherd.

Intrigued by the project, TVO readily agreed to talk to one of the biggest names in broadcasting about his move into comedy. Here are the results.

Mick Jagger’s accent in Ned Kelly. David Bowie’s package in Labyrinth and Lily Allen’s ill-fated chat show – showbiz history is littered with moments a star tried to do something different, and faced derision evermore. Doing something different, when audiences know you as one thing, can be tricky, and only a select few make it out the other side in one piece. If there’s any justice in the world, Greg James will be one of them.

Best known for his work on Radio One since 2007 – he’s presented the Drive Time show since 2012, and recently took over the revamped Radio One Chart Show – James has fused his radio broadcasting with work presenting a string of BBC Three shows and last year’s Invictus Games closing ceremony. To the outside world, he’s following the path of a standard BBC radio presenter. You could almost smell a stint on The One Show lurking in his future.

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

Yet there’s a lot more to Greg James than first meets the eye, and this year has provided him with not one, but two opportunities to begin the second stage of his career. Following a guest appearance in BBC Three’s sublime Murder in Successville alongside Tom Davis, Colin Hoult and Cariad Lloyd earlier this year, James is about to unleash his debut as a writer: the sitcom pilot Dead Air, which launches as part of this Summer’s latest batch of Comedy Feeds, and reunites him with Davis and fellow Murder in Successville alumni Nico Tatarowicz and Waen Shepherd, the latter of whom scored both productions.

“For me, it’s not a shock,” Greg tells TVO as we catch up to talk about his first steps into alternative comedy. “The shock for me would be to not try it out. I’ve always been acting. I did a drama degree. I did the National Youth Theatre, and all that stuff. But I understand it will be to a lot of other people. It’s very difficult to not be put in a box, but I’m going to try my best.”

Dead Air is certainly an impressive starting point. The 17-minute taster features James, perhaps understandably as a cool, late-night DJ called Jake Cross, working for a commercial radio-station with a loyal fan-base and real credibility. But when the brash, loud-mouthed breakfast DJ dies on air, there’s an opportunity for Jake to take over his show, and he must battle the moral dilemma that potential fame and fortune in return for doing fart jokes, prank calls and silly voices first thing in the morning offers. Does he make the move and lose his credibility, but get to hang out in exclusive nightclubs and savour the massive boost to his public image?

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

“Obviously, the inspiration for it,” Greg explains, “comes from everything that I’ve experienced and been part of for the last eight years on Radio One. I heard an interview with Ricky Gervais, and he said you’ve got to write about what you know. I realised about two years ago that this industry is funny. The people in it are funny, the conversations are funny. The real jumping off point was when the breakfast show gig at Radio One did come up. I’d just been given the Drive Time show, and was incredibly happy, because things had gone better than I ever thought they would do. Everyone else was going: ‘Oh my god, you should do the breakfast show!’, and that made me go: Should I? Do I want it? I thought that dilemma, and that peer pressure was an amazing basis for a show, so I elaborated on it and took it to really strange places.”

It would, perhaps, have been easy for Dead Air to be a cheap bit of filler, but Greg’s passion for the project and determination to take it seriously has led to the assembly of an impressive team making his idea come to life. The production is being made by Psychobitches producer Ben Cavey’s new company Cave Bear Productions, produced by Arnold Widdowson (Crackanory, Grandma’s House) and directed by Simon Gibney (Horrible Histories, Watson & Oliver). On co-writing duties are Mark Chappell and Shaun Pye, who previously collaborated on Daniel Radcliffe and John Hamm vehicle A Young Doctor’s Notebook and before that, cult favourite The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret starring Sharon Horgan and David Cross. Even for a broadcaster as established as James, it could be very easy to be overwhelmed by the interest in his concept from the get-go.

“I was quite daunted to begin with,” he reveals. “I’d known their work, and they came highly recommended. I went to see [Chappell & Pye], fully expecting them to think I was just a radio knob who didn’t know what he was doing. It was really lovely, actually. They were very supportive of the idea, and realised quite quickly that I wasn’t just doing this for a laugh, and I wanted to take it very seriously. They were very generous letting me take the reins, offering support and helping me shape it into a story. That was what I didn’t have enough experience doing and needed help with. I could write jokes, and come up with character ideas, but actually coming up with a beginning, middle and end is, I suppose, what I was struggling with.”

“I found the whole thing absolutely the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done,” he continues, full of genuine enthusiasm. “It was a pinch yourself moment when we sat in a room at the BBC for nights on end. One of us would stay at the computer, and the others would just walk around and say ideas and lines, and all the rest of it. It was a really brilliant, collaborative effort, and I was quite sad when it ended.”

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

It may come as a surprise to many, but James is a self-confessed comedy nerd, even down to choosing to base the writing sessions in the ‘Basil Fawlty Room’ at the BBC, due Fawlty Towers kick-starting his fascination with comedy at an early age.

“My first ever real obsession,” he explains, “to the point where I would get my mum to go and buy me the script book was Fawlty Towers, and it made me realise how incredible a story you have to create. As a kid, I just thought: Who is that funny tall man running around? I like this, and I like how he hits that man over the head with a spoon. As I grew up and read about John Cleese, and learnt about Monty Python and Michael Palin and all that, I realised I love the way they’d write things and the characters they created.”

Indeed, it was Palin who inspired Greg to take the plunge into making Dead Air a reality. “Really, Cleese and Palin are my real heroes,” he gushes, with the sense he could talk about Python for hours on end, “particularly Michael Palin, because what I learnt a few years ago after reading and then, nerdily re-reading his diaries – which I can’t really say much on Radio One because it’s not relevant to that audience – is that you don’t have to just stay doing one thing. I think he was a real idol of mine, because I saw him as the guy who did Around the World in 80 Days, but as I got older I realised he was also in Monty Python, he was a writer, an actor, a director, he’s also a playwright… he’s everything! Reading about people like him made me go: Okay, I’ve done one thing, but I don’t just want to be the Radio One guy forever.”

“To a certain extent,” he adds, “I’ve always loved performing. Radio One is an amazingly creative place, because they let you do stuff. I know I wouldn’t have wanted to do it as long as I have if I’d been on a station where it’s all about reading the travel news then playing the hits. For want to a better phrase, I’ve always liked arsing around. It really started out of student radio, where I’d get some mates in and we’d just do stuff. It was a dream of mine to be on Radio One, but now it’s happened, I feel it’s a good time to explore some of my other passions as well. I’m an absolute nerd on everything I’m passionate about, whether its comedy, or cricket, or the radio. Those are my passions and they’re the things that keep me going. But I love creating stuff that wasn’t there before. That’s what really drives me to carry on.”

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

Back to Dead Air, then, and another stand-out point is the impressive cast. Alongside James and Tom Davis as his disgusting agent Perry, are an impressive team: from The Thick of It’s Olivia Poulet as his neurotic producer to Ashes to Ashes star Montserrat Lombard as the widow of the late breakfast show host. Also along for the ride are Richard David-Caine (Skins) as Jake’s idiotic best friend; Nico Tartarowicz as an over-enthusiastic fan; and stand-up veteran Jared Christmas as a rival DJ from another station. Understandably, Greg is full of praise for the team.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have been surrounded by those people,” he affirms. “It was really helpful for me, because I needed people with experience around me. I had confidence I could do it, but I couldn’t possibly have been there worrying about the other cast members as well. I had to leave the writing at the door, and go and try and be this person. I got on really well with [Tom] on Murder in Successville, so to have him there as my co-star was great. And Jared is someone I’d watched doing stand-up over the last couple of years, and always thought he’d be great as a big brash Aussie, even though he’s from New Zealand. Then to get a touch of class with people like Olivia and Montserrat. When we got a yes from them, I thought: this is getting real now. I’m very happy, because they’re a talented bunch.”

“One of my favourite characters in the whole thing,” he continues, “who we’ll definitely revisit if he wants to do it, is Nico. He completely got it. He absolutely nailed that character, and if the full series comes about he’s the first name on the call sheet for me. The most amazing thing about the day we filmed with Nico was that we did it outside the BBC, and when we finished and walked through the main exit, there was a guy who was the spitting image of Nico, actually waiting for me outside the BBC. It was art imitating life with the most ridiculous thing ever.”

Programme Name: Comedy Feeds: Dead Air - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Perry (TOM DAVIS), Jake Cross (GREG JAMES) - (C) Tiger Aspect - Photographer: Ollie Upton

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

It’s also safe to say, TVO asserts, that following Murder in Successville earlier this year, Dead Air continues the rise of James and Davis, one of TV’s great power-couples, to which Greg is reduced to giggles.

“We get on very well,” he states when he calms down a bit. “We met when we did the taster tape for Murder in Successville, which was just as I was starting to write Dead Air. I always had the idea for Perry [Jake’s agent] to be an absolute shitbag. He’d be really nasty and gross, but the audience would love him and want to see more of him.” He stops and laughs again. “I think Tom is one of those people in real life. He looks very frightening. He’s very imposing, and quite scary when you first meet him, but then you realise he’s actually very soft, and very warm. And he’s a brilliant performer, which goes without saying. I had him in mind as we were writing. I really wanted him to say those lines. And genuinely, one of my favourite things I’ve ever done was doing Murder in Successville with him.”

For the uninitiated, Murder in Successville saw Tom Davis play a gruff, useless detective partnered with a different celebrity ‘rookie’ each week, as the two investigated a murder in the fictional titular town. The culprit was inevitably one of the various showbiz inhabitants they’d meet along the way, played by a variety of comedy legends – with Tony Way, Harry Peacock, Tom Meeten, Gemma Whelan and many more popping up throughout the run. In Greg’s episode, he would meet three potential suspects: local priest Gary Barlow (Colin Hoult), casino owner Justin Bieber (Cariad Lloyd) and strip-club baroness Mary Berry (Frances Barber): and the result is an experience Greg will never forget.

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

“It was the most enjoyable thing I’ve done in front of a camera really, until Dead Air¸because that’s my baby. I had no script, so I felt very liberated. I’d done [improv] at university, putting on sketches and shows and all that, so it was just amazing to go in and be the bumbling sidekick. They genuinely don’t let you know anything about it.”

It must be weird, TVO opines, to see familiar faces like Frances Barber never dropping character with you.

“That was the weirdest one,” Greg agrees. “All I knew was I was at the door of Mary Berry’s strip club. I walked in, and looked at this lady, and in my head I’m going: ‘I quite recognise… on my god, it’s Frances Barber.’ So for the first take, I was just sort of fascinated that Frances Barber was sat in a warehouse in Middlesex, dressed as Mary Berry and smoking, touching me up, talking about my cock like it was a Toblerone. I had to get over that quite quickly.”

“It was quite a brave thing for the BBC to commission,” he continues, “because it’s not an instant get. You have to invest in it. I imagine for every person who gets it and loves it, there’s a person who goes: What the hell is this? I think you have to really invest in it, and then you get a lot out of it.”

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

Such is the case with Dead Air. There will be those who dismiss it as the whims of a celebrity DJ, just as there will always be people who can’t see past Bowie’s tights in Labyrinth to find the delightful adventure all around them. As an iPlayer Comedy Feeds pilot, those who watch will have to make the effort to do so – there’s no accidentally stumbling upon it, unknowing, and realising its hilarious. People will have to leave their prejudices at the door when they hit ‘play’.

TVO urges you to do so. With the help of an impressive team of creative talents, Greg James has made a confident and assured debut, and hopefully we’ll be seeing more of Jake, Perry and the rest of the team again very soon. He’s got lots of ideas for the show, and says the book of them is being added to every time he walks into his day job. Perhaps the final word should rest with Greg, and the way he explained his pet project to the cast when he approached them: “This is not a whim. I’m very serious about it. We’d love you to come in and give it a go.”

Dead Air is available to view on iPlayer from Monday 13th July.

B-B-Cee-Again as the Beeb announces BBC Store

8 Jul
© BBC

© BBC

The long awaited BBC Store will launch this Autumn, according to a report by The Independent.

Launched through BBC Worldwide, the Store will sell permanent downloads of hit programmes – often within hours of their television broadcast.

The proposed catalogue of releases will build to around 10,000 hours of content, including material from the BBC archives and independent production companies, some of which have never received a commercial release, which will hopefully include a number of TVO related productions such as Gas, Is It Bill Bailey?, Dead BossCrimsBrian Pern and Lifespam to name but a few, as well as long out of print titles like AD/BC: A Rock Opera and Perfect World.

It will also mark the first time that BBC Worldwide will directly sell HD copies of most of their recent comedy output. Despite being early adopters to blu-ray, the company has all but abandoned the format except for big budget releases (such as Sherlock and Doctor Who), with shows such as Inside No. 9House of Fools and SunTrap all being released on dvd only this year. HD downloads are currently only available through iTunes and Google Play.

We’ll aim to bring you a round-up of what’s available of interest when the store launches. In the meantime, here’s a vintage clip of a very young Noel Fielding alongside an equally young Mark Gatiss in Alexei Sayle’s Merry Go Round – a 1998 sketch series from the legendary Comic Strip veteran, directed by a pre-Spaced Edgar Wright and featuring pre-fame appearances by Jessica Hynes, Paul Putner, Reece Shearsmith, David Walliams and Peter Serafinowicz. We’re hoping this finally gets a release in the Autumn!

Editors Note
An earlier version of this story suggested – via the original source, The Independent – that the initial launch catalogue would include 10,000 hours of content, and indicated that the store will “hope to recoup the loss” of licence fee money from recent changes to the infrastructure. BBC Worldwide have since clarified to The Velvet Onion that neither of these things are strictly the case. The catalogue will build to c.10K hours of content, and the licence fee shortfall is far greater than the money BBC Store can hope to recoup, but will contribute towards it, and TVO would like to apologise to any readers who were potentially misled by our report.

Free Comedy Pilots From Audible

7 Jul
© audible.co.uk

© audible.co.uk

Audible, the Amazon-owned company that sells audio downloads, has created five new sitcom pilots which it is giving away for free. The collection is titled This Is Your Pilot Speaking!, and this is the first time that Audible has commissioned original comedy content in the UK.

Of course if it’s comedy then there is TVO connected people involved!

The five pilots are:

Catching Up – Written by Bronagh Fegan

A sharp yet warm-hearted comedy about what happens after university. Performed by Louise Ford, Margaret Cabourn-Smith, Carrie Quinlan, Grainne Maguire and Andy Goddard.

Working for The Big Man – Written by Rob Sears and Tom Sears

Committed rationalist and atheist Ralph gets an unwelcome surprise when he dies on his honeymoon. He discovers that God does exist after all, and worse yet God has a job for him. Performed by Kevin Eldon, Felicity Montagu and Mitch Benn.

Slaving Away – Written by Miranda Kane

Meet (the other) Miranda. She’s a cheerful, happy-go-lucky single girl in London … who just happens to be a professional dominatrix. Performed by Hugh Dennis, Miranda Kane and Jon Holmes.

The Uncynical Cannibal –  Written by Dewi Llywelyn

This gloriously mad Desert Island romp is what Robinson Crusoe would have been like if the castaway had found a crop of magic mushrooms growing among the coconuts. Performed by Richard Glover, Simon Kane, Daniel Lawrence Taylor, Bobby Mair and Sophie Henderson.

The Hub –  Written by Bruce Windwood

Deep underground is The Hub, a top-secret location from which a team of dedicated professionals keep us safe by waging war against Terror, Anarchy and Foreigners in General. It’s just a shame that all the state-of-the-art, counter-terrorist hardware can’t stop them from screwing everything up. Performed by Susy Kane, Alex Kirk, Howard Gossington, Anjella Mackintosh and Joel Morris.

Click on the link to find out more and download the pilots. Once you’ve listened to them, you can vote for your favourite by giving a star rating on the site. Voting will remain open until December 31st when the most popular show will be turned into a full series.

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:

Brenda Monk is Famous

30 Jun
©  Katy Brand

© Katy Brand

Katy Brand has released details of her second novel, Brenda Monk is Famous – which is available to pre-order now via pledge site Unbound.

A sequel to her 2014 book Brenda Monk is Funny, which was also funded through Unbound across 2012 and 2013, the book returns to the titular stand-up comic’s career, as her success increases and she becomes a household name.

Now being booked for TV panel shows, going on tour, playing arenas, making good money for the first time and hanging out with fellow celebrities, it’d be easy to assume Brenda is living the high life. Yet she’s also being slagged off in the national newspapers, receiving abuse on Twitter, gaining new ‘friends’ with their own agendas and losing those she holds dear as her career threatens to take over every corner of her life.

Promising another behind the scenes look what it’s like to be a well known comedian, with a sharp examination of modern celebrity in all its slippery guises, the book will be entirely funded through Unbound’s pay-to-publish scheme, which lets interested readers pledge various amounts in return for the book and additional prizes depending on the donation. These are as follows:

£10 – E-book edition, access to ‘The Shed’ and your name in the back of the book.

£20 – First edition hardback, e-book edition, access to ‘The Shed’ and your name in the back of the book.

£50 – Signed first edition hardback, e-book edition, access to ‘The Shed’ and your name in the back of the book.

£150 – Two invites to launch party, plus a signed first edition hardback, e-book edition, access to ‘The Shed’ and your name in the back of the book.

£250 – All of the above, plus the opportunity to name a character in the book.

£2,500 – All of the above, with the first edition personally dedicated, plus advice on any comedy script or stand-up set you have written, a private comedy insiders drink with Katy and another professional comedian with advice on how to get started in the comedy industry, and an invitation to Katy’s launch lunch.

For more info about the novel, including a video of Katy introducing the book and reading an excerpt, visit Unbound‘s website now. Katy’s superb first novel, Brenda Monk is Funny, is available now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

A Return for Brian Pern

30 Jun
© BBC

© BBC

Simon Day‘s pompous prog-rock alter-ego Brian Pern is to return for another three-part series in the Winter.

The character – former front-man of Thotch turned eco-warrior – was created by Day and Rhys Thomas for a series of BBC Comedy Feeds in 2010, before being revived for the mini-series The Life of Rock with Brian Pern, which aired on BBC 4 in February 2014. Following huge critical acclaim, Pern upgraded to BBC2 for Brian Pern: A Life in Rock last December.

Since then, the character has taken on a life of his own. Following the expanded re-release of his “Greatest Hits” digitally, Pern recently announced a one-off live event at London’s The Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, in October, which has almost completely sold out.

Now celebrating his 45th anniversary year, Pern returns to BBC4 alongside his Thotch bandmates Pat Quid (Paul Whitehouse) and Tony Pebblé (Nigel Havers); and his manager John Farrow (Michael Kitchen).

Also along for the ride, as ever, are TVO regulars Lucy Montgomery and Tony Way as Brian’s wife and driver, respectively, and Stephen Burge, who co-writes Pern’s extensive back catalogue with Thomas & Day.

With a host of famous cameos expected – previous episodes have featured Peter Gabriel, Roger Taylor, Rick Parfitt and Chrissie Hynde to name but a few – we can’t wait to have Brian Pern back on our screens, revealing more about his life with Thotch than ever before.

If you missed them in December, you can catch our interviews with Brian Pern himself, and with Simon Day and Rhys Thomas by clicking on their names in this sentence. Because that’s technology. There’s also a playlist featuring some of Brian’s best moments below.

So Hot Right Now: #37

29 Jun

Welcome to The Velvet Onion – the central hub for an interconnected range of alternative comedy and more. Click through for the latest news, and see what’s so hot right now THIS WEEK below…

MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN

Humans, Sunday, 9:00pm, Channel 4 [UK]
Sunday, 9:00pm (8:00pm Central), AMC [US]

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

AMC and Channel 4’s smash-hit sci-fi drama Humans continues on Sunday evening, with Katherine ParkinsonRebecca Front and Paul Kaye part of the impressive ensemble cast.

Over in the USA, it’s time for Episode Two, and George (William Hurt) is assigned a new Synth, Vera (an eerie Rebecca Front) whom he cannot stand, and Laura (Katherine Parkinson) feels threatened by Anita’s presence in her home. Elsewhere Fred (Sope Dirisu) is held captive by Hobb (Danny Webb), which leads him to fear for the future of the human race, and Leo (Colin Morgan) finds himself on a dangerous path in the search for information.

UK viewers, are a couple of weeks ahead, so naturally, our US brethren may wish to skip this paragraph. In the fourth episode, Anita (Gemma Chan) is taken for testing, which yields the surprising revelation that the supposedly brand new synth is actually 14 years old, and has a past she is not aware of. Elsewhere, Pete (Neil Maskell, Kill List) hates being stuck at home with Simon (Jack Derges), but his selfish behaviour drives Jill (Jill Halfpenny) from the house, and Hobb closes in on Niska (Emily Berrington), and Mattie (Lucy Carless) gets in touch with Leo (Colin Morgan), who reveals something that could change the world.

If you’re not watching on tv – and you really should – Humans is also available to pre-order for £14 on dvd now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store. If you’d rather go all synthetic yourself, you can purchase digital downloads of the show on Amazon already.

SUNSET FOR THE SUNTRAP

SunTrap, Wednesday, 10:40pm, BBC One
Regional times vary (see below)

© Happy Tramp / BBC

© Happy Tramp / BBC

It’s the last in the series for BBC One’s crime caper SunTrap this week, and the show goes out in style with a nautical adventure.

Directed by Ben Palmer (The Inbetweeners Movie, Bad Sugar, Star Stories), Sun Trap features Kayvan Novak and Bradley Walsh as former undercover journalists turned private investigators in an island paradise. Also featuring Jamie Demetriou, Emma Pierson and Keith Allen, the series has previously featured guest appearances from TVO regulars Tracy Ann Oberman, Alex Kirk, Morgana Robinson, Simon Day and Paul Kaye, and this week, two more familiar faces join the fun, in the form of Tony Way and Steve Oram.

When a company running pirate-themed boat parties for tourists hires Woody to go undercover as an entertainer to investigate a new rival firm that is threatening to sabotage their business. However, the master of disguise soon discovers all is not quite what it seems, and when he is kidnapped at sea, mock pirate battles quickly transform into real seafaring clashes. With his life on the line, Woody must rely on one of his most audacious disguises yet – as well as help from Brutus and Melody – if he is to escape unscathed.

With Oram, Way and former Shameless star Sean Gilder as this week’s guest stars, the series goes out on a high. If you’ve not yet tapped into the SunTrap, this is your last chance on telly, and as ever, regional times for Wednesday’s transmission vary, with viewers in England getting it at 10:40pm, viewers in Wales getting it at 11:10pm, and viewers in Northern Ireland at 11:20pm. Everyone, including Scotland, can also tune in on Friday at 10:35pm after The Graham Norton Show.

If you’ve enjoyed the show, or want to know why so many talented types turned up in it, you can pre-order the DVD now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

TIME IS SHORT FOR DOLL & EM

Doll & Em, Wednesday, 10:10pm, Sky Atlantic

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

The second series of Doll & Em continues this week, as Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer’s semi-autobiographical comic drama begins to draw to a conclusion.

This week, there are only 24 hours remaining before the pair’s play is due to première off-Broadway, with genuine Hollywood stars Olivia Wilde and Evan Rachel Wood on board playing the lead characters based on Wells & Mortimer.

However, tensions are high, and Wilde & Wood are frustrated by a string of last-minute changes. Dolly makes things worse when her salty language offends Evan, and Em’s husband Noah is spending an increasing amount of time with his wife’s on-stage counterpart Olivia.

Also featuring Mischa Richter, this is another dynamite installment of the hugely acclaimed comedy, and with any luck you’ll have been watching all along (we did keep telling you). However, if you haven’t, both series are available on demand now via SkyGo and NowTV, along with a cavalcade of previous hits.

AMBASSAHOFF

Hoff The Record, Thursday, 9:00pm, Dave

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

Dave’s delightful new semi-improvised comedy Hoff The Record continues on Thursday evening, with Fergus Craig playing the hapless manager of Baywatch star David Hasselhoff.

For the uninitiated, Hoff the Record focuses on the Knight Rider legend’s fictionalised attempts at rebuilding his career in the UK, with his useless manager Max (Craig); Harriet (Ella Smith) – an inexperienced PA; Terry (Asim Chaudhry) – an over-enthusiastic driver; Danny (Brett Goldstein) – an oafish personal trainer; and Dieter (Mark Quartley) – The Hoff’s illegitimate son.

With the likes of Tim Downie and Anna Crilly turning up in last week’s episode, and guest appearances from Steve Oram and Simon Greenall still to come, there’s lots of TVO-flavoured reasons to watch Hoff the Record, as well as it being rather ruddy funny.

In this week’s episode, The Hoff has decided to give up acting, following an inspirational session with Danny, and plans to embrace his potential for doing good in the world by becoming a United Nations Ambassador. In a bid to learn about the UN, he takes part in a school’s debate: only Hoff’s debating skills are not enough to win against a group of precocious kids.

If you missed it recently, you can catch our exclusive interview with star Fergus Craig over yonder now, and Series One is available to pre-order on dvd too.

UNDERCOVER GETS WIRED

Undercover, Tuesday, 9:00pm, Dave

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

Unless you’ve been living under a rock with no access to TVO over the last few weeks, you’ll know that there’s not one but two new shows on Dave with TVO connections. Undercover is their bold new sitcom which fuses witty wordplay with high-octane crime drama, and is directed by Dave Lambert (The Mighty Boosh, Common Ground, Alan Partridge).

Starring Daniel Rigby (Eric & ErnieFrom There To Here) and Sarah Alexander (Green Wing, Coupling) as dim-witted detectives Chris Anderson and Zoe Keller investigating an Armenian gangster family, the series also features Yasmine Akrin (Sherlock, Stella) and co-writer Sascha Tarter.

This week the Police are becoming impatient with `Operation Piccolo’ and see the release of Ara’s henchman Tommi Lylozian (Keith Allen) from prison as an opportunity to make some headway. Chris attempts to gather incriminating evidence on the Sarkissian operation by wearing a wire. As Tommi is guaranteed the protection of the family, Chris struggles not just to get evidence but to stay alive, due to the fact that Tommi is a raving psychopath.

You can catch Undercover twice this week: on Tuesday at 9pm, or right after Hoff the Record on Thursday at 9:40pm. You can catch our exclusive interview with Dave Lambert over yonder.

DENNIS & DAN

Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

Greg Davis returns in the latest edition of Channel 4’s Man Down – produced, as ever, by Spencer Millman.

This week, Dan (Davis) volunteers to look after his pupil Dennis (Alfie Davis) for the weekend after the boy recieves sad news about his family, though as ever, he is primarily motivated with impressing Miss Lipsey (Jeany Spark). Soon, poor Dennis is subjected to reliving the childhood years of Jo (Roisin Conaty), Brian (Mike Wozniak) and Dan by way of a bike-trip, a game of knock-down-ginger and one of their own devising called furry periscope.

AWFUL EGYPTIANS

Horrible Histories, Monday, 5:00pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

The new series of Horrible Histories continues on Monday afternoon, with a look at the life of Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra.

Played by guest star Kathryn Drysdale, best known for her role as Louise in 2 Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, Cleo clashed with her brother, seized power for herself, and hooked up with Roman leaders Julius Ceasar and Mark Antony – all of which is given a Horrible Histories spin.

Plus, there’s the thoughts of famous Chinese philosopher Confucious, and a look at the less glamorous side of of life in Rome. Featuring, as always, Simon Farnaby and Jim Howick, along with new regulars Jalaal Hartley, Naz Osmanoglu, Jessica Ransom, Adam Richies and Murder in Successville‘s Tom Stourton, it’s another fun filled half hour with the new look team.

ALL THE MIRRORS OF THE WORLD

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Saturday, 10:00pm (9:00pm Central), BBC America

©  JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

The fourth episode of the BBCs fantasy epic Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell airs in the US on Saturday evening via BBC America, once again starring Paul Kaye and Edward Hogg amongst its incredible ensemble.

In this instalment, Strange (Bertie Carvel) is developing a growing fascination with the magic of the Raven King, which drives a wedge between him and Norrell (Eddie Marsan). The latter is determined to stop Strange resurrecting the dark powers of ancient times, even as he attempts to cure King George III of his madness. Elsewhere, Drawlight (Vincent Franklin) is caught selling magical secrets, and the mysterious Gentleman (Marc Warren) seeks Stephen’s (Ariyon Bakare)  aid in putting a stop to Strange’s meddling.

If you haven’t caught up yet, do so immediately, then check out our exclusive interview with Kaye about the series over yonder. UK fans of the series can rejoice: you can pick it up on on dvd and blu-ray right now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

ON STAGE THIS WEEK

There’s almost always a chance or two to see a TVO regular on stage, often in London, but occasionally up and down the country. Whilst it’s a quiet week ahead, here’s where you can find them throughout the week.

© Lauren Taylor

© Lauren Taylor

Wednesday 1st July

Richard Sandling‘s Perfect Movie Podcast Show featuring Brett Goldstein
Betsey Trotwood, London
7:30pm, £3.85
TICKETS

Lou Sanders & Bec Hill
Charles Cryer Theatre, Carshalton
8:00pm, £7
TICKETS

Aisling Bea & Phil Wang
The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol
8:00pm, £5
TICKETS

Thursday 2nd July

Joey Page & Yve Blake
Komedia, Brighton
7:00pm, £8
TICKETS

Saturday 4th July

Dan Clark‘s The Wow Wow Show! featuring Alice Lowe, Natasia Demetriou, Liam Williams, Oliver Maltman and The Wow Wow Band
Soho Theatre, London
9:30pm, £16.50
TICKETS

Aisling Bea, Stewart Lee, Arthur Smith, Phil Wang and The Pin
Union Chapel, London
7:45pm, £18
SOLD OUT

AND THE REST…

As always, there’s so much going on within the Velvet Onion, it’s easy to miss things. As well as our News pages, the best way to keep track is via our Twitter feed, so here are a few highlights from throughout the week gone by.

 

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.

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