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An Early Look At Luxury 2

24 Jul

© Channel 4

Last week we were lucky enough to get a sneaky peek at the new series of Luxury Comedy. So without giving away any spoilers, what can we expect when it finally hits our screens on 31st July?

In interviews about the new series, Noel Fielding has been pretty open about his decision to move away from the sketch show format of series 1, towards a more narrative programme structure with a beginning, middle and an end to each episode. He says it’s because he’s a story-teller at heart, and it’s what he does best. This change of structure is certainly one of the most noticeable differences between the two series. So does it work?

Luxury Comedy is Noel’s stand up in visual form. That’s not to do it down; the fact that anyone has managed to capture the fantastical mayhem that goes on inside Fielding’s mind is impressive enough. Noel’s stand up material is at its best when allowed to slowly weave its shapes, layer upon layer, over a period of time. Stories unfold, characters evolve and concepts crystallise through repetition. By contrast, on the occasions I’ve seen him perform short slots on crowded comedy bills, his ideas don’t always have time to develop. This is not a man for the rat-tat-tat of machine-gun punchlines.

In the same way, expanding his TV ideas into 30-minute stories gives them proper form, allowing the viewer to step inside, appreciate their complexities and get carried along with the narrative. These are ideas rich enough for full episodes; and to reduce each of them to a sketch of a few minutes would underplay them. For me, then, the new format isn’t just about telling stories – it’s about telling strange stories much better.

© Channel 4

The different characters whom we encounter across the series are now part of each week’s story, which gives them purpose and makes the interaction between them feel genuine. The relationships between the characters are one of the aspects of the new series that gives the show its heart. This is no longer a disjointed collection of strange misfits; they’re friends, neighbours, and occasional enemies – as the story requires.

The friendship between the main four – Noel, Dolly, Andy and Smooth, allows for a solid dynamic at the centre of the action. The series 2 versions of the core team feel more ‘human’ and rounded, and as a result more sympathetic than before. Noel, in particular, presents a very different on-screen persona to anything we’ve seen from him previously: awkward, eager to please and uncool, he’s the Howard to Dolly’s preening Vince. Devoid of Howard Moon’s pomposity, however, this Noel is a character with whom we empathise, not just the one we laugh at.

Noel has said that he and Nigel spent longer writing the second series, and this comes across. I loved the first series, but there are more funnier moments in series 2 (based on the two episodes we saw). The writing’s sharp, the physical comedy is hilarious, and the characters are beautifully honed and gloriously wonky at the same time. Look out for star turns throughout from a whole host of TVO faces, including Richard Ayoade, Steve Oram, Dave Brown, Rich Fulcher, Arnab Chanda, Tania Wade, Barunka O’Shaughnessy, Stuart Silver, Simon Farnaby and others.

© Channel 4

This series is arguably the most self-aware output that we’ve ever seen from Fielding, with a number of knowing references to the public reaction that series 1 generated. He’s said that it’s a natural reaction to criticism – you try to get in there first before anyone else does. And it works well in this context, tethering the strange Luxury world to our own experience from time to time (thereby making it more relateable), and imbuing the series with a large helping of humility which, one hopes, the cynics out there will respond positively to.

Added to all of that, Luxury Comedy is still a fabulous feast for the eyes: the distinctive day-glo sets, wardrobe, make-up and animation all combine to create a uniquely visual world. Huge credit to Nigel Coan and his production team for putting it all together; you can see that it’s a labour of love in every single scene.

So will the rest of the world like it? I hope so. If people enjoyed the Boosh and the naysayers can get over their disproportionately extreme reaction to series 1, they would like this. Genuinely funny, beautifully magical and full of heart – what’s not to love?

Don’t forget to tune in: Luxury Comedy series 2 airs at 10pm on E4 on 31st July. For the less patient amongst you, episode 1 is available to view from TODAY -  a whole week early, on 4oD here.

Time For A Serving Of Luxury

16 Jul

© Channel4

We’ve seen the trailer, we’ve wondered at its vague promise of “coming soon” – and you’ve been asking us in droves: WHEN WILL SERIES 2 OF LUXURY COMEDY BE HITTING OUR SCREENS?? Well wonder no more..

We can confirm that the new series kicks off on E4 on 31st July!

We’ve got all sorts of exclusive goodies up our sleeves to mark the occasion, so stay peeling to make sure you stay on top of everything.

In the meantime, here’s an interview with Noel Fielding that Channel 4 have released ahead of the new series.

Parkinson & Eldon Join Crackanory Series 2

5 Jul

© Dave

Earlier this year we reported that anthology comedy Crackanory would be returning for a second series.

Series 1 included TVO regulars Sharon Horgan, Kevin Eldon, Tom Meeten, Steve Oram, Alex Kirk and John ‘Willie’ Hopkins on screen, whilst the score for the show was composed by Waen Shepherd and two episodes were directed by Gareth Tunley.

Like its predecessor, series 2 will be made and broadcast by UK freeview channel Dave, and will feature top drawer British comedians telling Jackanory style stories for grown ups.

So far, those confirmed for the new series include Vic Reeves, David Mitchell, Meera Syall, Warwick Davies, Ben Miller, Sue Perkins, Johnny Vegas, Ruby Wax – and Katherine Parkinson. Emilia Fox and Simon Callow will lend their voices to the series too, and it’s hoped that a performance by the legend that is Rik Mayall will also be shown.

Writers for the new series include Yonderland and Mitchell and Webb scriptwriter Toby Davies, Holly Walsh and Kevin Eldon, who will be authoring his second story for the show and will also make an appearance in another tale.

The new series will air on Dave in the Autumn.

Teasaaaaaaahs From Toyah

7 Jun

© Toyah Willcox

The Crimson Queen herself, Toyah Willcox, has teased further information about Steve Oram‘s début directorial feature, Aaaaaaaah!

Since it was announced in January, news of the production has been thin on the ground.  Filming was due to start in April, but was delayed for some unknown reason – potentially the top-notch cast and their hectic schedules!

The film, in which Oram, Willcox, Tom MeetenJulian BarrattTony WayWaen Shepherd, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Hannah Hoeskra will communicate entirely in ape-like grunts, shrieks and moans, promises to be a typically surreal treat from the unique mind of Steve Oram.

In it, Oram and Meeten will play marauding characters who encroach into the hostile territory of the kitchen, with Barratt the former alpha-male who, now deposed, lives in the garden.

Last month, Willcox posted a photo of her copy of the script, which she was reading in Seattle whilst touring with The Humans – the side project she founded with Chris Wong and former REM drummer Bill Rieflin.  It came alongside the message: “Learning AAHHHH! In Lowell’s Seattle. This script is brilliant…..and naughty xxx”

Now her website’s official blog has provided more details, including the planned start date for filming.  She writes: “…Steve Oram’s film shoot starts on the 30th June, so fingers crossed all will run smoothly and effortlessly once we get into July for the rest of the shoot.

Steve and I are in regular contact as he sends me test films where he and other cast members have got together and improvised how we are going to deal with the lack of language. He has stripped the language down to the bare minimum of guttural grunts and the way he is shooting the scenes……..all I can say….it makes one hell of a comment about life………I find his idea of there being no language as we know it, very sinister as well as funny. He has struck a great idea here.”

We can’t wait. More news on Aaaaaaaah! as we get it.

Double Win At The Old Nuns Head

18 May

© Unknown

Two TVO regulars will be performing at The Old Nun’s Head in Peckham on 21st June: Tony Law and Tom Meeten!

Tony is one of our most prolific giggers, so expect a cheeky preview of his new Edinburgh show; Tom’s live performances are more sporadic, but well worth catching if you can. He’s part of Noel Fielding’s forthcoming UK tour (having informed us that he will, “Be talking to Noel on stage in front of people and massaging his legs in the interval.”), so you may get an early peek of some of that. Perhaps.

The evening will be hosted by Lindsay Sharman, and will also feature strange stunt lady, Miss Behave. Tickets for the gig cost £11 and are available to purchase here. Doors open at 8.30pm for a 9pm start.

While you’re at it, we strongly recommend partaking of one of Burger Bear’s burgers, which are served at the Old Nun’s Head. Quite possibly the finest burgers this author has ever eaten. A Burger Bear burger, plus Law and Meeten – a night out doesn’t get much better than this.

St Albans Welcomes The Baron & Philomena

1 May

The Baron, the short film directed by Gareth Tunley, starring Tom Meeten and written by both of them, will be shown on Saturday (3rd May) as part of the St Albans Film Festival. The film also stars Steve Oram, Steven Evans and Barunka O’Shaghnessy, with music by Waen Shepherd and Nick Gillespie (Sightseers) as Director of Photography, so plenty of TVO connections there!

The film will be screened alongside 18 other films as part of the Programme of Main Shorts. This is divided into two parts – Beauty and Futility – and The Baron is in the ‘Futility’ section. Entry to see all the films, from 3pm to 7pm, is a tiny £8, so it is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Philomena starring Steve Coogan and Dame Judi Dench will be shown at 7.30pm. The film has a special relationship with St Albans as the real Philomena lives there. Tickets for this are £6 – £8.

The Awards Ceremony and Closing Party takes place on Sunday 4th from 7.30pm until late. Tickets for this are £20 and include entry to the ceremony and party featuring Cassette Boy Vs DJ Rubbish, or for £10 you can attend just the party. Tom Meeten is nominated for the Best Actor award, so it might be worth going to both.

For information on times, tickets, venues and the rest of the extensive line-up for the Festival, take a look at the Programme.

If you can’t make it to St Albans and have not seen The Baron yet, you can watch it below.

Luxury Amusement

27 Apr

It’s been a quiet weekend on the news front, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to decorate our home page with a few pictures, courtesy of Noel Fielding‘s creative output during the past 48 hours.

© Mog

We were lucky enough to catch one of Noel’s (slightly) secretive warm up shows last night, along with his fellow Luxury crew, Dolly Wells and Tom Meeten, who were chuckling away at the bar. It would be unfair on Noel to write a spoiler-riddled review of the gig at this stage in the development of his live show, so we thought we’d share a few artfully-blurred (ahem!) photos with you instead. Suffice to say that his characteristic charismatic energy is there is spades, and the fruit cake is still being baked.

On a different topic, followers of Fielding on twitter were treated to a series of images on Friday evening which showed his early sketches of some of the characters from Luxury Comedy, including Sergeant Ray Boombox, Dondylion, Andy Warhol, Fantasy Man, Rene, Gaviskon, and the costume reveal at the end of the series 1 Jellyfox episode.

The closeness of the final on-screen characters to these early sketches shows how clear Noel’s vision for the show was right from the off, and demonstrates the skill of his production team (Nigel Coan, Christine Cant and Ameena Kara Callender, amongst others) in helping him to pull it off. It’s further whetted our appetite for series 2!

For those of you who didn’t catch Noel’s tweets, here are the pictures of the characters in all their glory:

© Noel Fielding

© Noel Fielding

© Noel Fielding

© Noel Fielding

© Noel Fielding

© Noel Fielding

© Noel Fielding

Museum Comedy Experience

15 Apr

© VisitLondon & Dave Brown

Fancy touring around a top London museum with a group of comedians and a few other likeminded individuals? Although it might sound like the stuff of fantasy, the ‘Roving Comedy Tour of The British Museum’ is actually happening in real life – and you can be part of it!

The activity has been organised and will be curated by Carl Arnheiter and Dave Hill of Fancy Meeting You Here, a roving comedy show that takes audiences on a tour of cultural landmarks.

Aside from the fact that it sounds brilliantly bonkers, our reason for writing about it here is that it features two TVO-connected comedy folk, in the shape of the very fabulous Tom Meeten and Harry Deansway. Also involved are John Kearns, Maeve Higgins and Lars Berrum. And what’s more it’s FREE!

It takes place on Friday 25th April and runs from 6.30/7-11.30pm. If you’re interested in participating, email the organiser at fmyhcomedy@gmail.com to make a reservation. And for more information take a look at this.  Awesome stuff!

The Ghoul’s Cast Begins To Form

11 Mar

As filming continues apace on Gareth Tunley‘s directorial film debut, The Ghoul, a few more exciting cast details have emerged.

© Gareth Tunley

© Gareth Tunley

The film, which is written and directed by Ealing Live veteran Tunley, features Tom Meeten alongside Alice Lowe, who was revealed to be part of the cast last month.

© Gareth Tunley

© Gareth Tunley

Since filming began, it’s been revealed that they will be joined by a cavalcade of talented TVO regulars, with Rufus Jones, Rachel Stubbings, Waen Shepherd and Paul Kaye all shooting scenes for the picture in the last few days.

Also on board is comedy legend Geoffrey McGivern, who is perhaps best known as the original Ford Prefect in the radio version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, but has also appeared in shows as prestigious as Blackadder The Third, 15 Stories High, Peep Show and A Bit Of Fry And Laurie.

© Andy Hollingworth

© Andy Hollingworth

His TVO connections are sound, too.  McGivern appeared alongside Waen Shepherd and Stephen Evans in Hypderdrive, as well as a regular role in Lab Rats alongside Dan Tetsell and Chris Addison.  Geoffrey was also involved in the first series of Big Train alongside Kevin Eldon, and more recently turned up as a useless lawyer in Sharon Horgan’s Dead Boss (alongside Aisling Bea), and cameoed in Holy Flying Circus alongside Rufus Jones. Wowsa.

So if you’re not excited about The Ghoul yet, you really, REALLY should be. We can’t wait to see the results, and of course, we’ll keep you updated as and when we can. Stay peeled…

Onion Land Catch Up

11 Mar

The past week has seen a smattering of TVO regulars make appearances across television and radio we didn’t have chance to warn you about ahead of transmission, plus a couple of shows you should already be watching have been airing too.

As such, we thought it prudent to give you a quick catch-up, starting with the incredibly popular detective comedy drama Jonathan Creek. The show, starring Alan Davies as the titular sleuth, returned for it’s fifth series recently, with Davies now accompanied by his new co-star (and comedy legend) Sarah Alexander.

© BBC

Episode two, The Sinner And The Sandman, featured James Bachman as Rev Hugh Chater, whose vicarage is being plagued by tales of a strange hump-backed beast that has been seen prowling in the garden by night.  You can see the episode for yourselves via iPlayer now, and it’s also available to pre-order on dvd now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store for release next week!

Elsewhere, another veteran of Ealing Live cropped up on topical discussion show Loose Ends on Radio Four.  The show’s usual presenter, Clive Anderson, was absent, but in his place were Nikki Bedi and Emma Freud – who pronounced over a panel of very talented women.

© BBC

Film director Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham), actress Imelda Staunton (Pyschoville) and artist Victoria Melody joined our very own Katy Brand on the panel. Brand was discussing her long awaited crowd-sourced novel, Brenda Monk Is Funny, which can still be ordered over yonder. If you want to jump straight to Katy, you can find her 39 minutes, 40 seconds in on iPlayer now.

Sticking with the Beeb for a moment, let’s not forget that Inside No. 9 - the latest stroke of genius from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton – is almost at an end, with Episode Six airing this Wednesday (12th March).  Previous episodes – including appearances by Katherine Parkinson and Julia Davies amongst others, can be seen again via iPlayer now.

© BBC / Des Willie

© BBC / Des Willie

Inside No. 9 is also available on dvd as of next Monday, with pre-orders possible now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.  Shearsmith & Pemberton are also undertaking a dvd signing at HMV Oxford Street on March 20th, so if you want a chance to tell them how great the show is, and get a squiggle on your box, that’s as good a time as any.

That’s not the only BBC2 comedy of the moment to have TVO connections. The glorious Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle returned recently, and the inimitable comic genius is regularly grilled each week by Chris Morris in-between chunks of his stand-up routines.  Regular collaborators Kevin Eldon and Paul Putner are also involved, appearing in sketches at the end of every episode.

© BBC / Colin Hutton

© BBC / Colin Hutton

The first two – focusing on Shillbottle and a certain “political” party – are available to watch on iPlayer now, and we’ll keep you posted on an eventual dvd release.

Finally, for now, whilst we recently bid goodbye to House Of Fools, The Life Of Rock and The Midnight Beast, there are two other very fine shows featuring TVO regulars still underway on Sky channels.

© Baby Cow

© Baby Cow

Moone Boy is currently airing on Sky One, and features co-creator/writer Chris O’Dowd as the imaginary friend of a young boy in early 90s Ireland. A delightful little gem, this show has quite rightly won almost every award thrown at it, and if you can’t catch up via Sky Go, you can at least pre-order the dvd release, due out on March 31st.

Whilst it hasn’t yet won any awards, it would be criminal if the critically acclaimed Doll And Em doesn’t pick some up before the year is out.

© King Bee Productions / Sky Living HD / HBO

© King Bee Productions / Sky Living HD / HBO

Currently airing on Sky Atlantic, the show features Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer as hyper-exaggerated versions of themselves, and features cameo appearances from big name Hollywood stars as well as Tom Meeten, Laura Patch and Noel Fielding.

Again, the show is available on Sky Go, but there’s sadly no sign of a dvd release yet. It’s due to air on HBO shortly, so perhaps we’ll hear more then. Stay peeled… and if you see any shows with our regulars we miss, do get in touch so we can spread the word!

TVO Exclusive: Noel Fielding Ticket Pre-Sale!

4 Mar

The Velvet Onion is proud to offer you an exclusive ticket pre-sale for An Evening With Noel Fielding.

We were able to break the news before anyone else, so it seems only right that we should be able to offer tickets before anyone else too! In fact, we’re pretty certain you’re not even reading this sentence, so we’ll leave all the important info below the jump – just click on the picture below to buy your tickets, and come back afterwards for some more info!

THE PRESALE IS NOW OVER. THANKS FOR TAKING PART & SEE YOU AT THE SHOWS!

Due to various technical reasons, Wolverhampton is not included in this presale. TVO would like to apologise for this issue, as we were unaware of the issues surrounding this date until shortly before publication. There appear to have similar problems with Dublin and Cambridge, which are unfortunately outside of our control. For more info on the pre-sale’s finer points, check out the T&C at the bottom of this post.

Our announcement of Noel Fielding‘s tour at the weekend caused something of a furore, so we’re sure that link above will not be available for very long. Please also take a look at the T&Cs at the bottom of this post!

If you’re coming to us after the event, don’t fret – there’s still a chance to buy tickets for the show.  General release for all the shows currently announced is at 9am on Friday 7th March.

Some of you may also have spotted that Ents24 are offering a pre-sale 48 hours before that, at 9am on Wednesday 5th March. And if you miss all of these, there’s a strong possibility more dates will be added, so keep your eyes peeled and come back here on a regular basis to find out more… first!

And if you’re one of the 0.02% of people reading this who have no idea what we’re going on about, check out our earlier post about Noel’s tour, which will also feature the marvelous Mike Fielding and Tom Meeten as support. 

Both Fieldings, alongside Meeten and Dolly Wells, will be returning to our screens in the second series of Luxury Comedy in late-Spring, and you can see a sneaky, spoiler-free picture below.

© Lauren Taylor / The Velvet Onion

© Lauren Taylor / The Velvet Onion

That image comes from TVO’s time on set, filming exclusive interviews, taking tons of behind the scenes photos, and planning more surprises along the way – all of which will be revealed when the show returns, so stay peeled.

For the current full list of tour dates, see below.

* With the exception of Wolverhampton tickets should be available for all venues, though Ticketmaster’s system does have a tendency to miss a few out so try hitting refresh if your chosen date is not there.  The best estimate we can give for Wolverhampton is that the pre-sale will be online before midday tomorrow. Apologies to anyone who was hoping to purchase tickets for this venue in the pre-sale this evening.
* Please note that this pre-sale is being handled by Ticketmaster on behalf of The Velvet Onion. Ticketmaster are liable for all purchases and their standard terms and conditions apply (click on link to view). The Velvet Onion cannot be held accountable for any issues with ticket purchases.
* All seats will be numbered so you will be able to see where they are located before you buy. The pre-sale guarantees earlier access to the seating available through Ticketmaster’s allocation, but this is not necessarily the best seats in the venue. You will be able to see what seating you are being offered for sale before you buy and make a choice.

Tour News: An Evening With Noel Fielding

2 Mar

© Noel Fielding

You’ve been very patient. The odd date has leaked out, you’ve bombarded us with questions about it – and now, before anyone else (just!), we can exclusively reveal the details of Noel Fielding‘s live UK tour!

The new show, An Evening With Noel Fielding, promises a magical mix of Noel’s unique stand-up comedy, live animation, music, and some of his best-known TV characters, including The Moon and Fantasy Man. Support will come from the very capable hands of Mike Fielding and Tom Meeten (who boggled a few eyes and minds when he supported the Boosh at one of their London warm-ups last Autumn).

London folk have been lucky enough to see a handful of ad hoc live performances from Noel in recent years, but this will be the first time in many years that fans from further afield in Britain and Ireland will have had the chance to see his solo stand up. We’re expecting a fair amount of nationwide excitement from you Fieldmice!

The 20+ date tour kicks off in Guildford on Monday 20th October and  culminates in Dublin on 11th December. According to Noel “fancy dress is optional”. Go on, you know you want to.

Tickets go on general sale at 9am on Friday 7th March for £25, and are available through Ticketmaster and SeeTickets. We’ll let you know if there are any pre-sales before then.

The full list of dates and venues is below. So which one/s are you going to??

The Ghoul Begins…

28 Feb

Pre-production is underway on Gareth Tunley‘s debut directorial feature film, which, naturally features TVO connections to whet your appetite.

© Gareth Tunley

© Gareth Tunley

The Ghoul - described as a “dark, twisty, psychological thriller” is written and directed by Tunley, who needs no introduction for our regular readers, especially those who attended The Velvet Onion Live in 2012.

For the rest of you, however, he’s a gifted character comedian and veteran of Ealing Live who is equally adept behind the camera, with acting roles in the likes of The Wrong DoorDown Terrace and Kill List, and directing credits on CrackanoryThe Mainstage and The Cave Children to name but a few productions.

© Gareth Tunley

© Gareth Tunley

He was also more recently responsible for the behind the scenes features around A Field In England, which can be viewed online, and can often be seen cropping up on the London comedy scene. All of which makes us very excited that he’s crafting his first feature film, especially considering last year’s stunning short film, The Baron.

Made with regular collaborator Tom MeetenThe Baron was a sensational re-imagining of an old live favourite, given a chilling yet hilarious twist, and The Ghoul sees Tunley & Meeten reunite, with Tom in the lead role.

The project is also set to feature another familiar face – the reigning Fairy Godmother of TVO, Alice Lowe, and camera tests, costume hunting and location scouting are well underway, with shooting due to start very soon.

For now, the project is shrouded in secrecy, and that’s as much as we’re allowed to tell you, but we’ll aim to bring you more news as soon as we’re able, so stay peeled. Until then, keep an eye on it’s official Twitter feed, and you can catch The Baron, co-starring Steve Oram, Stephen Evans and Barunka O’Shaughnessy, and with music by Waen Shepherd, below.

Onion Talking: Dolly Wells on Doll & Em

18 Feb
© Gina R Snape

© Gina R Snape

Today sees the UK launch of Doll & Em, the new dramedy from Dolly Wells & Emily Mortimer for Sky Living HD and HBO.

The show features its titular stars playing exaggerated versions of themselves, as well as showbiz cameos from Hollywood A-Listers and a few TVO regulars for good measure.

With Dolly Wells now residing in New York City, TVO’s East Coast correspondent Gina R Snape went in search of the Luxury Comedy star to talk about all things Doll & Em…

Dolly Wells doesn’t know it, but she’s on the verge of becoming a real New Yorker. Battling the subway, dealing with the horrific cold fronts and wave after wave of skin-scourging cold and snowstorms, it’s a far cry from the warmth of Los Angeles or the hot bright lights of the Luxury Comedy studio.

We meet to chat about Doll & Em, an extraordinary, complex six-part series written by and co-staring Dolly, with overtones of independent cinema: “my baby” is how she describes it. Sitting down over tea and chocolate, the conversation meanders from the making of this new TV show to the filming of Luxury Comedy and back again. Delightful and chatty, introspective and considerate, a conversation with Dolly takes many turns.

Discussing the inspiration behind Doll & Em, Dolly explains: “Basically, we wanted an excuse to hang out because Emily was living here and I was living in London and we’d both started having children and things. If we were going to be hanging out we had to be doing something to justify it to our families.  So we began sort of tepidly, if that’s the word. By the time we thought of this idea we’d been doing it for a long time.”

Inspired by the Harold Pinter play The Servant, and the film All About Eve, Emily began adapting the central concept from a variety of sources.  “We got really fascinated by people having assistants,” reveals Dolly.  “We’d hear stories about other actors, very successful actors, who’d have assistants and there’s just something innately funny about it. Of course, it’s a totally serious job, but there’s something funny about your job being somebody else. Because the person who is the ‘star’ is at some point going to behave like a child, or do something weird, the person working for them in that capacity is going to feel slightly resentful. So if you make it two best friends, who are completely equal…it felt like it was a massive canvass to put silly ideas on.”

© King Bee Productions / Sky Living HD / HBO

© King Bee Productions / Sky Living HD / HBO

Continue reading

Preview Peeling: Doll & Em

11 Feb
© King Bee Productions / Sky Living HD

© King Bee Productions / Sky Living HD

Next week sees the launch of Doll & Emon Sky Living HD.  Written by and starring Dolly Wells & Emily Mortimer, the show also features appearances by Dolly’s fellow TVO regulars Tom Meeten, Laura Patch and Noel Fielding, as well as a number of Hollywood stars.  

The first episode airs on Thursday 18th February at 10pm, and will be available on SkyGo from 10pm tonight (11th Feb).

TVO has been given exclusive access to the full series, and our spoiler free preview is below…

The great pantheon of work created by those we write about at The Velvet Onion quite often focuses on collaborations between friends and frequent associates.  Talent finds talent, and connecting the dots between the legends of alternative comedy is something which can span generations.  There’s a wibbly line right through the work featured on these pages which can, if you so wished to do so, be traced right back to the pioneers of silly: the Pythons, Goodies and Goons of yesteryear, even if our focus is on the last two decades or so.

Yet for all the talk of family: of Ealing Live, The Mighty Boosh and friendships forged in blood and sweat and late night petrol stations when a gig in the middle of nowhere’s gone awry, there’s one friendship which has remained untapped until now… and that’s that of Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer.

Though an actress for some time, we first came across Dolly as the stunning Methusula – wife of Head Shaman Dennis in Series Three of The Mighty Boosh.  From there came multiple roles in Star Stories and The IT Crowd, plus recurring roles in Free Agents and Campus and more recently Some Girls and Spy.

© Dave Brown / Secret Peter / Channel 4

© Dave Brown / Secret Peter / Channel 4

To many, though, she is simply Dolly – the German socialite friend of Noel in Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy.  Ahead of the second series of this candy-cane slice of liquid nonsense, comes a very different project which sees her first work with lifelong friend, Emily Mortimer.

Mortimer, of course, also started out as an actress in English television, before a series of film roles became increasingly high profile.  The 51st State catapulted her to stardom in America, which was followed up by roles in Match PointThe Pink PantherCity Island, Cars 2 and mega-smash Shutter Island.  Recently, she’s been appearing in the hugely successful HBO drama serial The Newsroom.

© HBO

© HBO

Through Doll & Em, which the two titular stars co-wrote with director Azazel Jacobs, the pair play hyper-exaggerated versions of themselves.  Emily is the movie megastar, currently filming a motion picture in LA with John Cusack and a hot-shot director who is adamant his film is not a female version of The Godfather.

Dolly, on the other hand, is not an actress, but a lifelong drifter whose nasty break-up with her slimy ex (played by her Luxury co-star Tom Meeten in a series of increasingly cringe-inducing cameos), gives Em the perfect idea.  In need of a break, Doll becomes Emily’s assistant, and whilst at first all seems cozy, it’s not long before the cracks in this set-up begin to show.

© King Bee Productions / Sky Living HD

© King Bee Productions / Sky Living HD

What begins almost as the pitch for a romantic comedy, complete with Doll and Em both falling for the same man, turns in a surprisingly different direction.  There’s a sense of British awkwardness abroad, and some scenes do perhaps play as broader than others – a seemingly disastrous encounter with a legendary actress, or Dolly getting locked out of the house springing instantly to mind – but the naturalistic tone soon takes hold and allows the flowing narrative room to breathe.

Those celebrity cameos never seem to get in the way, perhaps because they’re not handled the way a show like Extras did it.  Andy Garcia, Susan Sarandon and John Cusack are there because they’re acquaintances in Hollywood, not to bag ratings or give the actors a ‘wacky’ moment to play on.  Similarly, the appearance of Noel Fielding in the final, London-based episode doesn’t feel shoehorned in, even if his surreal suggestions for a great night in are so typically Noel!

© King Bee Productions / Sky Living HD

© King Bee Productions / Sky Living HD

It’s this naturalism that makes the show stand on its own legs, as the slow burning dissection of a lifelong friendship takes hold of Dolly and Emily.  As Doll starts to find her feet both on set and as a mature woman, Em’s own insecurity begins to take its toll.  A string of bad luck moments bring out her selfish side, which in turn causes a similar reaction in Dolly, and the two actors rise to the challenge of portraying this on screen beautifully.  When they finally confront one another in the penultimate episode, you feel for them both equally, and their mutual despair is heartbreaking.

If there’s one complaint, it’s with the show’s format.  With each episode only twenty-two minutes long,the piecemeal mini-plots do seem to be over so very quickly.  Where this show will shine, perhaps, is in its lifespan after broadcast: the digital age actively encourages marathon gorging sessions, and at just over two hours, it’s very easy to just sit back and let the whole series run through.

Indeed, TVO watched the series pretty much back-to-back, and the end result was reminiscent of an independent feature: you could re-cast this with Laura Linney and Catherine Keener, put it out in arthouses as a two-hour feature and it would still work, even though we’d be missing those glorious central performances.  Doll & Em just has that amount of class. As such, it will be interesting to see how it takes hold of an audience tuning in each week, as the nuances of the story may be clearer without the weekly gaps in broadcasts. We’re definitely hoping for a blu-ray release so we can revisit this world in one go once again.  

Throw in a cheeky little appearance from Dolly’s other long-standing collaborator Laura Patch, and perhaps this is a show to set your DVR for, and swallow whole, but if you’d rather not do that, then stick with this it to find something you’ll treasure for a long, long time.

Doll & Em airs on Thursday 18th February at 10:00pm on Sky Living HD.  It will be available exclusively to Sky Go customers from Tuesday 11th February at 10:00pm.

Toyaaaaaaaah!

28 Jan
© Toyah Willcox

© Toyah Willcox

Actress and post-punk legend Toyah Willcox has been confirmed to star in Steve Oram‘s directorial debut, Aaaaaaaah!

We first told you about the film a few weeks ago, after hearing it discussed in hushed tones for some time, but the news of Toyah’s casting came to us twice over yesterday evening – first via Oram himself at Julian Barratt’s live show, then via Toyah’s web-master as the news was revealed on her official website.

Typically oddball, the film will contain no spoken dialogue, with the cast – Oram, Tom MeetenJulian Barratt, Tony Way, Waen Shepherd, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Hannah Hoeskra and now, Toyah Willcox, will communicate like monkeys.

Low-budget and self-financed, the film will also be produced by Andy Stark (Sightseers), and Steve has promised “lots of inappropriate sex and violence”.

Oram and Meeten will play marauding characters who encroach into the hostile territory of the kitchen, and Barratt is the former alpha-male who, now deposed, lives in the garden.

It sounds like a surreal treat, of course, so the addition of Ms Willcox to the project is the icing on the cake.  For the uninitiated, Toyah first became famous as an actress at the height of the punk movement, before forming her own band and recording a number of smash hits such as I Want To Be FreeThunder In The Mountains, It’s A Mystery and Brave New World.  Imagine a cross between Siouxsie Sioux, David Bowie and Yoko Ono, and you’re not too far off.

Going solo in 1985, Toyah continues to record music to this day, with 15 studio albums and a number of critically acclaimed side projects to her name, plus regular sell-out concert tours.  She’s also been a lifelong influence on several TVO regulars – most notably Alice Lowe, who based the short film Junglophilia on the singer’s 80s excesses.

We can’t wait to find out more.  Until then, revisit Junglophilia – directed by Jacqueline Wright and co-starring Barunka O’Shaughnessy – below.

Seeing The Sights

28 Jan

© Rook Films / Big Talk / Studio Canal / Film 4

Next month’s edition of Caravan Magazine will feature a belated Sightseers special feature.

Here at TVO, we love to report the weird and wonderful side of Onion Land, and this story is no exception.

Whilst we, and critics at large, fell in love with Sightseers upon release in 2012, we couldn’t help but wonder how real life caravanners would take to the black comedy from the minds of Alice LoweSteve Oram and Ben Wheatley.

We needed have worried – it appears the community fell in love with it, and perhaps inspired by our very own guide to the film’s locations (provided courtesy of Steve’s dad), the route undertaken by Chris and Tina is fast becoming a favourite for holiday travellers.

John Sootheran and Ben Hackney are two such fans of the film, who have taken the Marquis Majestic 504 on a tour of the Peak District locations used within the film.

Starting, as the film does, at Crich Tramway Museum, they’ve visited a number of local landmarks, such as Blue John Cavern, Mother Shipton’s Cave and Ribblehead Viaduct.  Albeit with a bit less killing involved.  Not even a chicken sacrifice for good measure.

The results can be seen in the video below, and there’s a full feature expected in the March 2014 issue of Caravan Magazine, out on 12th February. In the meantime, if you don’t yet own a copy of Sightseers for yourself, you can pick it up on dvd and blu-ray from The Velvet Onion Amazon UK Store now.

Oram Directs Barratt & Meeten In Monkey Film

8 Jan

© Unknown

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of bumping into Steve Oram at Rich Fulcher‘s recent show at the Soho Theatre. We had a chat about the projects that he’s working on at the moment, then a few beers were sunk (well, it was nearly Christmas). The next day our recollection of the projects that Steve had mentioned was so extraordinary we assumed that the beers had got the better of us, and vowed to find out what he was really working on when we next spoke.

Today, comedy site Chortle has published the details of  Steve’s latest projects, and it would appear that they actually are as extraordinary as we’d remembered them. Are you ready?

Aaaaaaaah! (the number of a’s in the title is important) is a film in which there’s no spoken dialogue, but everyone communicates like monkeys. As the director of the film, Steve has promised “lots of inappropriate sex and violence.”

It will be a low-budget, self-financed venture, and stars Steve himself, Julian BarrattTom Meeten, Green Wing’s Julian Rhind-Tutt and Hannah Hoekstra, star of Hemel, the sexually explicit Dutch arthouse movie. Shooting for Aaaaaaaah! begins in April and will be produced by Sightseers‘ Andy Stark.

Oram and Meeten will play the part of marauding characters who encroach into hostile territory, while Barratt is “the ex-alpha male who’s been deposed and has been living in the garden.”

© Mog

Steve is also developing another self-penned film, Sweet Shadow, which is about “a deluded dreamer from the Midlands who moves to London and finds it hard to fit in at this shit job he does…so he starts following people to make friends. He goes a bit wrong in the head. He has these fantasies.” There may also be a role for Julian in this film.

If that wasn’t quite enough, Steve will be joining the cast of the horror film, Altar, which has just begun shooting; and later this year he will appear alongside the awesome Olivia Colman in a one-off drama for BBC One.

We’re also delighted to learn that Oram and Meeten will be hosting more of their wonderful Club Fantastico comedy nights at the Soho Theatre in the Spring/Summer, with plans to perform a run of five nights with a different guest slot each night. Expect a few familiar TVO faces at those.

So, as you can see – there’s plenty of exciting (if slightly bonkers) Oram-based stuff happening! As and when we hear any more about these projects, we’ll be sure to let you know.

And the next time Steve tells us something that sounds beyond bizarre, we’ll believe him.

To read the original article in full, which includes additional information about the projects, head on over to Chortle.

TVO’s Review Of The Year 2013: Part Four

4 Jan

Hello and a warm welcome to the final part of our Review of 2013. Although October to December may feel like it only just happened, prepare to be amazed by how much you’ve forgotten. We were, but then we’re getting on a  bit.

So here are the best bits from the fourth quarter of the year – cherry-picked from news stories about both our regulars and a few new faces too. Enjoy.

OCTOBER

October was the month that Booshmania returned.  Just as the fantastic Behind the Boosh exhibition started its run at Proud Camden, showcasing the history of that most Mighty of comedic troops via the majesty of Dave Brown‘s photography, the boys were back in town.  Or rather, on the pier, as The Mighty Boosh went from the Soho Theatre to Tenacious D’s Festival Supreme in LA. A final (chaotic) UK warm-up show and a further run through at The Comedy Store, almost halted by a Visa saga, paved the way for a live performance that turned out to be one of the Festival’s highlights. Fan forums and social media platforms were buzzing with photos, footage and reviews of the show.

Another announcement that got us more than a bit over-excited in October was the news that Ben Wheatley is to direct the first 2 episodes of the next series of Doctor Who, starring the new Time Lord, Peter Capaldi. How good is that!?  We’re itching to see what happens when you combine one of the UK’s finest directors with its biggest export, now in the capable hands of an Oscar-winning acting legend to boot.  You can see the moment Capaldi became the Doctor in the 2013 Xmas special below…

More telly stuff, with the launch of Matt Berry’s new series, Toast Of London.  We’d been itching to see it since the pilot back in 2012, and it did not disappoint…

Elsewhere, Richard Ayoade established himself as a permanent fixture on prime time panel shows with a stint as team captain on Was It Something I Said? on Channel 4. Ayoade’s intellectual sparring with host David Mitchell certainly made our Sunday evenings feel a bit more highbrow!

What else?  Well, in movie news, there was an update on the cast for Paul King‘s long-awaited Paddington Bear feature film, which included mention of Rufus Jones and James Bachman. To end the month, TVO artists offered us a veritable smorgasbord of comedy options for Halloween night’s out, with special spooky performances from Colin Hoult and Richard Sandling.  And we were sad to lose the talented comedy actor Felix Dexter, who died at the too-young age of 52. He left behind an incredible legacy of great TV performances on shows like Bellamy’s PeopleAbsolutely Fabulous, The Fast ShowKnowing Me Knowing You… With Alan Partridge, Mongrels and Alexei Sayle’s Merry Go Round to name but a few. He will be much misse, and would typically hate all this fuss about him, so let’s remember him with one of his silliest moments – dancing for Sport Relief alongside Rhys Thomas and Lucy Montgomery.  What a dude.

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TVO’s Review Of The Year 2013: Part Three

3 Jan

If you’ve previously taken a mosey through Part One and Part Two of our Review of 2013, you’ll already be aware that it’s been a busy old year in Onion Land. July to September was no exception, with news, reviews, new shows and live performances from both our regulars and the new names on our roster.

So here are the best bits from the third quarter of the year – hand-picked from over 700 news stories across 2013, and jam-packed with forgotten treasures and instant classics alike. Enjoy.

JULY

The month began with the release of Dan Clark‘s debut album, Dan Clark & The Difficult Three, which had been funded via a successful Pledge Music campaign. Combining genuinely funny lyrics with proper tunes played by a bona fide band, the record offered fans of Clark’s musical comedy an opportunity to re-live some of his live show classics and enjoy some newer compositions. For a wee taster, here below is a live recording of ‘Don’t Kiss Me’ (and if you fancy buying a copy of the album, head on over here):

We also featured a series of introductions to the TVO-recommended artists you could see at 2013′s Edinburgh Fringe. We intentionally mixed up the folk who we already write about with the people who we define as “beyond the Onion”; those featured included Colin Hoult, Tony Law,  Paul FootSpank, Joey PageAisling Bea, Late Night Gimp Fight, Tim Fitzhigham, Jonny & The Baptists (+ Jonny Donahoe), Pete Heat and Glen Wool.

On 19th July the world of comedy sadly lost one of its pioneers, in the shape of Mel Smith. Whilst Smith’s contribution to modern comedy is undeniable, we can also claim a link between him and the TVO family, with Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthew’s first TV sketches being written for Alas, Smith And Jones. You can watch one of them below:

In terms of new TV and film projects, this month saw the release of Ben Wheatley‘s hotly-anticipated follow-up to Sightseers, the psychedelically historical A Field In England, which launched simultaneously in cinemas, on TV and on DVD on 5th July.

Filming also began on the second series of Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy, and the Marmite-like TV adaptation of Graham Linehan’s Count Arthur Strong also hit our screens. Chris O’Dowd continued with his world domination of the airwaves with a role in the part-improvised US sitcom Family Tree:

Finally, fans of The Mighty Boosh got all hot and bothered over Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt‘s first live performance together since 2010 when the pair performed at The Barbican at a concert to honour the musician, Beck. Expect a bit more of the Boosh boys down below (honestly not as rude as it sounds)…

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