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Oberman’s Tricks

28 Jul
 © Headstrong Pictures / Amanda Searle

© Headstrong Pictures / Amanda Searle

The final series of hit comic drama New Tricks which will feature Tracy Ann Oberman in a recurring role, starts next week on BBC One.

As we explained earlier this year, Oberman’s 2014 guest slot as forensic pathologist Fiona Kennedy has been worked up into a new regular role, joining new recruit Larry Lamb (Gavin & Stacey) and regulars Tamzin Outhwaite, Denis Lawson and Nicholas Lyndhurst.

Despite its popularity, regularly gaining over 6 million viewers in a relatively late evening slot, the show was cancelled earlier this year ahead of filming the twelfth and final run, which comprises of ten episodes to wrap up the story of the retired police officers turned private eyes.

And while casual readers or our international audiences may be wondering why we’re lamenting this decision, it’s because the show has that same quality that a lot of British telly has: appearing in an episode has almost become a ‘thing’ you have to do, like Doctor Who is and The Bill used to be.

In fact, alongside some big name guests, previous TVO related guest stars since the show began in 2003 have included Reece Shearsmith, Kevin Eldon, Rebecca Front, Simon Day, Nicholas Burns, Michael Smiley, Harry Peacock and Laura Patch, as well as Frances Barber (Murder in SuccessvillePsychobitches), Adrian Scarborough (Coogan’s Run, Psychoville), Doon Mackichan (The Day Today, Toast of London) and Tim Plester (Game of Thrones, Ant Muzak).

The first episode – part one of a two part story The Last Man Standing will see series regular and sole remaining original cast member Dennis Waterman bow out of the show. It airs on Tuesday, 4th August at 9pm on BBC One, and will be available on iPlayer shortly after transmission.

 

Dolly In Zombie Literary Classic

26 Jul
© Quirk Books

© Quirk Books

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

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

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

McQueen Returns

17 Jul

Recent stage hit McQueen will make a triumphant return later this year, as it transfers to the West End from August.

© McQ Productions Limited

© McQ Productions Limited

What’s On Stage report that the production, which stars Stephen Wight, Laura Rees and Tracy-Ann Oberman will follow its hugely successful run at St James Theatre in May with a ten week residency at Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Written by James Phillips and directed by John Caird, McQueen is based on the real life story of the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen and those within his inner circle. Obermen stars as the magazine editor and fashion icon Isabella Blow who discovered McQueen before she herself tragically died as her depression proved too much to live with.

Joining the cast for the new run will be Carly Bawden and Michael Bertenshaw, and previews begin on 13th August. The official opening is on 27th August and the show will run until 3rd November. For more details, keep an eye on the McQueen Twitter page. You can see the trailer for the new run below.

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.

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.

Paul Foot Retrospective

5 Jul
© Mog

© Mog

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

Julia Davis Joins Edinburgh TV Festival

27 Jun
© The Gentlewoman

© The Gentlewoman

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

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

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

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

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

Wow! Alice Lowe Joins Clark’s Comedy Night

27 Jun
© Amy Wilson

© Amy Wilson

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

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

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

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

So Hot Right Now: #36

22 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…

SMELL THE HOFF

Hoff The Record, Thursday, 9pm, Dave

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

Tim Downie and Anna Crilly make guest appearances in this week’s edition of Hoff The Record: Dave’s delightful new semi-improvised mockumentary starring David Hasselhoff and Fergus Craig.

For the uninitiated, Hoff the Record focuses on the Knight Rider legend’s attempts at rebuilding his career in the UK. In this fictionalised version of his life, he’s turned to his utterly useless English manager, Max Coleman (Craig), who has surrounded The Hoff with an inexperienced PA, an over-enthusiastic cab driver, and his long-lost illegitimate German son.

This week, The Hoff is in genuinely in demand: as Max has landed him a proposal to use his name on a new, classy aftershave. However, it soon becomes clear that the ad agency isn’t interested in Hoff as a symbol of class, but want to trade off his cheesy image.

Tim Downie – best known for his roles in Toast of London and Paddington guests as the hipster-tastic advertising exec Dylan Turnbull, whilst Anna Crilly – one half of Anna & Katy – turns up as journalist Lucinda Young, who takes issue with comments The Hoff made in confidence.

It’s another dynamite installment of Dave’s bold new show, which is playful with Hasselhoff’s reputation, and willing to make him look dafter than ever before.  And with appearances from Steve Oram (Sightseers, Luxury Comedy), and Simon Greenall (I’m Alan Partridge, Alice’s Wunderland) still to come in this first series, and a second series already confirmed and in pre-production now, this is one you really won’t want to miss.

Catch our exclusive interview with star Fergus Craig over yonder now.

 

A MERCURIAL CAMEO

SunTrap, Wednesday, from 10:35pm, BBC One

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

Paul Kaye joins Kayvan Novak and Bradley Walsh in this week’s edition of BBC One’s crime-caper sitcom Sun Trap.

Directed by Ben Palmer (The Inbetweeners Movie, Bad Sugar, Star Stories), Sun Trap features Novak and Walsh as former undercover journalists now solving crimes 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 and Simon Day, with Tony Way and Steve Oram set to appear in the sixth episode next week.

Back to this week, however, and Brutus (Walsh), Zorro (Demetriou) and Melody (Pierson) wake up after a heavy night of drinking to find themselves in a prison cell, with no memory of the previous night. It soon becomes clear the trio have been arrested on suspicion of murdering the brilliantly named Spanish tribute singer Elton Juan (Lee Boardman). With his friends locked up, Woddy must make use of his armoury of disguises to infiltrate the home of casino owner Senor Big (Allen), to find out what really happened.  His investigation brings him into contact with Juan’s bitter rival, Frederico Mercury (Kaye).

As ever, Sun Trap has inherited the Count Arthur Strong Wibbly Wednesday timeslot, which means viewers in England and Wales can see it on Wednesday at 10:35pm, viewers in Northern Ireland get to watch at 11:05pm, and viewers in Scotland have to wait until 11:35pm. Alternatively, everyone can see it on Friday night at 11:25pm after The Graham Norton Show.

DIAMONDS ARE A COP’S BEST FRIEND

Undercover, Tuesday, 9:00pm, Dave

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

Undercover – Dave’s new witty sitcom in disguise as ambitious crime drama returns this week with another top notch episode, once again 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.

The results are an interesting blend of high-octane police procedural drama and Airplane levels of silly wordplay, with a stunning visual look from Lambert and his team, which he detailed in his exclusive interview with TVO last week.

In this week’s episode, Arno and Ara Sarkissian are due at the wedding of the head of the Margarian family’s daughter and are keen to impress, so Chris has to steal a set of diamonds for a present. Find out how he gets on on Tuesday evening at 9pm, or right after Thursday’s edition of Hoff The Record at 9:40pm.

THE FORCE ISN’T STRONG FOR EWAN

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

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

 

After his debut last week, Hollywood heartthrob Ewan McGregor makes another cameo appearance in this week’s edition of the superlative Doll & Em on Sky Atlantic.

As Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer’s alter-egos continue to develop their play, Doll’s film plans threaten to put the project into jeopardy. But when McGregor in unable to commit to the movie, the pair are good to go on their production – if they can break their director’s block.

As wonderfully akward and utterly charming as ever, you can catch this week’s episode at 10:10pm on Wednesday evening via Sky Atlantic, and every episode is available on catch-up services now.

BACK TO THE BULLY FOR DAN

Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

 

 

Channel 4’s wacky sitcom Man Down continues on Monday evening, as ever starring Greg Davis, Roisin Conaty and Mike Wozniak.

This week, idiotic high school drama teacher Dan (Davis) has organised a trip to the theatre for his pupils, but realises too late the play stars his childhood enemy, Geoff Doogan. Meanwhile, Jo (Conaty) has another new money making scheme, Brian (Wozniak) is determined to be published in the local paper, and Aunt Nesta (the sublime Stephanie Cole) tries her hand at helpful role-play.

Produced by Spencer Millman (The Mighty Boosh, TV Burp, Man to Man with Dean Learner), Man Down continues to delight audiences and critics alike, and this week’s episode also features a cameo appearance by acclaimed actor Ramon Tikaram – who Boosh fans will forever identify as Banoo, the frequently late warrior of Xooberon. Oh, and The Proclaimers. No, really.

ARE WE HUMAN? OR ARE WE ONIONS?

Humans, Sunday, 9:00pm, Channel 4 [UK]
Sunday, 9/8C, AMC [US]

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

Smash hit sci-fi dystopia Humans continues this week on Channel Four, and debuts in America on AMC, with Katherine Parkinson and Rebecca Front part of its impressive ensemble cast.

Set in a world where synthetic human servants are the ‘in’ thing, the lives of a family who buy the latest model begin to unravel, whilst a retired engineer’s paternal relationship with his own Synth is threatened by a malfunction. US audiences have the first episode, featuring a cameo from Dan Tetsell to enjoy this week – with Paul Kaye turning up in Episode Two. US audiences will probably want to skip the next paragraph.

Here in the UK, we’re up to Episode Three, and Laura (Parkinson) tries to get rid of Anita (Gemma Chan), but is forced to reconsider when the synth saves Toby’s (Theo Stevenson) life. Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) begins to share his wife’s suspicions that there is something strange about Anita when he checks her for damage and finds she appears more human than expected. Elsewhere, George (William Hurt) comes up with a plan to escape his joyless new routine under Vera’s (Front) care, and Pete (Neil Maskell) and Karen (Ruth Bradley) investigate a murder at the brothel – but when Pete loses his temper on duty, he finds himself suspended and stuck at home with Simon for company.

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.

 

FAREWELL TO STRANGE & NORRELL

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Sunday, 9:00pm, BBC One [UK]
Saturday, 10/9C, BBC America [US]

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

As US audiences get to savour the third episode of fantasty epic Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell this week, British viewers must say a fond farewell to the magical duo and their BBC One adaptation, which stars Bertie Carvel, Eddie Marsan, Marc Warren, Paul KayeEdward Hogg and many, many more.

In the final episode, England is plunged into chaos as ancient magical forces are unleashed on the world and the dark prophecy of the Raven King looks to be fulfilled. Norrell (Marsan) flees to the safety of his library, but is pursued by Strange (Carvel), who intends to free Arabella (Charlotte Riley) before the Gentleman’s (Warren) curse consumes him. Childermass (Enzo Cilenti) tries to find a way to break the enchantment on Lady Pole (Alice Englert), as Stephen (Ariyon Bakare) is drawn deeper into the sinister world of the Fairy kingdom.

Adapted from Susanna Clarke’s best-selling novel by screenwriter Peter Harness (Wallander, Doctor Who), producer Nick Hirschkorn (Five Children and It) and director Toby Haynes (Doctor Who, Sherlock), JS&MN has been a delightful Sunday night excursion into the otherworldly realm of magic and mystery, and those who stuck with it for seven weeks have fallen in love with its charms.

If you’re one of them, and haven’t yet ordered the series to own, you can pick it up on on dvd and blu-ray now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store. You can also revisit our recent interview with Paul Kaye about the show, over yonder.

A LITTLE MORE REFORMATION

Horrible Histories, Monday, 5:00pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

The new series of Horrible Histories continues this week, with a special guest appearance by Rowan Atkinson as Henry VIII.

Atkinson’s role as the portly king was revealed earlier this year, with his Elvis-tastic musical number released on YouTube to promote the new run.  He joins a number of big name guest stars appearing in this run, alongside Sanjeev Bhaskar, Kathryn Drysdale, Lorna Watson and The Actor, Kevin Eldon.

Also featuring Horrible Histories veterans Simon Farnaby and Jim Howick, as well as the new regulars Jalaal Hartley, Naz Osmanoglu, Jessica Ransom, Adam Riches and Murder in Successville star Tom Stourton, this week’s episode not only tells us all about the English monarch, but we get to learn about Ottoman leader Suleiman the Magnificent in Turkey, and Emperor Zhengde in China.

GO GO GADGET MAN!

Gadget Man, Monday, 8:30pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

It’s the final edition of Gadget Man this week, as Richard Ayoade‘s tech-loving show takes on the various gizmos available for protection and security.

First off, Richard kits the Gadget Man house out with a smartphone-activated lock, scanning visitors with a portable metal detector and putting a robot on patrol. He is also joined by actor Keith Allen to test a wallet tracker, a vest that makes the wearer look more muscular and a bulletproof bag. Finally, he meets up with Bill Bailey at a Cold War era nuclear bunker in Essex to try out a post-apocalyptic survival kit – much of which can also be used for camping holidays or festivals.

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.

© Lou Sanders

© Lou Sanders

Monday 22nd June

Lou Sanders and Ed Aczel
Aces and Eights Saloon Bar, London
7:30pm, Free but ticketed
TICKETS

Sarah Kendall, Matt Kirshen, Nish Kumar, Tom Craine, Tom O’Connor & Tiff Stevenson
Old Rope @ The Pheonix, London
7:30pm, £6.60
TICKETS

Thursday 25th June

Lou Sanders and Tania Edwards
The Oval Tavern, Croyden
7:30pm, £4.20
TICKETS

Friday 26th June

Neil Cole, Rudi Lickwood, Bryan Lacey, Francis Foster and Morgan Berry
West Cliff Theatre, Clacton On Sea
7:30pm, £14
TICKETS

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.

Onion Talking: Fergus Craig goes Hoff the Record

17 Jun
© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

This week sees the launch of Hoff the Record – the brand new partially improvised mockumentary about David Hasselhoff, in which the 80s legend stars alongside TVO regular Fergus Craig.

With numerous other familiar faces appearing across the run, and this being Fergus’ most high profile role in quite some time, we were keen to sit down with the man himself to learn a bit more about working with The Hoff, and his past, present and imminent future.

“He doesn’t look like anyone else in the room.”

Fergus Craig knocks it out of the park when his co-star in Dave’s new sitcom Hoff The Record is naturally, the topic of discussion.

“We’re all pale, podgy English people,” he adds, with humility, “and he looks like 1980s California. He doesn’t really look real. You can see why he was – and is – a superstar. You know, he might not be to everyone’s taste, or the coolest guy, or whatever, but he’s got that star quality to him.”

In terms of casting dynamics, it’s fair to say TVO really didn’t see this one coming.  Hoff the Record brings cult legend David Hasselhoff – seemingly immortalised thanks to his roles in Knight Rider and Baywatch – to a whole new audience as he stars in his own mockumentary sitcom, together with British comedian Fergus Craig – known for his roles in Star Stories, Sorry I’ve Got No Head and Colin & Fergus – as his useless sidekick.

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

Craig plays The Hoff’s dodgy British manager, Max Coleman, capitalising on his cult status in the UK to try and make some money off his back. In real life, Hasselhoff has had notable success in the UK over the last decade, including a top three hit in 2006, and a brief period as a judge on Britain’s Got Talent a few years later. In this fictionalised and exaggerated version of his life, however, the career has dried up, and he’s found himself completely unemployable in the States, whilst almost everyone here in the UK treats him like dirt. To his enormous credit, The Hoff has no qualms about making a fool of himself on screen.

“I think he really relishes it,” suggests Fergus of this persona assassination. “Max probably says the harshest things, and so far, so good.” He laughs, and adds: “He’s not got upset with me yet!”

Craig has form for poking fun out of celebrity egos – in Star Stories he got to play exaggerated versions of celebs as diverse as Sam Neil, Nigel Martin Smith, Gareth Gates and John Prescott, and join in the ribbing of Tom Cruise, Simon Cowell and Take That amongst others. Yet saying mean things in front of the man you’re saying them about, even if they’re in the room and in on the joke, must nonetheless, feel a little weird.

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

“He seems alright with it,” Fergus says measuredly. “You do remember that you’re talking about a real guy’s life, to some extent, but he does see the humour in it, and brings a lot of that into it as well. He tells lots of stories about all the crazy things that have happened to him. When we’re going through the plot, he’s always saying: ‘You wouldn’t believe how much of this shit has actually happened to me.'”

It is perhaps understandable that, when news of Hoff the Record‘s production was announced, parallels were immediately drawn to the work of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, particularly so soon after Life’s Too Short, in which Warwick Davis played a fictionalised version of himself in increasingly awkward situations. Fergus’ former comedy partner Colin Hoult even made recurring appearances in that series. But where the parallel ends is perhaps in intent, and genuine delivery: Hoff the Record doesn’t go for the cringe factor that Gervais & Merchant thrive on. The laughs are rarely at the expense of its star, even when they’re ripping his ego to shreds. Whereas Life’s Too Short perhaps made Warwick too unsympathetic a character, this time around, it’s clear we’re on the Hoff’s side while he is surrounded by idiots.

“Every now and then in rehearsals,” Fergus reveals, “it’s mentioned that we don’t want to go too Extras. That’s a reference sometimes. It’s not a criticism of what they did, at all, but we just don’t want to do what they’ve already done. And David’s from a different place. Maybe if he was a British guy, he would have naturally slipped into that Gervais thing like most comedy has in the last ten years, especially in improv. We are living in the era of the Gervais. But he doesn’t come from that. He doesn’t naturally go towards that awkward style.”

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

And whilst the show had its critics before a single frame had been filmed, TVO is keen to stress that the results are impressive, and above all else, very, very funny, which Craig puts down to the genuine drive behind the series from every level.

“Originally I thought: ‘Oh, they’re making a sitcom with David Hasselhoff are they?'”, he explains. “‘Okay. Erm. Let’s go along and see what that’s about.’ And they showed me a taster, which was really mental, but funny. When we got in there, the audition was just improvising. There was no script. We just came up with ideas for characters, and you realised very quickly that they wanted to make something good, and get good people involved. I realised it was going to be interesting, and if we had a really good cast, improvising around a great script, there’d be something really funny at the end of it.”

Initially auditioning for the role of The Hoff’s long-lost German son Dieter, Fergus wound up playing his agent, Max, and the result is a dream pairing. Useless at his job, Max wangles The Hoff an over-enthusiastic cab driver, and an inexperienced PA, but forgets vital details that lead to career faux pas. In the first episode, he’s signed David’s life story away to a young, pretentious film director (Craig Roberts, who Fergus says is “Amazing: He’s got that stillness of a frustrating good actor.”). In the second, he’s signed Hasselhoff up to promote a Knight Rider themed fragrance for men, which leads to the poor man being described as a leather sofa by advertising ninny Dylan Turnbull (a stonking cameo from Toast of London‘s Tim Downie).

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

Roberts and Downie are just two of the impressive names making guest appearances in the show, which also includes Steve Oram, Simon Greenhall, Anna Crilly and even Christopher Biggins – one of the UK’s very own self-depreciating Hoff-like cult figures we can’t help but adore. For Fergus, getting to work with some of comedy’s finest talents was one of the perks of the job.

“I’d never worked with Tim Downie,” he tells TVO, “and he’s a right laugh. Really fun. I’ve worked with Anna loads. It’s always really good to work with her. Simon Greenhall’s in Episode Five, and he’s amazing. He’s just proper hilarious, though I think a lot of what he improvised was unusable for being so non-PC. But he’s amazing in it. Steve Oram’s in it, too. I wasn’t in his scenes, but he’s in there, and is always great.”

Another perk was the scope for improvisation, as the scripts were shaped by the cast’s suggestions.

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

“We’re actually rehearsing the second series now,” Fergus explains. “The writers and producers come up with plots, then they write a very, very vague script in which this happens, this happens and that happens, without any dialogue in it. We workshop the scenes, improvise them, film it, and then they use the footage to gradually work up genuine scripts. On the day we’ll have that script, a lot of which comes from what we worked on, but even on the day we can suggest things to add in or change around, or the director will leave the camera running to capture fresh ideas. It’s all very improvised.”

And it works, with the second series commissioned before the first has aired, and early reviews being extremely positive – with good reason. Released the same week as Dave’s first original scripted sitcom, Undercover, the show marks a key moment in the channel’s history, and a sign that they mean business as producers of new, innovative comedy. Given the vast number of aborted pilots and shows that never-were in recent years, another name making a serious commitment to comedy on television right now can only be a good thing, though Fergus is understandably hesitant to suggest this will bring about a resurgence in alternative comedy.

“There’s always been pilots for shows that didn’t go,” he states, when the subject of his role in recent BBC One pilot Monks – which failed to leave a lasting impression – is breached. “It’s always a struggle to get shows made, but in a way, that’s kind of the way it should be. A lot of people talk about the good old days, and it’s true that in the 90s for example, there was a real consistent stream of good output. But now, there’s more channels, and there are more slots and more opportunities than ever before. It’s just that there’s also a lot of people trying to make shows to fill them. If you do get something made, it’s even harder to find an audience for it. Chances are if you made your show in the 90s, you were probably on BBC2 or Channel 4, and if you made two series, you’d get a really nice house in Notting Hill. It’s not really like that anymore.”

“But,” he adds with stark honesty, “that’s fair enough.”

© Avalon

© Avalon

One major benefit of today’s changing world is that a show no longer has to find its audience straight away to be loved, even if the discovery of its perfect crowd may come too late to see more episodes commissioned. Thanks to repeats and the ever present internet, there are still new audiences discovering Craig’s early work with Colin Hoult as duo Colin & Fergus, many years after their radio shows first aired, their attempts at getting a BBC Three show stalled, and they went their separate ways. TVO itself, still tries to do its bit in keeping the flame alive, but as so many comics have found, growing older takes its toll on chances to be creative.

“A few years ago,” Fergus reveals, “When we were all doing Edinburgh, and doing sketch nights in London, we all saw each other a lot. So it did feel like a gang, all part of the same generation. There are still some people I see quite regularly, but you get older. You don’t see each other as much, and some of the people I used to do shitty little gigs with are now superstars. A few of us were going to put on a sketch night, but you soon realise people are so busy. Their priorities are different.”

He laughs, and deadpans: “You start focusing on the things that pay.”

Recently, that’s been a shift behind the scenes – with Craig filling in gaps between his work on screen with writing gigs on sketch shows such as Cardinal Burns and Anna & Katy. For a natural performer, who trained at Manchester University’s prestigious drama school and has appeared in the West End as well as sold out runs at Edinburgh Fringe, it could be hard relinquishing material for others to ‘claim’ as their own. Craig, however, found the experience surprisingly enjoyable, particularly due to his admiration for the performers in question.

“I loved them both so much as acts,” he states. “You could see what they would do well. You see Anna and Katy, or Seb and Dustin [Cardinal Burns] bring those jokes to life, and just to feel that you were involved in those great shows in a small way is really quite good. Besides, there was a lot of collaboration, and you can’t be precious about any individual ideas or gags. You have got to have the confidence that you can come up with another great one tomorrow for yourself.”

© BBC

© BBC

It isn’t as if Fergus has been short of those, either. In the last year or two, he’s appeared in a string of viral videos for BBC Comedy’s Feed My Funny strand, and his own hilarious Tour Guide videos, whilst his ‘Tips For Actors’ Twitter page led to him writing a whole book of them.

“One night,” he explains when asked how the book came to light, “I thought of an idea of giving some bad acting advice in YouTube videos. At the time I didn’t know how to make a YouTube video, so I thought I’d set up a Twitter account. And quite quickly it got quite a lot of followers. I guess actors find it funny, and they retweet it, and a lot of actors have quite a lot of followers. It just grew quickly, and I found there was more material than I thought there would be, so I thought: ‘Hang on, there’s a book here.’ Amazingly, my agent managed to get me an actual book deal with a proper publisher.”

Tips for Actors, released last year, has become a cult favourite, and Craig cites it as one of the most satisfying parts of his career. “I just sat there for three months,” he enthuses, “writing a book. They didn’t really give me any notes, which on the one hand was frightening, but on the other hand gave me absolute freedom. I’d like to do another, but something different, so it’s not 10,000 jokes about the same thing.”

There are lots of ideas for the new book, which TVO won’t go into so as to give Fergus time to develop them, but as he glides off to return to rehearsals for more Hoff the Record, it becomes clear that, whatever he does next will be given the same passion and drive he has demonstrated time and time again. Now that’s something The Hoff would be proud of.

Hoff The Record starts Thursday 18th June at 9pm on Dave. Series One is available to pre-order now from The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

Horgan & Delaney Q&A At Leicester Square

16 Jun
© Marie Claire

© Marie Claire

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

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

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

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

So Hot Right Now: #35

15 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…

GET HOFFED

Hoff The Record, Thursday, 9pm, Dave

© UKTV

© Me And You Productions / UKTV

This week sees the launch of two new comedy shows on Dave, both with TVO connections.  The first of these is Hoff The Record – a semi-improvised mockumentary based on the surreal life of Knight Rider and Baywatch legend David Hasselhoff.

Fergus Craig – formerly of Star Stories and Colin & Fergus fame – plays The Hoff’s utterly useless English manager, Max Coleman, who brings the out-of-work actor to the UK in an attempt to kick-star his flagging career.

Alongside an inexperienced PA and a superfan mini-cab driver, Max attempts to bolster The Hoff’s profile with a series of increasingly wonky schemes. In this debut episode, Max has signed off the rights to The Hoff’s life story to a hotshot young movie director (played by the magnificent Craig Roberts of Submarine fame), but finds he has no control over the casting decisions. Or the script. Or just about anything.

Hasselhoff is more than game for a laugh, even if most of them come at his expense, and where Life’s Too Short perhaps dwelled too much on that famous Gervais cringe-factor, Hoff the Record is sillier, more playful and all the more enjoyable as a result.

Watching The Hoff battle for the role of himself against a dwarf actor and an LA luvvie who thinks Michael Knight would be using Kit’s internet access to do a spot of tweeting at the wheel, is a joy from start to finish. And with later episodes also featuring guest appearances by Tim Downie (Toast of London, Paddington), Anna Crilly (Anna & Katy, Dead Boss), Steve Oram (Sightseers, Luxury Comedy), and Simon Greenall (I’m Alan Partridge, Alice’s Wunderland) and a second series already confirmed and in pre-production now, this is one you really won’t want to miss.

Keep your eyes peeled for our exclusive chat with Fergus Craig later this week, and catch Episode One on Dave this Thursday at 9pm. Series One is also available to pre-order on dvd already via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

GO UNDERCOVER

Undercover, Tuesday, 9pm, Dave

© Baby Cow / UKTV

© Baby Cow / UKTV

The second of two new comedy commissions from Dave this week is the ambitious sitcom Undercover – which features Daniel Rigby (Eric & Ernie, From There To Here) as Chris: a detective deep inside the Armenian Mafia, trying to impress his new ‘family’ whilst staying out of trouble until he can ‘bring em in’.

Directed by Dave Lambert (The Mighty Boosh, Common Ground, Alan Partridge), the show also features comedy legend Sarah Alexander of Green Wing, Coupling and Smack The Pony fame, as Chris’ equally dim-witted boss, Zoe Keller.

Also along for the ride is Yasmine Akrin (SherlockStella) as a femme fatale member of the Armenian family with a bit of a thing for hapless Chris, and there are guest appearances across the run from the likes of Being Human‘s Michael Socha, Horrible Histories star Jim Howick and Comic Strip veteran Keith Allen.

Co-written by one of the show’s co-stars, Sacha Tarter alongside Scallywagger scribe Andrew Milligan, the series is an interesting blend of high-octane police procedural drama and Airplane levels of silly wordplay. And with Lambo at the helm, it looks stunning. Check it out for yourselves on Tuesday evening at 9pm, only on Dave, or right after Thursday’s first edition of Hoff The Record at 9:40pm. Now that’s what we call a double bill of Onion goodness…

VELVET (ONION) GOLDMINE FOR DOLL & EM

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

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

Hollywood heartthrob Ewan McGregor cameos in this week’s edition of the superlative Doll & Em on Sky Atlantic.

As Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer’s alter-egos continue to develop their play, the former meets a rather sleazy version of the Scottish superstar in a bar and finds he’s as smitten with her as she is of him, until, that is, he begins reader her his poetry.

Elsewhere, the closeness between Doll & Em falls into question, as Olivia Wilde and Evan Rachel Wood: the two actresses hired to play them in their off-Broadway play, reveal their portrayals are a lot more than platonic.

It’s all as wonderfully akward and utterly charming as ever, and another fine way to spend twenty-five minutes in the company of two extremely talented individuals who are not afraid to make themselves look ridiculous to get the laughs. Catch it at the slightly later than usual time of 10:10pm on Wednesday evening via Sky Atlantic, and both series are available on catch-up services now.

DIVERSITY DAN

Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

The second series of Man Down starring Greg Davis and Stephanie Cole continues this week, with some very impressive guest stars cropping up.

The show about a childish schoolteacher who refuses to grow up, is produced by Boosh veteran Spencer Millman and happens to be one of Channel 4’s most enjoyable traditional sitcoms in years. This week, Dan has been caught playing Camp Aisle while invigilated the science exam, and is sent on a diversity awareness course for good measure.

Elsewhere, Jo (Roisin Conaty) has hit on the idea of cobining two celebrity looks into one genuinely incredible makeover: the Halle-Lulu. Madness, as always, and this week sees Daniel Lawrence Taylor (Cockroaches, How Not To Live Your Life) make a guest appearance, alongside Ricky Grover (Murder in Successville) and Annette Badland (Doctor Who).

Catch the latest episode on Monday evening at 10pm, or previous editions online now via All 4.

MAKE WAY FOR THE HOMOSUPERIOR

Humans, Sunday, 9:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

Things are hotting up in Channel 4’s dystopian sci-fi drama Humans this week, including a guest appearance from one Paul Kaye, no less.

In this second episode, 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.

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. US audiences will be able to see the show on AMC later this year.

MADNESS & MAGIC

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Sunday, 9:00pm, BBC One

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

The curious case of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is almost at an end, and we’ll be incredibly sorry to say goodbye to it’s magical realm next week.

Until then, we can rejoin the glorious ensemble cast as Strange (Bertie Carvel) seeks a way to drive himself insane so as to access the fairy world and restore Arabella (Charlotte Riley), and Norrell (Eddie Marsan) continues his grim determination to maintain control of all magic in England.

The two men face dire consequences as the government turns against Norrell, and the Gentlemen (Marc Warren) unleashes a terrible curse to stop Strange in his tracks. Elsewhere, Stephen is still in the Gentlemen’s clutches, but Vinculus (Paul Kaye) offers him a means of escape.

If, like us, you’ve been enjoying JS&MN, you can pick it up on on dvd and blu-ray now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store, and US audiences can see now the show on BBC America on Saturday evenings at 10pm (9pm central). Our recent interview with Paul Kaye about the show, can be read over yonder.

AN ISLAND GAMBLE

Sun Trap, Wednesday, 10:35pm, BBC One
(BBC One Wales: 11:10pm, BBC One Northern Ireland: 11.35pm)

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

Brutus and Woody’s adventures in the Sun Trap continue this week with guest appearances from Keith Allen, Michelle Collins and Martin Marquez.

Allen makes his debut as recurring character Senor Big: an unscrupulous gangster and owner of the island’s Casino Gamberos. Barman Zorro (Jamie Demetriou) has just emerged from a three-day gambling binge there, in which he’s foolishly gone and lost Brutus’ (Bradley Walsh) bar. It’s up to Woody (Kayvan Novak) and his masterful disguises to catch an elusive thief and win a handsome enough reward to get back the watering hole before it’s too late.

Directed by Ben Palmer (The Inbetweeners Movie, Bad Sugar, Star Stories) once more, Sun Trap may have divided critics, but it’s won itself a loyal audience – thanks in no small part to the Friday night repeats after The Graham Norton Show and inheriting Wednesday’s wobbly Count Arthur slot with its regional variances.

Previous episodes have featured the likes of Tracy Ann Oberman, Alex Kirk, Morgana Robinson and Simon Day, and we’ve still got appearances from Paul Kaye and Tony Way to come in future weeks, so if you’ve not checked out Sun Trap yet, there’s no better time to get on iPlayer, or hit pre-order in our store.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR FOR THE GADGET MAN

Gadget Man, Monday, 8:30pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

Richard Ayoade investigates dating gadgets this week in the third installment of Gadget Man Series 4, and as usual, he’s got a couple of helping hands on board. Comics Katherine Ryan and Tom Rosenthal try out a £1,500 handbag that displays messages, and a carbon dioxide cooling vest to make sure the wearer remains ice cold, however hot things get.

For those already in a relationship, there’s hope too, as Goodness Gracious Me star Sanjeev Bhaskar joins Richard to investigate 3D chocolate printing, virtual flowers and a new system that teaches people how to play romantic music on the piano.

NAUGHTY NAPOLEON

Horrible Histories, Monday, 5:00pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

There’s a double dose of Sanjeev Bhaskar on our screens on Monday, as a few hours before his Gadget Man appearance, he pops up in this week’s Horrible Histories as the Indian traveller who brought shampoo to the world.

The main focus of this week’s special, however, is French military leader and rule Napoleon Bonaparte, and we follow his rise from humble beginnings to being crowned emperor of France, with Horrible Histories veterans Simon Farnaby and Jim Howick in tow.

If the 5pm start time is just a little bit awkward for you big kids in work, all of the previous episodes of this series are available now on iPlayer, alongside a selection of vintage episodes with the original cast.

YOO-KAY DADDIES

Matt Berry Does… Father’s Day, Available on iPlayer

© Pett TV

© Pett TV

It can’t have escaped your attention that it’s Father’s Day in the UK on Sunday, and in typical fashion, Matt Berry has taken the occasion as an excuse to chart the development of Dads in the UK since the days of Neanderthal Man.

We also get to look at the animal kingdom, in which Yoo-Kay Daddies are keen jazz admirers, genital tweakers and lovers of a cheeky Nandos. Made once again with Bob Mortimer, and executively produced by House of Fools producer Lisa Clark for Pett TV, this is another stone-cold Berry classic, that’s more than deserving of your attention. Check it out now!

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.

© Joey Page

© Joey Page

Wednesday 17th June

Joey Page & Yve Blake
Komedia, Bath
7:30pm, £8.00
TICKETS

Thursday 18th June

Sarah Kendall & Bridget Christie
The Tommyfield, London
8:00pm, £6.60
TICKETS

Cariad Lloyd in Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel
Udderbelly, London
9:00pm, £21.50
TICKETS

Sunday 21st June

Aisling Bea, Mae Martin and Lolly Adefope
Aces and Eights Saloon Bar, London
7:30pm, £3.00
TICKETS

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.

An Early Catastrophe for Comedy On 4

14 Jun
© Newstalk

© Newstalk

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

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

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

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

View the Humans

13 Jun
© Channel 4

© Channel 4

This weekend sees the launch of Channel 4’s sci-fi drama Humans – made in collaboration with US broadcaster AMC and British production company Kudos – and naturally, we’re getting hyped about it because it contains a sprinkling of TVO regulars for good measure.

Set in a world where a synthetic human – or Synth – is the must have accessory, Katherine Parkinson stars as Laura, whose husband Joe (Dead Boss star Tom Goodman-Hill) brings one home for the family. But there’s something very strange about the Synth, which they dub Anita (Submarine‘s Gemma Chan), and soon their lives begin to unravel.

Elsewhere, pensioner George Millican (US acting veteran William Hurt) has developed a paternal relationship with his own Synth (Game of Thrones star Will Tudor), but a malfunction threatens their perfect set-up, as does the arrival of a new Synth, Vera, played with cold relish by Rebecca Front.

Also featuring Colin Morgan (Merlin, The Fall), Emily Berrington (24: Live Another Day) and Ivanno Jeremiah (The Jury), the series also features guest appearances from Jonathan Aris (Sherlock, Sightseers), Neil Maskell (Utopia, Kill List), Danny Webb (Alien³), Naoko Mori (Torchwood), and two other TVO talents: Dan Tetsell as the Synth Salesman in the first episode, and Paul Kaye as Synth expert Silas Carek in Episode Two.

You can see a gallery of images below, including glimpses at Parkinson, Front, Tetsell & Kaye, and see the show for yourself at 9pm on Sunday evening. Humans is also available to pre-order for £14 on dvd now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store: if we hear of a blu-ray release too, we’ll let you know. US audiences will be able to see the show on AMC later this year.

So Hot Right Now: #34

8 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…

FAREWELL TO SUCCESSVILLE

Murder in Successville, Wednesday, 10:00pm, BBC Three

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

It’s been a fun ride, but all good things must come to an end as we say a fond farewell to Murder in Successville this week – and it’s another corker to go out on.

Joining Tom Davis gumshoe maverick DI Sleet this week is Olympic gymnast Louis Smith, after phramacist Lindsay Lohan turns up spray-tanned to death. With the help of forensic pathologist Richard Hammond (a spot-on Tom Meeten), the duo must determine the culprit and fast. Was it local gym owner Vladamir Putin (Tom Stourton), convicted psychopath Kim Kardashian (Marie Lawrence) or local bric-a-brac salesman Russell Brand (Luke Kempner).

Also featuring Jess Robinson and Liam Hourican, this is a delightful finale for the smash-hit show, which over the last six weeks has also featured the likes of Colin Hoult, Cariad Lloyd, Tony Way, Harry Peacock, Dan Skinner, Gemma Whelan, Frances Barber, Nico Tatarowicz and Ricky Grover. A dynamite cast indeed, and we hope we’ve not seen the last of DI Sleet yet.

You can catch up with previous episodes on iPlayer now, and see an exclusive preview clip featuring the two Toms below.

DOLL & EM’S DINNER PARTY

Doll & Em, Wednesday, 10:00pm, Sky Atlantic

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer return in the charmingly off-kilter UK/US hybrid comedy Doll & Em once again this week, as the second episode of Series Two airs on Sky Atlantic.

Now casting their dream off-Broadway play, Doll’s bluntness and Em’s over-compensating almost lose them their two leading ladies: Hollywood actresses Olivia Wilde and Evan Rachel Wood. Keen to win them over, they plan a dinner party for the four of them, but with this being the world of Doll & Em nothing quite goes to plan.

After a slighted muted opening episode, this second instalment is delightfully funny: from Em trying to have two phone-calls at once while her hungry young son gripes at her, to Doll meeting a man with a mirror and a pack of playing cards. Unafraid to send themselves up to oblivion, this is dynamite television you’d be mad to miss.

You can read our preview of the first two episodes over yonder, and both series are available via catch-up services Sky Go and Now TV if you need to get up to speed.

A SLEEP IN THE SUN

Sun Trap, Wednesday, 10:45pm (regional times vary), BBC ONE

© Happy Tramp / BBC

© Happy Tramp / BBC

The adventures of Brutus and Woody on their Spanish island paradise continue in this week’s edition of SunTrap, and just like last week, there are two bonus TVO stars turning up for good measure.

In this third episode of the Bradley Walsh & Kayvan Novak vehicle, the island’s annual hypnotism convention sends mesmerists from all over the world to the resort. But when a hypnotised member of the audience develops a murderous streak and flees the venue, Woody must use his skills as a master of disguise to hunt for the missing man.

Simon Day guests as the punter and would-be-killer ‘Handlebar’, whilst Morgana Robinson plays Janice, wife to the troubled hypnotist The Fabulous Mark (Pulling and Dead Set star Cavan Clarkin). There’s also a great guest appearance from the criminally underrated Martin Trenaman (Luxury Comedy, The Mighty Boosh and lots of other things). Check it out.

THE HUMANS ARE COMING

Humans, Sunday, 9pm, CHANNEL 4

humansKPRF

© Channel 4

 

Sunday evening sees the launch of new dystopian sci-fi drama Humans featuring Katherine Parkinson and Rebecca Front in its ensemble cast.

Set in a world where synthetic human servants are the ‘in’ thing, the lives of a family who buy the latest model begin to unravel, whilst a retired engineer’s paternal relationship with his own Synth is threatened by a malfunction.

The first episode also features a cameo from Dan Tetsell as a synth salesman, and you read our interview with the marketing team behind the impressive Humans campaign over yonder.

STRANGE DAYS INDEED

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Sunday, 9pm, BBC ONE

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – the riveting fantasy drama from from the makers of Doctor Who, Sherlock and Wallander continues apace on Sunday evenings, as we approach the climax of the seven-part series with the fifth episode.

This week, Strange (Bertie Carvel) and Norrell (Eddie Marsan) are at opposing ends of the spectrum. The former has returned home a war hero, and to the horror of the latter, resolves to write a book on ancient magic. But a sudden tragedy and a confrontation with Norrell force Strange to flee the country, determined to learn the truth about the fairy world, even if doing so costs him his sanity.

The impeccable ensemble cast, also featuring Marc Warren, Enzo Cilenti, Paul Kaye and Edward Hogg are on fine form once more, and if you’re not already watching the series, you really should catch up pronto. And if you are, and you’re enjoying it, you can pre-order the dvd and blu-ray release now from The Velvet Onion Amazon UK Store.

MARDY MARY

Horrible Histories, Monday, 5pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

The new series of Horrible Histories continues on Monday afternoons, and this week’s big guest star is Doc Martin and Our Zoo actress Jessica Ransom.

Random plays Mary, Queen of Scots – the would-be ruler terrifying Tudor England with her romantic and political schemes. Following her as she stumbles from being a young girl in Scotland to a Queen in France, back to a Queen in Scotland, and finally to Elizabeth I’s arch enemy.

Away from Mary, we meet silver-nosed Danish scientist Tycho Brahe, and Mr H looks at more of History’s Craziest Fools. As ever, Simon Farnaby and Jim Howick are on hand, alongside Murder in Successville‘s Tom Stourton repeating his spot-on Brian Cox impression (last seen overlooking the corpse of Reese Witherspoon), in a more child-friendly environment.

WORK, REST AND PLAY WITH AYOADE

Gadget Man, Monday, 8:30pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

Richard Ayoade is back as the Gadget Man in another instalment of the technology fun show.

This week, he tests out devices to improve life at work: including a solar briefcase that recharges your gadgets; a hand massager for soothing tired fingers; and a portable hammock for the feet.

He’s not alone, either. Comedian and presenter Dara O Briain helps investigate a giant interactive touchscreen, a zero gravity desk and a virtual reality office assistant, while journalist Grace Dent looks at gadgets designed for exercising in the office.

COMMUNITY KINDNESS FOR DAN & CO

Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

Kindness, they say, is a virtue, but nobody told Dan, as the second series of Greg Davies vehicle Man Down continues on Monday evening.

Another teacher, and rival for Miss Lipsey’s affections delivers a smash-hit school assembly as part of Community Week, so child-like Dan naturally conspires to top it all with a brilliant one of his own involving his drama class and a war veteran.

Meanwhile Jo (Roisin Conaty) is exploring her artistic side, while Aunt Nesta (Stephanie Cole) favours an upset Brian (Mike Wozniak) over her idiotic nephew. Oh, and there’s a cameo apperance by The Proclaimers for good measure.

Written by Greg Davis alongside Stephen Morrison (Anna and Katy, Good News) and Sian Harries (Here Be Dragons, Never Mind The Buzzcocks), further TVO pedigree of course, lies with producer Spencer Millman of The Mighty Boosh fame, but also with director Al Campbell (It’s Kevin, The Midnight Beast, Fit and Charlie Brooker’s various Wipe series). It’s also seriously bloody funny, so give it a watch, and pick up Series One if you haven’t already from our store.

POTENTIAL (GREY)JOY IN WESTEROS

Game of Thrones, Sunday, 2:00am & 9:00pm, Sky Atlantic

© Home Box Office Inc.

© Home Box Office Inc.

It’s the biggest show on television, and if you’re not yet watching Game of Thrones, there are a huge number of reasons for you to do so: not least of which are the appearances of a handful of TVO regulars in the show.

For a start, there’s Tony Way appearing as Ser Dontos Hollard in the second and fourth seasons. And whilst his character won’t be returning, there’s currently unused plot from George RRR Martin’s expansive novels which features Paul Kaye‘s character Thoros of Myr, and the show’s creators are remaining tight-lipped on whether that particular strand will be featured in their adaptation.

Far more likely to return, however, is Gemma Whelan as Yara Greyjoy: the commanding officer of the Greyjoy fleet, and tortured soul Theon’s closest relative. She was last seen (spoiler alert) trying to free her captured brother during last year’s run, but as fansite Winter Is Coming found out, Whelan’s agent suggested she would return in the fifth season. If that’s the case, with only two episodes left, you can expect to see her in Episodes Nine and/or Ten.

Of course, chances are if you’re reading this, you’re either going to be watching, or not, but if you aren’t yet, we firmly recommend you do as soon as possible. Sometimes, just sometimes, the hype is worth it, and there’s a box-set of the first four seasons on dvd and blu-ray in our store now.

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. Here’s where you can find them throughout the week.

© Adam Kay

© Adam Kay

Monday 8th June

Adam Kay, The Petting Zoo, LadyProv and Viv Groskop
The Alexandra, London
7:30pm, £11.00
TICKETS

Aisling Bea, Joe Lycett and Bridget Christie – Work in Progress
Aces and Eights, London
7pm, FREE
FULLY BOOKED

Tuesday 9th June

Adam Kay, Mark Watson and Maff Brown
Hampton Hill Playhouse, London
7:30pm, £13.20
TICKETS

Wednesday 10th June

The Comedy Store Players: Cariad Lloyd, Richard Vranch, Andy Smart, Ian Coppinger and Stephen Frost
The Comedy Store, London
6:30pm, £19.15
TICKETS

Friday 12th June

Ellie White, Harry Hill, John Kearns and Natasia Demetriou
Union Chapel, London
6:45pm, £22.00
TICKETS

Paul Foot
Baltic Square, Gateshead
7:15pm, £10.60
TICKETS

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.

Humans: A Glimpse Behind The Cyborg Adverts

3 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

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

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

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

What gave you the idea for the campaign for Humans?

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

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

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

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

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preview: Doll & Em Series 2

2 Jun
© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

This week sees the launch of the second series of Doll & Em on Sky Atlantic.  Written by and starring Dolly Wells & Emily Mortimer, the six part series follows a hugely acclaimed first run in February last year.

This series, like the first before it, features as a number of Hollywood stars in guest roles including Evan Rachel Wood, Olivia Wilde, Harvey Weinstein and Ewan McGregor, and focuses on a fictionalised version of the lifelong friends as they attempt to write and direct their own off-Broadway show.

With the first episode airing on Wednesday 3rd June, TVO took a look at the first two episodes of the new run, to see if the magic of Series One has been recaptured.

Warning: mild spoilers for Series 2, and big spoilers for Series 1 ahoy…

When it arrived, stealthily tucked away on Sky Living last year, the first series of Doll & Em could quite easily have sunk without trace. Here were two British actresses: life-long friends but never-before collaborators, poking holes in the industry which made their names via a fictionalised account of the trials and tribulations of an alternate universe version of the pair.

And perhaps, if Doll & Em had aired a few years earlier, that would have been that. Yet this delightfully charming series, so beautifully shot by co-writer and director Azazel Jacobs, so delicately balanced and subtly nuanced, was determined to live a life well beyond its original transmission. We are living in the Now TV generation, with television on demand long after broadcast picking up curious viewers who in turn, recommend the show to other curious souls, and so on, and so on.

In that respect, it was only natural that the story of Doll & Em, though perfectly contained in those six 24-minute segments, would be allowed to continue. Put simply: it was far too much fun spending time with Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer to not do it all over again.

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

But where to take their alter-egos now? The first series saw a down-on-her-luck Doll become Em’s personal assistant on a big budget movie project, but her semi-accidental rise to prominence broke their friendship in half, and it took a canal-side catchup in Camden, at one point interrupted by Noel Fielding, to reunite the pair.

The answer lay in the final moments of the first series, when the two friends discussed writing a play together. As the second series begins, that’s exactly what they do – hiring a lighthouse to get some ‘you-and-me’ time. Before long, the play is written, but Doll & Em are not the charming, sophisticated pair of friendly souls that Wells & Mortimer are in real life. The bumble through an awkward meeting with Harvey Weinstein, and are forced to turn to their old flame Buddy (the spot on Jonathan Cake of Desperate Housewives fame) for help getting the project of the ground.

As casting begins in earnest, two factors threaten the play, and as a result, their friendship. Em is offered a role in sci-fi blockbuster Space Pilgrim, which leads to them pulling out of starring in the play as well as directing and writing it, much to Doll’s chagrin. And the two women put their personality flaws on show for all to see: Doll’s perfectionism and bluntness almost costing them their leading ladies (cameos from Olivia Wilde and Evan Rachel Wood), and Em’s inability to balance the various people in her life with any degree of respect starting to pull apart the very fabric of her existence.

If all of this sounds very po-faced and serious: it isn’t. There’s some delightfully silly moments on offer which counterbalance the dramatic material, from Doll & Em spewing forth a bizarre anecdote about a fly, to the results of Doll’s attempts at buying a mirror from a ‘step-sale’.

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

And through it all, the pair remain utterly enchanting to watch, even when they are playing through a series of events so awkward even Alan Partridge would have seen sense by now. Em’s phone-juggling, trying to cook a meal, keep her hungry child quiet, guide a lost Doll through New York and also handle a press interview, would seem wholly unsympathetic in the hands of a lesser actress, and Mortimer knocks it out of the park.

So too, does Wells when she opens up to her friend in the second episode, telling her how living in the former au-pair’s quarters makes her feel “with you but not with you”. Doll’s realisation that Em has fallen asleep and missed what was clearly a hard thing to admit is beautifully underplayed, and feels all the more believable as a result.

And these awkward moments make the periods when the two friends are at their happiest all the more charming. It could be sickening watching them muck about on a stage, or hiding under the table, but it works because their genuine camaraderie shines through.

Granted, the episodes are not perfect. There’s a couple of really obviously signposted comedy set-ups sprinkled throughout – including an early gag with a lighthouse switch that feels so old fashioned it might actually have fallen out of an old Dad’s Army script by mistake. But when when the odd pay-off can be seen coming a mile-off, if the ride towards them is this much fun, who really cares?

Indeed, much like the first series, Doll & Em series two feels like it could quite easily have been edited together into a feature length piece and held its own in independent cinemas across the world. To break off after less than an hour in their company felt strange – like leaving a party too soon, and knowing the fun is going to carry on well into the night whilst you’re tucked up in bed wishing you’d stayed there til the bitter end. Sure, the little morsels each week are nevertheless tantalising enough drip-feeds to make you come back for more, but this is perhaps a show for the box-set age: one for marathon viewers to stumble upon, discover, and gorge their way through in the years to come.

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

There’s a curious moment towards the end of the second episode, Olivia Wilde observes Em and summarises: “It’s like you don’t give a shit.” The evidence to the contrary is littered across these episodes, and whilst at this point, the series may be saying nothing the first run hadn’t already made clear, that message of friendship against all the odds is one that holds up to a spot of repetition. It’s great to have the two of them back, and two episodes in, there’s a lot more lined up for Doll & Em yet.

Doll & Em Series 2 begins Wednesday 3rd June at 10pm on Sky Atlantic HD. The first series is available via Sky Go and Now TV, and on dvd via Australian import in The Velvet Onion Amazon UK Store now.

Black Mountain Poets

2 Jun

The first trailer for forthcoming British comedy film Black Mountain Poets has been released.

© Black Mountain Poets

© Black Mountain Poets

The film, which we first told you about back in April, is the third feature written and directed by Jamie Adams, following 2014’s A Wonderful Christmas Time and Benny & Jolene, the latter of which featured Dolly Wells and Laura Patch in its cast.

Wells and Patch return in Black Mountain Poets, alongside none other than Alice Lowe, as well as Downton Abbey’s Tom Cullen, Rosa Robson and Adams regular collaborator Richard Elis. In it, Alice and Dolly play a pair of wannabe thieves on the run, who go in hiding at a countryside poetry club in the Black Mountains of Wales.

Shot in just five days, and partially improvised, the film premières at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 22nd June, and will be released theatrically and on-demand later this year. As soon as we have confirmed release dates, we’ll let you know. You can see the trailer below.

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