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So Hot Right Now #20

2 Mar

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 take a look below.

MOONE BOY RETURNS

This week sees the long awaited return of Moone Boy to Sky 1 HD, once again starring Chris O’Dowd and David Rawle.

 Sky Corporate

Sky Corporate

For the uninitiated, Moone Boy tells the story of young Martin Moone (Rawle) as he grows up in rural Ireland in the early 1990s, and his best friend Seán Murphy (O’Dowd), who happens to be imaginary.

Semi-autobiographical, the show is the brainchild of O’Dowd and co-writer Nick Vincent Murphy, and has garnered numerous awards and a strong cult following through its first two series in 2012 and 2014 respectively. With none other than Sharon Horgan set to make guest appearances this time around, it’s once more something you’d be mad to miss.

Series Three begins on Monday, 2nd March at 9pm, exclusively on Sky1 HD.  In the first episode, Liam and Debra abandon the kids for a romantic break to celebrate their 20th anniversary, but it all threatens to fall apart after a chance encounter with Liam’s old flame. Meanwhile, Martin and Padraic are in Dublin, where they soon discover new talents.

POMPIDOU ON BBC TWO

The madcap adventures of Matt Lucas magnificent aristocrat nutjob Pompidou continue on Sunday 8th March.

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

The show stars Lucas as the titular aristocrat, who is as pompous as he is penniless, as loveable as he is tubby and eccentric. He is all of those things in abundance – an elderly oddball who has fallen on hard times, and is forced to live in a knackered old caravan in front of his now crumbling estate, alongside his dog Marion, who is the handywork of former Mongrels puppeteers Andy HeathIestyn Evans and Yvonne Stone.

This week, Pompidou thinks he’s won the lottery, but it turns out that it’s Hove who has actually hit the jackpot and he has no intention of sharing it. With Pompidou evicted from his caravan because he hasn’t been keeping up with his bills, Hove offers him a place to stay – but now it is he who must earn his keep.

You can catch Episode Two on Sunday evening at 6:30pm over on BBC Two.

HOUSE OF FOOLS TEMPORARILY EVICTED

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

Due to Let’s Play Darts For Comic Relief taking place this week, House of Fools has been given a week off, and will return on March 9th.  If you haven’t read them yet, you can pass the time by catching up on our trilogy of interviews with the cast of the show: Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, Dan Skinner, Daniel Simonsen and Ellie White, and Matt Berry and Morgana Robinson.

As a result of this, full blown TVO offerings are a little thin on the ground this week – but you’ll be pleased to know there’s still material of note to savour.  First up, Uncle on BBC Three (Tuesday, 10pm) features the talents of Nicholas Burns and Daniel Lawrence Taylor.  Cockroaches star Tom Davis is making regular appearances in The Keith Lemon Sketch Show (Thursday, 10pm) for ITV2, and Saturday evenings provide a rare repeat for Bellamy’s People on UK Gold (11pm), starring Rhys ThomasLucy Montgomery and Simon Day.

However, this quietness does give us time to pause, reflect, and catch up on a couple of shows we missed recently. Cardinal Burns star Dustin Demri-Burns has been appearing alongside Ben Miller and Kayvan Novak in Asylum - with all three episodes available on iPlayer for the next 12 days.  Elsewhere, the delightful Jessica Hynes and the equally fantastic Rebecca Front have been appearing in Series Two of Up the Women on BBC Two, and most of the series is still available to view on iPlayer as we went to press.

AND THE REST…

As always, here’s some of the news you may have missed during the last week, via our Twitter feed. We’ll see you again next Monday, and throughout the week for more news, reviews and interviews. Keep on peeling!

So Hot Right Now #19

23 Feb

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 take a look below.

POMPIDOU BEGINS…

This week sees Matt Lucas new show Pompidou, co starring Alex MacQueen and Tony Way, begin its run on BBC Two.

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

The show stars Lucas as the titular aristocrat, who is as pompous as he is penniless, as loveable as he is tubby and eccentric. He is all of those things in abundance – an elderly oddball who has fallen on hard times, and is forced to live in a knackered old caravan in front of his now crumbling estate.

Episode One airs at 6:30pm on BBC Two, on Sunday, 1st March. You can see a selection of preview images over on our news pages.

HOUSE OF FOOLS CONTINUES…

The delightfully bonkers House of Fools continues its second run at 10pm on Monday 23rd February via BBC Two.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

In this week’s episode, Vic steals some unused botox equipment and decides to test it out on Julie and Bosh, while Bob tries to get into Erik’s good books by making Rachel’s brithday a special day. Elsewhere, Beef’s saucy past catches up with him, as he is forced to hide the consequences of his actions from a very irate butcher – brilliantly played by guest star Johnny Vegas.

As ever, starring Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer alongside Matt BerryDan SkinnerMorgana Robinson, Daniel Simonsen and Ellie White, this second episode is a much funnier affair that last week’s admittedly hilarious opener, so if you’ve not checked into the House of Fools yet, now’s as good a time as any.

If you missed us shouting from the rooftops recently, TVO was graciously invited to be one of the few publications to speak to the cast of House of Fools at one of the Salford filming dates late last year. You can read our trilogy of interviews over on our news pages now, but if clicky links are more your thing, you’ll like the highlights over the names ‘Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer‘, ‘Dan Skinner, Daniel Simonsen and Ellie White‘, and ‘Matt Berry and Morgana Robinson‘.

CATASTROPHE ENDS…

Sadly we say goodbye to Catastrophe this week, with Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney going out on fine form on Monday 23rd March at 10pm on Channel 4.

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

In the series finale, a heavily pregnant Sharon picks Rob up at the airport after a trip to Boston and tells him she has invited an old friend from Ireland to be her maid of honour. Rob decides to ask his fiancee’s brother to be his best man, but Fergal has more important things to worry about – his wife has left him and taken their children. The bride and groom later split up to enjoy their hen and stag nights, both of which spiral out of control.

It’s a great end to a bold and inventive series, which is thankfully returning for a second run in the not too distant future. There’s also an appearance from none other than John Hopkins as Sandy Laybourne, so if you haven’t caught up yet, get on 4oD and savour the magic.

CASUAL VACANCY FILLED…

The star studded mini series The Casual Vacancy concludes on Sunday 1st March, once again featuring Rufus Jones and Richard Glover.

© Steffan Hill / BBC / Bronte Film and Television Ltd

© Steffan Hill / BBC / Bronte Film and Television Ltd

In this third and final episode, tensions rise as the Pagord parish council election approaches and each side steps up its campaign. It’s another meticulously crafted edition that lets this mini-series go out on a high, and if you enjoyed it, you can pre-order the dvd for £10.50 in The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

REPLAY THE GAME…

It can’t have escaped anyone’s attention that Game of Thrones is set to return in April. With the fourth season (featuring Tony Way) currently nesting at the top of the dvd and blu-ray charts, Sky Atlantic have started their campaign to prep audiences for Season Five – and this may give us a chance to revisit a couple of TVO faces.

© HBO

© HBO

Not only does Tony Way appear in the second and fourth seasons as Sir Dontos Hollard, but Paul Kaye turned up as Thoros of Myr in the third season (we wonder if the GoT team were Mongrels fans like the guys at Pixar?), and the recurring role of Yara Greyjoy is played by actress Gemma Whelan: who also gigs regularly as a stand-up comedian and appeared in cult TVO smashes Cardinal Burns and The Day They Came to Suck Out Our Brains.

So in brand new clipshow Game of Thrones: Greatest Moments, there’s every possibility we’ll see these three characters once more, as cast members and celebrity fans count down the 20 most thrilling moments from the fantasy drama. You can see it at various times throughout this week, and the show is also available on SkyGo and Now TV.

TOUCHDOWN IN SOHO…

This week sees Sarah Kendall bring her highly acclaimed stand-up show Touchdown to The Soho Theatre.

© PBJ

© PBJ

The show, which toured the festival circuit last year, features Kendall deconstructing the key joke from her previous stand up show, which focuses on real life experiences back in 1992: a year of broken hearts, broken friendships, and broken orthodontic elastics.

Touchdown is a moving and often hilarious coming-of-age story that explores the clumsiness of adolescents, their awkward relationships, and painful need for friendship and love. If that’s not reason enough to pop along to the run between 24th-28th February, then why not read our interview with Sarah, in which she discusses the show at length, as well as Beehive, women in comedy and her obsession with Jaws 4

AND THE REST…

As always, here’s some of the news you may have missed during the last week, via our Twitter feed. We’ll see you again next Monday, and throughout the week for more news, reviews and interviews. Keep on peeling!

Royal Comedy

22 Feb
© Royal Free Comedy

© Royal Free Charity

Aisling Bea and Lou Sanders are part of a fantastic line-up at a fundraising night of stand-up for a great cause in April.

Set up in 1993 by Keith Hunt MBE, Fund 270 provides massage therapy to all referred patients at the Royal Free Hospital, and money raised from Royal Comedy will be used to support mothers of premature babies who can’t take their babies home.

The event takes place at the Bloomsbury Theatre on April 23rd, and also features Isy Suttie, Brett Goldstein, John Robins, Grainne Maguire and Mae Martin, plus special guests still to be confirmed.

Last year’s event was a sell-out, so with tickets, priced £15, available now, it might be an idea to grab ‘em while you still can!

Wow Wow Show Now!

17 Feb
© Dan Clark / Soho Theatre

© Dan Clark / Soho Theatre

Once upon a time, Kylie Minogue sang a song called Wow, in which she seemingly described being a horny insect (whose antennae were sensing you up, no less). Now, though, she could very well be going “Wow, wow, wow, wow!” for a whole other reason, as Dan Clark is to host a brand new monthly comedy night at the ever wonderful Soho Theatre.

The Wow Wow Show! will feature the former How Not to Live your Life star as the frontman for an evening of satnd-up and sketches from “the new wave of comic talent in the UK”: their words, not ours, but we love that they’ve adopted New Wave Comedy as a thing.

Promising a very British take on the American late-night talk show vibes of Letterman and Fallon, there’ll also be set pieces, a house band and some very special guests.

Who those guests are we cannot yet reveal, but given Clark’s reputation from six years of his own self-named club night, it’s going to be a pretty fantastic line-up, and at long last brings a regular club night back to the heart of London’s comedy scene with a velvety vibe to savour.

Tickets for the first show on Saturday, March 7th at 9:30pm are on sale now for just £15. Get in there fast, because this is going to be an event you’ll wish you were at afterwards!

Hunderby & Partridge Return!

16 Feb
© Sky Atlantic

© Sky Atlantic

Now there are two more reasons to get Sky Atlantic – and they come in the form of two productions from Baby Cow.

The award-winning Hunderby, Julia Davis‘ darkly comic homage to Daphne Du Maurier, will be returning to the channel for a Christmas special. Co-written with fellow TVO-er, Barunka O’Shaughnessy, the two-part special will precede another (hush-hush) new project from Julia for the channel, which is due to air in 2016.

© Sky

© Sky

Head of Sky Atlantic, Zai Bennett, has also confirmed that Steve Coogan will be back on the channel as Alan Partridge, as part of his attempt to dial up the comedy content of the channel (alongside dramas like Fortitude and Game Of Thrones).

In today’s Media Guardian Bennett said: “Game of Thrones and Banshee are brilliant but they are quite visceral and hard. That’s why landing the comedy is important, it will give us emotional breadth. A lot of our drama can be … heavy going, it can be hard work. People might draw breath before coming to Atlantic; I want them to come a little bit more.’

Sky’s head of comedy, Lucy Lumsden, has said of Hunderby’s return: “We couldn’t be happier…Julia Davis is such a rare talent and Sky Atlantic the perfect home for her unique voice and vision.”

The special will introduce two newcomers to the cast: a French sexpot and a homophobic locum pastor with a taste for hanging. At TVO we’re hoping that Rufus Jones will be reprising his role as Dr. Foggerty and Julian Barratt as the Narrator. Series one also featured Kevin EldonArnab Chanda and Antony Elvin, so we’re holding out for a few other familiar faces in the Christmas special!

 

So Hot Right Now #18

16 Feb

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 take a look below.

COME ON IN…

Monday evening puts out the Welcome mat for the long awaited second series of House of Fools, which airs at 10pm on BBC2.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

Vic and Bob’s artily homemade and brilliantly daft take on a sitcom has gone down a storm with both their hardcore audience and casual viewers alike, and it was only natural it would return for a second run. In the first episode of the new series, Bob’s reclusive son, Erik (Daniel Simonsen) emerges from his bedroom long enough to stop dry-retching and go on a blind date, meeting the equally calculated Rachel (Ellie White). Vic and Bob form a band with Beef (Matt Berry) and fall out over the name of their act before their debut gig, while Julie (Morgana Robinson) attempts to teach Bosh (Dan Skinner) the art of waiting tables. Clever, silly, and just as surreal as the first series, this episode also includes the best use of an Owen Wilson photo that you’ll ever come across!

If you missed them last week, TVO was graciously invited to be one of the few publications to speak to the cast of House of Fools at one of the Salford filming dates late last year. You can read our trilogy of interviews over on our news pages now, but if clicky links are more your thing, you’ll like the highlights over the names ‘Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer‘, ‘Dan Skinner, Daniel Simonsen and Ellie White‘, and ‘Matt Berry and Morgana Robinson‘.

CLOSE THE DOOR…

As one show arrives, another must sadly depart, and this week it’s the turn of both Cockroaches and Count Arthur Strong to say a (we hope short-lived) farewell.

© Colin Hutton / Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

© Colin Hutton / Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

At 10pm on Tuesday over on ITV2, the final episode of Cockroaches brings the post-apocalyptic comedy to a close, with dramatic results. This week Tom (Daniel Lawrence Taylor) and Laura (Jessica Emily Rose) are imprisoned by a gang of cannibals led by the villanous Ash (Jaime Winston), and it’s up to Suze and Felix (Esther Smith and Tom Davis) to save them from becoming supper.

With its top notch cast including Dan Skinner, Jack Whitehall, Robert Bathurst, Rich Hall, Nigel Planer and Alexander Armstrong, it does feel strange even in this digital age for Cockroaches to be tucked away on ITV2, but we’re hopeful we haven’t seen the last of Tom and the gang just yet. The full first series is available on dvd from next week.

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

We must also say goodbye to Count Arthur Strong, whose second series goes out with a bang at 10:45pm on Tuesday evening over on BBC One. Unless you’re in Northern Ireland or Wales, in which case it does so at 11:10pm. Or if you’re in Scotland, in which case there’ll be a slightly smaller bang (it’ll be more of a bump, really), at 10:40pm on Wednesday evening instead.

Anyway, after years of plugging away, Arthur (Steve Delaney) finally hits the big time this week when he gets a job as a TV psychic – only to let the fame go to his head. Meanwhile, Michael (Rory Kinnear) has a rather unique reaction to a tempting job offer, one that causes his health to suffer. Given Kinnear’s fate in The Casual Vacancy, we’re rooting for him here!

Of course, whilst the Graham Linehan co-penned series is coming to an end (for now), Delaney is current out on tour with the Count, and you can catch a full list of dates over on his website. He’s also recently released a book, which you can get here.

TAKE A SEAT…

Whilst we have new shows to savour and others to say goodbye to, there’s a few others that continue their successful runs this week.

© Tim Bret Day

© Tim Bret Day

Catastrophe - the smash hit show from Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney continues apace on Monday evening at 10:05pm, though House of Fools fans may want to catch up via 4+1 at 11:05pm instead!

In this fifth episode, Rob and Sharon plan their wedding, but Rob’s plans to throw a surprise birthday party are scuppered when his Boston bosses fire him during a video call, and his mother (special guest star Carrie Fisher) reveals a big secret of his to Sharon.

© Steffan Hill / BBC / Bronte Film and Television Ltd

© Steffan Hill / BBC / Bronte Film and Television Ltd

On Sunday evening, part two of The Casual Vacancy airs at 9pm on BBC One. The star-studded adaptation of JK Rowling’s novel of the same name features Richard Glover and Rufus Jones in its ensemble cast, with the former particularly playing against reality as a real nasty piece of work!

Sadly as we went to press on this week’s SHRN, images from this second episode remain under embargo, so stay tuned for those later this week. What we can tell you, however, is that it picks up straight from where the last one left off: with the townsfolk of Pagford left shocked by posts online that are seemingly coming from a dead man.

With the various factions of the town on tenterhooks at one another, a dinner party is scheduled, but things quickly spiral out of control. Elsewhere in the Fields, an addiction appears to be weakening, giving Krystal fresh hope for the future of her family.

© Baby Cow / Chris Brock

© Baby Cow / Chris Brock

The new series of Uncle also continues on Tuesday evening at 10pm (again, clashing with Cockroaches – thank gawd for catchup services, eh?) on BBC Three.  Starring Nick Helm and Elliot Spencer Gillot, alongside Nicholas BurnsDaniel Lawrence Taylor and the criminally underrated Daisy Haggard, the show is as puerile yet oddly touching as ever.

This week, Andy (Helm) tries to prove how mature he is to his latest love interest, while Errol (Spencer Gillot) wants to show a girl how cool he is, and Sam (Haggard) is desperate to impress Ben’s girlfriend, Veronica (Burns and special guest star Gemma Whelan of Game of Thrones and The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains fame). Unfortunately their efforts do not go well, forcing the trio to resort to deception in order to make a good impression.

ENJOY THE SHOW…

Londoners have it good at the moment! Not only do they have a Kim Noble residency at the Soho Theatre to savour at the moment, but this week sees them get a Rachel Stubbings fronted film night too. And next week brings the return of Richard Sandling‘s live nights, and a mini-residency for Sarah Kendall. For more news on live events, check out news page!

TVO IS FIVE

We’ve been celebrating our fifth anniversary this month, with a couple of reflective articles on our news pages, and a number of our regulars sending us video messages wishing us a very happy birthday. Kind of. The video below features, in order of appearance: Rachel StubbingsColin HoultDave BrownJames CookBob PipeDave McNeillKaty BrandNeil ColePhil WhelansJames WrenSpencer MillmanWaen ShepherdJacqueline WrightHolly Jane ShearsRufus JonesStephen Evans and Tony Way.

Our huge thanks to all involved – and we’ve got a few more messages coming through to give you Part Two very soon, so stay peeled!

AND THE REST…

As always, here’s some of the news you may have missed during the last week, via our Twitter feed. We’ll see you again next Monday, and throughout the week for more news, reviews and interviews. Keep on peeling!

Hayden Talks Gen Zed

14 Feb
10959812_10152605139402611_5043355138319404288_n

© Hayden Black

TVO regular and sporadic Rich Fulcher collaborator Hayden Black is about to unleash a new animated show, Gen-Zed! - which is making headlines as the first ever animated show to feature a trans actress in a leading role.

Hayden took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about Gen Zed and the folk involved with it, and the resulting Q&A is below.

Where did you get the idea for the show?

I was wondering how younger people just emerging out of high school and college were going to handle life now they’d grown up immersed in tech and the bazillions of choices it gave you. It’s a double-edged sword, tech. These days you can find anything you want, download it, listen to it, play it, watch it – but it can also bury you alive. Plus I was hungry to tell a story with a Transgender woman in it. Transparent got there first and they did an absolutely magnificent job. Gen Zed is aimed at a much younger audience .

What were your main influences when writing Gen Zed?

First influence is “The Young Ones” – the anarchic, rebellious spirit that formed my childhood. I wanted to do a show that WASN’T for your parents. Something “the kids” (thanks, Rik) could own. The second is “Spaced”; specifically the flights of fancy that Edgar Wright did so brilliantly. I actually wrote the pilot as live-action but I always had animation in the back of my mind. I got talking to an animator who thought it was a great show to animate but her busy schedule prevented her from coming on board. And then the magnificent Alex Bradley showed up and BAM.

How did you come up with the characters?

Shona, the young Trans girl, is based on a Trans girl I know who’s hysterical, witty, beautiful, amazing and brilliant. I wanted to capture her; both her beauty and her pain. Living your life that way, the only way you can live if you’re born in the wrong body, takes such bravery because of how some shitty, ignorant people choose to live theirs. I always think that men who make fun of Trans women aren’t really men at all. Irony! The other characters were mixtures of various things; Cameron’s a shit poet which is based loosely on The Young Ones’ Rik. Living in LA, I know a few people like Betsy who are a little too dependent on prescription drugs but don’t think they have a problem. And Huey’s just a complicated nutter; sort of like The Young Ones’ Vyvyan but with a bit more depth.

Did you set out to write a Trans character, or did they naturally fit with the rest of the characters?

Yes, I did. Shona was the first character to emerge. The rest followed her lead.

And so is it true that this is the first-ever animated series to feature a Trans actress in a lead role?

Yes!! It’s astonishing that no one’s done it before. In fact, the only animated shows thus far to feature trans characters in lead roles are Anime series and so they’re all about magic turning boys into girls – nothing realistic that portrays Trans women as real people has ever been done in this format. Which is such bullshit. But as I’ve written and researched this show, I’ve come to realize that by creating a strong role model, Trans people might have something to help them realize that they’re NOT alone and that SHIT GETS BETTER! The tragic story of Leelah Alcorn the kind of things we want to stop from happening ever again.

KevJulieMarcelo

© Hayden Black

How long did the scripts take to write?

I wrote a 28-page pilot in June 2014, in about 2 weeks. It sort of sat there while I worked on other things but Gen Zed began picking up steam around October. For the next few months, it became re-write city, involving table reads, etc., and it just got better and better. I also decided to change the pilot presentation into a web series so I let it grow from 28 pages to about 54, knowing I’d split it into roughly 7 x 5 minute webisodes.

How do differences in cultural references in Britain and America have an influence on your writing? Do you feel you can only use American ones?

I write for an American audience because that’s where I live. But at the end of the day, I can’t (and don’t want to) escape my mother culture, so both cultures go into my writing. I look at both styles of comedy – American and British – and try to use both. So there’s wit, intelligence and smarts along with bad puns, toilet humour, and physical comedy. Hopefully it’s a good mashup. 

Do you use your British humour in your writing, and do the American audiences ‘get it’?

I always use some British humour but I’m all about writing a comedy that everyone can get. I won’t get too self-indulgent because what’s the point? I do like a handful of earned jokes though; something you don’t get at first but when you do, you go “Ah!” So I’ll pepper in a few jokes here and there that not everyone will get but if you’re one of the few who do, you’ll know I was writing specifically with you in mind.

Emily

© Hayden Black

Did you have actors in mind for the role or did you just see who turned up for auditions?

I had no actors in mind – I never do, to be honest. I just write it. Actors come to the table with their own talents; their take on their character can add something you didn’t realize was there. I got very lucky with Gen Zed because I cast it so quickly.

Julie Rei Goldstein was the first trans actress I auditioned and she just nailed it! She got the character, got my humour, and delivered Shona so quickly I was amazed. Shona is a complex character – they all are, really – but Julie knew just how to drive it. There are moments of snarkiness, moments of over the top silliness, and moments of sadness and horrible things and she knows when to put her foot on the pedal and when to hit the brakes.

John M. Keating was referred to me by America Young (of Goodnight Burbank) and he’s so talented and such a great bloke. Emily C. Chang I met a few years ago at a comedy festival here in LA. I watched a short of hers that she starred in and it was clear how talented she is. So I made sure to add her to Facebook in case there was ever a time when we could work together and I’m glad I did! She just batted it out of the park with her first read.

Kevyn Richmond was recommended to me by a producer friend and the moment I saw his reel I knew he was Cameron. And then there’s Marcelo Tubert who plays Miguel, their landlord. He’s a very established character actor so what you get with Marcelo is a huge talent and a man full of ideas that he brings to the table. I even sneaked in a line for the girl who Shona is based on! So she gets to cameo alongside the character based on her.

KevJulie

© Hayden Black

How did Jane Wiedlin become involved?

We follow each other on Twitter and so I sent her a DM asking if she’d like a cameo. She agreed to read the script then responded with an email that said she wouldn’t do a cameo. She’d only do a recurring character because she loved the script so much. I created a brand new character for her that wasn’t in the pilot; she plays the girl who works with Cameron in the video game store that he has a mad crush on. She even flew down from San Francisco just to record with us in person and she was SO lovely.

SONY DSC

© Hayden Black

What about the music? Did you write your own theme tune again?

Yup! I co-wrote this with James Semple, a British composer. And I also wrote pretty much all of the incidental music that you hear in the show too. Have I made a stupid joke about playing with my organ in public yet? –  because this would be the place to do it!

How long has it taken from when you first had the idea for the show to actually recording the voices for the first episode?

Really quickly – about 8 months. I wasn’t planning on shooting Gen Zed when I first wrote it so it’s all taking off rather fast. But that’s how these things usually happen. It’s the stuff you least expect.

How long does the animation take to complete?

Alex is telling me a month per episode, so all I can do is hold my breath. His preliminary artwork has been rather fantastic so I know I’m going to be gob-smacked when I see it all come together.

When will the episodes be available to watch?

I’m hoping it’s ready to go by late Autumn 2015. But we’ll have snippets and scenes to promote the show much sooner than that. If you follow the twitter @Gen_Zed and find us on Facebook, you can be up-to-the-minute and take place in competitions, win prizes like signed scripts, etc.

The Velvet Onion would like to thank Hayden for taking the time and trouble to answer our questions. If you’d like to know more about Hayden and his other work, please visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.When Gen Zed is available to watch we’ll be the first to let you know!

Onion Talking: Matt Berry and Morgana Robinson on House of Fools

13 Feb

Next week sees the launch of Series Two of House of Fools - the brilliantly surreal sitcom from the minds of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.

L-R: Daniel Simonsen, Dan Skinner, Ellie White © Pett TV / Christopher Baines

L-R: Daniel Simonsen, Dan Skinner, Ellie White © Pett TV / Christopher Baines

To celebrate its return, TVO sat down with the main cast during the filming of Series Two to discuss the show. Yesterday, we spoke to Dan Skinner, Daniel Simonsen and Ellie White. The day before saw our chat with Vic & Bob themselves unleashed. Today, we bring you our catch-up with Bob’s regular house guests, Matt Berry and Morgana Robinson.

It is fair to say that, to readers of these pages at least, Matt Berry needs no introduction. When The Velvet Onion began five years ago, he was a much loved figurehead of alternative comedy, making waves on the music scene with a succession of tours, and was one of the first people to actively encourage and support the development of TVO.  He’s been good to us, over the years, and we’ve been delighted to continue to support him as his star has risen. Thanks to the runaway success of Toast of London, huge critical acclaim for his Kill the Wolf album, and numerous other projects Berry is edging closer and closer to the mainstream. Matt may not yet be a household name, but he’s certainly more beloved than ever, and his role as randy house visitor Beef in House of Fools has introduced his charms to a whole new audience.

Today, he greets TVO fondly, and in an moment part made of showmanship, part of his natural instincts as a gentlemen, he introduces us in style to his fellow interviewee with a hand flourish, a side step and a powerful rendering of her name: Morgana.  The name may not be familiar to you just yet, particularly for our international readers. But make no mistake about it: this is one formidable comic talent, whose rise to meteoric stardom is surely just around the corner.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

Born in Australia and raised in Britain,international awareness of Morgana Robinson at the moment is mostly down to her half-sister being none rock star Brody Dalle, formerly of The Distillers. Dalle’s husband also happens to be Josh Homme – frontman for Queens of the Stone Age and occasional Matt Berry collaborator. Following initial appearances in mainstream comedy fair like The Green Green Grass and My Family, in 2010 Robinson was given her own five-part sketch show on Channel 4: The Morgana Show.

A delightfully bonkers showcase for this unique comic mind, the show also featured Kill List star Neil Maskell and one of today’s guest stars, Tom Davis, in his own big break. While the show did not return for a second run, a Comic Strip Presents appearance and a prominent BBC iPlayer short have bolstered Robinson’s reputation, and her recent work has included a guest slot on Toast of London and her own impressions show: Very Important People.

As you read this, she’ll also appearing as a recurring segment host on Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe, spoofing the likes of YouTube bloggers and Russell Brand. It may be early days for her, but it’s clear that she’s going to go far, and much like most of the cast, she’s overjoyed that – as camera-wielding nymphomaniac neighbour turned bistro owner Julie – Reeves & Mortimer are keen to give her a platform.

“They’re amazing like that,” she tells us as we sit down. Matt Berry agrees.

“They can spot good stuff,” he states, before questioning himself. “That’s not for us to say, is it?”

“They put money on good horses,” Morgana adds. “They do love to channel new talent up. I’m extremely grateful for that, you know.”  Matt agrees. “Oh, whatever!” she mocks in return.

“No, I bloody am!” he says with genuine passion. “Of course I am.”

“You’ve been around for donkeys years, haven’t you?” Morgana asks him, at which point TVO reminds her that Matt is, according to the British Comedy Awards 2014, a ‘breakthrough artist’. Matt laughs.

“Nine years…” he shakes his head. “Ten years. Breakthrough. A breakthrough ten years.”

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

And what a ten years that has been, as anyone who follows his career, or reads TVO, for that matter, as the two are so intertwined, can attest. Following his real breakthrough in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Matt has gone on to star in The Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd. He also created legendary one-off AD/BC: A Rock Opera, internationally renowed favourite Snuffbox and the multi-award winning Toast of London - the latter set to return for a third series in 2015. That fact that is still top secret as we meet, yet impossible for Matt not to be understandably keen to tell us in strictest confidence.  He’s also appeared in productions as varied as The Peter Serafinowicz Show, Duncan Jones’ Moon, Portlandia and even Spongebob Squarepants, all whilst carving out a career as an incredible multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter.

Returning to House of Fools for Matt, who is seemingly in demand constantly at present, is in part based on the joy of working with Reeves and Mortimer, but also the positive response to the first series.

“We hit the ground running last year,” he explains. “I don’t think this year has changed much at all. There’s no real difference, it’s a continuation of what we started.”

“I’ve got a bistro!” interjects Morgana. “And a few more lines.”

“The bistro works out,” Matt suggests, “because it’s sort of a community centre. You can do storylines that aren’t in someone’s house. It’s like a town hall, or something.”

“Mmmm,” Morgana nods. “It’s like our Central Perk.”

The Friends comparison is an interesting one, TVO notes, particularly as it feels a world away from what Vic & Bob are doing with House of Fools. For starters, Friends and most other US sitcoms would be written by a huge team of staff writers, with very little room for cast additions to the scripts. Whilst Jim Moir (aka Vic Reeves) and Bob Mortimer were keen to stress the importance of getting it all on the page before shooting for practical reasons, Dan Skinner spoke of how flexible they were with developing comedic voices within their work, and both Ellie White and Daniel Simonsen revealed they had rewritten their scene together with Bob ten minutes before the afternoon record had started. Clearly, there’s scope for a lot more flexibility when you’ve got a cast of comedy writers and performers, rather than regular actors.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

“Yeah, they’re quite cool like that,” Morgana notes. “They’re open to suggestions. If they like a joke, they’ll go: ‘Oh, put that in!’ It’s not exactly sign language but it works.”

Matt agrees. “They’re very generous. They know what’s going to work, and you know what’s going to work, and what wouldn’t be right for this. There’s nothing subtle. There’s nothing underplayed. That’s not what they do.”

Despite the occasional pre-filmed flight of fancy, there’s no denying the lack of subtlety and the vibrant cast would make a potential House of Fools stage show a real delight. As Bob’s already mentioned the possibility in passing, TVO decides to get Matt & Morgana’s feedback on the idea.

“Yeah!” Morgana exclaims, her eyes lighting up at the prospect. “I’d love it!”

“But not like tonight,” Matt notes, referring to the over-running, mistake-laden first run of the day. “We didn’t get the fucking thing finished. That wouldn’t be great live!” He bursts out laughing. “It’d have to be rehearsed, put it that way!”

Aware today’s problematic filming, plagued by the lack of a camera rehearsal due to the complexity of the pre-shoot, had been a worry for the whole cast, TVO can’t help but calmly note that the first shoot of the day was a little ‘fluffy’. “We all were tonight,” Matt suggests, “cos we didn’t get to finish it.”

Perhaps worried he may be appearing negative, he adds: “But it’s not always like that. Don’t get the wrong impression about it. The last one was fucking perfection.”

Morgana nods. “It was pretty perfect,” she reasons. “It’s normally a well-oiled machine. I’d love to take it out on the road.”

“It could totally work in the Wyndham,” suggests Matt, a sprinkling of Steven Toast bubbling to the surface before fading away once more. “Oh, I don’t know,” he adds. “Whatever they want to do, I’m up for it.”

“We just let them do whatever they want,” Morgana states, before drifting off. “I’m sure none of it will make sense.”

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

Sadly due to the over-run on filming, our time with the delightful duo is running out. Poor Matt and Morgana have mere minutes left to get some food and a short break before going back into the studio for another record session. Ever the caring type, TVO elects to cut our pre-arranged interview slot short by a few minutes, so that the pair can talk freely, and make it to the canteen before they head back to work. However, there’s still just enough time for a quick round of our brilliant new game: Rent, Mortgage, Evict – which we have in no way pilfered from the not at all similar game, Snog Marry Avoid. To avoid awkward conversations, given we know the cast are clearly enamoured with one another, we ask Matt and Morgana, as their characters, who would they chose to live with, buy a house with, and ask to leave the premises. Straight away, Matt’s in with a surprisingly blunt answer.

“I’d kick ‘em all out,” he states, firmly, before worrying that sounded worse than it was intended to.

“Not as people!” he adds. “I’d kick all the characters out. But I think they’d all answer like that, and just want a house of their own.”

“I’ve no idea,” admits Morgana. “I’d live with all of them. It’s like a jungle out there. They all work very well together, like a very strange family. I couldn’t throw them all out, could you?”

“Probably no, no,” Matt considers. “She’s right. They’re all real fuckwits on their own. They can’t do anything.”

“You’d be bored shitless with just one of them,” Morgana concludes. “It’s a bit like a circus.”

And with that, they must be on their way once more. T-minus 15-minutes until the second record begins, and like the rest of the circus, Matt and Morgana have to go and put on a damn good show. But first tea and cake. There’s always time for cake before the madness begins once more.

House of Fools returns on Monday 16th February at 10pm on BBC2. The first series is available on dvd from 23rd February.

Onion Talking: Dan Skinner, Daniel Simonsen and Ellie White on House of Fools

12 Feb

Next week sees the launch of Series Two of House of Fools - the brilliantly surreal sitcom from the minds of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.

L-R: Daniel Simonsen, Dan Skinner, Ellie White © Pett TV / Christopher Baines

L-R: Daniel Simonsen, Dan Skinner, Ellie White © Pett TV / Christopher Baines

To celebrate its return, TVO sat down with the main cast during the filming of Series Two to discuss the show. Yesterday, we gave our chat with Vic & Bob themselves. Today, we bring you our catch-up with Bob’s regular house guests, Dan Skinner, Daniel Simonsen and Ellie White.

“Has Bob left his dinner?” Dan Skinner asks, incredulously, pointing at the remains of Bob Mortimer‘s potato-based dish in a polystyrene tray on the table in front of him. “Jim’s left his fags as well!” he adds, prodding Vic Reeves‘ packet on the table as he sits down to chat with TVO, alongside co-stars Daniel Simonsen and Ellie White. TVO explains that the pair were in a bit of a hurry, on a shortened lunch-break slash press-junket after an over-running shoot. “Nah,” Dan grins. “They leave things everywhere they go.”

Like the figureheads at the helm of House of Fools, time is short for Skinner, Simonsen and White this evening. A problematic afternoon shoot would soon be followed by a swift and smooth second run, nailing another episode of the superbly ridiculous sitcom. Now, as they tuck into their rather unappetising looking lunches, they’re happy to discuss what’s new this year for their characters.

“I’ve changed my character, completely,” states Skinner, chuckling. Completely, TVO asks. “Yeah. The twats are still there, though.”

“I talk about diarrhoea a lot,” chips in Daniel, before scooping some of the canteen slop into his mouth – mere seconds before his co-star is about to inhale a forkful of sickly brown curry. “Thank you mate. Just as I’m about to tuck into this! Oh – and Erik’s got a girlfriend!”

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

He points at Ellie with a big grin, who grins right back at him. A relative newcomer, both to the show and to comedy in general, White made her Fringe debut alongside Oscar Jenkyn-Jones in 2013, before returning with her debut solo show, Humans, as part of last year’s Free Fringe. The show garnered rave reviews from The Independent and Time Out, and the doors opened: taking part in Newsjack on Radio 4, developing her own sketch shows for tv and radio, and then the House of Fools came a-knocking.

In comparison, her nearest countpart in the show, Daniel Simonsen, may only recently be gaining traction in England, but he’s been performing stand-up in his native Norway since 2004. TVO knows, of course, that the entire cast of House of Fools are warm-hearted, wonderful people, but playing devil’s advocate somewhat, we ask how Ellie feels fitting herself into their already established world for this second run.

“It’s really scary,” she admits. “Very intimidating, and very daunting! But everyone is incredibly nice, and I’m learning a lot. It’s nice to be with Daniel, really. I just sort of based myself on him. He’s given me loads of tips.”

“She’s learning, yeah,” states Daniel, in full on deadpan mode. “It’s really hard to be as cold as you are, isn’t it?” asks Dan. “It is,” he replies. TVO tries to confirm this isn’t all just an act, and Daniel stares into our soul, replying: “I’m very damaged.”

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

Moving on – half for time, half for fear of possession by the Norwegian wonderboy, conversation turns to Vic & Bob’s role in providing a platform for new and emerging talents. The duo took Dan Skinner under their wing when he was still part of sketch troop Dutch Elm Conservatoire alongside Rufus Jones (set to appear in House of Fools this series), Stephen Evans, Jim Field Smith and Jordan Long. His character Angelos Epithemou, first brought to life as part of DEC, became a regular guest on Shooting Stars, before taking over point-scoring duties following the departure of Matt Lucas.  This in turn led to his own show, a hugely successful podcast with ‘Barry from Watford’, and Dan becoming one of the most in-demand comic actors around.

“Jim [Moir – Vic’s real name] and Bob have their own audience,” Dan explains. “They’re very, very loyal. And anyone that they add to their world is accepted pretty much straight away by their audience. But they’re usually right, too. They find really interesting people.”

“I swear, I’ve spoken to so many people,” Ellie adds, “who say the first thing they ever did was Vic and Bob. Esther Coles, who played Mrs Moody today – she was a serious actor, and the first comedy she did was with Bob.”

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

It’s true: Coles, a former Peak Practise regular, turned up in several episodes of TVO favourite Tittybangbang. For those who don’t quite recall, that show starred Lucy Montgomery, Debbie Chazen, Tony Way, Katy Brand and loads more – and it was in part, written and directed by Bob Mortimer, as well as being made by Pett Productions: the company Reeves and Mortimer set up with Lisa Clark to make their own shows, and the ones they wanted to see made. That same company is behind House of Fools now, and Esther is back working with Bob all these years later.

“Bob’s really, really good at sending the lift back down,” Dan states. “He goes to find other people and brings them to Vic. Then when executive producers chip in and ask: ‘Are you sure?’, they’ll both go: ‘Yeah’.”

“Like Romesh [Ranganathan] today,” suggests Daniel. “And Tom Davis. They’re also quite new. It’s just what they do.”

They’re also keen to allow these new talents the chance to experiment and develop within their own world. As one of those who has had prime opportunity to do exactly that, Skinner is perhaps best placed to summarise their outlook.

“They’re pretty confident with what they do,” he tells TVO. “They’re got their own brand, and if they like you and think you’re funny, they’ll let you swing it any way that you like. They’re artists, essentially.”

Simonsen is quick to back this up. “I think it’s a very seldom thing to do,” he confirms. “It’s rare. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but today I didn’t even know my lines.”

Ellie chips in. “We rewrote out scene ten minutes before we went on,” she reveals. Dan is pragmatic about the situation.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

“That’s the good thing about Jim and Bob,” he states. “They’ll let you do that, you know? They’ll invite you onto their show, and then go: Do what you want. Within reason, obviously. If it’s not funny, they’ll say you can’t do it, but as long as you make it work, they’re happy for you to do what you want. It’s a nice freedom.”

TVO is sensing that time is running short. Like Vic & Bob before them, the trio have a show to get back to, and could really do with getting a bit of a break beforehand. So, we figure there’s just enough time for a round of our brand new game: Rent/Mortgage/Evict. As we explain the rules, and the uncanny similarity to Snog/Marry/Avoid, Dan, Daniel and Ellie’s eyes light up at this most glorious of concepts.

“Wow!” Daniel exclaims as they take a moment to think about the sheer magnificence of the game at hand.

“Well,” Dan begins, cautiously. “I think I’d rent with Vic, cos he’s my brother in the show, though I don’t think we ever mention it in the second series! So, you know, he would have to forgive everything. What’s the next one?” TVO reminds him it’s Mortgage, which Ellie notes is for a serious relationship, and Dan changes his tactics.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

“Can I just say then,” he asks, pointing at Daniel, “that I would rent with this one? I reckon I could manipulate him. Mortgage with Vic, and avoid probably living with Beef. Loose cannon that man. Loose cannon.”

As laughs erupt around the table, attention turns to Daniel’s thoughts on the matter. “With Rachel, of course,” he says, smiling. Ellie smiles back. “So loyal…” she whispers.

“Oh yeah,” Daniel confirms. “That’s the mortgage.”

“Hang on,” interrupts Ellie. “It might be a bit early to mortgage.” Daniel considers this for a moment.

“Yeah,” he decides. “Probably Vic.”

“Oh yeah,” Dan chips in. “You like him don’t you?”

“I like him a lot,” Daniel confirms. “Seems like he has a lot of money. He’s got his stuff together.”

“Who would you avoid, Dan?” asks Dan to Daniel, confusing our name situation a little.

He replies with rapid fire precision.

“Beef. It’s a risk.”

“You’d avoid Bob, surely,” suggests Ellie, “cos you hate him?”

Daniel turns to her, and with his deadpan style intact, looks her in the eye and says with no degree of uncertainty: “I could probably use him, though.” Queue huge laughs from Dan, Ellie and TVO, while Daniel turns back to us, still straight-faced and adds: “I’m his child, so… You can’t expect a child to pay a mortgage.”

“How old are you meant to be?” asks Ellie, the thought seemingly crossing her mind for the first time. Daniel doesn’t know, but the table agrees he’s probably about 29, before we move onto Ellie’s turn.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

“Er…” she thinks. “I would rent with Eric.” Dan approves. “I don’t really know,” she adds. “I haven’t really established any kind of relationships, yet.”

“Well, this is going to be much harder for you, then!” Dan exclaims, laughing.

“I’d evict Bob,” Ellie considers. “Cos I hate him. And maybe mortgage with Vic.”

Dan is surprised. “Everyone wants to mortgage with Vic,” he notes, before adopting a Mockney accent. “He’s got somethink anhe?”

“It’s a kind of stability, I suppose,” Ellie opines. “I’d feel safe with Vic. He’d be like a father figure to me.”

Dan grins, and in full on Bosh-mode, sums up: “He’s a good lad, is our Vic.”

And with that, it’s time for the trio to go back to work for the evening’s record session. As both incredible talents and genuinely good people, TVO can’t help but be sad to see them go, but after a few quick words on what they’re up to next so we can keep our usual tabs on events, we’re sure that we haven’t heard the last of them yet.

House of Fools returns on Monday 16th February at 10pm on BBC2. The first series isavailable on dvd from 23rd February.

Sandling Returns

12 Feb

© Edward Moore

The next couple of weeks see the return of not one, not two, but THREE different live nights hosted by Richard Sandling, each one taking place at The Betsey Trotwood on Farringdon Road for a mere £3.85 in advance.

The stand-up veteran, poetic legend and all round movie buff kicks things off with his Squat Betty New Material Night on Wednesday 25th February. With Sandling as MC, it’s a chance to hear new material from Steve Hall, Tiernan Douieb, Grainne Maguire, Chris Coltrane, Sophie Johnson and John Henry Falle.

The following month, the New Material Night returns with Stuart Goldsmith, Howard Read, Bec Hill, Nathaniel Metcalfe and Elf Lyons joining Richard on 25th March. Jump forward to 29th April, to see his guests Brett Goldstein, Bec Hill, Tiernan Douieb, Howard Read and Chris Coltrane.

March also brings us the long awaited return of the Perfect Movie podcast recordings, which feature a mixture of stand-up, interviews, games and top industry types talking about their favourite films and, best of all, recreating their favourite scenes.

The first podcast records on Wednesday 4th March, featuring comedian Nathaniel Metcalfe and filmmaker Marc Price. On 1st April, Richard is joined by actor/writer Brett Goldstein and comedian John Henry Falle (soon to be appearing in the movie Bill). And on 6th May, his guests are actor/writer Deborah Frances-White and actor/blogger Casting Call Woe.

Finally, beginning again on Wednesday 18th March is the Squat Betty Spoken Word Night: a literary cabaret featuring poetry, storytelling, sketch/character/stand-up comedy, music, book readers, lectures… anything goes as long as it’s interesting and fun!

Joining Richard on that first show are Casting Call Woe, John Henry Falle, opera singer Catharine Rogers and story collider Brian Wecht. The following month, comedians Alexis Dubus, Spencer Jones and Elf Lyons join novelist Syd Moore on the bill for 15th April.

In the meantime, you can hear the latest Perfect Movie podcast, featuring comedian and Game of Thrones star Gemma Whelan, below.

A Wild Valentine’s Night: iPlayer Previews

11 Feb

With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, the BBC have announced a new set of nine iPlayer comedy shorts, based around the theme of love, for our delectation. TVO took a sneak peak, as Becca Moody reports…

© BBC / Pett Productions / Guy Levy

© BBC / Pett Productions / Guy Levy

If you watched the BBC iPlayer shorts from June 2014, you’ll have seen for yourself how these miniature comedy installations really do open up a new style of viewing. Last year’s six hilarious bitesize programmes allowed us to sample a whole range of funny creations from the likes of Matt Berry, Reece Shearsmith, Micky Flanagan and Meera Syal, and it’s no surprise that the news of a brand new set this month was more than welcome.

Matt Berry‘s Wild Love is certainly wild, shockingly funny and crude. In the sequel to last year’s Lone Wolf, Berry narrates the mating antics of various creatures ranging from golden frogs to “colonial hopping dogs”. This undiscovered world is absolutely crazy, and even our beloved narrator himself seems to get carried away by the absurdity of it all, which makes for hilarious listening. Writer, Bob Mortimer, and Berry have come together yet again, to create something fantastic, and it’s not too difficult to visualise this becoming a series one day. Watch out David Attenborough!

© BBC / Pett Productions / Guy Levy

© BBC / Pett Productions / Guy Levy

Aisling Bea also stars in Romesh Ranganathan’s Valentine’s-related comedy short, Rom Com, as one half of the world’s seemingly most awkward ever first date. The episode follows Romesh as he is rigorously prepared for the evening by his very own verbally abusive relationship guru, who also happens to be a figment of his own imagination. Rom Com is a dark and oppressive comedy, and is made bitterly funny thanks to both of its stars.

© BBC / Pett Productions / Guy Levy

© BBC / Pett Productions / Guy Levy

Katy Wix‘s Dear Jean Pierre is a silly story of a quaint French romance, as it reaches its emotional final moments. In this remarkable tale, Wix relives the moments where the relationship began to decline, and brings her wonderfully childish humour along for the ride. With her trademark hopeful and innocent nature, and a knack for surprising us with various twists and turns along the way, Dear Jean Pierre is a complete comedy delight.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, there’ll be a whole array of episodes available as well as these TVO related ones (featuring the likes of Bill Bailey, Sara Pascoe, Nick Helm, Esther Smith, Emma Thompson and Russ Abbot) which will be on BBC iPlayer as of February 13th.

Onion Talking: Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer on House of Fools

11 Feb
© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

Next week sees the launch of Series Two of House of Fools - the brilliantly surreal sitcom from the minds of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.

Co-starring Dan Skinner, Matt Berry, Morgana Robinson, Daniel Simonsen and Ellie White, the show also features cameo appearances from  Reece Shearsmith, Rufus Jones, Tony Way, Tom Davis and many more.

To celebrate its return, TVO sat down with the main cast during the filming of Series Two to discuss the show. Today, we bring you our catch-up with the legendary duo at the centre of it all: Reeves and Mortimer.

Television listings describe House of Fools as a sitcom. Which, by definition it is, but there’s far more to the multi-camera, studio-audience enhanced end product. In today’s climate, even mainstream fair like Mrs Brown’s Boys breaks down the fourth wall, slyly winking to the viewers at home as well as those in the studio just how absurd the traditional sitcom format is.

So when the mainstream is doing exactly what the alternative was doing twenty years ago, it falls to the alternative to do something, well… ‘Alternative’ once more. Thankfully, Vic Reeves (real name Jim Moir) and Bob Mortimer have grafted for over 25 years doing exactly that, and their long-awaited move into sitcom territory is as utterly unique as it is delightful. It was only natural, then, that it’s superb first series would be followed by a second run.

Of course, the tropes of sitcom are there, but the duo have always taken the traditional and run with it in their own inimitable style: their natural chemistry and love of the hyper-surreal carving out a legacy of incredible programming. Big Night Out, The Smell Of Reeves & Mortimer, Bang Bang It’s Reeves & Mortimer, Shooting Stars, Catterick… even their underrated turn at drama in short lived fantasy series Randall & Hopkirk {deceased} has a charm quite unlike anything else seen on British television in the last few decades. Truly, they stand apart from their peers, even as they rub shoulders with them, and inject everything they do with a high standard of professionalism beneath the on-screen madness.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

That said, today’s House of Fools recording, isn’t going too well. The sheer complexity of the show requires for a number of shots to be pre-filmed before the audience arrive: and the more of them there are, the more it cuts into camera-rehearsal. Filming in Salford, but rehearsing in London, the camera-rehearsal is crucial to locking down the show as it will eventually appear on screen, and the lack of one causes (the admittedly still hilarious) filming to overrun – the entire end sequence left unfilmed as the cast and crew take a break before the day’s second recording block has to get the job done.

“Were you down there watching?” asks Bob Mortimer nervously, as he and Jim Moir, the man behind the public persona of Vic Reeves, settle down to talk and grab a well-deserved bite to eat in a somewhat condensed lunch hour, less than five minutes after shooting was forced to wrap up. TVO assures him we were, and in spite of the problems, what we saw was still working really well. “We ran out of time,” he continues. Jim chips in. “We had so many things on the pre-record, and there’s lots of camera moves.”

“It is weird, when you haven’t done it in front of the cameras, isn’t it, Jim?” asks Bob. “Yeah,” Jim replies. “We’ll see how the second run goes.”

Bob continues: “The thing is we’ve got so many props and pre-records,” he states, “you’ve got to be ahead of it. You can’t come in on the day and say: ‘Can we have this prop?’ There’s no time to do anything new. Rehearsals change what, Jim? Twenty or thirty percent?”

“We do change little bits here and there,” Jim adds. “But it’s all there in the script. If you can’t do your lines, someone jumps in front of you and you’re in trouble.”

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

With the option to stay and watch the second studio record later that day, TVO sticks around, and the transformation is incredible.  What was a hilarious, if somewhat jumbled first run has been replaced by a smooth, well-oiled production, which, although overrunning due to only one chance to film the complex end sequence, ably demonstrates the skill with which the pair, and all of those around them, craft these episodes. They may have had a tough afternoon, but it’s a fun evening ahead of them.

Not that Jim and Bob are aware of this as we talk, and fearing we have perhaps dwelled on the negatives for too long, TVO decides to lighten the mood.  First off, who amongst the cast is most likely to fluff their lines, we ponder.

“Fucking me,” Bob blurts out, laughing. “Shit,” he adds… “You can take that answer and run with it!”

With the vibe improving, we suggest a quick game of Snog, Marry, Avoid, reworked in keeping with the House of Fools theme by asking who the pair would Rent with, get a Mortgage with, and Evict. We’re sure you’ll all be playing this by Easter, especially as the thought gets the approval of ‘Reeves & Mortimer’.

“I wouldn’t wanna live with Beef,” considers Bob. “I’d throw Beef out. Dirty man.”

“Vic Reeves is mentally inefficient,” states the man himself, firmly removed from his stage persona. “I think you’d probably want Bob to rent with.”

So, no mortgage for the duo?

“You’re asking if we got a house,” Bob clarifies, “would we get a joint mortgage?” He bursts out laughing as Jim props his chin up and grins that mischievous grin that only ‘Vic Reeves’ can. “Great question,” he adds, and pauses for a moment. “Yeah, we probably would. We’d probably get interest only as well.”

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

Perhaps, TVO opines, they could open a bistro of their own, just like their neighbour Julie has in the new series. Bob decides it could be called Vicky Manhattans, before Jim fires back the suggestion of George Bensons. Bob immediately changes this to Benson and Hedges, as they start giggling to themselves: that natural chemistry that has fuelled over two decades together in full force.  Some things never change, even when the ideas around them do.

House of Fools for example, was a first for the pair. Though they had dabbled in the sitcom world with their dark comic drama Catterick back in 2004, the closest they had ever come to a studio sitcom was the running Slade in Residence sketch from The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer.  In recent years, the studio-sitcom has been somewhat dismissed by alternative comedy, with only The IT Crowd really shining as an example outside of the mainstream. Jim and Bob’s reasoning for doing one now is surprisingly pragmatic.

“I think it’s something we always wanted to do,” states Moir. “I think the days when you’re kinda forced into doing a quiz show went away, so we said: ‘This is what we want to do.’ We spent a long time thinking about it, and working it out. It was quick to start with, and we had a lot of advice, so we knew it was going to work. If you put enough work into something, it’ll work out in the end.”

“In a practical sense,” Mortimer adds, “we bumped into someone from the Beeb, and told them we were going to write a sitcom. And they said: ‘Alright, if you do, give it to us and we’ll have a look’. That was quite quick, wasn’t it? We wrote one in a couple of days, did a pilot. The procedure’s never really that grand, is it, Jim? It’s more like bumping into the right person at the right time.”

One of the more interesting aspects of the initial set-up, however, was the casting of the supporting roles. While ‘Vic’ and Bob play heightened versions of themselves, they are ably backed up by regular collaborator Dan Skinner as hapless Bosh, as well as new collaborators Matt Berry as randy randomer Beef, Morgana Robinson as frankly bonkers neighbour Julie, and Norwegian stand-up Daniel Simonsen as Bob’s reclusive son Erik. This year, they are also joined by Erik’s girlfriend, Rachel – played by relative newcomer character comedian Ellie White.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

Then there’s the guest roles, filled across the series by the likes of Reece Shearsmith, Sally Philips, Rufus Jones, Tim Healey, Tom Davies, Romesh Ranganathan and Tony Way, to name but a few, with the latter three filming today’s episode as a dance gang. It’s that combination of established names that Jim & Bob know so well, and the encouragement of up and coming talent that has traced its way through their career ever since they were established enough to call the shots somewhat. Let’s not forget, it was through Reeves & Mortimer shows that the likes of Matt Lucas, Rhys Thomas and Tony Way got their big breaks.

“Tony was like sixteen or seventeen on The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer,” remembers Moir. “And then he was in The Club [a running sketch in Bang Bang] as well.” And dancing with you both in the studio, TVO points out. “Yeah,” Mortimer laughs, “with a firework up his arse!”

With a track record in providing a platform for new talents, TVO wonders if the pair consciously elect to nurture fresh faces. “I think we give them a chance,” Jim begins. “Then it’s up to you…”

We’re suddenly cut off, by loudspeaker announcement, as the audience for the evening session is about to be let into the studio. “Attention please,” it says, drowning out Jim in mid-thought. “Ladies and gentlemen for House of Fools. We will be going into studio in approximately ten minutes. We will call you in by the colour…”

“Of your skin!” yells ‘Vic’, gleefully, and the pair erupt with back and forth banter once more, before Bob straightens up.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

“The thing with Daniel [Simonsen] is…” he trails off, trying to find the right words to say. “We’ve been wanting to do something with him for ages. And Ellie was just a friend of a friend to come in and read lines during rehearsal, but she was great.”

“These things kind of evolve a bit,” Jim adds. “They have to evolve naturally, and then you work on it after that.”

“It’s brilliant,” Bob states, smiling. “When you use Dan, and you use Daniel, and you use Matt and Morgana, you just know they’re comfortable with the way we work, and they’re comfortable with us. So they’ll lob their own stuff in and bring it to life. We knew what to write for them, and what would work because of that shorthand. But it’s more about the story than anything.”

After all of this time, it would be easy for Reeves & Mortimer to fall into a generic pattern, relying on old gags and goodwill to get by. Instead, they’re pushing the limitations of what can be done in a studio sitcom, with a cast who get what they do and strive to help them make the best show they can. Three episodes into recording the second series, the pair are confident they’re onto a winner.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

“Last week’s was fucking great!” Bob enthuses.

“And Christmas was good as well,” chips in Jim. “They’ve all been really good, I think. Better than the last series, up to now.”

“I’ve no idea what this one is like, though,” adds Bob, seemingly with the worry of the looming record drifting back into his mind.  TVO can’t help but hope there’s more to come, and perhaps a slightly stripped back version of the show could be taken on the road, too?

“I think it’s great fun to do,” Jim sums up. “If people want it, we’ll keep doing ‘em.”

“Everyone involved in it, would like to do a run in a theatre, wouldn’t they, Jim?” asks Bob, as his partner in crime nods. “I don’t know whether that will happen, but we’d all like to do it.”

TVO is sure it would work, and notes that the chemistry between the gang, and between Reeves & Mortimer themselves, feels so natural it would be a shame for it not to happen.

“Well,” notes Jim, with a knowing wink in his eye, “That’s acting!”

And with that, they’re off to do more of it. That episode won’t record itself.

House of Fools returns on Monday 16th February at 10pm on BBC2. The first series is available on dvd from 23rd February.

The Cloud for Linehan, Buxton & Bea

9 Feb

© BBC

Graham Linehan and Adam Buxton have teamed up to write a new space-set tv pilot, according to Radio Times.

The Cloud will feature a hapless crew on board a data hub floating above the earth, protecting the vast amounts of information humanity now hoards of its endless devices. Information such as selfies, kitten pictures and porn. Lots of porn.

No word yet on whether the show will include any aliens or sutin, but signed up for the non-broadcast pilot is none other than Aisling Bea. She’ll be joined by Jamie Demetriou (Cockroaches, Bill), and as soon as we hear more info, if any, we’ll let you know.

Buxton, of course, is perhaps best known for his work as one half of seminal comedy duo Adam & Joe, though international readers may remember his guest appearance in The IT Crowd, written by Linehan. You can here the two writers chat to one another in this BBC Radio 4 show, Chain Reaction, via iPlayer now.

Preview: ‘Uncle’ New Second Series

9 Feb
© BBC/Baby Cow/Chris Brock

© BBC/Baby Cow/Chris Brock

This week sees the launch of Series Two of Uncle: BBC Three’s comedy drama featuring Nick Helm as an out of work musician with a 13 year old nephew.

Strictly speaking, it’s not a fully Velvet Onion-flavoured TV show, but with TVO regulars Daniel Lawrence Taylor and Nicholas Burns in its supporting cast, we thought we should squeeze in a mention.

Mog took a look at the first two episodes of the new series, and her spoiler free preview is below:

Although we pride ourselves on showcasing the odder end of the comedy spectrum at TVO, occasionally a gentle midweek sitcom really hits the spot. And thus the first series of BBC 3’s Uncle wormed its way into my affections.

The messed-up dynamic between the key characters (including layabout manchild Andy, his uptight nephew Errol, barely-out-of-rehab Errol’s Mum, and an ex-girlfriend’s violent transvestite father), the surreal musical interludes and some nicely-pitched, warm performances combined to create a surprisingly fresh, modern take on situational comedy.

In the new second series, all of the same ingredients are there – but with one major change: Errol has aged by one year. A year might not seem like much, but the shift from child to teenager – and the deeper voice that accompanies it – significantly alters the dynamics of the show. The tension between how an adult should behave around a child and how the smoking, drinking, swearing, shagging Andy actually behaves around his nephew is diminished. Now that Errol is thirteen, Andy’s behaviour doesn’t seem as wildly inappropriate – or funny.

© BBC/Baby Cow/Chris Brock

© BBC/Baby Cow/Chris Brock

At the end of series 1 we witnessed the horror of irresponsible Uncle Andy allowing Errol to get wasted at a music biz party. Errol was patently still a child and it was all slightly shocking. Now that he’s a teenager, it feels like an average Saturday night. Where’s the rub?

Furthermore, the ‘old head on young shoulders’ of  the wide-eyed, pudding bowl-haired Errol in series 1 was endearing. Laughing at him felt cruel, which in turn, made it even funnier. Now that he’s older and more self-aware, his geekiness is a little cliched and obvious. All teenagers are awkward, and laughing at the awkwardness is too easy.

Having said all that, it’s worth noting that the interplay between Errol and his uncle is still one of the high points of the show; both Nick Helm (as Andy) and Elliot Speller-Gillott (as Errol) give great performances with genuine chemistry between them. Helm conveys the modern malaise suffered by many 20/30-something males (the inability to grow up) with real aplomb. And the writing is still strong and snappy, and the script peppered with memorable one-liners. It raised a few giggles in our household.

In summary then, Uncle continues to offer a gentle, quality comedy cuddle to help you get through the working week; but what gave the first series much of its bite has sadly grown up and gone away.

You can catch the first episode of series 2 of Uncle on BBC3 at 10pm on Tuesday 10th February. Series One will be released on dvd in March – pre-order it here now.

So Hot Right Now #17

9 Feb

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 below.

YOU SAY GOODBYE…

This week sees the Comedic Guard of 2015 begin to change for the first time, as January’s new shows begin to wrap up, and February’s new shows start to arrive. Sadly, this means we must say our goodbyes to two firm favourites already: Love in Recovery and Crims, both of which end this week.

© Karla Gowlett / Lucky Giant

© Karla Gowlett / Lucky Giant

The sublime Love in Recovery wraps up on Wednesday 11th February, with the sixth and final instalment of Radio 4’s touching comic drama. Written by Pete Jackson, the series follows the lives of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting group, made up of characters portrayed by Sue Johnston, John Hannah, Eddie Marsan, Rebecca Front and Paul Kaye, whilst Julia Deakin plays village hall cleaner Marion.

This week we turn our focus away from the individual tales of each recovering alcoholic, as the group are forced to leave their meeting room to try and rescue one of their members from a nearby pub. As it all comes full circle for the gang, we can’t help but hope we haven’t heard the last of them yet.

 If you missed previous installements, you can catch all previous episodes except Episode One on iPlayer now, but be quick – as Episode Two will vanish in four days time…

© Hal Shinnie / BBC

On Thursday 12th February, we also say a fond farewell to Crims - as the BBC Three sitcom from the pens of Mongrels writer Adam Kay and Grandma’s House writer Dan Swimer airs its sixth and final episode at 10pm, with Tracy Ann Oberman once again making a guest appearance.

It’s another firm favourite, as Dawn (Cariad Lloyd) is to receive a commendation for her crackdown on drug use in the institution, and Creg (Ricky Champ) is forced into a difficult position when he accidentally lets the collected substances go missing on his watch. Let’s just say, this episode features the best comedic sandwich consumption since Arnold Rimmer ate a triple fried egg sarnie with chilli sauce and chutney.

When the show began, it was easy to believe the focus would remain entirely on Luke and Jasan, brilliantly played by Elis James and Kadiff Kirwan, but as the series has developed, Dawn, Creg, Marcel (the sublime Theo Barklem Biggs) and the rest of the gang have become just as important to the success of the show. We’re certainly hoping we haven’t seen the last of Crims yet.

If you have missed previous episodes, you can catch up on iPlayer now. There’s currently no sign of a dvd or blu-ray release, but the episodes are now becoming available to own via Amazon Digital, so keep an eye on your preferred digital store for the whole run soon.

…AND I SAY HELLO!

Sunday evening brings us a brand new show, in the form of JK Rowling’s comic drama The Casual Vacancy, which features Rufus Jones and Richard Glover in its top notch cast.

© Steffan Hill / BBC / Bronte Film and Television Ltd

© Steffan Hill / BBC / Bronte Film and Television Ltd

Michael Gambon (Harry Potter), Julia McKenzie (Miss Marple), Keeley Hawes (Ashes to Ashes), Rory Kinnear (Count Arthur Strong), Monica Dolan (Sightseers), Silas Carson (The IT Crowd) and Emilia Fox (Silent Witness) join Glover & Jones in the three part mini-series, which centres on the seemingly idyllic English village of Pagford.

With it’s cobbled market square and ancient abbey, Pagford looks quaint and charming to all who enter. Behind the pretty façade however, is a town at war: rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils.

When a local councillor dies suddenly, the town is left in shock, and the empty seat becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the village has yet seen. Three candidates are soon lined up: Miles Mollison, Colin Wall and Simon Price – played by Rufus Jones, Simon McBurney and Richard Glover respectively.

Episode One airs on BBC One this Sunday evening at 9pm, and you can see our preview gallery alongside clips and trailers, over yonder.

© BBC/Baby Cow/Chris Brock

© BBC/Baby Cow/Chris Brock

Tuesday 10th February also sees Series Two of Uncle begin on BBC Three at 10pm, once again starring Nick Helm and Elliot Spencer-Gillot alongside Sophie Haggard (Psychoville), Nicholas Burns and Daniel Lawrence Taylor.

A year after Andy (Helm) was banned from seeing his nephew Errol (Spencer-Gillot) for being a destructive influence, the unlikely duo are hanging out in secret, with the latter having a broken voice and the former being as broken in general as ever.

It’s a welcome return for a very popular show, and you can see what TVOer Mog thought of its return very soon.

CONTINUING ADVENTURES IN ONION LAND

It would, of course, be foolish to focus only on the newly arriving and the soon departing, as lots of other great shows vie for your attention in the middle of their current runs this week.

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

Monday 9th February at 10:05pm sees Episode Four of Catastrophe air on Channel 4. Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s charming yet brutally honest sitcom focuses on an American man and an Irish woman in London, forced to make a whirlwind romance develop into something more when they find themselves expecting a child.

This week, Sharon’s parents head over from Ireland, only to have a difficult first encounter with Rob, as the subject of pregnancy is broached.  More health complications for Sharon and the baby also arise, and Rob’s secret friendship with Chris backfires in a way he could never have imagined.

As the story unfolds and becomes ever more complex and rewarding, it’s increasingly a delight to spend half an hour with realistic, flawed characters you can’t help but like, even if you’re not sure why.  The show thunders on with rave reviews, and a second series commissioned, so if you’ve not caught the bug yet, you can catch up with the series now via 4oD.

© Colin Hutton / Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

© Colin Hutton / Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

Episode Five of Cockroaches airs on Tuesday 10th February at 10pm over on ITV2. The post-apocalyptic comedy stars Daniel Lawrence Taylor (How Not to Life Your Life), Esher Smith, Jack Whitehall and Tom Davis (House of Fools, Murder in Successville), alongside a string of big name guest stars such as Dan Skinner, Alexander Armstrong, Caroline Quentin, Robert Bathurst and Nigel Planer.

This week, Tom’s mother-in-law Cathy (Caroline Quentin) arrives at the camp with her new boyfriend Pete, who happens to be his former PE teacher – and an overbearing alpha-male American, played by the initimitable Rich Hall. Meanwhile, Suze is sceptical when a stranger called Ash (Jamie Winstone, Dead Set) arrives from the woods claiming not to have seen a single person for the past three years.

It’s another suitably bonkers episode, and if you like what you see, you can catch up with past episodes via ITV Player, or pre-order series on dvd for release February 23rd.

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

Also on Tuesday 10th February, the sixth and penultimate episode of the second series of Count Arthur Strong airs on BBC One at different times, depending on your location.

Viewers in England can see the show at (shock horror), the same time as last week: 10:45pm, whilst those watching in Northern Ireland and Wales don’t have to wait as long as usual, with the episode moved up to 11:10pm. Viewings in Scotland, annoyingly, have to wait almost 24 hours, with the episode airing at 10:40pm on Wednesday instead.

Despite the crazy scheduling, this episode – once more from the pens of star Steve Delaney and Graham Linehan (best known for The IT Crowd and Father Ted), is perhaps the series highlight: as a trouser fire causes Arthur to move in with Michael. His claims of being low maintenance clash with Michael’s Game of Thrones obsession, so Arthur turns to John the Watch for companionship.

Brilliantly structured, and surprisingly heart-warming, this episode works better still when you know the characters well enough to enjoy spending time in their company, but if you only watched one episode this year, this could be the one for you. Either way, catch up on the series now via iPlayer over yonder.

© Comedy Central UK

© Comedy Central UK

Meanwhile, the fifth episode of Drunk History UK airs at 9:30pm on Monday 9th over on Comedy Central UK, once more featuring famous British comedians getting absolutely plastered in the name of reciting tales from the past – which are then re-enacted by a top notch cast.

Tony Way, Cardinal Burns, Rebecca Front, Marek Larwood and Mat Horne have appeared across the series so far, and tonight’s edition keeps the talent levels up high: as Marc Wooten (La La Land, Shirley Ghostman) returns to the show, along Simon Bird (The Inbetweeners, Friday Night Dinner).

With Russell Kane and Alex Horne on story telling duties, and Tony Way again making an appearance, it’s another great excuse to watch comedy talents being very silly indeed. Enjoy!

LIVE HAPPENINGS

There’s lots brewing at the moment, with Kim Noble in the middle of his run at the Soho Theatre, a special Forgery Club for Greenpeace this week, Rachel Stubbings hosting a film night next Monday, Tony Law wrapping up his Tone Zone tour, and tickets for Sarah Kendall at Soho Theatre later this month, and Angelos & Barry later this year on sale now.  Keep an eye on our news pages for the latest live news as and when we can throw it your way!

TVO IS FIVE

We’ve been celebrating our fifth anniversary this month, with a couple of reflective articles on our news pages, and a number of our regulars sending us video messages wishing us a very happy birthday. Kind of. The video below features, in order of appearance: Rachel StubbingsColin HoultDave BrownJames CookBob PipeDave McNeillKaty BrandNeil ColePhil WhelansJames WrenSpencer MillmanWaen ShepherdJacqueline WrightHolly Jane ShearsRufus JonesStephen Evans and Tony Way.

Our huge thanks to all involved – and we’ve got a few more messages coming through to give you Part Two very soon, so stay peeled!

AND THE REST…

As always, here’s some of the news you may have missed during the last week, via our Twitter feed. We’ll see you again next Monday, and throughout the week for more news, reviews and interviews. Keep on peeling!

RIP Charlie Philips

6 Feb
© Charlie Philips

© Charlie Philips

The Velvet Onion would like to extend our sincere condolences to the family of Charlie Philips, who died earlier this week.

A BAFTA winning editor for his work on Sherlock, Charlie’s editing career began in 1996, with the Ben Elton penned sitcom The Thin Blue Line starring Rowan Atkinson, Mark Addy and Mina Anwar.

Philips was, however, perhaps defined by his work with director Matt Lipsey on a string of the most widely acclaimed comedies of the last fifteen years, which amongst them manage to include a huge number of the names we feature on these pages.

First working together on The Armstrong and Miller Show, the duo then worked on Lenny Henry in Pieces before being charged with bringing the twisted world of Julia Davis and Rob Brydon’s superlative Human Remains to life in 2000.

The following year, the pair began their first collaboration in the form of Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible - a comedy horror anthology in the style of Hammer and Amicus movies of yesteryear, which featured an appearance by Julia Davis alongside Mark Gatiss, Honor Blackman, Warwick Davis and Armstrong & Miller.

This was followed by Catterick - the seminal comedy drama from Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, which co-starred Matt Lucas and Reece Shearsmith amongst others. They then joined this creative team, alongside Steve Coogan once more for sketch show Monkey Trousers, followed by a sitcom for Coogan’s new character, Saxondale, co-starring James Bachman.

© BBC

© BBC

After short-lived sitcoms The Cup and Lunch Monkeys, came Psychoville - the sublime comedy mystery saga from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, which ran for two series featuring Lipsey & Philips at the helm.

The duo then worked on Chris Brann & Justin Chubb’s bonkers treat, This is Jinsey - co-starring Alice Lowe, no less, across two series either side of Psychoville‘s second run, as well as helming the first series of Greg Davis & Rik Mayall vehicle Man Down - produced by another TVO regular, Spencer Millman.  Sadly, these would mark their final collaborations.

Away from Lipsey, Philips also worked on Tittybangbang and the sixth series of Shooting Stars , as well as editions of Rev and Russell Tovey vehicle Him & Her, as well as the pilot episode of Psychobitches.

© BAFTA

© BAFTA

He moved into drama with mini-series Vexed, and followed that with work on Monroe and five episodes of Sherlock: the latter of which won him a BAFTA Craft Award in 2011.

Details of Charlie Philips outside of his work are limited, and it’s currently unknown exactly how he died. However, he has left behind an extraordinary body of work that has shaped the British Comedy scene for almost two decades, and will no doubt continue to do so in the years to come. He will be missed.

Thanks For The Memories

5 Feb

Celebrating our 5th birthday this week has caused us to get a wee bit nostalgic. So we thought we’d collate some of those “Do you remember when?…” reminiscences into a Best of the first 5 years of TVO. It’s not a comprehensive overview of everything we’ve done, more a subjective account of a few of those ad hoc moments that made us feel warm, fuzzy and just a bit excited.

The favourite moments are different for all of us; sometimes it’s the memory of the event behind the article; sometimes it’s because we nailed an exclusive or wrote something that generated a huge amount of traffic for the website (one post last year generated over 13,000 unique visits in one day, fact fans!), and often it’s the buzz of being able to share something new, exciting and special with you, our readers. So here are a few of the happenings which have brought a smile to our faces over the past 5 years: 

Paul

© Paul Holmes

© Paul Holmes

There are so many glorious memories to treasure. There’s one particular Forgery Club that will forever be in my mind, presented by Hot Brew, and featuring a rare performance by Brown Jenkin (Colin Hoult & Stephen Evans), an appearance by The Mighty Thor and loads more. We were sat talking to Steve Oram before the show, and he noted that he’d never made it big because he liked to do things that broadcasters don’t know what to do with… then went on to give the audience an epic, ten minute long version of “Mary“. To this day, I can’t get a cab in London without thinking: “I will not go South of de river.”

I was particularly proud of the Mongrels takeover in November 2011, as various people being very busy meant I did that one pretty much solo, but was riddled with a genuine (and full blown) flu after arranging interviews with the whole cast and creator Adam Miller! I managed to salvage the interviews, strike up positive relationships with every single one of the team I spoke to which continue to this day, and fix up a wodge of behind the scenes stuff AND a competition to win DVDs of Series One, despite being unable to stand up or focus on a screen for more than a few minutes at a time. If you click here and scroll down, you can see everything.

Another good one to mention is Zimbani, which came to my attention early on in the life of TVO, when Dave McNeill & Colin Hoult emailed me to enthuse about their new show featuring Julian Barratt. It was the first time anyone had come to me direct outside of casual chatter, and really began expanding our world for the first time. Colin later made my partner, and occasional TVO designer, Lauren, get down on all fours and pretend to be a pig in front of Simon Amstell. Now that was a strange moment.

Then again, there’s many of those. Getting accidentally lost for a moment in a strange building behind the London Palladium with Isy Suttie at a screening of Alice Lowe‘s People Place. Similarly, getting trapped in a lift with Mike Fielding and an old lady who refused to let anyone else press the buttons to get us out of this chaos. And then there’s that strange bar James Wren led a motley post-Spank crew along to that felt like something out of a Bond film, somehow managing to stay glamorous at 3am. It’s been a funny old time.  But above all else, it’s just been nice to be welcomed into the fold of this wonderful group of friends and collaborators, and be trusted to give them everything I can to help their work reach a wider crowd. Let’s keep doing it, eh?

Mog

Having been involved in TVO since the very early days makes picking a favourite moment is a real challenge – but this one was pretty special: In 2011 Dave Brown was putting together Noel Fielding‘s art book Scribblings of a Madcap Shambleton. They needed one last thing to finish it off before it was sent to the printers, and they contacted us to provide it. We were able to offer our readers the opportunity to have a photograph of their faces painted over by Noel and included in the book. A double page spread of your lovely faces appeared in the book when it was published, alongside the caption ‘MY TINY CHILDREN’. A wonderful show of their appreciation for the fans, and something which we were delighted to facilitate on their behalf.

© Noel Fielding/Dave Brown

Our Sightseers take-over was pretty special too (click here and scroll down). We had no idea it would become such a cult hit at the time, and it was great to be able to support so many of ‘our lot’ (Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Richard Glover Tom Meeten) with a week of exclusives.

© Big Face Productions

On a personal level, getting to know a few of the people who we write about – and discovering that they’re damned nice people as well as being unbelievably talented – has been a privilege.

A particular high point has been getting to know Hoppo. Introduced to me at Club Fantastico as “the only man to have survived Old Gregg”, John Hopkins turned out to have a TVO pedigree as long as his (long) arms, being part of the original Ealing Live gang and having worked with half of the people that we cover. He’s also lovely. If you don’t know who he is, we urge you to read our interview/profile about him and check out his stuff.

Helen

There are lots of brilliant moments I could mention, but as a fan of Hayden Black, it’s been a pleasure getting the chance to spread the word about him. I guess I’ve become our resident expert on Hayden’s creative and comedic output; take a look at this to find out more.

Paulyne

The moment that stands out in my mind is Fulchfest (Rich Fulcher‘s legendary comedy night in Kentish Town). I’d say that was the most fun I could have. This Pete Heat video that we filmed summarises it perfectly:

I’ve also had some brilliantly fun nights at Dan Clark gigs – often with Mog. Here’s a review of one of them.

© Mog

Aggie

I think my favourite moment is the Zappa Plays Zappa gig at the Camden Roundhouse, with The Mighty Boosh Band as support. Being surrounded by odd men with moustaches while weird music was playing… and then rushing across town to a Rich Fulcher gig – where all the familiar faces already were. It was a perfect blend of what started it all and the new direction TVO had pushed us all in.

Rosanna

Seeing the Boosh warm-up gigs in 2013 was great, and it was lovely going to Soho Theatre as part of the TVO team. It was brilliant to see them on stage together again, in a lovely small venue, with the magic between them there as if they’d never gone away. The review was great too!

I loved going to see the Inside No. 9 preview at the BFI. It’s now one of my favourite pieces of TV and seeing it in the cinema was really special.

Michael

Being involved in filming TVO Live was one the most fun shoots I’ve done, but also the toughest because it was so difficult holding the camera still due to my laughter! We couldn’t have wished for a better line up. Fingers crossed for a TVO Live 2!

Trixie

My favorite TVO memory is of when I interviewed Rich Fulcher in LA. I hadn’t done anything like it before, and he was so funny and generous! I admire Rich so much, and it was wonderful that he was everything he seems to be and more. A truly funny man.

Becca

The Luxury Comedy coffee competition was great, because it encouraged people to create something artistic. And I loved the series of Noel Fielding interviews to celebrate his birthday, which featured questions from our readers:

So there you have it – a sprinkling of very happy memories from a few of us. A big TVO thank you to the artists who we write about, who have provided us with these highs and who make it all possible. And thanks too to you, for being interested enough in what we do to come with us on our journey to the outer reaches of the comedy universe. It’s been quite a ride so far…

Rec. 601

3 Feb

© Michael Spicer

Rachel Stubbings features in a forthcoming experimental comedy short film, Rec. 601.

The film is the brainchild of comedian Michael Spicer, and, from what we can see from the three previews so far, strolls down the path where we previously found Chris Morris’ sublime Jam series.

Expect dream-like editing, slow-downs, skipped frames, and nightmarish visions interspersed with sketches, such as this one – in which Rachel does her best to avoid a second date with an awkward would-be suitor.

For more news on Rec. 601, keep your eyes on Michael Spicer’s YouTube channel.

Murder In Successville – Coming Soon to BBC Three

2 Feb

BBC Three and Tiger Aspect have officially confirmed that, following a non-broadcast pilot last year, Murder In Successville will be appearing on the channel as a full series later this year.

© Tiger Aspect / BBC Three

© Tiger Aspect / BBC Three

The series is set in a fictional town brimming with celebrities – and a high incidence of surreal homicide, and it’s up to Detective Inspector Sleet to solve each murder case, with the assistance of a  real celebrity guest sidekick.

Sounding part Stella Street, part Cludeo, the utterly bonkers premise features at its epicentre rising star Tom Davis as DI Sleet – who you may recognise from his appearances in CockroachesCommon Ground and The Morgana Show.  He recently filmed a guest appearance in House of Fools, and can also be seen in the new Keith Lemon sketch show on ITV2.

Joining Davis each week as the celebrity residents of Successville are Tony Way, Cariad Lloyd (Crims, Crackanory), Gemma Whelan (The Day They Came to Suck Out Our Brains, Game of Thrones), Frances Barber (Psychobitches, The IT Crowd), Tom Stourton (Drunk History, Up the Women) and Jenny Bede (Watson & Oliver, The World’s End).

Real life celebrities including Dermot O’Leary, Louis Smith, Jamie Laing and Greg James will be joining Sleet on his adventures, in a town where Harry Styles runs a mafia gang and Mary Berry is the owner of a strip club.

Part sitcom, part improv and part murder mystery, the show will be coming to BBC Three later this year, and we’ll bring you more news as soon as we can. Stay peeled!

So Hot Right Now #16

2 Feb

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 below.

THE VELVET ONION IS FIVE

This week marks our fifth anniversary, and to celebrate, a number of our regulars sent us video messages wishing us a very happy birthday. Kind of. The video below features, in order of appearance: Rachel StubbingsColin HoultDave BrownJames CookBob PipeDave McNeillKaty BrandNeil ColePhil WhelansJames WrenSpencer MillmanWaen ShepherdJacqueline WrightHolly Jane ShearsRufus JonesStephen Evans and Tony Way.

Our huge thanks to all involved – and we’ve got a few more messages coming through to give you Part Two very soon, so stay peeled!

THE WEEK IN TV & RADIO

A couple of regular shows wrapped up last week, but we’ve still got a number of great things on telly to savour across the week. Each one is as important as the other to us, as has always been The Velvet Onion way, so for ease of understanding, we’ll tackle them in chronological order.

MONDAY: DRUNK HISTORY

© Comedy Central UK

© Comedy Central UK

Airing at 9:30pm on Monday 26th over on Comedy Central UK, the fourth episode of Drunk History UK once more sees famous British comedians get absolutely plastered in the name of reciting tales from the past – which are then re-enacted by a top notch cast.

With the likes of Tony Way, Seb CardinalDustin Demri-Burns, Tom Rosenthal, Mat Horne, Marek Larwood, Tom Stourton, Alex Owen, Ben Bailey Smith and Rebecca Front on re-enactment duties across the series, tonight’s edition also features Ben Ashenden, Russell Kane and Joy Lycett getting hammered. Enjoy.

MONDAY: CATASTROPHE

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

Monday 2nd February at 10pm brings us Episode Three of Catastrophe - the brand new comedy from Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, in which an American man and an Irish woman fall in love in London whilst navigating the choppy waters of their increasingly complicated lives.

In this week’s edition, Sharon’s hormones plague her with waves of different emotions, and she has a chance meeting with an old flame (Phil Nichol), which leads to dinner. Meanwhile, Rob struggles to generate advertising business, since he has very few contacts in London, and begins a clandestine friendship with Chris, who is married to a woman Sharon can’t stand.

After wowing critics and audiences alike, Catastrophe will be returning for a second series, so it’s naturally a treat to watch the story unfold a little more this week.  If you missed the first two episodes, you can catch up with the series now via 4oD, whilst iPlayer houses Sharon and Rob’s last minute guest appearance on The Graham Norton Show last Friday.

TUESDAY: COCKROACHES

© Colin Hutton / Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

© Colin Hutton / Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

Tuesday 3rd February at 10pm sees Episode Four of Cockroaches air on ITV2. The post-apocalyptic comedy stars Daniel Lawrence Taylor (How Not to Life Your Life), Esher Smith, Jack Whitehall and Tom Davis, alongside a string of big name guest stars such as Dan Skinner, Alexander Armstrong, Caroline Quentin, Robert Bathurst and Nigel Planer.

In this week’s episode the survivors race to find an antidote after the camp’s children turn green – believing they may have nuclear radiation sickness or have become vampires – and the Doctor has gone power mad. If they do not find a cure, Tom may be forced to go through with a grisly deed.

As to be expected, you can catch up with past episodes via ITV Player, and the series will also be released on dvd on February 23rd.

TUESDAY (and Wednesday): COUNT ARTHUR STRONG

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

Also on Tuesday 3rd February comes Episode Five of the second series of Count Arthur Strong airing on BBC One at FOUR different times, depending on your location.

Viewers in England can see it at the slightly later than usual time of 10:45pm, whilst those watching in Northern Ireland have to wait until 11:40pm. However, if you’re in Wales, there’s an even sillier timeslot, as it airs at 12:15am – and viewers in Scotland can see the episode on Wednesday at 10:40pm!

Episode Five, once more from the pens of star Steve Delaney and Graham Linehan (best known for The IT Crowd and Father Ted), sees a documentary team arrive to film a profile of Michael, but Arthur threatens to steal the show with his new career. Fun stuff, as ever.

WEDNESDAY: LOVE IN RECOVERY

© Karla Gowlett / Lucky Giant

© Karla Gowlett / Lucky Giant

Wednesday 4th February brings us Episode Five of Love in Recovery on Radio 4. Written by Pete Jackson, the series follows the lives of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting group, made up of characters portrayed by Sue Johnston, John Hannah, Eddie Marsan, Rebecca Front and Paul Kaye, whilst Julia Deakin plays village hall cleaner Marion.

This week’s episode focuses on Kaye’s character, Danno, as he deals with the death of his father after returning from his memorial service – in the pub down the road.  If you missed previous installements, you can catch all previous episodes on iPlayer now, but be quick – as Episode One will vanish in four days time…

THURSDAY: CRIMS

©  Hal Shinnie / BBC

© Hal Shinnie / BBC

Thursday 5th February brings Episode Five of Crims - the new BBC Three sitcom from the pens of Mongrels writer Adam Kay and Grandma’s House writer Dan Swimer – at 10pm. And gawd, have we been waiting to rave about this one.

As ever, starring Elis James and Kadiff Kirwan, alongside Cariad Lloyd, Ricky Champ and Theo Barklem Biggs, with a guest appearance once again by Toast of London‘s Tracy Ann Oberman, this week’s episode draws on Adam Kay’s musical comedy background in the best possible way, as plans for the Young Offenders Institute to put on its own theatre production, are hijacked by Marcel, and turned into a musical interpretation of Twilight, which poor ol’ Luke has to write in 24 hours.

Typically bonkers, with charming tunes and possibly the best Elton John joke ever, this is possibly our favourite episode of the run, and the cast and crew seem to agree. If you only see one episode, make sure it’s this one, but if you have missed previous episodes, you can catch up on iPlayer now.

SATURDAY: HORRIBLE HISTORY’S SPECIAL

©  Phil Miller / Laura Rawlinson / LionTV / BBC

© Phil Miller / Laura Rawlinson / LionTV / BBC

On Saturday 6th February, Horrible Histories returns for a one-off special focusing on the story of King John and the Magna Carta.  As you can see from the image above, comic actor Ben Miller leads the cast as King John, by sheer coincidence, just a few months after he appeared as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Doctor Who!

Whilst the original HH team moved on to create Yonderland for Sky One, and the forthcoming movie Bill, regulars Jim Howick and Simon Farnaby return for this special, with Farnaby’s famous character Death now hosting his own chat show.

As fun as ever, this transitional episode prior to the next series (with a mostly new leading cast), airs on Saturday evening at 5:15pm on BBC Two.  The team have also made a series of new videos promoting internet safety for children – you can see Farnaby’s contribution (alongside Matt Baynton) below.

AND THE REST…

As always, here’s some of the news you may have missed during the last week, via our Twitter feed. We’ll see you again next Monday, and throughout the week for more news, reviews and interviews. Keep on peeling!

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