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So Hot Right Now: #37

29 Jun

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

MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN

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

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

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

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

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

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

SUNSET FOR THE SUNTRAP

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

© Happy Tramp / BBC

© Happy Tramp / BBC

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

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

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

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

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

TIME IS SHORT FOR DOLL & EM

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

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

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

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

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

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

AMBASSAHOFF

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

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

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

UNDERCOVER GETS WIRED

Undercover, Tuesday, 9:00pm, Dave

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

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

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

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

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

DENNIS & DAN

Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

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

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

AWFUL EGYPTIANS

Horrible Histories, Monday, 5:00pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

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

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

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

ALL THE MIRRORS OF THE WORLD

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

©  JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

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

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

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

ON STAGE THIS WEEK

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

© Lauren Taylor

© Lauren Taylor

Wednesday 1st July

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

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

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

Thursday 2nd July

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

Saturday 4th July

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

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

AND THE REST…

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

 

So Hot Right Now: #36

22 Jun

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

SMELL THE HOFF

Hoff The Record, Thursday, 9pm, Dave

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A MERCURIAL CAMEO

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

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

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

Directed by Ben Palmer (The Inbetweeners Movie, Bad Sugar, Star Stories), Sun Trap features Novak and Walsh as former undercover journalists now solving crimes in an island paradise. Also featuring Jamie Demetriou, Emma Pierson and Keith Allen, the series has previously featured guest appearances from TVO regulars Tracy Ann Oberman, Alex Kirk, Morgana Robinson and Simon Day, with Tony Way and Steve Oram set to appear in the sixth episode next week.

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

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

DIAMONDS ARE A COP’S BEST FRIEND

Undercover, Tuesday, 9:00pm, Dave

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

Undercover – Dave’s new witty sitcom in disguise as ambitious crime drama returns this week with another top notch episode, once again directed by Dave Lambert (The Mighty Boosh, Common Ground, Alan Partridge).

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

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

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

THE FORCE ISN’T STRONG FOR EWAN

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

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

 

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

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

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

BACK TO THE BULLY FOR DAN

Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

 

 

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

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

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

ARE WE HUMAN? OR ARE WE ONIONS?

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

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

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

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

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

If you’re not watching on tv – and you really should – Humans is also available to pre-order for £14 on dvd now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

 

FAREWELL TO STRANGE & NORRELL

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

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

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

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

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

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

A LITTLE MORE REFORMATION

Horrible Histories, Monday, 5:00pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

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

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

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

GO GO GADGET MAN!

Gadget Man, Monday, 8:30pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

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

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

ON STAGE THIS WEEK

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

© Lou Sanders

© Lou Sanders

Monday 22nd June

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

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

Thursday 25th June

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

Friday 26th June

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

AND THE REST…

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

Onion Talking: Fergus Craig goes Hoff the Record

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

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

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

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

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

© Avalon

© Avalon

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

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

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

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

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

© BBC

© BBC

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

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

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

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

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

So Hot Right Now: #35

15 Jun

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

GET HOFFED

Hoff The Record, Thursday, 9pm, Dave

© UKTV

© Me And You Productions / UKTV

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

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

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

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

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

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

GO UNDERCOVER

Undercover, Tuesday, 9pm, Dave

© Baby Cow / UKTV

© Baby Cow / UKTV

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

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

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

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

VELVET (ONION) GOLDMINE FOR DOLL & EM

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

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

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

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

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

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

DIVERSITY DAN

Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

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

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

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

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

MAKE WAY FOR THE HOMOSUPERIOR

Humans, Sunday, 9:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

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

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

If you’re not watching on tv – and you really should – Humans is also available to pre-order for £14 on dvd now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store. US audiences will be able to see the show on AMC later this year.

MADNESS & MAGIC

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

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

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

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

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

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

AN ISLAND GAMBLE

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

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

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

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

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

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

LOVE IS IN THE AIR FOR THE GADGET MAN

Gadget Man, Monday, 8:30pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

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

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

NAUGHTY NAPOLEON

Horrible Histories, Monday, 5:00pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

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

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

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

YOO-KAY DADDIES

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

© Pett TV

© Pett TV

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

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

ON STAGE THIS WEEK

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

© Joey Page

© Joey Page

Wednesday 17th June

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

Thursday 18th June

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

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

Sunday 21st June

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

AND THE REST…

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

So Hot Right Now #11

22 Dec

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.

CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY FOR TVO TELLY FANS!

As Noddy Holder once sang: IT’S CHRIIIIIIISSSTTTTMAAAAAAASSSSS!!!!!! Which means there’s a sudden glut of top notch telly to be savoured, and that naturally includes a bevy of TVO regulars on our screens once again.  We’ve got more news to share with you below this epic round-up, but first off, we’ve got to celebrate just how much we can enjoy this week!

Monday 22nd December

© Sky

© Sky

The crux of that comes on Monday 22nd December, with six new shows and a vintage repeat to savour across the evening. First up at 5:30pm on Sky 1 is Katy Brand‘s Little Cracker getting a welcome re-airing.

First shown in 2012, the episode – like the rest of the Little Cracker series which inspired Moone Boy – focuses on a key event from it’s writer’s childhood Christmasses dramatised and exaggerated for comedic value.  Katy Brand’s edition centres on the moment ten-year-old Katy made an earth-shattering discovery on Christmas Eve, and in one fell swoop the magic and sparkle of the festive season vanished. All is not lost when an unlikely opportunity to save Christmas presents itself.

Stick with Sky1 at 8:30pm for the last in the current series of Trollied featuring Aisling Bea. In tonight’s episode, it’s Charity Day at Valco supermarket, with a big prize draw called into question, a sponsored bike ride, shaved legs and a giant pain-relief tablet costume. Mad as ever.

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

Over on Channel 4 at 8pm is the Gadget Man’s Guide To Christmas in which Richard Ayoade presents a gadget-packed guide to the festive season, joined by techno-loving celebrity friends including Jonathan Ross, Stephen Merchant, Robert Webb, Jessica Hynes and Reece Shearsmith.

In this hour long special, Richard and his guests reveal new ways of doing the Christmas shopping, surviving the winter weather, cooking Christmas dinner, wrapping gifts, dealing with snow, handling fog and getting through long nights. They also look at a smartphone breathalyser, a pitch-shifting karaoke machine and Richard makes a festive feast. Bring it on!

© BBC / Hulu / Coco Van Oppens

© BBC / Hulu / Coco Van Oppens

After Gadget Man, we heartily recommend you switch over to BBC Two, where the new series of The Wrong Mans begins at 9pm. The show featuring writers James Corden and Matthew Baynton as two idiots accidentally caught up in a huge espionage plot, was a smash hit last year, and featured a huge array of incredible guest stars, including our very own Rufus Jones and Dan Skinner amongst them.

This year, Baynton and Corden are again joined by a top notch cast including Dawn French and Rebecca Front, and the show is directed by once more by Jim Field-Smith – formerly a member of criminally underrated sketch troup Dutch Elm Conservatoire alongside Rufus Jones, Dan Skinner, Stephen Evans and Jordan Long, who you may recognise from Junglophilia, World of Wrestling, Mongrels and the first series of The Wrong Mans!

© BBC / Hulu / Coco Van Oppens

© BBC / Hulu / Coco Van Oppens

The first two episodes are being shown in a double bill on Monday 22nd from 9pm, with Episodes Three and Four – featuring a guest appearance from Fergus Craig as a pilot – airing tomorrow evening at the same time. American fans shouldn’t fret either – The Wrong Mans is a co-production with Hulu, so should be on your screens over there in the New Year.

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

Stick with BBC Two at 10pm for a double bill of musical mayhem. First up is Never Mind The Buzzcocks Christmas special to round off the series in style.  As you can see, the festive edition got everyone in the spirit of Christmas, and you’ll probably never look at turkey the same way again.

Joining host Rhod Gilbert and team captains Noel Fielding and Phill Jupitus for the madness are legendary Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, his polar opposite Louis ‘X-Factor’ Walsh, singer Melissa Steel and comedian Lloyd Langford. There’s even a guest appearance by the actual Snowman. A must see!

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

Straight after Buzzcocks is the final episode of Brian Pern: A Life in Rock – the madcap mockumentary from Rhys Thomas and Simon Day which features a massive ensemble cast of real life celebrities and great comic talents.  Michael Kitchen, Paul Whitehouse, Nigel Havers Lucy Montgomery and Tony Way are joined this week by Mel C, Chrissie Hynde, Roy Wood, Roger Allum and loads more as Brian tries to record a Christmas album.

There’s a glorious set of pastiches of past pop favourites on offer in this week’s episode, including Simon and Lucy’s homage to Barcelona, the Thotch lads getting all Chas N Dave on us, and the glorious Black Christmas.  Mel C and Pepita get to fight it out over the microphone, Roy Wood’s producer wants to put a till on everything, and the best is saved till last as Peter Gabriel makes another appearance.

As we bid Brian a fond farewell, don’t forget to catch up on our interview with him, as well as series creators Rhys Thomas and Simon Day, and we hope he’s back for more soon!

Both Buzzcocks and Brian Pern happen to clash with another TVO favourite, but thanks to the wonders of 4+1, that’s not necessarily a problem. At 10pm on Channel 4 (or 11pm on 4+1), is the special final episode of Derek starring Ricky Gervais.

© Channel 4 / Ray Burmiston

© Channel 4 / Ray Burmiston

The second series introduced characters played by Tony Way and Colin Hoult, and Colin features in this grande finale, in which Broadhill regulars are busy planning the wedding of the year.  However, Kev’s behaviour proves too much for Hannah, while Vicky prepares to fill her boss’s shoes, and Derek is just trying to hold everything together.

Previous finales from Gervais have tended to tackle surprisingly weighty issues in brilliant dramatic form – whatever anyone thought of Extras or Life’s Too Short, for example, there’s no denying they went out with a bang, so we’d definitely recommend you give this one a chance.

Tuesday 23rd December

If you’ve caught everything from Monday 22nd live, or you’re fully up to date from catchup services, then stick near your remote, cos there’s more to savour throughout the week. On Tuesday 23rd, at 9:30pm, we have the final episode of Psychobitches Series Two to savour over on Sky Arts HD, and it’s set to be as magnificent as the rest.

© Sky Arts

© Sky Arts

The highlight of the show looks set to be Richard E Grant’s guest appearance as Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, as he interrupts a psychiatric session for grotesque witches played by Matthew Baynton, Kevin Eldon and Cardinal Burns star Dustrin Demri-Burns.  Also visiting Rebecca Front’s psychoanalyst this week are Gracie Fields (The IT Crowd guest star Frances Barber), Fanny Cradock (the other half of Cardinal Burns, Seb Cardinal), Hildegard of Bingen (Doctor Who’s Michelle Gomez), the Statue of Liberty (Toast of London‘s Doon Mackichan), Shirley Temple (Benidorm’s Sheila Reid), Daphne du Maurier (House of Fools star Morgana Robinson), Zeus’s wife Hera (Goodness Gracious Me legend Mera Syal) and Hindu goddess Kali (La La Land‘s Marc Wootton). Phew!

© Avalon Television / Pete Dadds

© Avalon Television / Pete Dadds

That’s not all, either, as 10pm brings us the festive special of Man Down on Channel 4.  The show, starring Greg Davies as idiotic teacher Dan, is produced by Spencer Millman (of The Mighty BooshMan to Man and The Inbetweeners fame), and the first series was hugely popular on its initial airing late in 2013.

However, the show suffered a near-fatal blow earlier this year, with the tragic death of co-star Rik Mayall – who injected so much life into proceedings (as always) taunting Dan as his vindictive father in a pitch-perfect casting choice.  Nevertheless, the show must go on, and this special – ahead of a second series – is the first chance we have to see the show without him.

Stephanie Cole guest stars as Aunt Nesta, and there are a few familiar faces for TVO fans on board too: with Justin Edwards making an appearance as a solicitor, and the excellent Ramon Tikaram (star of This Life, brother of singer Tanita Tikaram, and Mighty Boosh guest star as Banoo) also involved.  Al Campbell – aka Barry Shitpeas – is directing once again, and it looks set to be another fine addition to the festive canon.

Also on telly that evening are the aforementioned third and fourth episodes of The Wrong Mans, plus Sky 1 are repeating Treasure Island across Tuesday and Wednesday at 5pm each day. This adaptation starring Eddie Izzard, Elijah Wood and Donald Sutherland from 2012 also featured a cavalcade of British telly talent, including Philip Glennister, Daniel Mays, Shaun Parkes, Nathan Barley star Nina Sosyana and our very own Julian Barratt as Thomas Redruth.

Christmas Eve

© Avalon Television / Pete Dadds

© Avalon Television / Pete Dadds

Speaking of Wednesday, Christmas Eve brings us the Not Going Out Christmas Special, in which the will-they-won’t-they tension between Lee (Boosh radio series star Lee Mack) and Lucy (Sally Bretton) reaches unseen new highs, and Lee’s pint-sized dad Frank (Bobby Ball) takes him for a night on the tiles.

As ever Katy Wix co-stars, and there’s a guest appearance from Phil Cornwell as a police officer (only a week and a bit after his role as a police officer in Brian Pern, actually!). Lee Mack has indicated this may be the final ever episode, so expect it to go out on a happy note, just in case.

One last treat for Wednesday – if you happen to be watching Film Four’s repeat of Saint Trinians – see if you can spot Richard Glover as a put upon telly bod. Nice little cameo, there…

Christmas Day

©  BBC / David Venni

© BBC / David Venni

Christmas Day itself is a little short on treats, but like the rest of the country (we hope), we’ll be settling down to watch Nick Frost as Father Christmas in the Doctor Who special, Last Christmas.  Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman return as The Doctor and Clara, alongside guest stars Michael Troughton (of The New Statesmen fame), Faye Marsey and Natalie Gumede (who appeared in sitcom flop The Persuasionists with Simon Farnaby).

There’s currently no word on whether Ben Wheatley will be returning to direct further episodes of Doctor Who in the new year, but with filming set to begin in January, we’re sure to know soon enough. Last Christmas, which has been getting rave reviews so far, will air at 6:15pm on BBC One.

Over on Channel 4 in the early hours – midnight to be exact – is the Father Ted Christmas Special, A Christmassy Ted. This festive classic, written by Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews sees Ted and his fellow priests trapped in the lingerie section of a major department store, and Ted’s quick thinking resulting in him staging an award-winning rescue.  The episode is also shown on More4 across the festive season, so keep your eyes peeled if you miss it, or catch it on 4od. And really, you should own the dvd by now!

Boxing Day

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

Boxing Day brings with it another Big Fat Quiz of the Year – and whilst Noel Fielding is absent this year, his old cohort Richard Ayoade is on hand to add a bit of Onion into the mix.  He joins David Mitchell, Mel B, Sarah Millican, Kevin Bridges and Micky Flanagan as well as regular host Jimmy Carr.

There’s also guest appearances from Michael Palin, Rio Ferdinand, Lily Allen and the stars of The Inbetweeners, plus some surprises in store, so check in to Channel 4 from 9pm.

Sunday 28th December

© Pett Productions / Chris Baines

© Pett Productions / Chris Baines

Lastly, but by no means leastly, Sunday 28th December brings us the Christmas Special of House of Fools on BBC Two at 10:05pm.  This special episode of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s sublime sitcom is set on Christmas Eve, but when Bob’s present for Erik is unexpectedly engulfed in flames, the housemates go on an underground boat journey to Phil Collins’ mansion.

It’s typically glorious madness from the team, which features Matt BerryDan Skinner, Morgana Robinson and Daniel Simonsen, as well as a guest appearance once more by Reece Shearsmith – as Santa no, less. We’ll have a full preview of the episode later this week, and interviews with the cast (and new regular Ellie White) ahead of Series Two launching early next year.

SECRET SANTA SHOCKER FOR NEIL COLE

Of course, we’re celebrating all this telly, but it’s too late for Christmas. Neil Cole has exposed him, as we revealed over yonder.  Kris Kringle himself is launches his revealing autobigoraphy Secret Santa, but Neil wouldn’t take no for an answer…

Absolutely scandalous.

COLIN KEEPS ON COLLAB-ING

Another week goes by, and Colin Hoult continues his five-times-a-week quest to vlog in character.  Last week saw Anna Mann discuss credit card debt, Andy Parker tackle the Twilight saga, Eddie Cartizean dance his way into some beetroot, Thwor suffer from Season Affective Disorder, and Dom Fez tell us all about the girls that make him go CWOR!

With more videos uploaded every weekday, there’s a treat in store every day. Visit Colin’s YouTube channel now to subscribe.

AND THE REST…

There’s so much going on, a lot of which is featured on our News Page, but here’s some of what you may have missed in the last seven days.

We’ll see you throughout this week – and hope you have a very, very, Merry Christmas. Peace and love and all that jazz. Keep on peelin’.

The British Comedy Awards – Tonight!

16 Dec

Tonight sees the 2014 British Comedy Awards take place in Wembley, with broadcast taking place on Channel 4 tomorrow evening – and as ever, there’s a huge chunk of TVO nominees.

© Kuba Wieczorek

© Kuba Wieczorek

As we’ve mentioned previously, Matt Berry is up for a bevvy of awards – with a whopping six direct nominations for him, Toast of London and his one-off BBC sketch Lone Wolf. His Toast co-star, Harry Peacock, is also nominated for his role in the show, as is House of Fools in which he co-stars alongside Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer and Dan Skinner. We’re expecting big wins for Matt tonight!

Also up for nominations are Aisling BeaSpencer Millman (via The Inbetweeners 2 and Man Down), Katherine ParkinsonHarry and Paul’s Story of the Two’s (which featured Justin Edwards), Inside No. 9 (from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton), Cardinal Burns (featuring Rufus Jones and Fergus Craig), Moone BoyThe Trip to ItalyHorrible Histories – we could go on!

© BBC

© BBC

In fact, every nomination for Best Sitcom, and three out of four nominations for Best Sketch Show have direct links back to our regulars, so we’re almost certainly in for a celebratory night!

TVO will be cramming ourselves into the press pit to talk to the talent on camera, for a video report we hope to bring you very soon. Good luck to all the nominees, especially those we feature and that we – and you, dear readers – love.

For the full list of nominees, see below. Anyone with a direct TVO connection is highlighted, so you know who to cheer for most!

Moone Boy S2

Best Sitcom

House of FoolsMoone Boy The Trip to Italy | Toast of London

Best Comedy Panel Programme

8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown Have I Got News For You QI | Would I Lie To You

© Channel 4 / Jules Heath

 Best Sketch Show

Cardinal Burns | Harry & Paul Story of the Two’s | Horrible Histories Monty Python Live (mostly) – One Down Five to Go
 

Best Comedy Entertainment Programme

Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe | Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle The Graham Norton Show | The Last Leg
© BBC

© BBC

Best Comedy Drama

Inside No. 9 Rev | The Wrong MansUncle

Best New Comedy Programme

Inside No. 9 | Man Down The Wrong Mans | Toast of London

Best International Comedy Programme

Girls Last Week Tonight with John Oliver | Modern Family | Veep

© BBC

Best Internet Comedy Short

Brand New Morph | Carpark | How To Make A Hit Pop Song | Matt Berry: Lone Wolf

Best Comedy Film

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues | Pride | The Inbetweeners 2 | The Lego Movie

Best Comedy Entertainment Personality

Adam Hills Alan Carr Ant & Dec  Graham Norton
© Balloon (50 Year Special) Limited / Mark Johnson

© Balloon (50 Year Special) Limited / Mark Johnson

Best TV Comedy Actor

Harry Enfield Matt Berry Matthew Baynton Paul Whitehouse

Best TV Comedy Actress

Doon Mackichan Jessica Hynes Katherine Parkinson Zawe Ashton
©  Aisling Bea / Kernan Andrews

© Aisling Bea / Kernan Andrews

Best Male Television Comic

David Mitchell Lee Mack Sean Lock Stewart Lee

Best Female Television Comic

Aisling Bea Bridget Christie Isy Suttie Nina Conti
©  Objective / Channel 4

© Objective / Channel 4

 Best Comedy Breakthrough Artist

Harry Peacock | Joe Wilkinson Matt Berry Nick Helm

Best Comedy Moment of 2014

8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown | Harry & Paul’s Story Of The Two’s | Monty Python Live | Toast of London | Would I Lie To You

The British Comedy Awards 2014 take place tonight in Wembley, and will be broadcast on Channel 4 on Wednesday, 17th December from 9pm.

So Hot Right Now #2

20 Oct
Hello, dear Peelers, and welcome to The Velvet Onion!  For your regular news updates you used to find on our home page, click here.  But below, here’s what Dolly would say is sooo hot right now in Onion Land.

AN EVENING WITH NOEL FIELDING BEGINS!

© Noel Fielding / Dave Brown

The big news this week is that An Evening with Noel Fielding – the UK tour featuring the titular Mr Noel Fielding, alongside Mike Fielding and Tom Meeten – is officially underway.  Hopefully, you’ll have all bought your tickets via our exclusive pre-sale earlier this year, and we’d love to see you out enjoying the show.

The tour runs through the rest of the month, across November and most of December, and takes in various dates across the UK – so if you’re going along, send us a photo of yourself at the gig via our Facebook or Twitter pages (particularly if you’re in costume), with the hashtag #TVOSHOW and we’ll put our favourites on site at the end of the year.

TOURING ONIONS

Of course, Noel isn’t the only TVO regular on tour right now.  Tony Law and Paul Foot are traipsing across the land each week, with various dates on offer from other regulars, such as Aisling Bea, Richard Sandling and Colin Hoult.  There’s all sorts to see, as always, so keep your eye on our new Listings page which we’ll have up and running this week!

Again, if you’re off to a gig with TVO connections, why not send us a photo of yourself with the hashtag #TVOSHOW on Facebook or Twitter, and we’ll share them here for everyone else to enjoy!  And don’t be afraid to go say hello to people after the shows – they’re all lovely, and welcome your support.

THE DAY THEY CAME TO SUCK OUT OUR BRAINS… AGAIN!

The big news this week has been the announcement of The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains being adapted into a movie!  The B-movie pastiche started off as a web series from the minds of Bob Pipe, James Wren and Phil Whelans, and featured a cavalcade of TVO regulars in its huge ensemble cast.

© Bob Pipe

There’ll be more info available at TDTCTSOOB’s official website soon, but first up the team are launching the movie at this weekend’s London Comic Con – so get on down there to find out the news first, and pick up some funky badges along the way.

And if you can’t wait until then, you can catch up with the web series – and read our exclusive archive interview with the team over yonder.

NEW TELLY COMING SOON

The news that Doll & Em – the amazing comic drama starring Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer – has been recommissioned for a second series is just the tip of the ice berg!

November 3rd is the date to etch into your diary, as you get not one – but TWO new series to savour.

First up is series four of Sky One’s hit sitcom Trollied – now with added Aisling Bea and Doctor Who star Samuel Anderson in its ensemble cast.

© Sky

© Sky

After that, hop over to Channel 4 to see Series 2 of the ever brilliant Toast of London written by and starring Matt Berry.  If you haven’t seen the show before, pick up Series One on dvd, pronto!

© Kuba Wieczorek

Matt will also be joining Dan Skinner once more in Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer led sitcom House of Fools – which is recording its second series at MediaCityUK from this week.  We can expect that on our screens in early 2015.

Equally exciting is the impending release of Moone Boy series three, which is due on Sky any time now – alongside the news that it is to get a US remake… as is The IT Crowd!

Plus, there’s the continuing adventures of Katy Wix & Lee Mack in Not Going Out on BBC One, the delightful tales of Crackanory on Dave, and more Never Mind the Buzzcocks on BBC2 each week, so even if you can’t make it to a show there’ll be something to watch in the comfort of your own home for a while yet.  As for BuzzcocksAisling Bea will be making an appearance on there soon – that gal gets everywhere, eh – so stay tuned!

BOOK TIME WITH ONION LAYERS

As we mentioned last week, there’s a whole batch of new books from TVO regulars out now, so if you’re after the perfect Christmas gifts, pop on over to our Amazon Store by clicking on the pictures below.

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

http://astore.amazon.co.uk/thevelvetonion-21/detail/1783520345

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

 

ALL THIS & MORE

There’s so much going on, we’re using Twitter to keep you posted on things faster that we could before.  So here’s a selection of other news from this week you may have missed…

For more news, stay glued to our News Page and Twitter feed throughout the week. Keep on peeling!

– Team TVO

So Hot Right Now #1

13 Oct
Hello, dear Peelers, and welcome to The Velvet Onion!  For your regular news updates you used to find on our home page, click here.  But below, here’s what Dolly would say is sooo hot right now in Onion Land.

COOKING UP A LOVER’S DREAM

The former Nemo frontman returned with his new album Adventures in Ausland recently, which you can buy over yonder.  He’s just released the music video for his single Lily (A Lover’s Dream), which you can see below.

 

STAND UP TO CANCER

Alan Carr, Davina McCall and Dr Christian Jessen host this year’s live event on Channel 4 this Friday evening, with an all star cast of contributors joining the fundraising efforts.

Along for the ride are Will Ferrell, Martin Freeman, Amanda Abbington, Taylor Swift, Derren Brown, Nicole Scherzinger, McBusted and many more – including a number of comedy legends – including our very own Dan Skinner as Angelos Epithemiou and Richard Ayoade – with the latter joining Andy Murray in a sketch about a movie adaptation of the tennis star’s life jam-packed with BIG NAMES!

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

All money raised will help finance clinical trials around the UK, including the most sophisticated bowel cancer trial ever to be undertaken in the world. The aim is to reach the point where three in four people will survive cancer in the next 20 years – so join in the good fight from 7pm this Friday.

 

BOOK TIME WITH ONION LAYERS

Everyone has at least one novel in them, they say – and no sooner have we received Katy Brand’s excellent debut novel Brenda Monk Is Funny, we’re treated to three more books from TVO regulars.  None of which are novels, but all are worthy of your attention.  Buy them via our Amazon Store by clicking on the pictures below.

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

http://astore.amazon.co.uk/thevelvetonion-21/detail/1783520345

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

 

ALL THIS & MORE

That’s not all going on either – with Never Mind The Buzzcocks continuing, appearances from Tony Law and Simon Farnaby currently up on iPlayer, the return of Not Going Out (starring Katy Wix) this Friday, Tom Cruise blockbuster The Edge of Tomorrow co-starring Tony Way being released on blu-ray, 3D blu-ray and dvd this week, and Tony Law, Paul Foot and Noel Fielding gearing up their UK tours.

For all the latest news as and when we find it, visit our News Page and keep your eye on our Twitter Feed!  Keep on peeling!

Monk-day Approacheth!

12 May

This week sees the broadcast of the new pilot episode for revamped project, Monks, featuring TVO regulars Fergus Craig and Justin Edwards.

© Anna Brabbins / BBC

© Anna Brabbins / BBC

As we’ve mentioned previously, the project has been on-and-off for 14 years, no less – first appearing on radio as Hey Hey We’re The Monks – a one off episode of BBC Radio 2’s Comedy Showcase.  Co-written by Danny Robbins (We Are History) and Dan Tetsell (Mongrels, Lab Rats), this pilot starred none other than future megastars Bill Bailey and Catherine Tate, yet it has never been repeated… lost into the ether (and the BBC Archives, we hope!).

Eight years later, and a non-broadcast tv pilot version featured James Corden, David Bamber, Geoffrey Whitehead and the addition of TVO regulars Fergus Craig (Colin and Fergus, Star Stories) and Justin Edwards (The Thick of It, Lifespam).  Sadly, the show was not commissioned, and that, it seemed, was that.

Until January of this year, that is, when a new attempt at the format was filmed at Elstree.  Standup and Mock The Week regular Seann Walsh is the new leading man, starring as benefits cheat Gary Woodcroft, who joins a religious order to avoid a jail term, only to find his choice of Rudley Abbey is just like prison, but with added praying.

Also along for the ride are Spaced veteran Mark Heap, The Vicar Of Dibley‘s James Fleet, former Have I Got News For You host Angus Deayton and, once more, Mssrs Craig and Edwards.   It’s all gloriously silly fun in the traditional sitcom mould, so any fans of Graham Linehan’s output or more mainstream fair like Miranda and Not Going Out should definitely check it out.  You can see a preview clip below:

The new pilot – For Whom The Bell Tolls – again written by Robbins, airs as the final edition of Comedy Playhouse this Tuesday evening at 10:40pm (11:10pm in Northern Ireland), and will be available on iPlayer shortly after transmission.  For a smattering of promotional images, look no further. Amen.

 

Weekly Video Round Up

3 May

This week we’ve been mostly spotting the occasional TVO-related video on the World Wide Web. And we thought it was only right and proper to round them up and share them with you:

First up is Fergus Craig, with his useful guides to (1) talking Geordie (a dialect “with a desperation to it”, according to Craig); and (2) Talking Liverpudlian (probably better not to watch it if you have any personal connection to the city yourself):

Next up we have Rachel Stubbings with her Kitchen Gym idea, which amazingly enough already has 8 backers on Kickstarter! Born out of the mind of Stubbings’ alter-ego, Rybekah Roxton-Sandbach, Kitchen Gym is a fitness programme which combines exercise and recipes for smoothies. To watch the video click here, and to visit the not-entirely-serious Kickstarter page click there. Go on, she needs £6K by the end of the month.

Finally, is this video about people’s book collections, which includes Neil Cole amongst its stellar cast. To find out what his book collection says about him (and to hear all about David Attenborough’s and Joanna Trollope’s book shelves too) click on the clip below:

Happy viewing!

Preview Peeling: Cardinal Burns Series 2

29 Apr
© Channel 4

© Channel 4

This week sees the long-awaited return of Cardinal Burns to our TV screens, with Episode 1 airing at 10:30pm.

The madcap sketch show starring Seb Cardinal and Dustin Debri-Burns is, once again, co-written by a large number of comedic talents, including TVO regulars Rufus Jones and Fergus Craig.

But with the show moving to Channel 4 – has it developed stronger legs to survive another run? TVO’s editor in chief, Paul Holmes, sat down with the first two episodes to find out…

Sketch shows are strange beasts. Since the early days of The Goons, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Goodies, right through The Two Ronnies, Not The Nine O’Clock News, The Real McCoy, The Fast Show, Goodness Gracious Me and Little Britain, they’ve been the source of some of the most memorable characters and classic lines in the history of British comedy.

Yet they’re also, by nature, incredibly haphazard and difficult to summarise. We all remember the Dead Parrot or Computer Says No, but we often forget the dregs that fill the gaps in-between the classics: Ed Winchester, anyone?

Such selective memories are often called into play when judging new attempts at the format in an increasingly negative manner – a fate which befell the likes of Beehive and tittybangbang in the last decade.  Cardinal Burns, returning for a second run, has polarised opinion as all sketch shows seem to do, and with the show being upgraded from E4 to parent channel Channel 4, the pressure for a smash hit, it seems, is on.

© Channel 4 / Jules Heath

© Channel 4 / Jules Heath

The pedigree is certainly there.  Hot new talents Seb Cardinal and Dustin Debri-Burns honed their skills at the Edinburgh Fringe and countless live dates on the London comedy circuit, and whilst the first series offered Aisling Bea and Bridget Christie in its supporting ensemble, this year sees Catherine Shepherd (The IT Crowd), Simon Greenall (Alan Partridge) and series co-writer Rufus Jones joining the dynamic duo. Continue reading

Monks On One?

6 Jan

© BBC Comedy

News of a mainstream television pilot from some of TVO’s finest have emerged via our good friends at The British Comedy Guide.

The pilot, tentatively titled Monks, appears to be an adaptation of one-off Radio 2 Comedy Showcase special Hey Hey We’re The Monks from way back in 2000, which was written by Dan Tetsell (Mongrels, Lab Rats) and Danny Robbins (We Are History), starring Bill Bailey and Catherine Tate.

All these years later, the format – and seemingly some of its characters – will be revived for what has been described as “a brilliantly big, funny and warm-hearted new studio comedy for BBC One centred on a group of monks”.

It features Mock The Week regular and stand-up comic extraordinare Seann Walsh as benefits cheat Gary Woodcroft, who joins a religious order to avoid jail.  Except Rudley Abbey, where he ends up, is just like prison, but with added praying.

Long in gestation, the idea clearly has legs – having previously been piloted back in 2008 for a non-broadcast attempt featuring James Corden in the lead role, alongside David Bamber, Geoffrey Whitehead and TVO’s very own Justin Edwards (The Thick Of It, Lifespam) and Fergus Craig (Colin and Fergus, The Government Inspector).

Edwards is along for the ride this time around too, alongside Spaced and Big Train veteran Mark Heap and Vicar Of Dibley star James Fleet.  The pilot will be filmed at BBC Elstree Studios on Friday, January 31st – and tickets are available now via BBC Shows.

We’ll aim to bring you more news on this third attempt for Monks as soon as we hear it, so stay peeled.

TVO’s Review Of The Year 2013: Part One

1 Jan

2013 has been a funny old year in Onion Land. We’ve seen our regulars scoop bucketloads of awards, from Best British Film at the Empire Awards to International Emmy Awards and everything in-between. Some names on our roster have reached new heights of success, becoming household names to people who have no idea of their cult origins. Others have just continued being quietly amazing, but all of them have been worthy of your attention.

As a result, we’ve been ploughing through the 12 months of TVO, to pluck out the best bits from over 700 news stories across 2013. This first instalment of our round-up covers January-March, and is jam packed with forgotten treasures and instant classics alike.  Enjoy.

JANUARY

The year began quietly, with the only key new show on the box being, on the surface, designed for kids. FIT was a sports-based sketch show on CBBC from the team behind Sorry, I’ve Got No Head, and featured TVO regulars Tony WayRufus Jones and Aisling Bea in its ensemble cast. For the most part, however, it was the involvement of Peter Serafinowicz – reprising his beloved cult character Brian Butterfield – which got everyone’s attention…

On the other end of the spectrum, Michael SmileyDan Tetsell and Simon Farnaby turned up in the very-much-for-grown-ups cyber-thiller Utopia on Channel 4. The show concerned itself with attempts to trace the only known copy of a graphic novel which left a trail of bloody carnage in its wake. With Four Lions star Adeel Akhtar part of its ensemble cast, as well as Kill List actor Neil Maskell as a creepy hitman, and The Thick Of It‘s Paul Higgins as a blackmailed civil servant, the show became an instant cult hit, and will be returning for a second series in 2014.

Closer to home, and the good folk of Onion Land seemed keen to dish out advice. Comedic agony aunt Rachel Stubbings was offering specially crafted miniature versions of herself for sale to anyone in need of a friendly ear. Or, to be more exact, a bit of unemotional plastic which happened to look a bit like her, in a variety of costumes. The Stubby Buddy was a quick sell out, though something tells me we won’t be seeing them in the shops next year…

Elsewhere, conceptual artist and Luxury Comedy star Kim Noble was offering handy tips on how to buy an oven

And as Bowie-fever gripped the world, James Cook released his own, haunting interpretation of Mr Jones’ classic track, Ashes To Ashes

Continue reading

Storytelling In Camden

3 Nov

© Fergus Craig

For those of you who are able to physically divide yourself in two, there’s another comedy option for Monday night which also features two TVO acts!

The Clump! storytelling night takes place at the Colonel Fawcett pub in Camden and features two of our regulars, Katy Wix and Fergus Craig. Also on the bill are Liam Williams, Lee Kern, Tom Bell, Will Andrews – and more (apparently)!

Tickets cost £4 and should be available on the door.

Now the only dilemma is whether it’s going to be a Monday night in Camden or Shepherds Bush (see below)?…

 

The Actors School

10 Jul

Here’s a fascinating insight into the world of acting from Fergus Craig and Aisling Bea.

Fergus, whose previous viral vids have always been a hoot, portrays a savage old actor turned mentor, as he guides Aisling through the correct way to play scenes from Friends.  A hoot!

Fergus Craig’s Guide To London

28 Jun

We know a great many of our readers come from all over the world.  There’s lots of you lovely lot in Australia, New Zealand, North America, Europe, South America (we’re pretty big in Mexico, it seems) and Japan to name but a few.

And as such, lots of you out there may have never made it onto our shores just yet, and are itching to visit England.  In particular, you’ll want to visit London, where most of our regulars live and regularly perform live.

So it’s a good thing one such regular, Fergus Craig, has made this handy guide, should you be on your way any time soon.  Enjoy…

Catch Up With Onion Land

4 Apr

© BBC

The last remnants of your Easter Eggs are starting to look like wicked reminders of pure liquid gluttony.  Spring is officially here, though some parts of the country seem to have swapped sunshine for snow.  As you stop to take a breath, you realise this seemingly barren period in Onion Land is actually filled with glorious programming you might have missed!

There’s a number of TVO regulars cropping up in various shows at the moment, and as some of them won’t be on catch-up for very long, we thought it was as good a time as any to give you a brief round-up.

For starters, Colin Hoult and Steve Oram appeared in the Easter Special of Life’s Too Short – the mockumentary series about Multiverse head-honcho Warwick Davis.  Oram’s also been regularly appearing in Heading Out with Sue Perkins, and all six episodes can be caught on catch-up at present.

Then there’s our full blooded TVO shows to savour – with It’s Kevin halfway though it’s initial run, and all episodes available on iPlayer, you can savour Kevin EldonJulia DavisJustin EdwardsMatt Berry, Alex Kirk and many more joining The Actor, Kevin Eldon for some full blooded titting about.  The show continues on Sunday evening.

© Dave King / Roughcut Television

Over on 4oD is every episode of Anna & Katy – the silly channel-hopping style sketch show from Anna Crilly and Katy Wix, which also features appearances from Fergus Craig, Colin Hoult and David McNeill.  The show wraps up next Wednesday.

There’s also the brand new series of Game Of Thrones featuring Paul Kaye airing on Sunday evenings, which is available on catch-up exclusively to Sky customers, alongside Dan Clark and Katherine Parkinson in Love Matters.

If radio is more your thing, don’t forget that Matt Berry returned for Series 2 of I, Regress last night on Radio 4, who are also in the middle of a rerun of Knowing Me Knowing You… With Alan Partridge.

And if repeats are all you crave, you’ll be pleased to know that Mongrels will be heading to freeview channel Dave from April 12th. All this, plus the release of Sightseers on dvd and blu-ray, and a wealth of archive materials available from our TVO Amazon Stores now!  Get stuck in!

Hear From The Sexperts

20 Feb

If you’re in need of some advice on how to pull and also the secret to being the best in the boudoir, then Sophie Black chats to the expert on all things sexy, Devon Cornwall – who does look suspiciously like Fergus Craig.

Some wise words are said and apparently even tomatoes can be sexy.

Have a look at BBC Three’s latest Feed My Funny sketch just below.

Fergus Dongs

7 Sep

© Fergus Craig

Fergus Craig is to make an appearance at this month’s Dong comedy night in Bethnal Green.

The star of Star StoriesThe Government Inspector and much more will be sharing the stage with Jarred Christmas, Jamie Demetriou, Ian Smith and beatboxer Hobbit for what promises to be “a sick line up of super-fresh comedians, videos, Dong Dancers, badass beats from Sony Award winning ex-Kiss FM radio show presenter Big Ted and the heaviest Hip Hop Karaoke this side of Brooklyn.”

Tickets are available now for the show on Friday 21st September – with £6 early bird tickets selling rapidly, and £8 tickets ready to replace them soon.  It’ll be a tenner on the door, so grab em while you can.  For more info visit the Dong website.

Funny Fortnight Forthcoming!

20 Jul

© Channel 4

Channel 4 have released more details of their Funny Fortnight next month, which features more than a smattering of TVO regulars and influences.

Over 30 hours of programming across two weeks of television, the season promises brand new shows, excellent stand up and familiar faces staging their returns to the channel.

A new video preview over on the Channel 4 press website showcases highlights from some of the channel’s flagship shows, and offers an exclusive look at a number of exciting specials.

© Tiger Aspect Productions

Amongst these new shows is Bad Sugar – written by Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong of Peep Show and Four Lions fame.  It combines three of comedy’s biggest names of the moment – Julia DavisSharon Horgan and Olivia Colman, and centres on a dysfunctional, wealthy mining dynasty, with an ailing patriarch and some greedy siblings.

The show also stars David Bradley, Peter Serafinowicz, Kayvan Novak and Reece Shearsmith, and it’s producer is Derren Schlesinger – who was previously responsible for both Four Lions and Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy.  Undoubtedly one of the most exciting shows on telly in some time, this Tiger Aspect Productions show has real potential to be a smash hit.

© Objective Productions

Also set to première is Toast Of London, the new sitcom pilot by Matt Berry and Father Ted/Big Train creator Arthur Matthews.  Matt stars as successful actor Steven Toast, who has recently made a career faux pass by electing to star in a controversial west end stage play.

Recently divorced, and attacked in the street by members of appalled public, the previously much loved actor auditions for a role in the long running television series, Inspector Somerset.  However, it’s producer has been imprisoned for racial chanting on set, so Toast auditions for the part of a gay corrupt detective during prisoner’s visiting time.  Made by Objective Productions, we’re keen to see if this show lives up to its potential.

Other new shows include: Them From That Thing  – a two part sketch show featuring Kayvan Novak, Sally Phillips and many more, co-written by one Charlie BrookerThe Function Room – a traditional looking sitcom featuring the likes of Reece Shearsmith, Kevin Eldon, Simon Day and James Fleet; Lucky Sexy Winners – a new panel show from Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer; Very Terry – a Phonejacker spin off from Kayvan Novak focusing on car salesman Terry Tibbs; Harry Hill: The Reunion – in which the madcap comic seeks out the cast of his old Channel 4 show to find out “where are they now?”; The Boyle Variety Performance  – a spoof of the annual royal-attended show from Frankie Boyle; Just Around The Corner  – from the creators of Drop The Dead Donkey; and I’m Spazticus  – a prank show featuring disabled performers which has been seven years in development since its pilot aired in 2005.

© Avalon Productions

And that’s not all!  As we previously reported, Channel 4 are counting down their 30 Greatest Comedy Shows, which will feature the Onion flavoured vehicles Garth Marenghi’s DarkplaceThe IT CrowdBrass EyeFather TedStar StoriesSpacedBlack Books, and Friday Night Dinner. 

These classics will be up against the likes of The Comic Strip Presents, Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out, The Adam & Joe Show,  Da Ali G Show, Trigger Happy TV, Pheonix Nights, Bo’ Selecta!, Peep Show, Green Wing and The Inbetweeners and more.

© Talkback Thames

The channel have also turned to the writers of classic shows to name their favourite episodes, which will air across the fortnight.  These include Graham Linehan‘s favourite ever The IT Crowd  and Father TedChris Morris‘s legendary Brass Eye; mockumentary series Star Stories which featured Fergus CraigAlice Lowe, Tom MeetenLaura PatchRhys Thomas and Dolly Wells in it’s expansive cast; plus episodes of Spaced, The Inbetweeners, Peep Show and Vic Reeves Big Night Out.

There’s also a chance to catch tv premieres of live shows from Alan Carr, Peter Kay, Lee Evans and Micky Flanagan, plus the early and rare Vic & Bob special The Weekenders, Harry Endfield one-off Norbert Smith: A Life and Peter Cook’s interview with Clive Andersonplus editions of Comedy Labs featuring Dynamo, Peter Kay, Karl Pilkington and TVO’s very own Anna And Katy!  Plus we’ll still have The Midnight Beast featuring Simon Farnaby every Thursday too!

Phew – we think we’ll need a lie-down after all that!  Exciting times indeed.  We’ll aim to bring you a complete run-down of exactly when each show will air as soon as possible, so stay peeled.  In the mean time, check out the video preview over on the Channel 4 press website – and you can pick up a string of Channel 4 classics in The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

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