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BBC Store now open!

5 Nov


The BBC has unveiled the long awaited BBC Store: a new digital service that makes it easy for audiences to buy, enjoy and keep their favourite BBC programmes. And the best news of all is that it’s officially open right now!

A large collection of titles across genres are available at launch, featuring recently broadcast shows, television favourites and best of all – lost gems from the BBC archive.



BBC Store will work in tandem with the company’s longstanding iPlayer service – with a new My Programmes area allowing full playback.

iPlayer itself will continue to offer the same range of programmes to watch live, catch up on and download for up to 30 days for free, while the Store collection will continue to build each day. In fact, many BBC programmes will be made available to buy on BBC Store the day after transmission including, for the first time, serial dramas such as EastEnders and Holby City.

As an introductory offer to celebrate the launch of this new service and to get collections started, anyone registering with BBC Store will be eligible for a 25% discount on their first purchase. Audiences can buy programmes using a UK registered credit or debit card, and gift cards will be available to buy on the high street and in supermarkets in the coming weeks.

© Baby Cow

© Baby Cow

But what you really want to know is what TVO related goodies will be available from launch. Confirmed so far are the following classics and recent favourites:

  • The Detectorists – written, directed by & starring Mackenzie Crook and featuring Simon Farnaby
  • Doctor Who – The biggest sci-fi show in the land, with a cavalcade of TVO guest stars over the years. It’s various spin-off series will also be made available.
  • The Fast Show – Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse’s seminal sketch show phenomenon featuring Simon Day, Mark Williams, Arabella Weir, John Thomson and Caroline Aherne alongside Felix Dexter, Colin MacFarlane, Rhys Thomas and Tony Way
  • Horrible Histories – Education has never been so much fun, as the wickedly entertaining show featuring Simon FarnabyAlice LoweKaty Wix and many more makes a welcome reappearance.
  • Human Remains – The little seen anthology series featuring Julia Davis and Rob Brydon as a string of darkly comic creations.
  • Knowing Me, Knowing You // I’m Alan Partridge – Steve Coogan‘s masterful creation in three dynamite series of cringeworthy faux pas in the name of CHAT.
  • The League of Gentlemen – The show that launched the careers of Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss and Steve Pemberton, and pioneered a darker and cinematic side to alternative comedy on television.
  • The Thick of It – The now infamous political comedy from Armando Iannucci starring Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison alongside Alex MacQueenRebecca FrontJustin Edwards and many more.


Plus a few other legendary shows with looser TVO connections:

  • Absolutely Fabulous – The recent specials featured Lucy Montgomery
  • Blackadder – Which featured an early appearance by Geoffrey McGivern in Series Three
  • Gavin and Stacey – Featuring a recurring role for Julia Davis
  • Live at the Apollo – Featuring several TVO guests over the years
  • The Office – Look out for Matt Holness in several episodes!
  • Sherlock – Featuring appearances by Alice Lowe and Tony Way
  • The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer – Arguably the finest sketch show of the 90s – and look out for a young Matt Lucas!

There’s also promise of a Steve Coogan collection (which may include the Paul Calf Video Diaries, Coogan’s Run and various other assorted classics).

And that’s just the start of it. We’ll give you a full run-down of everything that’s in the store as soon as we can. Until then – we suggest you head on over to BBC Store right now, and start digging!

Madchester Pern

2 Oct

As we wait rather impatiently for the third series of Brian Pern, the team behind it have released a mini-episode online.

In it, Simon Day returns as Brian Pern – former frontman of prog-numpties Thotch turned activist and world-music inventor. In this installment, we find out about Brian’s divergence into the Manchester indie-music scene in the early 1990s, and his work with pioneering producer Luke Dunmore – played by the eternally wonderful Christopher Eccleston.

Once again written by Day with director Rhys Thomas, and featuring mad-fer-it cameos from Tony WayLucy Montgomery and Steve Burge, this is more vintage Pern, and will tide us over until the new series rather nicely.

It also gives us another excuse to share the sublime 2012 spoof The Second Second Coming, directed by Al Campbell (Newswipe, Man Down) and written by Nico Tartarowicz, and featuring a whole host of familiar faces.

As for Pern, he’ll back on BBC Four in the Autumn.

A Who’s Who of when TVO Meets Doctor Who

19 Sep

This weekend sees the launch of the latest series of Doctor Who – the ninth since it’s return in 2005, and the thirty-fifth overall since 1963.

© BBC / Simon Ridgway

© BBC / Simon Ridgway

Led once more by Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, with Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald and the sublime Michelle Gomez (Psychobitches) as Missy, this series of twelve episodes will see the time traveller battle Daleks, Zygons and a whole new batch of foes across a series primarily made up of two-part stories, though series head-honcho Steven Moffat has warned that the concept of a two-part story this year is under some degree of flux.

As we’ve reported previously, this series continues the increasing and much welcome association with TVO’s regular roster, as Paul KayeRebecca Front and Reece Shearsmith join the guest cast across the run.

Like most of the world, we’ve little to no idea of exactly what parts the trio are playing, which is of course, rather fun for a change. And so, to celebrate the show’s return, we’ve decided to look back at the various points at which the realm of The Velvet Onion, and the adventures of that runaway Time Lord have crossed over. We thought about doing it in a wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey fashion, but decided good old fashioned chronology was more helpful then. So going way back, come with us now on a journey through time and space – literally.

Alex Kirk



It’s no small secret to know that a large number of TVO regulars are longterm, hardcore Doctor Who fans. The first to fly the flag, way back when was Alex Kirk – star of Mount Pleasant and The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains to name but two.

In fact, two of the earliest roles on Kirk’s resume are in fan-produced video productions made during those dark days when the show was taken off the air for a long rest. BBV Productions were one of several small companies providing an outlet for fans to make their own vaguely Who related productions, mostly avoiding any legal wranglings by recasting stars of the show in new roles.

So for 1994’s The Zero Imperative, written by a young fellow called Mark Gatiss, the producers managed to secure the right to use the character of Dr Liz Shaw and brought back the late, great Caroline John to return to the role, but then cast the likes of Jon Pertwee, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Sophie Aldred and Louise Jameson in new roles.

Alex Kirk’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role was as an Orderly, but he returned in 1996’s Unnatural Selection as Colonel Ackroyd, opposite John, Jameson, Gatiss and Geoffrey Beavers. Both films are very, VERY lo-fi, but are now available on dvd so you can make up your own minds…

Reece Shearsmith

Left: © BBV | Centre & Right: © BBC

Left: © BBV | Centre & Right: © BBC

Like his League of Gentlemen co-hort Mark Gatiss, it’s no secret that Reece Shearsmith is a huge Doctor Who fan, so when Gatiss became involved in BBV Productions in the mid 90s, so did Shearsmith. And when Gatiss wrote further adventures for Liz Shaw in 1995 and 1996, Shearsmith was cast as troubled student Andrew Powell, who found himself at the mercy of Peter Davison’s sinister Gavin Purcell before succumbing to the evil Greatorex himself.

Both The Devils of Winterboune and The Ghosts of Winterbourne are, like the two earlier films featuring Alex Kirk, available on dvd now. So to, is 1997’s Auton spin-off from BBV, in which Shearsmith played Dr Daniel Matthews. But that wasn’t the end of his association with Doctor Who.

Fast forward to 2013, and Gatiss has written the sublime docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time about the early days of the show’s production, and the failing health of its original star, William Hartnell – brilliantly portrayed by David Bradley. Reece made a cameo at the end of the film as his replacement, Patrick Troughton, and while there’s not much of a physical likeness, Shearsmith hit the ball out of the park pretty well.

So much so, that the production team haven’t forgotten him – he’s making an appearance in Series Nine opposite Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, stating: “I am absolutely thrilled to be filming Doctor Who. It has been so exciting to be part of a very singular episode – which, I can say with authority will be unlike any previous episode of Doctor Who.” We can’t wait.

Kevin Eldon

Left: © Unknown | Right: © BBC

Left: © Unknown | Right: © BBC

In 2001, with The Doctor’s return to television looking more and more uncertain, the BBC’s fledging website teams hatched upon the idea of making new episodes for internet consumption. This would eventually lead to the creation of a new, Ninth Doctor, played by Richard E Grant, and the highly underrated animation Scream of the Shalka, but first, a few baby steps had to be made.

The first of these was a five part story featuring the apparent death of The Doctor, here played by Sylvester McCoy. Ignoring the 1996 TV Movie and eveyrthing Big Finish were doing on audio, Death Comes to Time was designed as a potential grand finale to the series, and both Sophie Aldred and Nicholas Courtney returned as Ace and the Brigadier for good measure.

There was also a new companion – an android named Antimony – voiced by Kevin Eldon. Antimony was unaware of his robotic genesis, and wasn’t around for long enough to find out, either. The story was a curious experiment, also featuring the voices of Stephen Fry, Antony Stewart Head, John Sessions and Jon Culshaw, but these days, it’s mostly swept under the rug as a step too far in the wrong direction.

Matt Lucas

Left: © Big Finish | Right: © BBC

Left: © Big Finish | Right: © BBC

It’s no small secret that Matt Lucas is a big Doctor Who fan. Together with his former comedy partner David Walliams (who himself appeared in 2011’s The God Complex), he jam-packed seminal sketch show Little Britain with references to the show, including characters named after original series stars Matthew Waterhouse and Michael Craze, and of course, Tom Baker’s cheeky narration.

Which perhaps makes it odd that Lucas’ sole brush with actual, proper Doctor Who to date came back in 2001, when he guested opposite Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor in the Big Finish audio, The One Doctor. In this story, the Doctor and Mel (Bonnie Langford) are seemingly being impersonated by Christopher Biggins’ Banto Zane and Clare Buckfield’s Sally-Ann.

It’s all rather silly stuff, but intentionally so, and Lucas’ turn as the sinister alien cylinder is an absolute gem. One to hunt down if you can. And somebody get Matt into the show proper asap.

Jessica Hynes



These days she’s best known as tech-savvy PR buffoon Siobhan Sharpe in W1A, but back in 2002, Jessica Stevenson, as she was then known was one half of the writing team behind the magnificent Spaced, which had recently wrapped up its second and final series on Channel 4. The other half was another young comic actor known by Simon Pegg, and together, they guest-starred in the Eighth Doctor audio Invaders from Mars.

In this story, Jessica played Soviet Spy Glory Bee, whilst Pegg was crime boss Don Chaney, who caused her downfall. But that wasn’t the end of the pair’s association with Doctor Who. Pegg turned up in 2005 episode The Long Game (which TVO’s editor recently recorded a podcast commentary for alongside CBBC’s Chris Johnson), whilst Jess – who had begun using her married name professionally, made her first appearance in the main show itself a few years later.

2007’s Human Nature The Family of Blood two-parter saw David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor use a chameleon arc to hide himself away as a schoolteacher in the early 20th century. Hynes played the school’s matron, Joan Redfern, with whom the ‘man’ the Doctor became fell in love. Whilst the defeat of robot scarecrows and the titular Family led to the erasure of John Smith, The Doctor never forgot Joan, and before he regenerated in 2010’s The End of Time, he visited her great-granddaughter, Verity Newman, to ask if she found happiness. To his delight, Verity (again played by Hynes) confirmed she did.

Michael Smiley



It seems someone at Big Finish was a Spaced fan back in the early naughties (let’s face it – who wasn’t?), as Michael Smiley made his Doctor Who debut opposite Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor and Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa in 2003’s Creatures of Beauty.

With a planetary ecological disaster underway, creating an incurable, disfiguring, genetic disease to contend with, Nyssa and The Doctor are in deep trouble on the planet Veln. A cosmetic surgeon on the planet, Forleon, gets caught up in the Doctor’s misadventures, which is where Smiley’s brief role comes in: he plays Forleon’s security agent Seedleson.

A much bigger role was waiting eleven years later, when Smiley’s regular collaborator Ben Wheatley cast him as Morgan Blue in 2014’s Into the Dalek episode in the ninth series since the show returned to television. Blue was a Colonel in the Combined Galactic Resistance, used to battling Daleks but not quite prepared for the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his sarcasm. He also became one of a small handful of people to ever take on the Daleks and win. Nice one.

Tracy Ann Oberman



It’s June 2006, and all eyes not transfixed by the footie are on David Tennant’s still new Tenth Doctor, as he prepares to bid goodbye to Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). Their separation comes in the form of a cracking two-part story, Army of GhostsDoomsday, in which the mysterious Torchwood – operating out of Canary Wharf – open the void between dimensions, and accidentally let in an army of Cybermen, plus four Daleks for good measure.

It’s all a bit too much for Yvonne Hartman, Torchwood’s head honcho, played by Big Train and Toast of London star Tracy Ann ObermanFinding herself at the mercy of the Cybermen, she’s appalled to discover they have none, and walks to her fate certain she did her bit for Queen and country. That’s not the end for Yvonne, who later manages to help save the day in spite – or perhaps because of – her Cyber-conversion. And as you heard earlier this week, Oberman is returning to the role of Yvonne Hartman for Big Finish’s new Torchwood series, with One Rule being released this December.

Beyond Yvonne, Tracy appeared in a 2007 special edition of The Weakest Link, and her love of audio drama later led to two appearances opposite Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor as Supervisor Temperance Finch, head of Deimos Moonbase in the 23rd century. Both released in 2010, Deimos and The Resurrection of Mars saw Finch square up against the Ice Warriors. Nice.

Harry Peacock



“Hey! Who turned out the lights?”

It’s not often you get to utter a phrase in Doctor Who that becomes something of a catchphrase, but Harry Peacock of Toast of London and Star Stories fame, got to have one of his lines appear on t-shirts and lunchboxes all over the place.

You see, Peacock played “Proper Dave” in the seminal two-part story Silence in the Library Forest of the Dead in the revived series’ fourth run, opposite David Tennant as The Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. The story famously introduced Alex Kingston as River Song, and also featured Steve Pemberton, Colin Salmon and Talulah Riley.

Sadly, Proper Dave’s days were numbered, as he became one of several victims of the deadly Vashta Nerada: a microscope race of piranha like organisms who latch onto your shadow until they can devour you in a moment. Nasty stuff, but his consciousness survived when The Doctor and River Song managed to save everyone believed dead inside the computer system, to live out an eternal afterlife together.

Katherine Parkinson

Left: © Unknown| Right: © Big Finish

Left: © Unknown| Right: © Big Finish

Best known to millions around the world as Jen from The IT Crowd and soon to be wowing audiences in The Kennedys – it’s quite surprising that Katherine Parkinson has yet to show up in televised Doctor Who, especially after her blistering performance in Sherlock a couple of years ago.

However, over at Big Finish productions, Parkinson played a one-story companion to Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor in 2008’s The Death Collectors. Danika Meanwhile was an engineer who prevented the Doctor from dying in an air lock, as he battled a virulent disease that killed millions, and an ancient race of salvagers who collect and preserve the dead.

Lucy Montgomery

Left: © BBC| Right: © PBJ

Left: © BBC| Right: © PBJ

It feels like a lifetime ago, but there was a time when the world was fearful of the large hadron collider at CERN, Switzerland. To celebrate its big switch-on, BBC Radio celebrated Big Bang Day, and this included Lost Souls: a Torchwood audio play set between the second and third series of the Doctor Who spin-off.

Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) were rejoined by former TARDIS-traveller Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) for the story, as the team investigated the disappearance of scientists from the institute. Tittybangbang and Brian Pern star Lucy Montgomery was amongst the guest cast, playing the fictional head of the project, Professor Katrina Johnson.

Johnson got to help Captain Jack reverse the polarity, and save the day, though through a bit of wibbly-wobbly, Montgomery also turned up as a Flight Attendant earlier in the story for good measure.

Katy Wix



Torchwood‘s third series – the five part Children of Earth saga – was pretty harrowing, as every child across the world fell under the possession of the mysterious aliens known only as the 456, who were in fact in big cahoots with the British government.

It’s also infamous for killing off the regular character Ianto Jones (Gareth David Lloyd), who then rather oddly received his own ‘shrine’ at the real-life location for Torchwood Three’s entrance in Cardiff Bay (despite two other series regulars having already been killed off in equally brutal fashion). Said shrine is still there to this day, confusing tourists who have long since forgotten about Ianto.

Before the character was bumped off, we met his sister, Rhiannon Davies, played by Fried star Katy Wix. Rhiannon lived on a council estate with her husband Jonny and their two children, David and Mica – and when Ianto asked for her help following an attack on Torchwood, she proved her loyalty to her brother. After his death, Rhiannon was caught up in the government’s attempts to take ‘lesser’ children to appease the needs of the 456, and helped Gwen and Rhys make a frentic dash for safety, before Captain Jack could save the day at a terrible cost.

Appearing in all five episodes, this technically makes Katy the only TVO regular to also be a ‘series regular’ in a Doctor Who related production to date. And her connection with the Whoniverse was re-established earlier this year, when she joined Tom Baker and Louise Jameson in Big Finish audio play Suburban Hell.  Her character, Belinda, was hosting supper for four, only for The Doctor and Leela to arrive and wind everyone up in an alien plot to put people on the menu. Lots of fun, this one!

Alex MacQueen

© Big Finish

© Big Finish

To many, Alex MacQueen is best known for being regularly shouted at by the Doctor himself, when Peter Capaldi played Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It. His first brush with the Whoniverse, however, came in early 2010, when Big Finish were finally bringing to life a series of stories written for the classic series, but never filmed for various reasons.

MacQueen played the mysterious Gabriel in Paradise 5, welcoming the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) to the titular leisure space station and turned out to be an agent of the Elohim. Alex clearly made an impression on the team, as returned to Big Finish in 2012’s UNIT: Dominion series opposite the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), as “The Other Doctor” – who turns out to be {SPOILER ALERT} none other than The Master himself.

Since then, MacQueen’s interpretation of the role has returned in Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) audio box-sets Dark Eyes 2 (2014), Dark Eyes 3 (2014), and Dark Eyes 4 (2015). We’ve probably not heard the last from him either, and we’d love to see a team-up with Michelle Gomez… The Two Masters, anyone?

James Bachman

© Big Finish

© Big Finish

In 2010, James Bachman – TVO regular and veteran of That Mitchell and Webb LookBBC Nought and The Mighty Boosh to name but a few – very nearly became a bonafide companion.

Bachman played Hugh Bainbridge: one of four potential new companions for the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) in the Big Finish audio production, Situation Vacant. Described as “an amiable public school type who, though perhaps not the brightest tool in the box, is happy to rush where Time Lords fear to tread”, Brainbridge lost the job to Tamsin Drew, played by The Catherine Tate Show‘s Niky Wardley. Oh, to think what might have been.

Kayvan Novak

Left: © BBC| Right: © Happy Tramp / Adam Lawrence

Left: © BBC| Right: © Happy Tramp / Adam Lawrence

The SunTrap and Four Lions star is a master of disguise, with his enormous vocal talents first brought to the fore in the now legendary Phonejacker. So it’s perhaps no surprise that his debut in Doctor Who was as this list’s first – and to date only – bona-fide companion: yes, we’re talking about Handles, the decapitated Cyberman head who accompanied the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) in his TARDIS travels and long-standing war on Trenzalore in 2013’s The Time of The Doctor.

Handles stayed by the Doctor’s side for over 300 years, eventually succumbing to circuitry corrosion. Never before has an audience felt such sadness over a metal head, but fear not – he is on display at Cardiff’s Doctor Who Experience which everyone should get to see at least once, twice, and many more times for good measure.

Gemma Whelan

Left: © Christine Hayter| Right: © Big Finish

Left: © Christine Hayter| Right: © Big Finish

Best known for her role as Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones, it’s fair to say that comedian and actress Gemma Whelan is a woman of many talents, including a highly flexible set of vocal chords. So much so, in fact, that her first brush with the Whoniverse came with the 2013 Seventh Doctor audio story Persuasion.

In this story, the Doctor is looking to loot a very specific secret from a Nazi base during WW2, and Whelan is called upon to voice three different characters: the servant Casta, annoyed computer Sylph, and the alien race Khlecht.

Shortly afterwards, Gemma appeared in two audio plays in the Big Finish spin-off series Counter Measures, which focuses on three supporting characters from the 1988 classic Remembrance of the Daleks. Her character, Emma Waverly, was the result of a eugenics experiment in 20th century England, attempting to create super-soldiers in case of German invasion, and appeared in the stories Manhunt and Sins of the Fathers.

Rhys Thomas

Left: © BBC| Right: © Pete Dadds

Left: © BBC| Right: © Pete Dadds

Now here’s an interesting one. He’s a veteran of The Fast Show and these days is the man behind Brian Pern and some incredible Queen documentaries, but Rhys Thomas is also a big Doctor Who fan, and made a very brief appearance in Peter Davison’s sublime 50th anniversary special The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

Or rather, he didn’t make an appearance as such, but his voice could be heard, as a rather hapless DJ proclaiming his favourite Doctor to be Peter Cushing – much to Davison’s chagrin. The whole half hour is a joyous romp through the annals of Doctor Who history, with more cameos than you can shake a big stick labelled ‘CAMEO’ at, so do check it out if you haven’t already.

Ben Wheatley

Left: © Charlie Gray| Right: © BBC

Left: © Charlie Gray| Right: © BBC

One of the most innovative directors working today, bagging Ben Wheatley for Series Eight of Doctor Who last year was a serious coup for the production team. Hot off the back of his success with A Field in England, and about to make the soon to be released High Rise, Wheatley signed up to make the opening two episodes of Peter Capaldi’s reign as the Twelfth Doctor.

The results were the extended series opener Deep Breath, and the regular length Into the Dalek, both receiving rave reviews, and demonstrating that, when the mood takes him, even Ben ‘Kill List‘ Wheatley can do family friendly drama at its best.

Tony Way



It wouldn’t quite be a Ben Wheatley production if he wasn’t killing off one of his mates, now, would it? Getting the chop for the third time following Down Terrace and Sightseers was Tony Way – best known internationally for his roles in Edge of Tomorrow and Game of Thrones, but known to UK comedy lovers for his appearances in Mongrels, Tittybangbang, Muder in Successville, Spaced, The Fast Show, Black Books, House of Fools… I could go on?

It’s a short and sweet cameo from Tony in Series Eight’s opener Deep Breath, who plays hapless and sceptical Victorian gentleman Alf, who just can’t quite believe that the T.Rex in the Thames is actually real. And he has such good eyes…

Paul Kaye & Rebecca Front

Left: © Fenris Oswin| Right: © Charlie Forgham-Bailey

Left: © Fenris Oswin| Right: © Charlie Forgham-Bailey

Finally for the time being, are a couple of temporary mysteries to whet your appetite. Alongside Reece Shearsmith, both Paul Kaye and Rebecca Front are due to make guest appearances in Series Nine this year. All we currently know for certain is that Kaye appears in Episodes 3 & 4, as a Tivolian called Prentis.

Tivolians were first introduced in 2011’s The God Complex, and as this month’s Doctor Who Magazine puts it: “amusingly revel in being opressed.” The story – Under the Lake Before the Flood is written by Being Human creator Toby Whithouse, and all he’s saying about Kaye’s part at present is that he’s done “a great job” with it. Doesn’t he always? Meanwhile, if IMDB is to be believed, Front will be playing Lady Yates in The Zygon Invasion, one of two episodes dealing with the aftermath of the Zygon/Human peace treaty established in The Day of the Doctor.

Under the Lake / Before the Flood air October 3rd and 10th respectively, and we’ll bring you more news about them, plus the episodes featuring Front and Shearsmith in due course. Until then, here’s the trailer for Series Nine, and we hope you enjoy the ride!

Doctor Who returns Saturday 19th September on BBC One, BBC America and across the world.

A Return for Brian Pern

30 Jun


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Thomas & Way Podcast – At Last!

3 May
© Thomas and Way

© Thomas and Way

After an unplanned 18 month gap, Rhys Thomas and Tony Way have finally released their latest (21st) podcast for your listening pleasure.

The lads drink some questionable wine, talk about Doctor Who, discuss the General Election and there’s a surprise guest. They also reminisce about the good old days and generally have a good time.

This latest podcast (and all the others) can be found here.

If there’s anything you’d like to ask for the next podcast you can contact them at or on Twitter @tonypaulway or @rhysthomasOBE.

So Hot Right Now #24

30 Mar

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


It’s yet another packed week for top notch television and radio material, with a brand new show to savour and one last chance to see three others, so here’s a run-down of what to look out for over the next seven days.

Monday, 8:30pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

In recent years, Richard Ayoade‘s career branching would make his former alter-ego Dean Learner very proud indeed – as the Gadget Man becomes Travel Man for this brand new, four part series, starting this week.

Joined by celebrity guests, Richard’s task is to enjoy the most efficient weekend break possible. This week, he is joined by Kathy Burke for 48 hours in Barcelona, sampling adventurous cuisine, a football museum, a guided tricycle tour and a trip to see the surrealist work of Joan Miro.

These two talents will always make for affable company, and to spend half an hour with them is a pleasure. You can catch the show at 8:30pm on Monday evening, and it will be available on 4oD shortly after transmission.

Thursday, 10:00pm, BBC Two

© Sophie Mutevelian / BBC

© Sophie Mutevelian / BBC

The darkly comic anthology series from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton continues with The 12 Days of Christine, guest starring the delightful Sheridan Smith and Da Vinci’s Demons star Tom Riley.

In this thrilling second installment, Christine Clarke brings a man back to her flat from a New Year’s Eve party and her life immediately starts to unravel, as a terrifying stranger keeps appearing in the apartment at night. There’s plenty of scope for Shearsmith to be downright creepy in this one, and it’s yet another great opportunity to see him and Pemberton at their finest.

Monday, 9:00pm, Sky 1 HD

© Sky Corporate

© Sky Corporate

Series Three of Moone Boy continues on Sky 1 this Monday evening, with the fifth of six new episodes from Chris O’Dowd and the team.

This week, Martin begins renovating his new ‘penthouse’, and the whole town wonders: does Boyle really need a Catholic book shop? Expect more of the usual off-kilter charm and madcap adventures from the gang. This show knows what it does well, and doesn’t plan on breaking the wheel any time soon, and every now and then, that’s exactly what we need.

Monday, 11:00pm, BBC Radio 4

© Alex MacQueen

© Alex MacQueen

Julia Davis and Marc Wooton return with a second one-off comedy, featuring Alex MacQueen and Rosie Cavaliero. Sleepy Tigers features Davis and Wooton as a couple of maternity nurses running their own business, who start taking over the lives of some very new parents.

Following last week’s delightful one-off Couples, which is now available on iPlayer, this is a rare excursion from Davis (currently filming Hunderby‘s festive special) that’s simply not to be missed!

Thursday, 11pm, BBC Radio Four



Justin Edwards returns as the host of long awaited radio improv show Chat Show Roulette on Thursday evening. The former live show, turned tv pilot, turned radio pilot finally came to air a few weeks ago, and has already featured Kevin Eldon in its debut episode.

This week features a strong batch of familiar names: Pompidou star Matt LucasCrims star Cariad LloydMan Down star Mike Wozniak and Fast Show legend Charlie Higson. Bring it on!

Monday, 10pm, BBC Two

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

We bid a fond farewell to the House of Fools this week, as Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer‘s sublime sitcom madness winds up its second series, with special guest appearances by Sally Phillips and Tony Way.

This week, Vic has a big date with his ex-girlfriend, but when she cancels, his friends set about concocting an ingenious plan to make sure he isn’t left disappointed. It’s another slice of funtime from the bonkers duo, with series regulars Matt BerryDan SkinnerMorgana RobinsonDaniel Simonsen and Ellie White on hand once more to ensure the run finishes on fine form. We’re really going to miss this one…

Tuesday, 10pm, BBC Two

© Des Willie

© Des Willie

It’s also time to say goodbye to the sublime Nurse – starring Paul Whitehouse and Esther Coles alongside TVO regulars Simon Day and Colin Hoult, and also featuring the incredible Vilma Hollingbery (Psychoville).

In the final installment, Liz’s personal problems come to a head and she is a lot less sympathetic with her ex-husband than with her service users. Elsewhere, former soldier Jack begins to build himself a dug-out in the back garden, Herbert confides that he would like some female company, and Graham manages to rise from his bed and walk.

Nurse has been a timely reminder of the important work done in the name of improving mental health services in the UK, and its sensitive portrayal of the issues on hand have highlighted just how far we still have to go as a nation. Above all else, it’s been delightful to spend time with Whitehouse’s gallery of characters, and Esther Coles has been magnificent as put-upon Liz. Here’s to a second run before too long…

Sunday, 6:35pm, BBC Two

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

The rather hostile reception that dear ol’ Pompidou has received from certain elements of the press may make Sunday the last chance we have to spend time in the daffy aristocrat’s company. Despite a valiant defence from some quarters, it seems Matt Lucas new show hasn’t quite connected with audiences – which is a huge shame, as once cynicism is thrown out of the window, there’s much to adore here.

In this final installment, the electric heater in the caravan has broken down, and with Pompidou as broke as ever, there’s no chance of fixing it. The only thing left to do to get warm is go on holiday, but without the cash, he and butler Hove (the ever wonderful Alex MacQueen) must get creative. Enjoy it while you can…


© Dave / UKTV

© Dave / UKTV

There’s almost always good shows being repeated on a regular basis, but this week we get a couple of interesting ones to keep a look out for. Rhys Thomas multi-award winning documentary Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender gets a re-airing on Friday night at 9pm via BBC Four, and another noteworthy recent doc airs on Saturday night once again: Rik Mayall: Lord of Misrule is back on BBC Two at 10:45pm, paying tribute to the irreplaceable comedy legend.

Over on Radio 4 this week, the recent Milton Jones led project, Thanks a Lot, Milton Jones begins a re-run. If you missed it earlier this year, it features TVO regular Dan Tetsell alongside Tom Goodman-Hill and Josie Lawrence, and can be heard on Wednesday morning at 11:30am.


© Dan Clark

© Dan Clark

As is often the case, this week sees a smattering of TVO regulars appearing across London on various stages for your entertainment. So if you’re in the area, here’s where you can see them…

31/03/15 – Joey Page with Michael Stranney and Paul F Taylor – Hemingford Arms, 7:30pm, Free

01/04/15 – Richard Sandling: Perfect Movie Live Podcast Show featuring Brett Goldstein – Betsey Trotwood, 8pm, £3.50-£5.00

02/04/15 – Lou Sanders and Amy Howeska – Cavendish Arms, 7pm, £5

02/04/15 – Dan Clark with Harry Deansway and Holly Burn – Aces and Eights, 7:30pm, £6

04/04/15 – Cariad Lloyd with Brett Goldstein and Jack Barry – The Invisible Dot, 8pm, £10

Of course, if you’re on the other side of the world, then you can see Sarah KendallPaul Foot and Tony Law at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival until April 19th.


As always, there’s so much going on at 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. Until next time, keep on peeling!

So Hot Right Now #20

2 Mar

Welcome to The Velvet Onion – the central hub for an interconnected range of alternative comedy and more. Click through for the LATEST NEWS, and see what’s so hot right now take a look below.


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

 Sky Corporate

Sky Corporate

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

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

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


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

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

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

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

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


© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

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

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

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


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

RIP Charlie Philips

6 Feb
© Charlie Philips

© Charlie Philips

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

TVO-ers On Tittle Tattle

31 Jan

© Rhys Thomas

We’ve discovered a new upload of a BBC Radio 2 pilot, featuring a number of Velvet Onion regulars.

Tittle Tattle was written by and features Rhys Thomas, alongside Lucy Montgomery, Steve Burge and Waen Shepherd.

The 30 minute topical show sees Thomas chatting with guests, discussing the headline stories of the week and inviting the audience to get involved. It also includes Alex Lowe and Russell Grant, who reviews the latest TV.

This is a rare chance to hear the seriously TVO-connected pilot, which originally aired in October 2012. What’s more, it has been marked as a TV Adaptation proposal, so who know – perhaps we haven’t heard the last of Tittle Tattle?

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.


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.


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.


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.


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’.

So Hot Right Now #10

15 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.


© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

This week sees a drop in the number of TVO related shows on our screens, as both Toast of London finished its latest runs last week.  However, with Psychobitches (Sky Arts, Tuesdays, 9pm) and Trollied (Sky One, Mondays, 8:30pm) still going strong, there’s life in the Onion yet.

Most excitingly, we’ve still got the mighty Brian Pern: A Life in Rock to savour – with Episode Two (airing on Tuesday 16th) featuring the titular prog-rock legend (played by Simon Day) trying to bring his long-mooted adaptation of The Day of the Triffids to life on stage.

© BBC / Neil Barnes

© BBC / Neil Barnes

Once again featuring co-creator Rhys Thomas alongside Michael Kitchen, Paul Whitehouse, Nigel Havers, Lucy MontgomeryTony Way and Steve Burge, this episode also features a truly hilarious cameo from Sir Roger Moore, and is one you’d be mad to miss.

Last week, TVO spoke not only to Brian Pern via an exclusive email catch-up, but also to Simon Day and Rhys Thomas. You can catch up on our interview with those fine gentlemen over yonder.

Those of you who set your DVRs way in advance should take note – Episode Three next week airs on Monday, right after Never Mind the Buzzcocks, rather than the usual Tuesday slot. You have been forewarned.

Speaking of Buzzcocks, this week’s edition features Irish actress Yasmine Akram, American musician and producer Steve Aoki, Canadian stand-up comedian Bobby Mair and singer-songwriter Rumer – and for those uncertain of who any of those people are: this is the one with the lads covered in cake, as seen on all those pictures doing the rounds with the Tumblr crowds. Enjoy.

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie


Last week saw the launch of Colin Hoult‘s new YouTube channel, featuring a brand new in-character vlog five days a week.  Anna Mann, Andy Parker, Eddie Cartezian and Thwor bring us weekly updates Monday through Thursday, with a special treat each Friday.

If you missed any of last week’s editions, you can catch up now over yonder, and we’ve included this week’s first video, in which Anna Mann discusses credit card debt, below.


Paul King‘s delightful Paddington is still sat atop the UK box office, having taken £10.33m in just ten days. Figures for last weekend have yet to be revealed, but we’re sure the film, which features a bevvy of TVO cameos alongside its big name cast, will still be firing on all cylinders – and rightly so!

©  Studio Canal

© Studio Canal

Elsewhere, Chris O’Dowd can be seen in St Vincent and Michael Smiley pops up in Black Sea – both of which opened fairly modestly last week, so do get out to see them if you haven’t already!


Living in Rock: Simon Day & Rhys Thomas on life with Brian Pern

9 Dec
© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

This week sees the launch of Brian Pern: A Life in Rock on BBC Two.

The mockumentary focuses on prog-rock singer Brian Pern, as he attempts to adapt to life after fronting one of rock’s biggest bands.

Featuring a host of big name guest stars, the show is an absolute treasure, and TVO was lucky enough to talk to its creators, writers and stars, Simon Day and Rhys Thomas about the life of Brian.

Brian Pern is many things. Former frontman for prog-rock legends Thotch. Jukebox musical writer. World music inventor. Campaigner for WiFi-afflicted moths. He’s also the brainchild of Fast Show and Bellamy’s People veterans Rhys Thomas and Simon Day, who first brought the character to life in a series of YouTube videos for BBC Comedy, before Pern was unleashed on a wider audience via his debut tv series earlier this year.

That show, The Life of Rock with Brian Pern, was a critically acclaimed smash, jam-packed with celebrity guest stars as it used the medium of the music documentary (for which Thomas has previously won awards including an Emmy and a Rose D’or), to poke fun at the ridiculous nature of classic rock.

Now Pern is back with a brand new series, Brian Pern: A Life in Rock, which takes the character out of the clip show, and into a living, breathing world of his own. As Rhys explains, this was an easy decision to make.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

“To do another series like the first,” he tell us, “would be difficult. Harry Hill had twenty people all watching television at the same time to keep up for TV Burp, but for the first series it was basically me and Simon, hunting through the archives looking for all those funny clips. It would take us about a year to do it again, so we got rid of all that. The money we would have spent clearing archive footage we’ve now put into…”

“Rick Wakeman,” interjects Simon.

Wakeman is one of many guest stars in the new run, which expands Brian’s world by focusing on his day to day life, and the challenges he faces trying to get projects off the ground.  In Episode One, Pern and his former Thotch bandmates plan to launch their own jukebox musical, Stowe Boys, with Martin Freeman and Jack Whitehall in its cast and Kathy Burke on directing duties.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

Elsewhere, the second episode sees Brian attempt to play a charity gig, for the aforementioned moths, at the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, whilst the third and final episode focuses on Brian’s attempts to record a charity Christmas album with a string of fellow rock stars including Roy Wood, Chrissie Hynde, Rick Parfitt and Melanie C. Oh, and his live-in assistant and world music protégé Pepita, played once more by Lucy Montgomery.

“To take him forward,” Simon explains. “We knew we had to have him living his life, meeting up with his manager, Pepita living in his house, and how he relates to the outside world.  Then we throw crisis at him in each episode.”

“His whole raison d’etre,” he continues, “is to stay very calm, so that nothing can go wrong. But he’s put under this intense pressure, and hopefully that’s where the joke is.”

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

The expanded world – which also features Tony Way as Brian’s driver Ned, Michael Kitchen as his Jim Beach inspired, yacht loving manager John Farrow, Paul Whitehouse and Nigel Havers as his former bandmates – takes a character that could have seemed like a one-trick idea, and beds him into a believable world, much like the transformation of Alan Partridge over the years.  Yet Rhys is determined to spell out the differences between the two characters.

“He’s not like an Alan Partridge,” he states, firmly. “None of it is ever played for laughs. What you’re laughing at is that he’s a foil to his own ideas. When he’s trying to put on a concert to save moths in Africa, if it was a concert for ebola, it wouldn’t be funny. It’s the idea that it’s wifi affected moth’s wings that’s the joke. A silly idea dealt with seriously, and played naturalistically.”

© BBC / Neil Barnes

© BBC / Neil Barnes

“It’s like the similarity with Peter Gabriel,” adds Simon. “Brian’s based on Peter Gabriel, but Peter’s actually a much nicer person with a really good heart. I just took him a baseline, and run with it, really. Brian’s just a pompous child at heart.”

Indeed, the new run harks back to the duo’s previous collaboration, Bellamy’s People, and it’s radio forbear Down the Line, which focus on heightened realism to base increasingly silly comedic ideas upon.  The later ran for five series on Radio 4, but the former was shunned by the Beeb after only one series, a decision which still baffles comedy lovers nationwide.

“It should have carried on, really,” notes Simon. “It’s a shame various events conspired to stop it. But it did use up a lot of characters, which I suppose we could go back to. We still have fond memories of it, but it’s a shame it never really took off.”

Rhys is less philosophical about the experience. “The problem with it,” he suggests, “is that it’s part of that time where comedy series started dropping off with audiences for the first time. Episode One got 1.58 million viewers, but then it tailed off each week. That’s what everything does now, but we were one of the first ones to do it. Something like Toast of London gets something like 450,000 viewers on Channel 4, which is so small for something that great. Ten years ago that would have got five million.” He pauses for a moment, then adds the prophetic: “Christ, people just don’t watch telly like they used to.”

It’s certainly true. When Simon and Rhys first started working together, it was on the hugely acclaimed, ratings grabbing sketch show The Fast Show, which shockingly began airing over twenty years ago now, and still returns sporadically, most recently in the form of online videos for Fosters Comedy converted into full episodes for BBC Two. It’s lasting legacy, apart from establishing a huge network of comedy talent, is that it remains as beloved today as it once was.  Simon Day puts this down to canny decisions.

Simon & Rhys in Fast Show spin-off Swiss Toni. © BBC

Simon & Rhys in Fast Show spin-off Swiss Toni. © BBC

“They never sold it to a channel like Dave,” he explains, “where it could get repeated on a loop. It never really has been repeated. They want to but Paul [Whitehouse]’s holding back. People have dvds and videos of it, but that’s it, so it’s held up in people’s memory without them getting sick of it.”

“And also,” he adds, “lots of people watched it. Back in the days of four channels, no internet, no Twitter, it really took off. We didn’t do too many – three series and a couple of Christmas specials – so its preserved itself quite well.”

“The third series was the best…” chips in Rhys. “You’re only saying that,” Simon retorts, “cos you were in it!”

Two decades on, and both Simon and Rhys are still working with the same people.  Fellow Fast Show veteran Paul Whitehouse stars in A Life in Rock as Thotch guitarist Pat Quid, whilst Rhys is married to co-star Lucy Montgomery, and went to school with Tony Way (Ned) and composer Steve Burge. Many of those involved, as with a number of their projects, have genuinely known each other for decades, making the show something of a family affair.

Steve Burge & Tony Way © Burge & Way / United Agent

Steve Burge & Tony Way © Burge & Way / United Agent

“Oh, we really do feel like a family,” enthuses Rhys. “I like the idea we all work together better anyway, cos we’re all friends and it ends up being more fun.  You can do what you want and don’t mind making a fool out of yourself.”

“When I did Star Stories,” he reveals, “I didn’t know anybody. And you turn up, and it’s all a bit competitive. Everyone’s trying to get one up on each other. I like everyone there, and I ended up making friends with them all, but these days I’d rather not do that again, and just work with people I know.”

If this sounds like comedic nepotism, it should be pointed out that these choices are also made because said actors are brilliant at what they do. And besides, TVO itself is based on a continuing trend of recycling the same talent in new ways, as part of one big comedic family.

Tittybangbang © BBC

Tittybangbang © BBC

“There’s this thing with television,” Rhys explains, in reference to this, “where someone will get famous, and then they’re endlessly in everything.  We’re sort of not using the same faces as everyone else.  Commissioners decide they want a funny actress, say, so they just ask the same people over and over. I like using people like Lucy and Tony. Even though Tony’s been in Edge of Tomorrow, in terms of comedy television, people will still think: ‘Oh, let’s get James Corden instead.’”

Indeed, knowing each other for such a long time has further benefits, in that there’s an innate sense of reliability that allows everyone to do the best job possible. Steve Burge, who was part of comedy trio Stay Alive Pepi with Thomas and Way, was put in charge of most of Brian Pern’s musical back catalogue.

“I would say to Steven: I need a song like this,” reveals Rhys, “or a piece a bit like that. He would then go off and write something brilliant, and I knew he’d deliver it in time for us to write the lyrics.  Then there’s songs like Simon’s written, like Black Christmas.”

“Which I sold,” chips in Simon. “I sold it to Westlife.”

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

Rhys laughs, straightens himself up and states: “You know, Simon and Steve remind me of each other, cos they don’t think like anybody else. They won’t come up with what you predict, but they’ll find something funny. Tony too… he came up with the version of Little Donkey we gave to Chrissie Hynde to sing. They’re so good. But they never put me in their fucking things!”

“Who?” asks Simon, perplexed.

“Tony or Steve,” Rhys answers, as Simon erupts with laughter.

Not that Rhys is short on work. Since he persuaded Brian May to write the theme music for his sitcom Fun at the Funeral Parlour, he has been working on dvds, blu-rays and award winning documentaries for Queen. His last piece, The Great Pretender won an International Emmy and a Rose D’or, no less, even though it very nearly didn’t get made.

© Queenonline

“I wasn’t going to direct that,” Rhys reveals. “Just produce it. But the director I had said it wasn’t going to be any good, cos it’s boring and about an opera singer. So I did it myself, and I’m glad I did!”

Part of the joy of Brian Pern is that the show uses Rhys’ background in documentary filmmaking to look authentic. “I’ve got the same editor I worked with on the Queen documentaries, and the same cameraman,” he tells us. “So it has the right look. When people try to make spoof documentaries with cameramen who haven’t come from that field, they make it look shoddy on purpose. Real documentary makers try to make it look as good as they can.”

“We thought about doing something after this about crime,” adds Simon. “Sending up gangsters and the whole middle class obsession with it. But getting real people to talk about it.”

Rhys agrees. “I think it’s better than having people pretending to be real people,” he suggests. “You look at Spinal Tap, and it’s brilliant, but it’s just taking the piss out of idiot heavy metal bands. It’s not taking the piss out of the documentary form itself, and we could have a lot of fun doing that.”

Perhaps this is what the future holds for Brian Pern?

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

 “If there’s a desire for it, he’ll be back,” states Simon. “If the channel want to do it, cos people like it, we’re never going to say: ‘No, we’re killing that off.’ Though, I don’t think it’s something you could do for a hell of a long time.”

Could we even see Brian take to the road? A live tour of his classic hits, perhaps? Simon is most definitely keen. “YES!” he enthuses, when the suggestion is put to him. Rhys is a little more pragmatic: “As long as it does well,” he opines, “it’d be a nice thing to do.”

Brian Pern: On Tour. Here’s hoping.

Brian Pern: A Life in Rock airs from tonight at 10pm, Tuesday 9th December on BBC2. Thank you to Simon Day and Rhys Thomas for talking to us, and to Abigail Johnson at BBC Comedy for arranging our discussion.

Onion Talking: Brian Pern

8 Dec

This week, prog-legend Brian Pern returns to television in A Life in Rock, directed once more by TVO regular Rhys Thomas.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

The show, a follow up to Pern & Thomas previous documentary saga, The Life of Rock, follows the former Thotch frontman as he undergoes three new challenges in his life: the opening of the Thotch musical starring Sherlock megastar Martin Freeman, the staging of his epic musical saga The Day of the Triffids and the recording of his new Christmas album.

We were lucky enough to be put into contact with Brian through the good folk at the BBC, and he agreed to answer some questions via email.  This is how it went down.

TVO: Hi Brian, thanks for talking to us. Are you well?

BRIAN PERN: You will have to forgave me as I have in fact broken my rists in an acksident that I cannot disguss dew to leegal reezons so Ned, my driver is typing this for me. he is a little slow at typing as he is a simple minded kind folk and his spelling is shiv.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

TVO: You’ve been appearing on stages around the world for over 40 years. Does the heydey of Thotch still feel like yesterday?

BP: No it doesn’t feel like yesterday, I am much older, fatter and balder now and at times I get very depressed.

TVO: Of course, your first documentary series with Rhys Thomas, The Life of Rock, brought your music to a whole new audience, culminating in the limited rerelease of Spirit Level: The Best Of. Have you seen a change in the fans approaching you in the street?

BP: No. No one reconizeses me in the street anymore I don;t look the same as i did and i don’t reeely want to go around with face paints on an out lanbddish owtfits

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

TVO: Recently, Thotch have turned to making a jukebox musical about their life story. How’s that coming along?

BP: You will have to watch the program but it’s not happening. there is talk of a film with the man who did Interstellars. but i thought it was long and i don;t want my life in space. i like babadooks director, maybe they will do a god job, can you pass me the straw for my drink ned a thicker one the lumps of banana keep clogging it from the smootheee – don’t tupe that but – what are you doing oh you idiot. i might get siri to do it.

TVO: You bagged Martin Freeman to play you. He’s a big, big star now. What’s it been like working with him?

BP: Not easy as actors can by tricksy. i was a big fan of nativity 3 which he wasn’t in. apparently 1 is good. kermode said so.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

TVO: Rhys knows Martin from his comedy days, of course. Did they enjoy reminiscing about those days?

BP: Dey talked for about 3 hours about the time dey were both on Does Doug Know with Daisy Donovan and how the format has been sold to the USA for 29 million $.

TVO: You’re also no stranger to pushing into new territories. You’ve quite a few firsts under your belt, isn’t that right?

BP: what is under my belt is none of your beeswax. ned don’t write beeswax i wouldn’t say that just say business.

TVO: You’re also a keen supporter of charity work. What draws you to plights few seem to have noticed?

BP: I do it because I have a lot of money and I think it’s not fair to keep it all. redistributiin of welth. ned get the phone. i can;t pick ir up/.

TVO: Has Rhys got involved with the charity work too?

BP: No, he’s not rich enough. he works for bbc and is still on the make, he can’t afford. to give money away.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

TVO: There’s a few other new projects on the horizon, too. I hear you’re releasing a Christmas album?

BP: yes. It’s out already.

TVO: It’s not the first foray into Xmas music for you, Brian, is it?

BP: no i did 2 of then and episode 3 is all abowt that. its on 22nds of december after never mind the buzzards with Peter Jupitis.

TVO: You’re also working on your long mooted Day of the Triffids album, is that right?

BP: i recorded it in 1977nand now its coming out yes you can see it all on bbc in episode 2. how many more of these i need to have a bath



TVO: There were bootlegs doing the rounds a few years ago of the Triffids demos. How do you feel about illegal downloading of your work?

BP: i don’t care really. I have made enough money i think if fans want to listen great – is my fawlt for not finishing it

TVO: Presumably your manager has something to say about it.

BP: yes and it would envolve a swear word.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

TVO: You’re also keen on encouraging new talent in what they call world music. Why is that?

BP: i like the sound of voices from other cuntrees its better than todays bvabds in uk like kasabian,

TVO: Finally, I have to ask: do either of you think a full blown Thotch reunion is ever likely to happen?

BP: I never say never say never so never say never, ever – no.

Brian Pern: A Life in Rock starts on Tuesday 9th December at 10pm on BBC Two. Our thanks to Rhys Thomas for setting up this interview – we’ll be speaking to him and collaborator Simon Day later this week, so stay peeled.

So Hot Right Now #9

8 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.


© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

This week sees the long awaited return of Brian Pern to our screens, in the brand new series Brian Pern: A Life in Rock.  As always, the show is the brainchild of Fast Show veterans Rhys Thomas and Simon Day, the latter of whom plays the titular prog-rock legend turned hapless world music pioneer and obscure charity fundraiser.

Whilst the first series, The Life of Rock with Brian Pern focused more on telling the story of rock across the generations in documentary format, the second shifts its tone to be more of a candid look at the life of Brian, and those around him.  This includes his luxury yacht loving manager John Farrow (brilliantly brought to life by Michael Kitchen), world music goddess Pepita (TVO regular Lucy Montgomery), Brian’s former bandmates in Thotch (including Paul Whitehouse and Nigel Havers as Pat Quid and Tony Pebble) and his driver Ned (Tony Way).

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

Also along for the ride this series are big name guest stars Martin Freeman, Jack Whitehall, Kathy Burke, Roger Allum, Kevin Eldon, Chrissie Hynde, Mel C, Roger Taylor, Roy Wood, Rick Parfitt and more. TVO devoured all three episodes in one sitting, and can confirm this is a joyous continuation of a much loved character, with a wonderful set of supporting characters filling out his world, and once more – some glorious tunes (courtesy of Steve Burge) in the mix.

You’d be mad to miss it. And if you tune in to BBC Two on Tuesday evening at 10pm, you won’t.  Stay peeled this week for an exclusive interview with creators Simon Day & Rhys Thomas, and maybe a word or two from Brian Pern himself…


© Colin Hoult

© Colin Hoult

If you haven’t caught up with Colin Hoult‘s unique blend of dark humour and outright silliness yet, you’ve probably not been reading TVO properly. First coming to our attention via his work with Julian Barratt & Dave McNeill on Zimbani, the character comedian has crafted numerous sell out live shows and appeared on our screens in shows as varied as House of RoomsDerekLife’s Too Short and Being Human.

Now he’s back with some of his most beloved live favourites, preparing for an onslaught of sheer characterness on his own YouTube channel.  Five days a week, Colin will be posting a new vlog from one of the strange people in his mindtank, starting today!

Mondays will bring us a new video from the delightful (if failed) actress Anna Mann, whilst Tuesdays are a chance to get some expert tips on survival, scriptwriting and what movies you must all watch on pain of a poke in the eye, from Ninja Turtle fan Andy Parker.

On Wednesdays, everything will be coming up Saint Germain, as we get a little jazzy with our favourite beret wearer, Eddie Cartizian. And on Thursdays, its time for care in the community, as the Mighty God Thwor weilds his powerful hammer in our direction. Bang, bang.

© Colin Hoult

© Colin Hoult

Finally, each Friday will bring us a surprise guest from Colin’s oeuvre, including new characters and old favourites – some of whom you may remember from his excellent radio series Carnival of Monsters, which is due back on Radio 4 soon. You can see the first episode, featuring Anna Mann discussing her old actress friend Miriam Crotch below, and don’t forget to subscribe to see more!


© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

As we’re keen to keep reminding you, there’s a large bevvy of shows currently airing with TVO connections.  Monday nights see not one, not two, but three new shows to savour beaming into your homes: Trollied on Sky One at 8:30pm featuring Aisling BeaNever Mind the Buzzcocks on BBC Two at 10pm, featuring Noel Fielding alongside Phill Jupitus and Rhod Gilbert; and Toast of London on Channel 4 at 10:35pm, featuring Matt Berry.

©  Sky

© Sky

But wait – there’s more on telly this week! Psychobitches continues on Sky Arts every Tuesday evening, featuring Sharon Horgan, Katy BrandReece Shearsmith and many many more, whilst Not Going Out featuring Katy Wix returns to BBC One on Friday evening. It’s a good time to be an Onioner, eh?


Don’t forget that Paddington – directed by Paul King and featuring a host of TVO cameos amongst is big-name cast – is currently wowing the crowds in UK cinemas, having taken a whopping £5.1 million in its opening weekend alone!

© Studio Canal

Alongside Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Nicole Kidman et al, are little sneaky guest appearances by Alice LoweSteve OramTom MeetenJames BachmanSimon Farnaby and Justin Edwards – so you’d be mad to miss it.

Also out at the moment are Bill Murray vehicle Saint Vincent, featuring Chris O’Dowd, and a film which almost sneaked past our radar – submarine-based action thriller Black Sea starring Jude Law, Tobias Menzies, David Threlfall and Michael Smiley. US readers can see the film, alongside Paddington in January. Check out the US trailer below.


Finally this week, the campaign to get a movie version of The Day They Came to Suck Out Our Brains off the ground needs your help to reach its goal, and we’ll leave you with this clip of TVO regular Stephen Evans to explain why.


Keep on peeling, and we’ll see you back here soon!


Wee Paper People

1 Jun

Regular readers of TVO might remember Paper People – cut out and keep paper models of your favourite TVO folk. We’ve just revisited the site and there are many, many more characters for you to cut out and keep. How many do you recognise from the pictures below?

If you can’t wait to get your hands on your own Wee Paper People, all you have to do is click on the website, download your favourites then print and assemble. Assembly instructions are on the site.

If you want something more personal, the creator of all these fantastic models, Sally Grosart, can make personalised little people of your friends and family, or personalised cards or banners. To contact Sally and see the rest of her creations click here.

Fifty 2

20 May

This coming weekend sees the culmination of BBC 2’s anniversary celebrations from a TVO perspective, as the fifty year old channel revives some of it’s biggest comedy smashes for a series of one-off specials.

© Balloon (50 Year Special) Limited / Mark Johnson

© Balloon (50 Year Special) Limited / Mark Johnson

Top of the hitlist is Harry & Paul’s Story of the 2sa one-off special from comedy legends Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, poking fun at everything BBC2 is famous for.  Revisiting and parodying around fifty different shows from the channel’s illustrious history, there are over 150 different presenters, actors, comedians and politicians being lampooned in just under an hour.

It all looks like fantastic fun, and Onion fans will be pleased to note Enfield & Whitehouse have recruited Justin EdwardsKevin EldonRhys ThomasLucy Montgomery, Simon Greenall (Alan Partridge, Alice’s Wunderland), Catherine Shepherd (The IT Crowd, The Peter Serafinowicz Show), Rowland Rivron (French and Saunders) and music superstars Jeff Beck, Damon Albarn and The Klaxons for good measure.

You can catch the show on Sunday evening at 9pm, and it will be available on iPlayer after transmission. A selection of stills – including one of Justin Edwards as a later-in-life, portly Orson Wells, can be seen below.

Story of the 2s is not the only show airing either – with a two-part compilation of The Fast Show sketches made for Fosters Comedy airing on Friday and Monday.  Made in 2011, these reunited Paul Whitehouse with co-stars Charlie Higson, Arabella Weir, Simon Day, John Thomson, Caroline Aherne and Rhys Thomas, as well as bringing Lucy Montgomery along for the ride as well.

© Tyson Benton

© Tyson Benton

The first batch of six mini episodes aired in late 2011, with six more following in Spring 2012. TVO even ran a competition to win a signed script, though by now all of the videos have been removed from YouTube, so these broadcasts will be the first chance to catch the episodes in some time.

Part one airs on Friday at 10pm, with Part Two on Monday following a one-off special of seminal comedy classic Goodness Gracious Me – starring the original lead cast of the 90s hit: Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Nina Wadia, Kulvinda Ghir and Dave Lamb.

© BBC / Gary Moyes

© BBC / Gary Moyes

For those unaware of the show, it ran for thee series and a special between 1998 and 2001 following two series on BBC Radio Four, and explored the conflict and integration between traditional Indian culture and modern British life to great acclaim… the dvds are still regularly watched here at TVO HQ, so if you’ve never seen it we can’t recommend it highly enough even without any links to ‘our lot’!

And that’s not all – with Saturday night featuring a two-hour celebration, 50 Years Of BBC Two Comedy, airing from 9pm.  Looking back at the channel’s greatest moments from The Likely Lads to W1A, the talking heads clip show will no doubt feature a TVO face or two, amongst countless other comedic legends.



Contributors include Ricky Gervais, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Alan Alda, Vic and Bob, Rebecca Front, Alexei Sayle, Mitchell and Webb, The Goodies, Catherine Tate, Bill Bailey, Ian Hislop, Sarah Millican, Dara O Briain, James Corden, Rob Brydon, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Armando Iannucci, Prunella Scales, Charlie Brooker, Paul Whitehouse, The League of Gentlemen and many more… so you’d be mad to miss it.

From all at TVO then, Happy Birthday BBC Two, and thanks for all the funnies…


Brian Pern’s On The (Spirit) Level

25 Feb
© EmuBands

© EmuBands

Last night saw the finale of The Life Of Rock air on BBC Four, and to celebrate, seminal rock legend turned documentary host Brian Pern has reissued his greatest hits on iTunes.

The show was the brainchild of Rhys Thomas, who worked alongside Pern (whose physical resemblance to Simon Day cannot go unnoticed), to craft the three part documentary, each of which can be seen again now via iPlayer.

Featured a variety of rock legends and musical know-it-alls detailing the birth, life and death of the art-form across the series, the show also offered Brian’s fans a chance to see behind the scenes into his organisation, and revisit some long-forgotten television appearances and rare live material.

Here is Brian, for example, performing his classic solo smash, Spirit Level on Top Of The Pops back in 1986, which was part of a series of classic clips uploaded to YouTube via the BBC earlier this month.

Of course, we’re only playing along. Pern is, of course, Simon Day, and the show also featured TVO regulars Lucy MontgomeryTony Way, Michael Smiley and Steve Burge, who composed the music for the series alongside Rhys Thomas.

The series also featured big name guest stars like Paul Whitehouse, Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer, Nigel Havers, Michael Kitchen, Al Murray, Danny John Jules, Roger Taylor, Jools Holland, Rick Wakeman and Peter Gabriel, whilst Episode Three had an additional connection to TVO as former Mighty Boosh star and professional ape impersonator Peter Elliot appeared as a gorilla with surprising musical agility.

Due to popular demand, highlights from the show’s soundtrack have been released digitally on iTunes, with the eleven track album featuring Thotch ‘classics’ like Worm Equinox and Brian’s protest song Succulent Chinese Meal



Naturally, the album features Simon Day’s vocals and Steve Burge’s instrumentation, as well as guest vocals from Lucy Montgomery and Tony Way – the latter of whom gets to unleash a extra dirty verse on the title track under the guise of Captain Cupnutz.  Savour it.

You can download the album now for £7.99 over yonder.

Sadly, due to the expensive nature of rights negotiation in making the show, Rhys confirmed today that there will be no dvd or blu-ray release, so keep an eye out for repeats, and savour the music instead!

The Life Of Rock Starts Tonight!

10 Feb

The Life Of Rock – the new mockumentary from Rhys Thomas and Simon Day – starts tonight on BBC Four.



We first told you about the show a while back now, and have been itching to see the results ever since.  It features Simon Day as spoof 70s rock god Brian Pern, and pays homage to an era ripe for parody, and several noteworthy stars of the era have lined up to put their tongues firmly in their cheeks.

Queen’s Roger Taylor, prog legend Rick Wakeman and perhaps the biggest influence on Pern – Peter Gabriel – join a series of comedy legends in the show.

These include TVO regulars Michael SmileyTony WayLucy Montgomery and Steve Burge, as well as Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer, Paul Whitehouse, Danny John Jules and Matt Lucas.  Don’t worry – we’re salivating at that line-up too.

The show airs at 10pm on BBC Four this evening, having moved from its previously announced Wednesday slot, and will be available on iPlayer after transmission.  Rhys also appeared on both BBC Breakfast and Radcliffe & Maconie this morning to discuss the show, and you can catch his interview with the latter over yonder soon.  The trailer for the show can be seen below.

BBC4 Announces New Comedy

4 Feb

BBC4, the channel perhaps better known for meaningful documentaries about seminal albums is ramping up its comedy offering, and there are a few TVO faces in the line-up!

© Cambridge News

First up is The Walshes, a three-part series co-written by Graham Linehan and the five piece Irish comedy troupe Diet of Worms (who also play lead roles).  The Walshes are a tight-knit family from near Dublin, who are all still live at home because the state of the Irish economy has forced them all back together.

Next up is rock doc parody The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern by Rhys Thomas and fellow Fast Show comic, Simon Day. Brian Pern (Day) is an ageing rock star and former front man of prog rock group, Thotch. The premise is that the BBC have asked him to front a major new documentary where he presents his guide to The Life Of Rock, from prehistoric man to the present day, in a spoof three-part chronology of some of the biggest moments in rock history.

The series includes cameos from the world of comedy and music, including Paul Whitehouse, Matt Lucas, Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer (as Mulligan and O’Hare), Rick Wakeman (Old Gregg reference anyone?), Jools Holland and Roger Taylor.

And finally,there’s In And Out Of The Kitchen, a three-parter based on the BBC Radio 4 comedy created, written by and starring Miles Jupp about cookery writer Damien Trench (Jupp). His partner, Anthony, is played by Justin Edwards. It promises to show us everything that happens to him both in and out of the kitchen, ‘no matter how grizzly, or indeed, how gristly’. If the radio series is anything to go by, expect this to be a good un.

Shane Allen, BBC Controller of Comedy Commissioning, has said of the new commissions that they are, “A testament to BBC Four’s unique legacy in bringing the audience big name comedy talents in surprising and inventive shows that follow in the footsteps of award-winning predecessors like Getting On, The Thick Of It, Twenty Twelve and Screenwipe.”

As soon as we get any information about the transmission dates of the above-mentioned shows, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Trailer Time For Brian Pern & Inside No. 9

30 Jan

The BBC have released trailers for two of their forthcoming comedy shows with strong TVO connections.

The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern – written, directed and produced by Rhys Thomas – airs from Monday 10th February at 10pm on BBC Four, and features Simon Day as the titular rock god turned documentary host.

He’ll be joined by a whole host of famous faces including Lucy MontgomeryTony WayMichael SmileySteve Burge, Matt Lucas, Paul Whitehouse, Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer (seemingly reviving Mulligan And O’Hare!), Nigel Havers, Danny John-Jules, Michael Kitchen, David Baddiel, Jools Holland, Rick Wakeman, David Arnold, Peter Gabriel and Queen’s Roger Taylor. Phew!

You can see the trailer below.

One week earlier, Inside No. 9 – the typically macabre anthology series from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton   begins on BBC Two, also at 10pm, from Wednesday 5th February.

Featuring guest appearances from Katherine Parkinson and Julia Davis amongst others, the show has already wowed critics (including us!), and will be returning for a second series, as confirmed to British Comedy Guide earlier this week.

Those charming gents Reece and Steve introduce the show below, along with a chance to see the previously released trailer from earlier this week.


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