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2015 British Independent Film Awards Nominations

5 Nov
© Rook Films

© Rook Films

The nominations for the Moët 2015 Independent Film awards have been announced, and we’re delighted to note that there are a couple of TVO-connected productions shortlisted!

Steve Oram‘s comedy horror Aaaaaaaah!, which features a cacophony of TVO talent has been nominated for The Disovery Award. It will be competing with Burn Burn Burn, Orion: The Man Who Would Be King, The Return and Winter. You can see trailers for all of those shortlisted in this category here.

This isn’t the first time Steve has enjoyed success at the BIFAs; in 2012 Sightseers picked up seven nominations, with Steve, Alice Lowe and Amy Jump picking up the winning gong for Best Screenplay for the film.

Amy Jump also features in this year’s list of nominations, for her screenwriting for High Rise. Directed by Ben Wheatley, High Rise has picked up four mentions overall in the 2015 list.

To see the full list of nominations take a look at this. The winners will be announced on 6 December at a ceremony at Old Billingsgate, London. In the meantime, congratulations to everyone shortlisted – particularly to ‘our lot’!

The Cloud cleared for a series comission

4 Nov


Graham Linehan‘s pilot project with Adam Buxton is to become a full series.

The Cloud, which we first told you about earlier this year, is a space set comedy which, in its pilot form at least, starred Aisling Bea and SunTrap‘s Jamie Demetriou.

At the time it was revealed that the show follows the fairly hapless crew of Cloud Station 13: a data hub floating in space, set up to protect the vast amounts of information humanity now hoards on its devices.

Of course that information largely comprises selfies, copious pictures of kittens and, we are afraid to say, rather a lot of porn.

Now a full series has been commissioned by Channel 4, though it remains unconfirmed if Bea and Demetriou are still signed up. Whatever happens, we’re looking forward to it airing next year. Stay peeled for more updates as we get them.

A Caravan, A Bear, And Housewife Horror: Alice Lowe Talks To The Velvet Onion

30 Oct
© imdb

© imdb

A few weeks ago we published Part 1 of our interview with Alice Lowe, in which she spoke about the third series of Alice’s Wunderland, which recently aired on Radio 4. In Part 2 of our interview, below, Alice talks to us about her other comedy projects – past, present and future – and the highs and lows of a career in the arts.

Alice and I meet shortly before she is due to stand in front of a cinema full of North London feminists and try to convince them that Glen Close’s character in 1987’s Fatal Attraction is a feminist icon. I wish her luck. Her chosen topic provides us with a few clues about what makes Alice Lowe tick: (1) She sees the world differently to most people; (2) She’s not the type to choose the the easy path; and (3) She has a special place in her heart for female villains.

“You don’t get many female villains,” Alice offers by way of explanation. “Political correctness has made people scared of portraying women negatively, so what you end up with are really boring characters for women, with no personality.” Here here!

© Press Association

© Press Association

One of the most high profile villains which she herself has played is Tina in Sightseers, the 2012 film which was both a critical and box office hit, seeing Alice and co-writer/co-star Steve Oram being courted by the great and good in the world of film. “Even now I’m still surprised – I think ‘did that happen?’ I’m not used to success – I’m used to doing my own stuff and no one giving a shit!” she laughs.

“For me it was a relief. As a comedian, you believe you should be getting a sitcom or your own show off the ground at some point. Both Steve and me were feeling like we hadn’t done our thing. It was a relief to have finally done something where you’ve made your mark.”

Sightseers was a long time in the making, with the characters of Tina and Chris having been developed several years before they were committed to celluloid. Alice describes the final production of the film as “a lot of lucky things coming together”, like the involvement of director Ben Wheatley, who was hot at the time (Mighty Boosh director, Paul King, who was originally linked to the project, was unable to direct the film because of his Paddington movie commitments at the time).

“People are generally looking for reasons not to make films,” Alice explains. “Because there isn’t enough funding for all of them. There needs to be something really special to get a film over that final hurdle and green lit – like a producer who’s had a lot of success or a director who can sweep it along.”

Right now she’s busy with a fast-turnaround film project, her directorial debut feature, provisionally titled Prevenge. The part-improvised film is best described as a ‘post-feminist revenge movie’ and features Alice as a pregnant woman on a killing spree (Alice herself is currently seven and a half months pregnant, so thankfully there will be no need for anatomically suspect padding). The mystery at the centre of the film is who she’s killing, and why.

Shooting starts imminently in Cardiff with a Welsh crew, who Alice describes as “a great team”, with her pregnancy providing the extra impetus to make quick progress. I ask whether any TVO-connected artists will be part of the project. “There will be a good few familiar faces on the film,” she says.  Watch this space…

Not one to put her feet up, Alice is also working on another film project, which she describes as “a dark comedy horror about a housewife”, inspired by the likes of Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining, films in which domestic situations become the premise for horror. She’s been working on it for a couple of years, hacking her way through the funding jungle which surrounds independent film making.

© Toy Drum

© Toy Drum

As she is for Prevenge, Alice will be taking writing, acting and directing credits. I ask her how she manages to juggle so many different,  significant roles within one production. “To me it doesn’t feel weird to be doing all of them,” she replies. “You wouldn’t say to a songwriter ‘Are you also going to sing this song? Are you also going to play the guitar?’ It’s just the way I approach what I do – it’s a more holistic thing; I’ve been lucky to be able to work in that way.”

“The people I tend to admire have a similar holistic approach to everything they do – people like Kate Bush and Bjork. I don’t think it’s that weird and I don’t think it’s that difficult – it’s hard work but not impossible.” She adds.

In fact, taking on several key roles on a project like this has its advantages, as Alice explains: “I could have put another actress in it, but it would have meant finding another person, making sure they understood what I was trying to do, making sure they were available. Then I thought hold on, I’m available! And I’ll be there on set every day, because I’m directing it.”

Alice in Sherlock © BBC

Alice in Sherlock © BBC

She notes that another benefit of writing, directing and acting is the confidence that it gives her as a performer: “When I’m acting other people’s stuff I can have huge doubts about my performance. But when I’ve written it I know exactly what it is, heart and soul. I understand it inside out. It’s something that’s not about words – it’s about a feeling. Getting someone else to that level of understanding is much harder.”

Furthermore, using non-comedy writers, directors and actors in comedy films can sometimes negatively impact on the humour quota. “People need to understand that they can trust comic talent to put laughs on the screen,” Alice notes. Indeed, we can all recall ‘comedy’ films which have failed for exactly this reason – because the studio chose household names over the people who know how to generate proper laughs.

Success and failure in comedy is a hot topic at the moment, with a number of unique, innovative projects from the wider world of comedy failing to land or being cut off in their prime. With ratings now the be-all and end-all for TV shows, the relationship between creative talent and commercial success can be hazy at best. It’s a situation that irks Alice: “In the past you would do a series, win some awards and your ratings would naturally go up. But one ‘trophy series’ isn’t enough any more – the second series has to get more. If your ratings stay the same or go down, they (the TV & film execs) think ‘what’s the point?’ So if you’ve done one film that isn’t huge you might never get to make a film again.”

We talk about one of the biggest recent movie successes from a TVO-connected talent – Paul King’s Paddington movie. A phenomenal critical and commercial success story, Paddington followed Paul’s low key first feature, Bunny & The Bull. Although loved by many critics and adored by fans of our kind of comedy, BATB failed to make its mark at the box office. It could have meant the end of Paul’s feature film career, but then Paddington came along; and the rest (as they say) is history. It would be a shame if second opportunities like this aren’t available to film makers in the future.

© Studio Canal

Alice in Paddington © Studio Canal

Paddington features a long list of TVO artists, including Alice herself. “It was a really nice thing that he did,” she explains, referring to Paul’s approach to making the film. “He got in a lot of his old theatre and comedy buddies to do read throughs. So before all these huge stars were attached to it I was reading Nicole Kidman’s part! Then he kept us on for all the small parts, even though he could have cast bigger names, or used the usual suspects, but he didn’t – he cast us lot!” Alice is full of praise for the final film, noting how Paul’s production flourishes raise it several notches above standard Hollywood blockbuster fayre. “It’s so good it feels effortless, but I know how much work Paul put into it.” She seems genuinely proud of him.

© Mog/The Velvet Onion

Club Fantastico © Mog/The Velvet Onion

Although Alice is focusing on film projects at the moment, I ask her whether she has plans to take to the live circuit again in the future. “Whenever I do it I’m absolutely terrified, until I do it again – and then I love it.” she says. “And I go ‘why don’t I do this all the time?’…then I don’t do it for a while and I get the fear about doing it again!”

“But I’m in my element on stage,” she explains. “You get the immediate impact and you have to think on your feet. If something’s not working you push it until it does, until you get that laugh – and I really enjoy that.” She pauses for a moment, then adds. “When people find out I do comedy they ask if I do stand up and I start to wonder if maybe I should. But stand up is a bit like chatting – and I can just do that anyway with my friends. My friends are really funny.”

Having spent an hour in Alice’s company discussing the vagaries of the world of entertainment, it’s clear how frustrating the rules of the game can seem to her. She has a natural tendency to question and challenge the status quo, and her place within it. She never comes across as grumpy, although she worries that she does; instead, hers is the drive to keep asking why?, or sometimes why not? It’s an attitude that seeps into her comedy and that of her peers; artists who subvert the norm and show us a different way of looking at the world, a different way of doing things.

“The people who are doing weird stuff seem to be older,” Alice observes. “The hot young things aren’t allowed to do surreal comedy. We had this natural punk ethos…” She checks herself and laughs, “Oh dear – I’m making myself sound really cool, and I’m not! It’s just the era that we grew up in; you naturally rebelled against it. And now you look at youtube and there’s someone talking about lipstick or cake. That’s what people want to watch now.”

As a fellow Generation X-er, I’m inclined to agree. And with that Alice bravely heads off to persuade a room full of Crouch End feminists to rethink everything they previously believed about 1980’s cinema.

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

The Velvet Onion would like to thanks Alice for her time. We wish her the best of luck with her many forthcoming projects!

Linehans Speak Up For Amnesty

24 Oct

Graham Linehan and his wife Helen have taken the brave step of putting their private life in the public spotlight in support of Amnesty International.



Shortly after they were married in 2004 the couple were delighted to find out that they were expecting their first child. They happily told everyone, only to discover at their first scan that there was something fatally wrong with the foetus; it had a condition known as ‘acrania’, which meant that its skull had not closed over the brain. Helen was advised to have an immediate termination, because doctors knew that the baby wouldn’t be able to survive longer than an hour after birth.

The termination took place shortly afterwards in London. “It was terribly sad and devastating, but it was handled well,” Helen said.

A few months later, they moved back to Ireland, and discovered that if they had been living there at the time, Helen would not legally have been able to have had an abortion. She could have faced 14 years in prison, had she gone ahead. Abortion is illegal in Ireland, even in cases where there is no chance for the foetus to survive.

Their experience has prompted the couple to speak out as part of a campaign by Amnesty International calling for decriminalisation of abortion in Ireland. “In Ireland Helen would be a criminal to have undergone the termination.” said Graham. “She would have had to carry the child knowing it would die in great pain shortly after she had given birth to it. I have always been very proud to be Irish but I am embarrassed by Ireland’s abortion laws. This is just something you can’t be proud of. It’s barbaric.”

Graham and Helen have collaborated with Amnesty on a short campaign film calling on the Irish government to repeal the eighth amendment of the constitution, which puts the foetus’s right to life on the same footing as a woman’s.

You can see their interview below, along with the campaign film beneath. To find out more about Amnesty International and to support their causes please visit their website.

Spencer is a Guilty Party

14 Oct
© Getty

© Getty

Spencer Millman is one of the talents behind Studiocanal’s new UK television and film banner company, Guilty Party.

Announced today by Variety, the film production company is partnering with RED Production Company, actors/writers Simon Bird (The Inbetweeners) and Johnny Sweet (Together), and Millman – producer of The Mighty BooshHarry Hill’s TV Burp and Man Down to name but a few of his impressive credits.

The new company will be creatively spearheaded by RED’s exec producer and founder, Nicola Shindler, with Studiocanal handling worldwide distribution for the company’s productions.

Spencer was quoted as stating he was looking forward to “(supporting and promoting) the most exciting new and established writers and talent in the industry and make programmes we feel very passionate about”.

Naturally, we’re itching to see the first fruits of their labour. More news as we get it – in the meantime, check out the original report on Variety now.

Easily Distracted now available from all…

7 Oct
© Century

© Penguin Books

…Sorry, what were we saying, again?

Ah yes – Easily Distracted, the long awaited autobiography from Steve Coogan is available to buy now.

Telling Steve’s story from his early days in Manchester, the book navigates through his impressive career across Spitting ImageOn The HourThe Day TodayCoogan’s Run and beyond, through to the present day and his Oscar-nominated turn in Philomena.

Once a regular fixture in the UK tabloids, Steve is also one of the founders of the seminal Baby Cow Productions, which has been responsible for the likes of The Mighty Boosh, Gavin and Stacy and Hunderby to name but a few.

Now at last, Coogan lifts the lid on the real Steve Coogan, writing with his distinctive humour and an unexpected candour about a noisy childhood surrounded by foster kids, his attention-seeking teenage years and his emergence as a household name with the birth of Alan Partridge.

It’s essential reading for any comedy lover, and the good news is there are a number of ways for you to indulge. The book is available in Hardback and oversized paperback formats in all good book stores, as well as via Kindle and iTunes. There’s also an audio version on cd and download, narrated by the man himself. For most of these at your fingertips, we recommend you hop on over to Amazon now.

In the meantime you can see a video made by Dave Lambert in which Coogan meets Coogan, below.

Tired Parents

5 Oct

A brand new web series from the minds of Tim Hope and Andrew Bone has launched today.

© Cloth Productions

© Cloth Productions

If you’ve gone through the delights – and agonies – of raising children, chances are you’ll empathise enormously with Tired Parents in which Hope and Bone provide the live-action faces and voices to an animated couple living in a dolls house riddled with parental and family issues.

Four mini episodes are now available to view below. In the first, the pair discuss that immortal argument that rages throughout the centuries: whose turn is it to get up in the night when the baby cries? The second sees them debate sleeping habits whilst out camping, while in episode three, there’s a big issue with a cardigan – or lack of one. Finally for now, the duo make a mental note to buy some potatoes.

The series marks a long awaited return from Tim Hope, whose past projects include 2010’s The Savage Canvas – which reunited him with 90s collaborator Julian Barratt – and the now legendary 1999 short The Wolf Man made by Hope and Waen Shepherd.

You can keep track of future episodes by liking the Tired Parents Facebook page over yonder.

Ellie in Newsjack

24 Sep

Ellie White appeared on this week’s edition of Newsjack on Radio 4.

© BBC / Matt Stronge

© BBC / Matt Stronge

The former House of Fools star, fresh from her critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Fringe, joined Nish Kumar, Keiran Hodgson and Emma Sidi on the topical comedy show on Thursday 24th September.

Produced by Matt Stronge (The IT Crowd, For the Win) and Suzy Grant (Comic Relief, Citizen Khan), the episode can be caught up on via iPlayer for the next 28 days. Get in while you can.

Monster Tease

22 Sep

The Velvet Onion has received a copy of the brand new teaser trailer for forthcoming short film The Monster.

We first told you about the film back in March, when the production was awarded funding by Film London.

A comedy horror about an iconic monster who falls in love with his leading lady on the set of a dubious film as he tries to resurrect his once-successful career, the film features Sightseers and The Casual Vacancy star Richard Glover alongside Call the Midwife‘s Helen George, and up and coming actors Simon Cotton and Matt Slack.

© Film London

Written and directed by Forgery Club head honcho Bob Pipe and produced by Hen & Chickens guru James Wren, the film continues their longstanding association that has previously produced web series The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains and a little event called The Velvet Onion Live. Needless to say, we love ’em.

Furthering the TVO connections, Waen Shepherd continues building his impressive resume of scoring that has recently taken in the likes of The Ghoul and Murder in Successville.

Partially shot at Elstree Studios earlier this year, the film is a bold, dynamic short that marks the ever increasing talents of Bob Pipe as a director to be reckoned with. You’re going to love it.

We’ll bring you more information on screenings and release in due course. Until then, stay peeled.

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.

Lambo gets High & Dry for Comedy Blaps

18 Sep

The latest batch of Channel 4’s Comedy Blaps are now online, and one of them, High & Dry has a couple of solid TVO connections.

© Dave Lambert / Channel 4

© Dave Lambert / Channel 4

Written by and starring Marc Wootton (La La Land, Drunk History), the short focuses on the survivors of a plane crash on a tropical island as they fight for survival.

Also along for the ride are Jessie Cave (Harry Potter), Asim Chaudry (Hoff the Record), Deborah Findlay (Torchwood) and Harry Peacock – and the whole thing is directed by none other than Dave Lambert (Undercover, The Mighty Boosh).

We don’t want to spoilt too much, so we urge you to go see it, and other new shorts over yonder now.


21 Aug

Richard Sandling and Bob Pipe have joined forces with internet sensation Ashens to promote the recent reissue of seminal David Cronenberg classic Videodrome.

© Arrow

© Arrow

The reissue, which was released on Monday, comes courtesy of every horror buff’s favourite distributor, Arrow Films, who have lavished their usual care and attention on their limited edition blu-ray release, which reviewers note is vastly superior to previous editions, though has sadly already sold out pretty much everywhere: Amazon sellers already want over £60 for a copy, so be prepared to pay if you missed it. We’re hoping a second run follows suit very soon…

In the meantime, console yourselves with the video below: in which self-confessed movie buff Sandling discusses the new flesh, Betamax and everything in between with Ashens. The video was produced, edited and directed by fellow TVO legend Bob Pipe, so you’ve got double the number of reasons to watch it.

Prince sees Prince

15 Aug

Here at The Velvet Onion, we try to focus on the real, genuine news stories surrounding the alternative comedians who make up our family of frequent collaborators. We leave their personal lives very much off limits – as cute as all those Velvet Babies are these days – and don’t tend to look for trivial news stories to flood your feed with.

Every once in a while, we can’t help ourselves, however. And this afternoon, an event equal to typing google into google almost broke the internet.

© Prince

© Prince

Prince – the incredibly prolific virtuoso musician and, it’s fair to say, known eccentric – shared a link to a sketch about himself on Twitter to his 94K followers, taken from the seminal 90s/00s sketch series Big Train. Thus.

Given that Prince – or his representatives – policy of policing the internet and removing all trace of ‘homage’ to him has left many a fan-site feeling dejected, it’s good to know the man himself still has a sense of humour.

We can only hope that the clip has intrigued His Royal Purpleness enough to check out more Big Train, and that gives us the opportunity to suggest you all do too.


© Talkback Thames / BBC

The show was the brainchild of Graham Linehan (The IT Crowd) and Arthur Matthews (Toast of London), following their runaway success with Father Ted. The first series aired in 1998, and starred Simon Pegg and Mark Heap (both pre-Spaced), alongside The Actor, Kevin Eldon, Amelia Bullmore (I’m Alan Partridge) and Julia Davis.

The latter pair jumped ship after the first series along with Linehan, and it was four years before the second and final run aired – this time with Rebecca Front and Tracy Ann Oberman joining Pegg, Heap and Eldon.

The show was also notable for giving Catherine Tate (The Office, Doctor Who) an early break on television, appearing in seven episodes across both series, while other guests included Simon Greenhall (I’m Alan Partridge, Alice’s Wunderland), Julia Deakin (Spaced, Love in Recovery), Geoffrey McGiven (just about every comedy ever) and a very young Nick Frost.

If you’ve never seen the above clip before, there’s still a chance you’ll have recognised the dulcet tones of Chris Morris, who co-directed the first series alongside with Linehan. Series Two was directed by Jonathan Gershfield, who went on to direct Strutter featuring Paul Kaye and Lucy Montgomery, so the lineage of TVO heritage within the show really does loom large. Really, if you haven’t seen it yet, you definitely should.

Truly one of BBC Comedy’s jewels in the crown, both series are available in a double-pack to buy on DVD now for the bargain price of £4.95 in The Velvet Onion Amazon Store. You can also see a selection of highlights via the handy playlist below. Enjoy…


30 Jul

unnamedThe excitement is mounting…. As we’ve mentioned previously, AAAAAAAAH!, the new film by Steve Oram, which features a bevy of TVO faces, will be getting its world premiere next month at Film 4 FrightFest at Leicester Square! But for those of you who can’t make it there, don’t despair – because the film may be coming to a screen near you!

Additional screenings of AAAAAAAAH! include:

Picture House Central in London’s West End on 4th September (+ cast Q&A)
End of the Road Festival (Dorset), 4th-6th September
Mayhem in Nottingham, 15-18 October

Plus more dates to be announced soon. Sign up or check here for screening updates and general AAAAAAAAH! news.

Rook Films

Rook Films

For anyone out there who isn’t familiar with AAAAAAAAH! (how??), Steve’s debut features the entire cast behaving as apes – speaking in grunts and gibberish, in an anarchic, disturbing and touching look at the human condition. It stars Julian Barratt, Toyah Willcox, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Steve Oram, Lucy Honigman, Tom Meeten and Sean Reynard. The supporting cast includes Noel Fielding, Holli Dempsey, Shelley Longworth, Alice Lowe, Tony Way and Waen ShepherdBen Wheatley is also executive producer.

What’s more, AAAAAAAAH! is already receiving rave reviews; here are a few choice comments from the critics:

“Terrifyingly funny, hilariously sick and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Easily the cult movie of the decade” – Alan Jones Film4 FrightFest

“Steve Oram’s AAAAAAAAH! made me question humanity.” – Adam Woodward, LWL’s

“Deeply offensive in all the right ways. Marks its strange, humorous territory with originality and style.” – Phelim O’Neill

Excited yet?

Our Father, Who Art In Dublin… Ted, Be Thy Name

25 Jul
© Shota Kotake

© Shota Kotake

“I haven’t written anything, because I’m not really good at that type of thing. But I did a drawing.”

In one of the oddest news stories we’ve seen for a while, a Dublin-based artist has taken to drawing a Father Ted related picture every day in an attempt to break a Guinness World Record.

Shota Kotake began his work in May, when the show, written by Graham Linehan (The IT Crowd) and Arthur Matthews (Big Train), celebrated its 20th anniversary, and plans to do so every day until, and we quote: “I get fed up”. Er… up with this sort of thing?

Currently on Day 75, you can see the whole collection so far over yonder.

We’re wondering which group of diehard fans is likely to try and match this challenge: Noel’s Field-mice, or Alan’s Partridges? Over to you…

The Mighty Lifesavers

20 Jul

Here’s a story you don’t see every day, via the good folk at The Bristol Post: an episode of The Mighty Boosh has been credited with saving a young man’s life.

© Baby Cow Productions

© Baby Cow Productions

Chances are the majority of our readers are familiar with Journey to the Centre of the Punk, the 2007 episode in which Howard Moon is shrunk down to minuscule proportions and injected into Vince Noir, who is infected with the blood of jazz freak Howlin’ Jimmy Jefferson after biting Howard’s beloved new record.

To set the scene, Lester Corncrake tells everyone the story of Howlin’ Jimmy, and this animated cutaway has made a lasting impression on 21-year old filmmaker Joe Melarky from Kingswood, Bristol.

After describing the swamp fever that took Howlin’ Jimmy away, and the methods local voodoo priest Tiny Roberts used to create a record his spirit could live in, Corncrake sums up: “Jimmy died, and Tiny Robert got ball cancer, but spotted it early and got it removed, and it was all fine. Here’s a lesson in that for everyone: Check Your Balls (twice a week!).”

© Baby Cow Productions

© Baby Cow Productions

And that, is exactly what Joe did, and at Christmas he identified a lump, went to the doctors, and discovered he did have testicular cancer. Thankfully, his checking caught the disease early, and he was able to undergo immediate treatment and was given the all clear last month!

© The Bristol Post / Joe Melarky

© The Bristol Post / Joe Melarky

Joe told The Bristol Post: “I laugh when I say it, because it does sound ridiculous, but The Mighty Boosh may well have saved my life. There was this silly skit about checking your balls and it stayed with me, so I did actually check regularly. Who knows, if I hadn’t caught it to early I may not be here.”

Following an 84-day treatment plan with chemotherapy for five days every two weeks at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre, Joe is now healthy once more, and is setting up his own film business, The Reel Melarky.

He recently made a film of his sailing trip around the Isle of Wight with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, which you can see, alongside more about Joe’s story, on the Bristol Post website. Nice one, Joe.

And remember everyone: Check Your Balls.

Hate Mail & The Art of Perfect Fundraising

13 Jul

44dfcd736fe44aedb130fe55ea223ff4_originalWe’ve been writing in superlatives about Mr Bingo‘s inspired Hate Mail art project since its inception. Heck, one of us is lucky enough to own one of his abusive illustrated postcards. But he has just surpassed himself with his new Kickstarter project.

My Bingo is funding the publication of his forthcoming Hate Mail book, The Definitive Collection, via the crowd funding site. And because he’s taken the trouble of making his Kickstarter campaign absolutely blooming brilliant – from the perfectly awesome promotional video to the rewards he’s offering to supporters, he reached his target amount in just a few hours.

With 19 days to go, he’s more than doubled his original £35K target, and many of the rewards available have been snapped up. However, you can still pay for a Wetherspoons date with him (a snip at £150), meet him for a pint in 5 years’ time (only one out of four left at £200) or for £5,000, you can even be his friend.

If you haven’t read his Kickstarter page in full, we urge you to take a look. It’s brilliantly funny! And then back the book.

B-B-Cee-Again as the Beeb announces BBC Store

8 Jul


The long awaited BBC Store will launch this Autumn, according to a report by The Independent.

Launched through BBC Worldwide, the Store will sell permanent downloads of hit programmes – often within hours of their television broadcast.

The proposed catalogue of releases will build to around 10,000 hours of content, including material from the BBC archives and independent production companies, some of which have never received a commercial release, which will hopefully include a number of TVO related productions such as Gas, Is It Bill Bailey?, Dead BossCrimsBrian Pern and Lifespam to name but a few, as well as long out of print titles like AD/BC: A Rock Opera and Perfect World.

It will also mark the first time that BBC Worldwide will directly sell HD copies of most of their recent comedy output. Despite being early adopters to blu-ray, the company has all but abandoned the format except for big budget releases (such as Sherlock and Doctor Who), with shows such as Inside No. 9House of Fools and SunTrap all being released on dvd only this year. HD downloads are currently only available through iTunes and Google Play.

We’ll aim to bring you a round-up of what’s available of interest when the store launches. In the meantime, here’s a vintage clip of a very young Noel Fielding alongside an equally young Mark Gatiss in Alexei Sayle’s Merry Go Round – a 1998 sketch series from the legendary Comic Strip veteran, directed by a pre-Spaced Edgar Wright and featuring pre-fame appearances by Jessica Hynes, Paul Putner, Reece Shearsmith, David Walliams and Peter Serafinowicz. We’re hoping this finally gets a release in the Autumn!

Editors Note
An earlier version of this story suggested – via the original source, The Independent – that the initial launch catalogue would include 10,000 hours of content, and indicated that the store will “hope to recoup the loss” of licence fee money from recent changes to the infrastructure. BBC Worldwide have since clarified to The Velvet Onion that neither of these things are strictly the case. The catalogue will build to c.10K hours of content, and the licence fee shortfall is far greater than the money BBC Store can hope to recoup, but will contribute towards it, and TVO would like to apologise to any readers who were potentially misled by our report.

So Hot Right Now: #37

29 Jun

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


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

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

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

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

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

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


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

© Happy Tramp / BBC

© Happy Tramp / BBC

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

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

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

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

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


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

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

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

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

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

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


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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

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

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


Undercover, Tuesday, 9:00pm, Dave

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

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

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

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

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


Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

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

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


Horrible Histories, Monday, 5:00pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

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

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

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


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

©  JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

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

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

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


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

© Lauren Taylor

© Lauren Taylor

Wednesday 1st July

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

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

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

Thursday 2nd July

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

Saturday 4th July

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

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


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


So Hot Right Now: #36

22 Jun

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


Hoff The Record, Thursday, 9pm, Dave

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

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

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

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

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


Undercover, Tuesday, 9:00pm, Dave

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

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

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

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

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


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

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO


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

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

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


Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna



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

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

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


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

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

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

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

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

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



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

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

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

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

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

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


Horrible Histories, Monday, 5:00pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

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

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

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


Gadget Man, Monday, 8:30pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

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

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


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

© Lou Sanders

© Lou Sanders

Monday 22nd June

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

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

Thursday 25th June

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

Friday 26th June

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


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


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