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Oniodrome

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.

© BBC

© 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…

AAAAAAAAH! On Tour

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
© BBC

© BBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Hot Right Now: #37

29 Jun

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

MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN

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

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

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

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

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

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

SUNSET FOR THE SUNTRAP

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

© Happy Tramp / BBC

© Happy Tramp / BBC

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

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

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

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

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

TIME IS SHORT FOR DOLL & EM

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

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

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

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

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

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

AMBASSAHOFF

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

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

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

UNDERCOVER GETS WIRED

Undercover, Tuesday, 9:00pm, Dave

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

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

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

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

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

DENNIS & DAN

Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

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

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

AWFUL EGYPTIANS

Horrible Histories, Monday, 5:00pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

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

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

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

ALL THE MIRRORS OF THE WORLD

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

©  JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

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

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

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

ON STAGE THIS WEEK

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

© Lauren Taylor

© Lauren Taylor

Wednesday 1st July

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

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

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

Thursday 2nd July

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

Saturday 4th July

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

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

AND THE REST…

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

 

So Hot Right Now: #36

22 Jun

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

SMELL THE HOFF

Hoff The Record, Thursday, 9pm, Dave

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A MERCURIAL CAMEO

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

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

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

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

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

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

DIAMONDS ARE A COP’S BEST FRIEND

Undercover, Tuesday, 9:00pm, Dave

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

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

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

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

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

THE FORCE ISN’T STRONG FOR EWAN

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

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

 

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

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

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

BACK TO THE BULLY FOR DAN

Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

 

 

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

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

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

ARE WE HUMAN? OR ARE WE ONIONS?

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

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

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

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

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

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

 

FAREWELL TO STRANGE & NORRELL

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

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

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

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

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

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

A LITTLE MORE REFORMATION

Horrible Histories, Monday, 5:00pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

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

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

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

GO GO GADGET MAN!

Gadget Man, Monday, 8:30pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

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

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

ON STAGE THIS WEEK

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

© Lou Sanders

© Lou Sanders

Monday 22nd June

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

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

Thursday 25th June

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

Friday 26th June

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

AND THE REST…

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

A Field In England Prints For Sale

18 Jun
© Richard Wells

© Richard Wells

Graphic designer Richard Wells has created a set of lino prints of the key characters from Ben Wheatley‘s psychedelic civil war film A Field In England.

The beautifully-crafted ‘A Merry Band’ series consists of five images plus a ballad sheet on white parchment paper. The five main images are printed with black oil based ink on A5 handmade 150gsm paper.

The pack can be ordered for £65 from here. Individual prints from the series are available here for £13.

Ben himself was seriously impressed with the lino prints when he saw them, tweeting: “Wow this just dropped through my letter box. Thanks @Slippery_Jack ! Amazing #afieldinengland”.

We say get your mitts on them before they sell out!

 

British Muslim Comedy

18 Jun
© BBC

© BBC

To celebrate the start of Ramadan, BBC iPlayer has released five comedy shorts, written by and starring British Muslim comedians. They explore the highs and lows of modern Muslim life, including personal struggles around Ramadan.

All the shorts are directed by Dave Lambert, with costumes by Suzy Evelyn-Hall of DeadDogInBlackBag. Eid Mubarak is written by and stars Asim Chaudry who stars in Hoff The Record.

The mixture of stories and styles means there is something for everyone, and not just for Muslims.  You can see them all here on BBC iPlayer, where they are available for 29 days.

While you are there, don’t forget Matt Berry‘s moving tribute to UK Father’s – Father’s Day, which also features Bob Mortimer.

Onion Talking: Dave Lambert goes Undercover

16 Jun
© UKTV / Topher McGrillis

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

This week sees the launch of Undercover – the new sitcom starring Daniel Rigby and Sarah Alexander. In it, Rigby plays hapless detective Chris Anderson, who goes undercover within the Sarkissian crime syndicate in an attempt to nail the head honcho Ara, and Alexander is his uncompromising boss, Zoe Keller.

One of a string of new, original comedy commissions by freeview channel Dave, the show is directed by none other than Boosh veteran and Common Ground director Dave Lambert.

In the middle of his hectic schedule, we caught up with Lambo to ask him a few undercover questions of our own.

Every now and then on wonderfully named freeview channel Dave, they’ll replay an episode of Mock the Week, which will make a big joke out of the fact that their last joke was going to feel so out of date for the people watching on Dave all those years later. Because, in fairness, that’s exactly what Dave has been known for in recent years: wall to wall Top Gear by day, wall to wall Mock The Week/Russell Howard’s Good News/Red Dwarf by night.

However, that last show brought about a sea of change in the channel’s fortunes. When BBC Two passed on making more Red Dwarf in 2009, ten years after the last series aired, Dave – who were already having lots of success with their repeats of the Crimson Short One’s adventures – stumped up the cash. The result was a record breaking audience. Another full series followed suit in 2012, with two more filming back to back at the end of this year. Suddenly, Dave found they could have just as much success making their own shows as they could repeating the same old shows for all eternity, if not more so.

The upshot of that has been felt across the last few years with a string of occasional commissions, including the sublime Crackanory, but this week sees the channel stick two new flagpoles in the ground and hope the wind doesn’t knock them over. There’s mockumentary Hoff the Record, in which David Hasselhoff rips his persona to shreds in the name of comedy, and then there’s Undercover – which, if you don’t count the hilarious pilot to their aborted Zimbani in 2010, is the channel’s first actual original sitcom about a policeman in deep surveillance as he tries to take down an Armenian crime syndicate from the inside.

© Baby Cow / UKTV

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

At the helm is Dave Lambert: a director who cut his teeth making behind the scenes features for The Mighty Boosh and Gavin & Stacey before taking on Alan Partridge in Welcome to the Places of My Life, and helming Sky Atlantic’s brilliant series of shorts, Common Ground. With Undercover, he shares the channel’s sitcom virginity, in spite of a long legacy of great comedic output.

“I knew I always wanted to be a director,” he tells TVO as we grab a moment of his time after a preview of the first two episodes. “But I was never sure of the route to get there. There are so many ways you can do it. My personal ethos was to learn as much as possible from everyone involved in the production of a tv show, and then I would understand where everyone is coming from when I was directing.”

Judging by the evidence of Undercover‘s opening installments, he learnt a lot. The show is visually impressive, with Lambert working with Director of Photography Si Bell, and production designer Jim Holloyway to create a look that is playful with the format of ‘cop-shows’ and has a truly cinematic feel. This contrasts nicely with the Zucker-esque broad gags whilst supporting the considered, often gritty plots. “The jokes were there when I came on board,” Lambert explains. “I had to work out how to accommodate them and the reality of the plots. I always thought it had to look authentic to the genre to succeed and to play the whole thing as straight as possible, as that’s when the silly moments really sing.”

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

“I always wanted it to have a cinematic feel,” he continues, “and the faded colour scheme was really important to make it feel real. We watched a lot of clips of Scorsese films. Jim has worked on so many comedies over the years, and is fantastic. We found an empty rundown restaurant in the heart of Newcastle that he converted into Vartan’s, the Sarkissian restaurant that acts as a front for their operation. It looks stunning and just has such great texture to it. Totally authentic.”

Indeed, the viewer is thrust straight into the dangerous situations that Chris Anderson, our titular undercover cop in disguise as Christapour Gergorian, is placed in. The screen is filled with close-ups and tight angles, the cameras handheld to give a natural unsteadiness that puts audiences right in the thick of it.

“I always felt we needed to do that from the off,” Lambert confirms. “To see the world through Chris’ eyes. The viewers need to feel they are in his shoes, scared when he’s scared, or laughing when he does something ridiculous or idiotic. The one line pitch for the show was: Imagine Woody Allen in The Sopranos. He’s a guy who is terrified of being killed, whilst trying to have sex.”

Put like that, the comedy angle becomes a lot clearer. Because let’s face it: an undercover cop investigating Armenian gangsters is not your typical basis for a comedy. “Anything different or out of the ordinary is always good in my book,” Lambert enthuses when this suggestion is put to him. “I was sent the scripts and I just loved them. I read them all in one sitting, and instantly knew I had to do the job. I really liked the idea of making a cop-show, gangster film and comedy hybrid but within a culture that isn’t really represented on TV.”

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

Undercover was a long time coming. A pilot was shot two years ago, with another director, though parts of it survive in the opening episode. However, there was still a lot of scope for Lambo to add his own touches across the production, right down to finer details: indeed, the first joke to truly hit its target comes not from the script, but when the director has fun playing with the format. As Chris walks down the street, the generic cop-show music soars: he steps into a cafe, the door bleeps open, and the music cuts out. Simple, but effective.

“With that moment,” Lambert explains, “it wasn’t in the script, but I wanted the audience to have a moment up front where we show them what you would expect to hear in the genre, straight to the normality. The audience gets the tone early on, and we had more beats like that written in, or added while shooting. It’s my job to serve the script and bring anything else I can to the table to enhance that blueprint. We found over the course of shooting the series that new things come up. You tweak lines here and there, question whether characters would do what they are doing. The scripts were really solid from the off, so nothing major, but things do develop and change when you have all this great talent on set.”

Naturally, that paves the way for improvisation in the right situations. “Dan Rigby is great at coming up with extra Chris-isms that he would throw in on the day,” says Lambert, filled with enthusiasm for his star. “That man is incredible,” he continues. “He really prepares and arrives on set with a delivery of a line that I never saw coming. If there’s time on the day and the atmosphere is right then it’s always great to have a play with the scene and have a fun run take. It’s really based on the schedule for me, and getting through the day with all the material you need.”

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

When Lambert came on board Undercover, Rigby had already been cast as Chris, but he stresses he honestly cannot see anyone else playing the part. However, it took a while for them to find the right person to play his boss, Zoe, until Green Wing veteran Sarah Alexander came along. “We saw a lot of people,” Lambert reveals. “They’d come in and do great things, but it wasn’t until Sarah came in that we saw the complete character. Her first read was incredible, and there was instant chemistry with Daniel. I just knew we had found our Zoe.”

The duo are ably supported by some great talent filling out the cast, with the opening episodes including the likes of Being Human‘s Michael Socha, Sherlock‘s Yasmine Akram, Up The Women‘s Ryan Sampson and a preview for Episode Three revealing Comic Strip veteran Keith Allan crops up as a hardcase ex-con. Natuarlly, Lambert is full of admiration for his cast.

“Everyone you mentioned,” he insists, “makes directing this show a joy. Mark Heap also appears later in the series and is hilarious. It was a great highlight to direct him, as I’ve been a fan for many years. Ivan Kaye, who plays Ara’s right hand man Garabad is fantatic, both visually and comically. he is such a scary and commanding presence on screen, but plays the comic moments so brilliantly.”

The cast helped Lambert acclimatise to his first long-form narrative: five weeks of filming with them allowing the building of a shorthand and complete investment in the work. In retrospect, whilst the end result is a different form, this is no different to Lambert’s previous work filming behind the scenes on all three series of The Mighty Boosh. The director insists he simply wanted to tell stories, and that they ended up being documentaries at first owes more to circumstance than any original intent: the first series of Boosh shared a producer, Alison MacPhail, with Baby Cow’s Cruise of the Gods, which he had previously worked on, and therefore he was a logical choice for the job, as we’ve previously discussed.

“I knew they were great,” he states when it is noted he was there to chart the rise of the Boosh from television newbies to international superstars. “But I didn’t ever imagine I’d be filming them performing live at the Roxy in LA, with Robin Williams in the audience!”

His work on the Boosh then led to work with one of big bosses of Baby Cow: Steve Coogan. After editing Mid Morning Matters, Lambert was asked to direct and produce the one-off special Welcome to the Places in My Life, and he is filled with praise for the megastar turned studio head honcho. “Steve is great to work with,” he tells TVO, “as he has an attention to detail that is second to none. I’ve learnt so much from him and Henry Normal [the other half of Baby Cow’s top tier], and the environment they foster is very creative. There’s no change whether you are on set together or having a meeting in the office.”

Up next for Lambert is editing a Channel 4 Comedy Blap he’s directed entitled High and Dry starring Mark Wootten (La La Land), Harry Peacock, Jessie Cave and Asim Chauhdry, which he says was great to shoot. This week also sees the launch of a series of iPlayer shorts he’s directed to tie in with Ramadan featuring five up and coming Muslim comedic talents.  But of course, Undercover is still on the agenda, and should Dave the channel want Dave the director to return for a second run, there’s still lots of scope for fresh ideas to add to the mix.

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

© Baby Cow / UKTV / Topher McGrillis

“As much as we hit the ground running on the very first day of the shoot,” he insists, “by the end we really felt we nailed the DNA of the show. When it airs, I think viewers will enjoy the journey over the six episodes. There’s a real build, twists and turns, surprises and lots of laughs. I would love to return to do more, as I think we’re only at the start of Chris and Zoe’s story, and there is so much left to do and see. Andrew Milligan (co-writer/co-creator) and I speak at least twice a week at the moment about possible scenarios, scenes and even shots if we get a second series.”

Here is, of course, hoping. Undercover is broad and wears its influences on its sleeve, but it’s also great fun, is stylishly shot and edited, and demonstrates that there is far more to Dave the channel than repeats of old panel shows. As their first true original sitcom, they couldn’t have been bolder, and alongside Hoff the Record, TVO hopes they demonstrate a channel willing to buck the trend and find an audience willing to take them to heart. And if, for any reason, these six episodes are all we’re gonna get, Lambert has made a show to be proud of.

“By the time you get to Episode Five,” he enthuses when pushed for a favourite moment, “everything I mentioned is in place, but you’re so invested in the characters and know their world, I think it just flies and sets up a thrilling finale that…”

He pauses, and thinks for a moment. “I have to stop myself now as I’m getting excited and might reveal something big!” Guess we’ll just have to stay tuned, then!

Undercover airs at 9pm on Tuesday 16th June 2015, exclusively on Dave. The show is also repeated in a double bill with ‘Hoff the Record’ on Thursday evening at 9:40pm. Thanks to Dave Lambert for talking to us, and UKTV for their behind the scenes imagery!

So Hot Right Now: #35

15 Jun

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

GET HOFFED

Hoff The Record, Thursday, 9pm, Dave

© UKTV

© Me And You Productions / UKTV

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

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

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

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

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

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

GO UNDERCOVER

Undercover, Tuesday, 9pm, Dave

© Baby Cow / UKTV

© Baby Cow / UKTV

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

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

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

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

VELVET (ONION) GOLDMINE FOR DOLL & EM

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

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

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

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

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

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

DIVERSITY DAN

Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

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

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

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

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

MAKE WAY FOR THE HOMOSUPERIOR

Humans, Sunday, 9:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

© Channel 4 / AMC / Kudos

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

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

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

MADNESS & MAGIC

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

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

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

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

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

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

AN ISLAND GAMBLE

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

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

© Happy Tramp / BBC / Mark Bourdillon

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

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

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

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

LOVE IS IN THE AIR FOR THE GADGET MAN

Gadget Man, Monday, 8:30pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

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

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

NAUGHTY NAPOLEON

Horrible Histories, Monday, 5:00pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

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

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

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

YOO-KAY DADDIES

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

© Pett TV

© Pett TV

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

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

ON STAGE THIS WEEK

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

© Joey Page

© Joey Page

Wednesday 17th June

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

Thursday 18th June

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

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

Sunday 21st June

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

AND THE REST…

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

So Hot Right Now: #34

8 Jun

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

FAREWELL TO SUCCESSVILLE

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

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

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

DOLL & EM’S DINNER PARTY

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

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

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

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

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

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

A SLEEP IN THE SUN

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

© Happy Tramp / BBC

© Happy Tramp / BBC

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

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

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

THE HUMANS ARE COMING

Humans, Sunday, 9pm, CHANNEL 4

humansKPRF

© Channel 4

 

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

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

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

STRANGE DAYS INDEED

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

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

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

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

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

MARDY MARY

Horrible Histories, Monday, 5pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

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

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

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

WORK, REST AND PLAY WITH AYOADE

Gadget Man, Monday, 8:30pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

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

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

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

COMMUNITY KINDNESS FOR DAN & CO

Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, Channel 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

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

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

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

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

POTENTIAL (GREY)JOY IN WESTEROS

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

© Home Box Office Inc.

© Home Box Office Inc.

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

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

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

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

ON STAGE THIS WEEK

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

© Adam Kay

© Adam Kay

Monday 8th June

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

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

Tuesday 9th June

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

Wednesday 10th June

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

Friday 12th June

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

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

AND THE REST…

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

Vinyl Kills

1 Jun
© Rook Films

© Rook Films

The soundtrack to Ben Wheatley‘s second feature, Kill List, is now available on limited edition vinyl.

Composed by Jim Williams, who also worked on the scores for Down TerraceSightseers and A Field in England, the score for the film, which starred Neil Maskell, Myanna Buring and Michael Smiley, has never previously been released.

The one-sided vinyl release follows the extremely limited print runs of Sightseers and A Field in England soundtracks on the format, which are now both extremely sought after: a quick look on Discogs shows they are being offered for £185 and £175 apiece.

Which makes this limited run of 1,000 copies all the more pressing to get your hands on. Pick one up for just £20 from the Rook Films website now.

So Hot Right Now #33

1 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…

DOLL & EM RETURNS

Doll & Em, Wednesday, 10:00pm, SKY ATLANTIC

© Sky Atlantic / HBO / Mischa Richter

© Sky Atlantic / HBO / Mischa Richter

A year after their near-perfect debut run, Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer hook up once more for another series of their semi-autobiographical Doll & Em.  In it, they play fictionalised versions of themselves, with the first series seeing out-of-work Doll become an assistant to movie-star Em, and their friendship almost fall apart as the former started to get more attention than the latter.

The lifelong best friends are back, this time heading to a lighthouse retreat endeavouring to write a script together, which is all a bit meta considering they’re the writers of the show in reality.  But then, Wells is no stranger to that after her stint in Luxury Comedy, after all! However, a reality check is on hand when their meeting with Harvey Weinstein doesn’t quite go as planned.

As with the first series, this is a richly nuanced world which would feel just at home as a feature length movie as it does a serialised comic-drama. There’s a heavy influence of independent cinema on display, and it’s as beautifully shot as it is delicately written. If you have access to Sky Atlantic – be it through satellite or a Now TV subscription – you really ought to watch this absolute gem. You can see a trailer below.

THE GADGET MAN IS BACK

Gadget Man, Monday, 8:30pm, CHANNEL 4

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

Who would have thought that Richard Ayoade – comedy legend and highly acclaimed director of television and film – would be such an enchanting host? Channel 4 clearly did, and it’s paid off big time, as just a few short weeks after Travel Man, he’s back for another run of Gadget Man for good measure.

In this first episode, Richard looks at how technology can be used to make the most of a weekend, with the help of TV presenter Steve Jones and comedians Al Murray and Sara Pascoe.  There are gadgets to help with chores, to assist your workout, and to help you enjoy your night out and get home safe afterwards. Lots of fun, as always. You can see a trailer below.

MAN DOWN GETS UP AGAIN

Man Down, Monday, 10:00pm, CHANNEL 4

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

© Channel 4 / Shamil Tanna

Channel 4’s other new started this week is the long-awaited return of Greg Davies vehicle Man Down – produced by TVO veteran Spencer Millman (The Mighty Boosh, Man to Man with Dean Learner, TV Burp and lots more), and directed by Al Campbell (The Midnight Beast, It’s Kevin, Fit and perhaps better known as Barry Shitpeas in Charlie Brooker’s various shows).

Moving on from the tragic early death of co-star Rik Mayall last year was never going to be easy, but December’s Christmas special introduced another formidable foe for Greg’s character, Dan, in the form of his eccentric aunt Nesta, brilliantly brought to life by Stephanie Cole. The result was the unthinkable: a tough act to follow was ably matched by a seasoned pro, and the show had a whole new lease of life once more.

Revitalised, it now returns for a second series, as middle-aged loser Dan continues to be a useless man-child, going on a horrendous date, whilst his equally baffling friends Jo and Brian have their own bonkers sub-plots to enjoy. Jo’s busy trying to improve her CV, and Brian is connecting with his family past and bonding with the local bin-men. Genius stuff, and watch out for the brilliant Marek Larwood making a guest appearance as a waiter. You can see a trailer below.

ALEX AND TRACY IN THE SUN TRAP

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

©  Happy Tramp / Des Willie

© Happy Tramp / Des Willie

Kayvan Novak and Bradley Walsh vehicle Sun Trap launched last week, and this week sees the former journalists turned hired-hands Woody and Brutus meet two familiar faces for TVO readers: Tracy Ann Oberman and Alex Kirk.

Kirk’s part as Todd is small but sweet, yet it’s Oberman who steals the show as Brutus’ ex-wife, angry to find that he’s not dead, and he has all their money. Meanwhile, Woody ends up delivering an antique urn to a neighbouring island, but it soon transpires the urn isn’t full of ashes…

It’s another delightfully silly instalment in a show which, as critics have noted, gets better and better as it finds its feet. Also featuring a guest appearance from Keeping Up Appearances star Clive Swift, Neil Webster and Charlie Skelton’s script is bristling with great one liners, whilst director Ben Palmer makes it all look lovely.

Regional viewers should take note, however, that Sun Trap has inherited the Count Arthur slot, and as such is bouncing around depending on news requirements for each region.  In England, it’s on at 10:45pm, but viewers in Scotland get to start watching ten minutes earlier at 10:35pm. If you’re in Wales, you’ve got to wait until 11:10pm, but if you think that’s bad, poor old Northern Ireland doesn’t get to see it until 11:45pm, which is just ruddy madness.

If you’d prefer, however, everybody can see it on Friday evening at 11:25pm, right after The Graham Norton Show. Phew! Either way, there’s a trailer below.

DR DEATH VISITS SUCCESVILLE

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

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

Is it just us, or is Murder in Successville one of the best new shows we’ve seen in a long time? It’s hard to think we’re almost at the end of our time with DI Sleet (a flawless Tom Davis), and his series of rookie cops in training, and we’re crossing everything to hear a second series has been commissioned. Here’s hoping, and on the strength of this week’s episode, it’s a must.

This week it’s the turn of former Pussycat Dolls singer Kimberly Wyatt to help Sleet question three suspects in a murder at Successville Hospital. A famous footballer and a lot of bandaging have met one another, and there are three possible suspects: Dr Obama, Nurse Adele and surgeon Bob Geldof.

Chances are you’ll recognise all three of those suspects on sight: Jason Lewis, who plays Obama, was Jay-Z in a recent episode of MiS, and was also a regular on Bellamy’s People and The Armstrong & Miller Show. Adele is played by someone we’ve mentioned a hell of a lot over the years: Gemma Whelan, stand-up comedienne and internationally recognised as Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

Geldof, on the other hand, is even closer to home – the ever magnificent Dan Skinner – last seen on our screens in the delightful House of Fools earlier this year, as well as ITV2’s hugely underrated post-apocalyptic sitcom Cockroaches alongside Tom Davis.

With friend of TVO, Nico Tatarowicz involved in the writing of this week’s episode, Waen Shepherd once again providing the music, and our enormous love for the spot-on Gordon Ramsey impression from Liam Hourican, this is another great edition of Murder in Successville you’d be mad to miss. There’s a preview clip below.

THE ACTOR CONQUEROR, KEVIN ELDON

Horrible Histories, Monday, 5:00pm, CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

There’s another great new edition of Horrible Histories to savour this week, as special guest star Kevin Eldon appears in a special look at the life of 11th century Norman monarch William the Conqueror.

Featuring Will’s quarrels with Harold Godwinson about who should be king of England, the legendary Battle of Hastings in 1066, a look at Chinese technology during the Norman era, and one of the world’s first scientists over in Egypt, and you’ve got another brilliant edition from the new-look Horrible Histories team.

Once again, the delightful Simon Farnaby makes an appearance, alongside HH veteran Jim Howick, and new regulars Jalaa Hartley, Naz Osmanoglu, Adam Riches, Jessica Ransom and Tom Stourton. And, really, if you needed more of a reason to watch this than Kevin Eldon being involved, you might be reading the wrong website…

ALL THE MIRRORS OF THE WORLD

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

©  JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

© JSMN Ltd / Matt Squire

The fourth episode of BBC One’s fantasy epic Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell airs on Sunday evening, and we reach the central point of this powerhouse seven-part drama.

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.

Adapted by Peter Harness and directed by Toby Haynes, Strange & Norrell remains a beautiful treat at the end of each weekend, and as we reach the middle of the tale, it becomes apparent that we won’t be ready to let it go in a few weeks time. Marc Warren is stealing every scene he’s in, which is no small feat when the cast includes Carvel & Marsan, and a cavalcade of great actors, including TVO regulars Edward Hogg and Paul Kaye.

If you haven’t caught up yet, do so immediately, then check out our exclusive interview with Kaye about the series over yonder. There’s also a preview clip available below.

GALA BEA

Channel 4 Comedy Gala, Sunday, 9:00pm, CHANNEL 4

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

Last month saw the sixth annual Channel 4 Comedy Gala take place at London’s o2 Arena, in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital, with another jam-packed line-up of some of the biggest names in British comedy, including Rob Beckett, Kevin Bridges, Alan Carr, Paul Chowdhry, Warwick Davis, Jack Dee, Rich Hall, Russell Kane, Shappi Khorsandi, Sean Lock, Michael McIntyre, Trevor Noah, Sara Pascoe, Romesh Ranganathan, Jon Richardson, Katherine Ryan, Sean Walsh and Josh Widdicombe.

Also on the bill was the mighty Aisling Bea, who is truly shaping up to be one of the biggest names on telly this year, as well as an absolute gigging-powerhouse.  You can see the results from 9pm on Channel 4 on Sunday night, though we recommend catching Strange & Norrell first, then hopping over to 4+1 to binge on the Gala before bed-time.

ON STAGE THIS WEEK

There’s almost always a chance or two to see a TVO regular on stage, often in London, but occasionally up and down the country. Here’s where you can find them throughout the week, including a Manchester date for Paul Foot, and Lou Sanders visiting Windsor, plus a brand new show from Cariad Lloyd and lots more to enjoy.

© Ditto Productions

© Ditto Productions

Monday 1st June

Sarah Kendall, Rich Hall, Tiffany Stevenson, Will Anderson, Nish Kumar and Katherine Ryan
The Pheonix, London
8:30pm, £6.60
TICKETS

Wednesday 3rd June

Richard Sandling‘s Perfect Movie Podcast featuring Pappys and Ash Frith
The Betsey Trotswood, London
7:30pm, £3.85
TICKETS

Thursday 4th June

Cariad Lloyd and Paul Foxcroft in Cariad & Paul: A Two Player Adventure
The Soho Theatre, London
9:15pm, £13.75
TICKETS

Lou Sanders and Chris Martin
The Fire Station, Windsor
8:30pm, £7.15
TICKETS

Friday 5th June

James Wren & Leon Fleury present SPANK! You Love It! featuring Aisling BeaLate Night Gimp Fight, James Acaster and Vikki Stone
Udderbelly at Southbank Centre, London
10:45pm, £17,.45
TICKETS

Cariad Lloyd and Paul Foxcroft in Cariad & Paul: A Two Player Adventure
The Soho Theatre, London
9:15pm, £13.75
TICKETS

© Paul Foot

© Paul Foot

Saturday 6th June

Paul Foot [Edinburgh preview show]
Gorilla, Manchester
7pm, £8.80-£12.10
TICKETS

Cariad Lloyd and Paul Foxcroft in Cariad & Paul: A Two Player Adventure
The Soho Theatre, London
9:15pm, £13.75
TICKETS

Reece Shearsmith opens The Haunted Picture House, with a screening of Horror of Dracula
The Haunted Picture House, London
7pm, £25.75
TICKETS

Sunday 7th June

Dan Clark: The Wow Wow Show featuring Natasia Demetriou, Liam Williams, Oliver Maltman and The Wow Wow Band
The Soho Theatre, London
9:30pm, £16.75
TICKETS

The Geekatorium – presented by Richard Sandling, Iszi Lawrence & Paul Gannon, featuring Nathaniel Metcalfe, Elf Lyons, Eli Silverman, Matthew Highton and Suman Biswas
The Phoenix, London
7pm, £5
TICKETS

Aisling Bea, Romesh Ranganathan, Pete Firman and James Gill [Edinburgh previews]
Putney Arts Centre, London
7:45pm
SOLD OUT

AND THE REST…

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. This week, we had a Twitter exclusive competition, so if you missed it, start following us now, so you can definitely keep up with the next one. Until next time, keep on peeling!

So Hot Right Now #32

25 May

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…

HERE COMES THE SUN TRAP

Wednesday, 10:45pm, BBC ONE

© Happy Tramp / Adam Lawrence

© Happy Tramp / Adam Lawrence

This week sees the launch of Sun Trap, the new BBC One sitcom starring Kayvan Novak and Bradley Walsh, with a sizable bevvy of TVO regulars along for the ride in guest roles throughout the six part run.

Novak stars as undercover reporter Woody, who is forced to go on the run by a corrupt editor and finds his old mentor Brutus (Walsh) running a bar in a holiday resort. Together, the pair take on a series of investigations – and a variety of disguises – to keep their newfound paradise in check.

In this first episode, Woody’s life on the run begins, and the wife of a pension’s fraudster asks the duo to help find her husband’s hidden millions. Also starring Jamie Demetriou, Emma Pierson and Bea Segura, there’s something warm and inviting about the show – and we’re not just talking about the climate. It’s a little old-fashioned, especially for alternative comedy nutjobs like us, but stick with it, and you’ll find much to enjoy, including a lot of familiar faces giving it an extra stamp of quality.

The likes of Simon Day, Paul KayeAlex KirkTracy Ann ObermanMorgana Robinson and Tony Way pop up across the series, alongside other big names such as Jack Dee, Keith Allen, Lee Boardman, Clive Swift and Sean Gilder.

Directed by Ben Palmer (Star Stories, Penelope Princess of Pets, Bad Sugar etc), and produced by Neil Webster (Would I Lie To You, Them From That Thing) – the same duo currently working on Morgana’s long awaited sketch-show via their production company Happy Tramp, Sun Trap is a slice of pure fun, that’s on at the unfathomably late time of 10:45pm, starting Wednesday 27th May on BBC One.

HORRIBLE HISTORIES IN DA FOOCHA

Monday, 7:45am / 5pm CBBC

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

© Lion TV / Laura Rawlinson

We thought it was a goner, but this week sees the return of CBBC smash Horrible Histories  for a series of six revamped specials.

Once more featuring series regulars Simon Farnaby and Jim Howick, albeit as the sole remaining members of the previous team, new regulars include Tom Stourton, Adam Riches, Naz Osmanoglu, Natalie Walter and Jessica Ransom. There’s also a number of big name guest stars lined up, including Rowan Atkinson, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Kathryn Drysdale, Lorna Watson and The Actor, Kevin Eldon.

This week, Friday Night Dinner star Tom Rosenthal is thrust into the centre of the action, as we look at the life of King Alfred the Great, who defeats the Viking using cunning tactics and summons the spirit of Ed Sheeran. Early birds can see the results at 7:45am on Bank Holiday Monday, but if you can wait a little longer, it’s also repeated at 5pm – and of course, will be available on iPlayer shortly after transmission.

A LITTLE BIT OF SUGAR IN IN SUCCESSVILLE

Wednesday, 10pm, BBC THREE

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

Tom Davis‘ madcap, partially-improvised murder mystery sitcom gameshow hybrid Murder in Successville is proving to be a big hit with viewers, and this week will surely sweeten the deal as TV heart-throb Dermot O’Leary is joined by special guest star Ricky Grover (Being Human, The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains, Getting On, Black Books, Red Dwarf and many more), as local sweet-shop proprietor Alan Sugar.

Sugar is just one potential suspect in the murder of Amanda Holden, the PA to town mayor Simon Cowell (the brilliant Liam Hourican). Other suspects include nursing home proprietor Miley Cyrus (TVO regular Cariad Lloyd) and martial arts expert Jessie J (Jenny Bede), and it’s up to Rookie Dermot and the ever unreliable DI Sleet (Davis), to crack the case.

Once again featuring friend of TVO, Nico Tartarowicz as put-upon cop Sid, this is another riotously brilliant episode of MiS that’s bound to go down well with fans of the show. After last week’s slight misstep with grumpy Deborah Meaden, it’s good to have another guest who really goes for it, and gets stuck in to Successville’s bonkers world – and it’s safe to say Dermot gets a bit over-excited. Tune in on Wednesday evening to find out more, and check out a preview clip featuring him grilling Cariad Lloyd below.

STRANGE AND NORRELL GETS STRANGER

Sunday, 9pm, BBC ONE

© JSMN Ltd / Bertrand Calmeau / BBC

© JSMN Ltd / Bertrand Calmeau / BBC

The BBC fantasy epic Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has been wowing critics since its début earlier this month, and it’s not hard to see why. Impeccable direction from Toby Haynes, a flawless script from Peter Harness, and a pitch-perfect ensemble cast have brought the world of Susanne Clarke’s novel to glorious life, and the series shows no signs of flagging in this third instalment.

This week, Strange (Bertie Carvell) arrives in Spain, only to find Lord Wellington (Ronan Vibert) has no use for him. Frustrated, he demonstrates how his magical talents could be used to help fight the Napoleonic armies in a stunning sequence we’d be really naughty spoiling for you. Meanwhile Mr Norrell (Eddie Marsan) is battling to keep his secrets hidden, while Arabella (Charlotte Riley) discovers the recently resurrected Lady Pole (Alice Englert) has become dangerously unhinged – but when she tries to warn her husband, it turns out her letters are being intercepted by the mysterious figure known only as The Gentleman (Marc Warren).

Also featuring Ariyon Bakare, Samuel West, Enzo Cilenti, Vincent Franklin, Brian Pettifer and TVO regulars Edward Hogg and Paul Kaye, this is a truly wonderful ensemble delivering powerful material that’s hard to resist. You can read our exclusive interview with star Paul Kaye about the show over yonder, and if you like what you see, why not pre-order the Blu-Ray and DVD from our Amazon Store?

CARIAD HAS MORE NEWS FOR YOU

Monday, 10:45pm, BBC ONE

© Hat Trick / Richard Kendal

© Hat Trick / Richard Kendal

Every now and then, we miss something happening, and with recent episodes of BBC One’s long running topical panel show, Have I Got News For You shifting and changing around at a moment’s notice due to strike action and/or producer-thumping former-presenters glimpsed in the background of the above photo, it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of a show that, whilst usually brilliant, rarely has TVO connections.

However, last Friday’s edition saw Cariad Lloyd follow in the footsteps of Tony Law and Graham Linehan, amongst others, by appearing as a guest panellist, poking fun at the latest news stories alongside journalist/author Jon Ronson and regulars Ian Hislop and Paul Merton. Stepping into the host chair was none other than comedian and recent Doctor Who star Frank Skinner.

If you missed it, you’re in luck – as Monday evenings is typically when BBC One air an extended repeat, with more bits packed in for good measure. Have I Got More News For You airs at 10:45pm on Bank Holiday Monday, and will be available on iPlayer shortly after transmission.

ON STAGE THIS WEEK

There’s almost always a chance or two to see a TVO regular on stage, often in London, but as demonstrated this week, also up and down the country. Here’s where you can find them throughout the week.

© Rob Grieg

© Rob Grieg

Monday 25th May

Colin Hoult: Sit on the Ledge and Jump Down to the Ground
The Warren, Brighton Fringe
6pm, £8
TICKETS

Lou Sanders, Tiffany Stevenson, Gareth Richards and Stuart Black plus a special guest
The Phoenix, London
8:30pm, £5.50
TICKETS

Tuesday 26th May

Dan Skinner and Alex Lowe in The Angelos and Barry Show Live Podcast
Gunabara Club, London
7pm, £13.75
TICKETS

Wednesday 27th May

Paul Foot: Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon # Major
The Courtyard, Hereford
7:30pm, £13.50
TICKETS

Thursday 28th May

Adam Kay, Eric Lampaert, Michael Legge, David McIver and Ian Lane
The Garage, Highbury, London
7pm, £5
TICKETS

Paul Foot: Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon # Major
South Street, Reading
8pm, £14.50
SOLD OUT

Friday 29th May

Monkey Toast: Phil Whelans, David Shore, Susan Harrison, Lauren Shearing, Graham Dickson, Richard Soames and special guest Rob Broderick
The Proud Archivist, London
7:30pm, £4-£10
TICKETS

Paul Foot: Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon # Major
The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
7:30pm, £13.50
SOLD OUT

© PBJ

© PBJ

Saturday 30th May

Sarah Kendall, David Cross, Jared Christmas, Amir Khoshokhan, Ed Aczel, Joel Dommett, Nish Kumar and Tom Toal
Rich Mix Studios, London
7:30pm, £12
TICKETS

Paul Foot: Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon # Major
The Hawth Theatre, Crawley
7:45pm, £14.00
SOLD OUT

Sunday 31st May

The Comedy Store Players: Cariad Lloyd, Phill Jupitus, Josie Lawrence, Neil Mullarkey, Niall Ashdown, Steve Edis
The Comedy Store
7:30pm, £19.00
TICKETS

Paul Foot, Mark Watson, Tim Key & Nish Kumar
Wells Little Theatre, Wells Comedy Festival
8pm, £15.40
TICKETS

ALL WEEK

Tracy Ann Oberman in McQueen
St James Theatre, London
7:30pm (and Saturday matinee at 2:30pm), £25-65
TICKETS

BIG SCREEN FUN

© Handle Productions Oy

© Handle Productions Oy

This week gives you a chance to catch a couple of TVO regulars at the cinema for good measure. Out on general release now is Moomins on the Riviera featuring the voice of Tracy Ann Oberman as Ma Moomin in the revival of an animated classic.

Also out now is family comedy Up All Night which features a cameo from Kevin Eldon, whilst on Friday, Man Up starring Simon Pegg, Lake Bell and Sharon Horgan is released nationwide. You can see trailers for all three films below.

AND THE REST…

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. This week, we had a Twitter exclusive competition, so if you missed it, start following us now, so you can definitely keep up with the next one. Until next time, keep on peeling!

Count Arthur Is Back!

22 May
© picturehouseblog.co.uk

© picturehouseblog.co.uk

Radio Times today revealed that Count Arthur Strong will be back for a third series on BBC1 next year.

The BBC has commissioned seven more episodes of the Bafta-nominated comedy which sees Steve Delaney once again in the role of the eccentric ex-music hall performer, who causes chaos wherever he goes, joined by his long-suffering friend Michael (Rory Kinnear).
The series will again be co-written by Delaney and TVO regular Graham Linehan.

Count Arthur recently released the first volume of his memoirs entitled ‘Through it all I’ve always Laughed’, available here, and series 1 is available on DVD from the TVO Store.

Stag: New Dark Comedy for BBC2

20 May
© The Mirror / BBC

© The Mirror / BBC

A new dark comedy thriller commissioned by BBC Two started filming earlier this week on location in Scotland – and the cast features a couple of TVO faces!

Stag is a three-part series about a rather nasty stag weekend. It follows a meek school teacher and his future brother-in-law, plus several obnoxious friends, on a deer-stalking expedition in the Scottish Highlands. As the hunting party realises that they themselves are the prey, sordid secrets begin to emerge and old friendships are tested to the limit in a ruthless battle for survival.

The cast includes Reece Shearsmith and Rufus Jones – plus Tim Key (Inside No 9, Alan Partridge), alongside Jim Howick (Peep Show, Horrible Histories), Stephen Campbell Moore (The Wrong Mans, Our Zoo), JJ Feild (The Musketeers), James Cosmo (Game Of Thrones), Amit Shah (Silent Witness, Jekyll & Hyde) and Sharon Rooney (My Mad Fat Diary).

Jim Field Smith, Producer, Director and Co-writer of Stag has said of the mini-series: “I can’t believe this fantastic roster of talent is joining us for seven weeks of hell in the Highlands, and can only assume they haven’t read the scripts properly.”

As soon as we hear any more about the project, including its intended transmission date, (currently planned for later this year) we’ll be sure to let you know.

Will you start the fans please? 25 Years of The Crystal Maze

19 May

It’s now over 25 years since The Crystal Maze first aired on British television, and to celebrate, Buzzfeed have spoken to a number of those involved with its creation.

© Mirrorpix

© Mirrorpix

For the uninitiated, The Crystal Maze was a long-running, ratings-grabbing game show in which teams of six ordinary people were flung into short mini-games in themed locations, all to win crystals which translated to seconds in a giant dome grabbing at foil tokens to try and win random prizes, from a rally adventure to a rock-climbing day: the more adventurous the contestant, the better their prize, it seemed!

Presented by Rocky Horror show legend (and one-time Mongrel) Richard O’Brien for its first four series, and punk rock legend (and one-time Game of Thrones preacher) Edward Tudor Pole for a further two series, the show ran for just five years, ending in August 1995, but its legacy is strong, thanks in no small part to regular repeats on freeview channel Challenge. It’s also been ripe for parody over the years, with everyone from Adam & Joe to Cardinal Burns trying out a kind-hearted parody or two.

The show was a joyously silly slice of pure escapism, and while time hasn’t been kind to the contestants hairstyles, there have been many calls for its return over the years, including this impassioned plea from The Guardian earlier this year. This particular writer remembers a teacher from his primary school who went on the show – even getting featured in Look-In magazine as a result – and the sheer excitement of her bringing in a gold and silver token, along with her winning crystal, is a memory that has stayed with me ever since.

Now Buzzfeed have taken a look at the incredibly high-concept gameshow for a retrospective piece, which speaks to a number of those involved. This includes the show’s original host, Richard O’Brien, the actress Sandra Caron (better known as “Mumsy”), director and producer David G. Croft, and one of the first ever contestants on the show.

© James Dillon

© James Dillon

The reason we’re telling you all about this is that another contributor is the show’s production designer, James Dillon, who at that time was already a veteran of British television, having worked on Metal Mickey, The Goodies and Don’t Miss Wax, amongst others, and had a brief stint in America working on Dempsey and Makepeace.

Of course, following The Crystal Maze, Dillon went on to design sets for Penn & Teller, The Thin Blue Line, Game On, The Royal Family, Gimme Gimme Gimme and 15 Storeys High, before he took on the task of bringing to life a journey through time and space with The Mighty Boosh.

After designing all three series of the Boosh and both of their UK live tours, James went on to work on Not Going Out, Russell Howard’s Good NewsThe Persuasionists and Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy, for which we spoke to him in our Series 2 making of video below.

You can read the piece from Buzzfeed over yonder, and episodes of The Crystal Maze regularly air on Challenge. We also recommend having a peruse of James Dillon’s website, which is full of fascinating insights into his incredible career.

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