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Onion on Site: Toast Q&A

17 Nov
© Channel 4

© Channel 4

The long awaited third series of Toast of London airs this week (Wednesday, 10:30pm, Channel Four), and you’re in for a real treat.

TVO’s newest recruit, Jess Gerber, recently attended the series launch, which featured a Q&A from the show’s writers Matt Berry and Arthur Matthews.

Her thoughts are below…

The epic Toast of London is returning to its home on Channel 4, and is bringing all the bells and whistles with it! The general plot of the series has not changed, but feels enhanced by wittier writing than ever, as Steven Toast gets himself into all kinds of unthinkable situations.  All the quirky regular characters, such as Toast’s hilarious house mate Ed Howzer-Black (Robert Bathhurst), his colourful agent Jane Ploug (Doon Mackichan) and the unforgettable Ray “Bloody” Purchase (TVO’s Harry Peacock), are back and up to their usual, entertaining mischief. And there are also some exciting and surprising guest appearances from the likes of Paul Whitehouse and Jon Hamm to savour too!

As well as the fantastic new episodes, the highlight of the evening was a Q&A session at the end with Matt and Arthur Matthews, hosted by Adam Buxton. Of course, the first thing everyone wanted to know was what Jon Hamm was like, and how did he come about being in Toast?

Matt and Arthur were both very chuffed to have Jon guest star, which came about due to Matt’s work over the pond, and the wonderful connections he’s made along the way. Many people he met there know about Toast of London and they love it. When Jon was approached to be a guest star in Toast, he was delighted to do it as as a fan of the show… and they also added that he smelled fantastic!

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

Berry and Matthews also spoke about how they make their long distance writing partnership work. With Matt living in London and Arthur living in Ireland, they utilise the wonders of modern technology to send each other ideas and bits and bobs as they come to mind, and slowly piece it all together.

They also explained that even though they have brought in some pretty big guest stars and come up with some explosive new plot twists, they have not made very many changes to the skeleton formula of the show, as it works – and they like it – just how it is. As Matt explained: It makes Arthur and I laugh, and it seems to make others laugh, so we are happy with it. And we agree: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Finally, Adam asked Matt if he enjoys playing the character of Steven Toast, and of course asked him to do some Toast’s voices. Matt exclaimed that Toast is great fun to play as he is such a fool, and it is fun to be so socially awkward and get away with it. He told us that most of the voice work he does he just comes up with on the spot and is influenced by the fact that when he was younger his mother used to take him to the theatre a lot. He was fascinated by how loudly the actors spoke even when they were not acting, and the amusing way they would over pronounce some of their words.

Very few TV shows can tell the tale of a theatre actor and still manage to have that theatre magic and feel to it. Toast of London has done this brilliantly, and it’s a joy to have it back on our screens. Series Three does not disappoint.

Toast of London returns Wednesday 18th November at 10:30pm on Channel 4. The book, Toast on Toast – a fictional autobiography of the character – is out now.

Onions Bloom at Rose d’Or 2015

9 Nov

The nominations for this year’s Rose d’Or have been announced, and British comedy leads the way.

© Sophie Mutevelian / BBC

© Sophie Mutevelian / BBC

Also known colloquially as the Golden Rose Awards, the Rose d’Or are organised by the European Broadcasting Union and for almost 40 years were synonymous with the Swiss city of Montreux, before they began to move around Europe in 2013, with this year’s ceremony set to take place in London at the British Museum on 9th December.

Awards are split into eleven categories – six for television, and five for radio. Over 400 programmes from all over Europe were submitted to the shortlisting process, with a number of TVO faces making the final cut.

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Battling it out for the Comedy award are critically acclaimed, soon to be returning, blockbuster smash Inside No. 9 from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, and the criminally underrated and definitely also deserving a third series Sky Arts sketch show Pyschobitches starring a list of talents too long to fit into this sentence. Also in the running in this catagory is BBC Three show The Revolution Will Be Televised, but we’d be lying if we told you we wanted it to win as much as one of its ‘rivals’.

© Tim Bret Day

© Tim Bret Day

Over in the Sitcom category, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney‘s masterstroke Catastrophe will be battling it out with UK/US co-production Workaholics and Belgium’s Safety First for the potential win.

And in Radio Comedy, Kevin Eldon Will See You Now – the surrealist soundscape from the legendary character comic faces still competition from fellow BBC comedies The Infinite Monkey Cage and Newsjack (which featured Ellie White in its last two seasons).



The full list of nominees are as follows, with TVO related programming highlighted:

Television Arts

  • Monty Python: The Meaning of Live – Ian Johnson Publicity/UKTV (United Kingdom)
  • Our Gay Wedding: The Musical – Channel 4 (United Kingdom)
  • This is Opera: Turandot – TVE (Spain)

Reality & Factual Entertainment

  • Street Jungle – Media Ranch (Canada)
  • The Great British Bake Off – BBC (United Kingdom)
  • Who Cares? – Nice Entertainment Group (Sweden)

Game Show

  • My Mom Cooks Better Than Yours – FremantleMedia Ltd (United Kingdom)
  • Sweden’s Greatest Know-It-All – Sveriges Television (Sweden)
  • Wild Things – Zodiak Media, IWC and Mad Monk Productions (United Kingdom)


  • Inside No. 9BBC (United Kingdom)
  • Psychobitches Tiger Aspect (United Kingdom)
  • The Revolution Will Be Televised – Hat Trick Productions (United Kingdom)


  • CatastropheAvalon Entertainment Limited (United Kingdom)
  • Safety First (Season 2) – Shelter/Carambole (Belgium)
  • Workaholics – Avalon Entertainment Limited (United Kingdom)


  • Friendly Fire (Mein Bester Feind) –  Endemol/Shine Germany GmbH (Germany)
  • The Graham Norton Show – BBC (United Kingdom)
  • The Museum – Nice Entertainment Group (Sweden)

Radio Comedy

  • Kevin Eldon Will See You NowPozzitive Television Ltd. (United Kingdom)
  • The Infinite Monkey Cage – BBC (United Kingdom)
  • NewsJackBBC (United Kingdom)
Radio Entertainment Event
  • Lemn Sissay’s Homecoming – BBC (United Kingdom)
  • Top 2000 Global Overview – NPO Radio 2 (Netherlands)
  • Summer on P1 – Sveriges Radio AB (Sweden)
 Radio Talk Show
  • The Infinite Monkey Cage – BBC (United Kingdom)
  • Woman’s Hour – BBC (United Kingdom)
  • Chain Reaction – BBC (United Kingdom)
 Radio Game Show
  • The 3rd Degree – Pozzitive Television Ltd. (United Kingdom)
  • Ken Bruce’s Pop Master – BBC (United Kingdom)
  • The Unbelievable Truth – Random Entertainment (United Kingdom)
 Radio Music Show
  • Army of Me: Björk Now – BBC (United Kingdom)
  • A Friday Night is Music Night: The Sinatra Legacy – BBC (United Kingdom)
  • John Grant’s Songs from a Dark Place – Random Entertainment (United Kingdom)
If you’d like to attend the Rose d’Or Awards ceremony, and don’t mind blowing €150 on a ticket, you can register online now.

2015 British Independent Film Awards Nominations

5 Nov
© Rook Films

© Rook Films

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

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

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

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

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

Crackanory Returns

5 Nov

The long awaited third series of Crackanory is just over a month away, and the full list of this year’s readers have been revealed.

Crackanory - Series 3 - Picture Shows: Richard Ayoade, Sarah Millican, Jimmy Carr, Catherine Tate, Simon Bird, Carrie Fisher, Greg Davies, Christopher Lloyd, Tamsin Greig, Paul Whitehouse, Moragana Robinson and Robbie Coltrane

© Tiger Aspect / UK TV

For the uninitiated, the show features big name guests reading twisted tales – intercut with live action and animated segments which quite often star a bevy of TVO regulars, many of whom are also on the writing staff!

As we revealed back in July, new stories have been written by the likes of Kevin EldonNico Tatarowicz, Holly Walsh and Toby Davies, whilst guest readers announced at the time were Back to the Future legend Christopher Lloyd, The Inbetweeners Simon Bird, plus comedy legends Sarah Millican, Greg Davies and Tamsin Grieg.

Now we can confirm that they will be joined by Richard AyoadeMorgana Robinson, Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican, Paul Whitehouse, Catherine Tate, Robbie Coltrane and Carrie Fisher (currently appearing in Catastrophe, and a little thing called Star Wars).

There’s currently no word of who will be appearing in the story segments, but across the first two series we saw the likes of James Bachman, John Willie Hopkins, Alex Kirk, Alice Lowe, Cariad Lloyd, Tom Meeten, Lucy Montgomery, Steve Oram, Tony Way and Katy Wix, whilst past episodes have been directed by Gareth Tunley and scored by Waen Shepherd, so we’re expecting to see some familiar faces once more.

Series three begins Monday 7th December at 10pm on Dave and in an unusual move, will air across that week at the same time until Saturday.

As ever, the yearning for a home media release of the whole series continues, but you can see a selection of promo images from the new series below.


27 Oct

The new series of Catastrophe stars on Channel 4 this week, and we’ve got a selection of images from the new run to share with you.

Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan in Catastrophe

Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan in Catastrophe

The internationally acclaimed first series featured Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney as a pair of random strangers who have a fling and accidentally wind up having a baby together. Essentially over-exaggerated versions of their own personalities, the in-show Rob chooses to move from the US to the UK to be a real father to his unborn child.

When we last saw the duo, Sharon was about to give birth, and as we join them for Series Two, the turbulent lovers have arranged an ill-considered party to enable friends and family to meet their newborn baby. Unfortunately for Sharon, the gathering coincides with a disturbing revelation about her father’s health, a visit from Rob’s mum, and an unfortunate incident with the family dog.

You can catch up on Series One via All4 now, and Series Two airs every Tuesday night at 10pm.



19 Oct

This week sees the VOD release of Aaaaaaaah! – the full length directorial début of Steve Oram, in which he co-stars with a whole bevy of TVO regulars. Tom MeetenSean ReynardJulian BarrattNoel FieldingWaen Shepherd and many more crop up across 78 truly demented minutes, that take audiences on a dark, depraved journey into a world not too dissimilar to our own, except everyone talks – and acts – like primitive man.

© Rook Films / Lincoln Studios

© Rook Films / Lincoln Studios

Also along for the ride, is an actress close to the hearts of many we cover on these pages. An actress who has appeared alongside such luminaries as Laurence Olivier, Christopher Lee, Phil Daniels and Katharine Hepburn. An actress heavily associated with the works of acclaimed director Derek Jarman. An actress who has also had an expansive career as a television presenter, but most importantly, was – no, is – a bonafide punk-pop icon. And as such, this felt as good a time as any to give you a potted history of her musical endeavours.

First rising to prominence in the late 1970s, Toyah Willcox was one of a number of positive role-models for young women of the era. Here was a woman who did things her own way, and no-one was going to make her do things she didn’t want to do. After an aborted attempt at forming a band with fellow rising star Adam Ant imploded after recording only one song, Toyah formed her own band: Ninth Illusion, who soon changed their name to mirror their unique vocalist.

Signing to Safari Records in 1979, the band’s debut single Victims of the Riddle and six-track ‘Alternate Play’ record Sheep Farming in Barnet followed in quick succession in July and August of that year. Combining the vocal gymnastics of Willcox with crunching guitars, and in the case of Neon Womb some particularly guttural brass, the AP was enough of a success for it to be promoted to full length album status in Europe, and imports were changing hands at such speed that Safari followed suit in the UK.

As audiences grew, Toyah released a string of underground hits on a regular basis, shifting line-ups often as Willcox was pushed continually out into the limelight more than the others. Only founder member Joel Bogen remained a constant as the band landed in the mainstream with the smash-hit EP Four From Toyah, which featured a track called It’s A Mystery that Wilcox had to be persuaded to sing.

Following this, their third studio album Anthem narrowly missed the top spot, and more hits followed: I Want to Be Free and Thunder in The Mountains becoming anthems of the era. To this day, Willcox is adamant that if they’d followed up these hits with the track We Are – a rousing number which closed Anthem, they could have been headlining Wembley Stadium in no time, and judging by how many units they were shifting in 1982, it’s quite possible she’s right.

However, all good things must come to an end, and perhaps inspired by their sudden leap into the limelight, the band’s fourth album The Changeling came as something of a shock. This was a dark, gothic fantasy which – though sublime, and a top ten hit – failed to chime with audiences in quite the same way. In recent years, the record has become a cult favourite, filled with fantastical concepts, monsters, tree-dwellers and street warriors. Buy into The Changeling‘s world, and you’ve got an album to rival just about any ‘alternative’ record of the 1980s.

Yet the album’s lacklustre response signalled the end, and after one final album, 1983’s uneven Love is the Law, the band split later that year. Toyah Willcox was now a solo artist, and up for grabs to the highest bidder.

Her first standalone recording, Minx, was for an offshoot of CBS, who attempted to positioned Toyah as a pop icon, hiring teams of songwriters and signalling the end of her association with Joel Bogen. It failed. As did follow up album, Desire, for another label, though it did grant her a final chart hit with a cover of Echo Beach.

Since then, Toyah has continued doing things her own way. 1988’s groundbreaking experimental album Prostitute, all drum-loops, vocal-samples and challenging lyrics exploring womanhood, killed her mainstream pop career just as she was finding new success as a television presenter. Further albums followed until 1995, before Willcox began concentrating solely on the other sides of her career, seemingly bored of the studio-tour-studio-tour pattern to ever diminishing audiences.

Then in 2002, the unexpected happened: Toyah recorded a new EP. Little Tears of Love was a limited edition release, followed up by an expanded edition, Velvet Lined Shell. Made with three musicians who went on to form Sweet Billy Pilgrim, the record never bothered the mainstream but was a solid slice of Garbage-infused alt-rock, and began Toyah’s return to the studio, and the road.

Since then, she’s released another full length solo album in her own name (2008’s powerful In the Court of the Crimson Queen), and experimented with side projects This Fragile Moment and Family of Noise. Mostly, however, her musical endeavours have been focused in two directions.

Firstly, regular live tours with her long-term backing band pull in the nostalgic and the faithful for enthusiastic trips down memory lane. Playing a mix of classic tracks and newer favourites, Toyah bounces around the country for a mix of electric, acoustic and backing PA shows throughout the year, only stopping when the rest of her workload takes over.

And then there’s The Humans – the ambient rock band she formed with longterm collaborator Chris Wong and REM drummer Bill Rieflin. With three albums under their belt, the band are, like Toyah before them, underground critical darlings, doing things that sound like no-one else. And isn’t that exactly how it should be?

In fact, looking back over Toyah’s catalogue, some 36 years since Victim of the Riddle was released, it’s hard not to be struck by the sheer versatility of it all. There are those who only know It’s a Mystery. There are those who make pathetic jokes about the song revealing a little too much of Toyah’s lisp. These people are idiots, quite frankly, and don’t know what they’re missing.

Below, TVO’s humble editor – himself a died-in-the-wool Toyah fan since he discovered Brave New World in a box of 7″ singles at the age of six – has compiled a personal list of essential Toyah recordings. There are countless other tracks which warrant your attention, and with most of her back catalogue (1985’s Minx is conspicuous by its absence) now available on Spotify, there’s no better time to dig in.

Today, Toyah is still recording, and as the later tracks on this playlist demonstrate, she’s continuing to push herself into new territories. By that token, a film in which she speaks entirely in ape-like grunts is no real surprise: TVO isn’t quite sure what Olivier or Hepburn would make of it, but what better gift for an actress to lose all inhibitions and just go for it, as Aaaaaaaah! allows.

It’s also wonderful to see Willcox sharing the screen with comic actors who have admired her from afar for a long time. Never was this more apparent than in the creation of Alice Lowe’s glorious (and affectionate) Val Hallah pastiche, who first appeared in the short film Junglophilia (made by Lowe with Jacqueline Wright and Barunka O’Shaughnessy), and made a cameo appearance in Jackal Films This Christmastime several years later.

It’s not hard to see why she appealed to the kind of minds who populate our pages. In the early 1980s especially, Toyah’s music offered an alternative: fantastical realms amidst vocal histrionics and soundscapes a little too oddball for the mainstream to ever fully comprehend, in much the same way so much of the comedy on our pages has found its audience away from ‘Joe Public’. Like many of our regulars, Willcox has never really gained the mainstream appeal or, frankly, the respect that she not only deserves, but that her contemporaries (Bush, Sioux, Smith etc) get by the bucketload.

Whether this is due to her eclectic TV career post pop-success, or her uncompromising nature, we’ll perhaps never know, but those of us who have enjoyed her work for decades are slowly but surely being joined by new generations of fans.

And here’s an honest hope: with any luck Aaaaaaaah! will bring in a whole load of curious souls, and if just one of you reading this is intrigued enough to pick up an album or two, maybe we’ll see you down at the front on the next tour. Be proud, be loud, be heard. Because that’s exactly how Toyah would want it.

Aaaaaaaah! is available from iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Video now. For more info on Toyah’s music, tours and other activities, visit

Out On Mondaaaaaaaah!

17 Oct

If you’re a regular reader of The Velvet Onion, you’ll know that we’ve been getting more than a bit excited about Aaaaaaaah!, the comedy horror from Steve Oram, which stars a bevy of TVO faces. And now we can get excited again – because from Monday everyone will get the chance to see what all the fuss is about.

The film is available to pre-order from iTunes here for £9.99, and from Monday 19th you’ll be able to find it on a variety of other VOD platforms from FrightFest Presents, including Virgin Movies, Blinkbox, Google Play, Amazon, Xbox Video, Wuaki, Talk Talk and Volta. Thoroughly recommended!

In the meantime, why not occupy yourself with this podcast interview with Steve about the film:

If you’re a fan of Aaaaaaaah! and you haven’t wandered down these parts for a while, why not read our interview with Steve himself and our review of the film. And keep an eye out for our profile about one of the film’s stars too, which will be coming your way very soon…!

Return to Successville

14 Oct

BBC Three’s smash hit comedy series Murder in Successville is to return for a second series.

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

The show, which first aired earlier this year, features Tom Davis as rough, gruff, intellectual doorknob DI Sleet, presiding over a town filled with potentially murderous celebrities – all played by comedy talents.

The first series featured Cariad Lloyd as Darcey Bussell, Justin Beiber, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and Miley Cyrus;  Colin Hoult as Jimmy Carr and Gary Barlow; Tom Meeten as Richard Hammond; Dan Skinner as Bob Geldof; Tony Way as Harry Styles and Harry Peacock as Niall Horan.

Also along for the ride were series co-writer Nico Tartarowicz as put upon fellow officer Sid, and a whole host of familiar faces – including Frances Barber, Ricky Grover, Jenny Bede, Luke Kempner, Chris Martin Hill, Nick Mohammed, Jason Lewis and a scene stealing Liam Hourican.

With music by Waen Shepherd, no less, acting as the cherry on top, it’s easy to see how we’ve got this far down the article without explaining the show’s ‘set-up’: each week a real celebrity plays rookie partner to DI Sleet, as they investigate a murder that one of three suspects is responsible for. It’s up to the guest to decide who to take down.

Rookies in series one included Dermot O’Leary, Louis Smith and Greg James – the latter of whom ended up making his own sitcom pilot, Dead Air, off the back of the fun he had on the show. And the fun, it seems, has been shared by viewers – with the show proving a hit on original transmission and a recent repeat run.

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© BBC / Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

Now TVO can confirm that a second series – once again featuring Tom Davis, Tom Stourton, Colin Hoult and Cariad Lloyd (with more names to be confirmed) – will shoot in January. James De Frond (The Morgana Show) returns to the director’s chair, and we’ll bring you more news on Murder in Successville‘s return in the new year. Let’s go solve a crime!


8 Oct

This week saw the launch of new BBC Three sitcom Together – with a smattering of TVO faces tucked in there for good measure.

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

© Tiger Aspect / Ollie Upton

The show is written by and stars Johnny Sweet (Babylon), and follows two young people in the early, fragile stages of a new relationship, played by Sweet and Cara Theobold (Downton Abbey).

Along for the ride are Alex MacQueen and Katy Wix as Tom’s father Ashley and friend Maeve respectively. Episode One, which is available on iPlayer now, also featured brief appearances by Tom Davis and comedy legend Geoffrey McGivern.

Further episodes will be shown every Tuesday evening at 10:30pm on BBC Three, and available via iPlayer. We’ll bring you more on Together soon, so stay peeled. You can see clips from the first two episodes, and the series trailer, below.

Easily Distracted now available from all…

7 Oct
© Century

© Penguin Books

…Sorry, what were we saying, again?

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

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

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

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

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

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


7 Oct

This week saw the sneaky launch of a new comedy show featuring a couple of familiar faces from Onion Land.

Every now and then, a show slips by us. We are but a tiny handful of comedy lovers, and we can’t possibly keep up with everything. Apologies, but every once in a while, our news gathering goes a little… glitchy.

© Talkback

© Talkback

Which brings us to Glitchy – which started on Tuesday evening over on ITV2. A hybrid between reality tv pranking and a full blown sketch show, the show features real members of the public who believe they’re filming appearances on real television shows – except the increasingly mad hosts are all played by top notch comedy talent.

Led by Ryan Sampson (Undercover, Up the Women, Doctor Who), the show also includes TVO favourites Colin Hoult and Ellie White, as well as fellow comics Jason Attar (The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains), Gabby Best (Top Coppers), Liam Hourican (Murder in Successville) and Mona Yousefi (The Revolution Will Be Televised).

Pranks include Hoult and Sampson as a camp pair of day-time TV home-buying presenters with relationship issues, and White as a ballsy Australian shopping channel host. It’s all very silly, and gives these gifted improvisers a chance to spar off unsuspecting members of the public. And the spoof adverts in-between the pranks are fantastic.

Episode One is available on ITV Player now, and is also repeated on Thursday evening at 10:50pm. Episode Two will air on Tuesday at 10pm, with a Thursday repeat at 10:50pm once more. You can see a selection of promo images below.

Friends Star Joins Julia Davis Show

5 Oct
© Guardian /Alan Yorick

© Guardian /Alan Yorick

Friends actor David Schwimmer will co-star in Julia Davis‘ new sitcom Morning Has Broken.

As we’ve mentioned previously, the series follows the story of Gail Sinclair (Davis), the star of daily television programme Good Morning… with Gail Sinclair. After eight years of high ratings and awards ‘The Queen of Daytime’ starts to lose viewers and tensions build within the production team, leading to Gail’s breakdown.

Schwimmer has been cast as an American producer who is brought in by channel executives to refresh and boost viewing figures for the ailing show.

© Dan Clark

© Dan Clark

We’re particularly excited about the project, because it’s directed by another friend of TVO, Dan Clark. The series is also co-written (and co-stars) Nick Mohammed (Murder in Successville, How Not to Live your Life, amongst others). Julia has said that she is, “looking forward to experimenting with friends whose work I love”.

David Schwimmer has said of his involvement in the show: “I’ve been a massive fan of Julia’s for years, and I’m thrilled to be able to finally work with her and Nick on this fantastic comedy.”

Rachel Springett, Commissioning Editor for Comedy at Channel 4 added: “Julia is undoubtedly one of our most talented comedic writers and actresses and it’s a testament to the quality of her writing that she can attract such a big star. We are thrilled to have David Schwimmer star alongside Julia in this exciting new series for the channel.”

Given how willing Matt Le Blanc has been to poke fun at his Friends’ character Joey in Episodes, we’re looking forwards to see what Julia has in store for good old Ross.


Peterford Golf Club Swings Again

5 Oct


Peterford Golf Club is being revived in brand new take on the cult classic for Radio Two.

Promising to do for golf clubs what Green Wing did for hospitals, this new sitcom incarnation of the long gestating project is written by its co-creator Simon Farnaby and stars Simon alongside Barunka O’ShaughnessyTom Meeten and Nathan Barley star Claire Keelan.

In it, Farnaby plays golf club regular Stuart, who has a chance of being appointed to the all-powerful committee, if only he can get his rival Bob out of the way. Meanwhile, players Chris and Jane are trying to rekindle their relationship, which has gone into the rough.

© Waen Shepherd / Moira O'Hara

© Waen Shepherd / Moira O’Hara

Longstanding TVO readers will recognise the name of the show, thanks to its historical significance within the annals of Onion Land. For the uninitiated, Peterford Golf Club started out as a sketch in Simon Farnaby and Waen Shepherd‘s 2001’s comedy night Animal Pie, before becoming the name of their two man stage sketch show the following year.

As well as birthing Gary Le Strange, the sketch night featured Farnaby and Shepherd as the titular golf club members, and while the concept fell onto the back burner for quite some time, it led to a one-off 18 minute pilot episode for E4 back in 2007.

© Channel X

© Channel X

Entitled Golf War, Shepherd took a back seat in this incarnation, as Farnaby joined forces with Rich Fulcher and Scott Murray to write the pilot, which also featured Matt BerryJohn Hopkins, Nina Conti, Gareth Hale and a theme tune arranged by Julian Barratt, no less.

In the televised version, Farnaby’s Stuart Oglivy was the foolish chair of a golf club, while Fuclher was his idotic subordinate Len. Matt Berry played the owner of a rival, swankier golf club adjacent to theirs, whilst Shepherd – who also scored the show – was gardener Bob.

Meanwhile, Hopkins cropped up as one of a trio of businessmen that Stuart was looking to impress with the help of a kidnapped Hale from Hale and Pace, and it was all very silly in the best possible sense.

Sadly, the broadcast was cut to just 13 minutes, and promptly forgotten about, though an extended version has been available on YouTube since the channel abandoned plans to make the show in early 2008.

It’s currently unknown if Waen Shepherd is involved in the new radio pilot, but whilst the show has a long linage, we’re considering this incarnation to be a new beast of its own design.

And the good news is, you can judge this for yourselves too – as the pilot will be recorded in front of a live studio audience later this month.

Recording takes place on Wednesday 28th October at 7:15pm at BBC Radio Theatre, and you can apply for tickets over yonder now. More news on Peterford Golf Club as we get it… stay peeled.

Toast Book Release

4 Oct

© Channel 4

A new book by Steven Toast will be released later this month, and is now available to per-order.

Toast on Toast is part memoir, part ‘how to act’ manual, with the author drawing on his self-proclaimed vast and varied acting experiences, taking the reader on his journey from school plays to RADA, and from ‘It’s a Right Royal Knockout’ to the Colony Club.

Along the way, the Toast of London thesp reveals the secrets of his success. He discloses how to brush up on and expand your technical and vocal skills, how to nail a professional voiceover, and how to deal with difficult work experience staff in a recording studio. He also reveals the dangers of typecasting, describes the often ruthless struggle for ‘top billing’, and shares many awesome nuggets of advice.

The not-entirely-serious book is written by TV series writers Matt Berry and Arthur Mathews (in character as Toast). It’s available to pre-order here in hardcover (£10.49) and kindle (£8.54) editions, and will be released on 22nd October.

Here’s Toast himself, to explain more about it:

Blessed To Play Berry’s Dad

29 Sep
© Channel 4 / The Samaritans

© Channel 4 / The Samaritans

Matt Berry is well known for his resonant vocal prowess (amongst his many other talents, of course), so who better to play his father than Brain Blessed, famous for owning the most booming voice in the business!

In an inspired piece of casting, 79 year old Blessed will appear in an episode in the forthcoming new series of Toast – as Steven Toast’s dad. It will be the same episode as Mad Men star Jon Hamm is appearing in (playing himself).

A source on the show told the Radio Times: “We find out where Steven comes from – it’s not a humble background, let’s say, but then there isn’t much about Steven that’s humble.”

Matt has previously said of the new series: “Every actor’s got some horror stories – it’s quite a big world of anguish and upset. There’s a lot more stories of horrible things that happen in this profession than nice things, so running out of material hasn’t been a worry so far.”

Series three of Toast is scheduled to air later this year on Channel 4.



29 Sep

© Rook Films

The good folk at Rook Films have released a limited screen print run of the Aaaaaaaah! movie poster.

There are only 100 copies of the five-layer print made to celebrate Steve Oram‘s directorial debut. In case you’ve missed it, the film stars Oram alongside a cavalcade of TVO regulars: Noel FieldingJulian BarrattTom MeetenWaen ShepherdTony WayAlice LoweShelley LongworthWaen ShepherdSean Reynard and John Hopkins.

Also along for the ride are the brilliant Julian Rhind-Tutt, Holli Dempsey and the legendary Toyah Willcox.

We’ve sung the film’s praises, and a lot of you have fallen in love with it already. Now thwack a bit of it on your wall for good measure, while you still can!

Wunderful Alice: An Interview With Alice Lowe

20 Sep


A wee while ago Velveteer Mog was lucky enough to spend time with the lady we refer to as TVO’s fairy godmother, Alice Lowe. They met to talk about Alice’s various creative projects – past, present and future, and the wider world of comedy in general. Here we bring you Part 1 of the interview, which looks at Alice’s fantasy comedy radio series, Alice’s Wunderland, currently airing on Radio 4:

Alice Lowe is marvellously multifaceted, both in terms of her professional creative output and her general persona. When you first meet Alice, her friendly girl-next-door-ness immediately lulls you into thinking she’s the type of person you’d take home to meet your Mum; someone you might have gone to school with. As the conversation progresses, however, little bubbles of naughty rebelliousness start to emerge from her butter-wouldn’t-melt smile, occasionally punctured by moments of genuinely sinister oddball-ness. If you spend more than a few minutes with her, you begin to see the shadowy shapes of the darkly comic off-kilter characters and story lines that she dreams up. Alice’s Wunderland is one such project, an audio-based fantasy world, “a place in the Nether Regions, the manky Poundland of magical realms”.

© Mog/The Velvet Onion

© Mog/The Velvet Onion

I ask Alice how she approached the leap from stage, TV and film to radio. “I was worried when I did the pilot, because I thought I was a totally visual comedian. It was always about my facial expressions and my physicality. But this made me think in a different way. I love music, so I took that as my start point.” she explains. “A lot of people who do something for radio think it needs to be about words. While words are important, I wanted this to have a poetic quality to it; I wanted it to be about rhythm and music and soundscapes and atmosphere.”

Alice taps into her live performance experience in order to help her imagine the worlds that her characters inhabit: “I can see the environment that I’m in. If I’m acting on stage I’m imagining a setting, and this is the same thing. It’s what I love about radio shows; you can transport people to strange places. You can say ‘we’re on the moon now’ and we’re on the moon. Aural comedy is visual comedy.”

For the new series, Alice considered whether she should make any major changes to the Wunderland concept. In the end she chose to evolve it slightly, rather than fundamentally shift gear. “I know this show and I knew what I wanted to do with it next.” she says. “We’ve made it a bit more narrative this time: each episode is a story in its own right, with one main character – and each episode has a different main character. It was really good fun, because each one is like a silly little adventure.”

Now in its third series, how does Alice feel about its success? “A third series! I never thoughts I’d be saying that, ” she laughs. “People find it hard to believe I have a radio series on Radio 4!”

© Jules Heath

Behind the scenes on Sightseers © Jules Heath

Although said entirely un-selfconsciously, it’s a comment that carries meaning. Alice is one of many artists that we write about at TVO who continually innovate, entertain and inspire with their talent and creativity. Like the others, she has enjoyed periodic mainstream success, but deserves much more.

I ask her why this is and what she thinks binds the group together: “I think it’s because we’re this weird inter-generation.” She explains. “There was a point when BBC3 stopped being about alternative comedy and became more about youth comedy. But none of us were quite young enough to fit into that category! We weren’t the hot young things, but we weren’t comedy establishment either.”

With BBC3 focusing on the younger end of Gen Y and Channel 4 no longer the proud home of alternative comedy, many of the group were left without a TV springboard for their output, still the primary channel for mainstream comedy success.

“We all had to find our own way instead,” Alice explains, “And the way we did that was working with each other and helping each other out [indeed, Alice’s Wunderland features fellow TVO folk Richard Glover and Rachel Stubbings]. All of those people are so creative, but you can get put in a little box on TV. It can hamper the creativity of what you do.”

TV’s loss is radio’s gain, as Alice’s Wunderland continues to weave its wonderful web of the bizarre and bonkers on our airwaves. The first episode of four, featuring the gloriously silly Lady Bowie, is available on iPlayer here (for a further 25 days). Episode 2, which features “the ghost of a child who died in the 1970s” will air on Radio 4 at 11pm on Tuesday 22nd September. So tune in (and drop out).

© Jimmy Crippen

© Jimmy Crippen

Many thanks to Alice for taking the time to chat to us about he new radio series. Look out for Part 2 of our interview, coming soon, in which she talks about Sightseers, the joy of playing baddies, and her other new projects.

First Look at The Kennedys

16 Sep
© BBC / Adam Lawrence

© BBC / Adam Lawrence

Forthcoming BBC One sitcom The Kennedys is almost upon us, and while we wait for a confirmed transmission date, we’ve got this bevvy of promotional images to share with you.

As we reported back in March, the six-part series is set in the 1970s, and is based on the memoirs of actress, writer and TV presenter Emma Kennedy.

Her parents Brenda and Tony are played by Katherine Parkinson and Dan Skinner respectively, while family friend Tim (a typical 70s alpha male) is played by Harry Peacock.

Emma herself, aged 10, will be played by Lucy Hutchinson (Inside No. 9), and the cast is rounded out by Emma Pierson (Suntrap), Clive Rowe (Doctor Who) and Shola Adewusi (Catastrophe) as neighbours David and Dee.

In the first episode, Brenda is determined to be the first person on Jessop Square to throw a dinner party. Giddy with possibilities, she invites best friends Tim and Jenny and new neighbours the Palmers for an evening no-one will ever forget. Having never cooked anything other than an egg, Brenda quickly shifts all responsibility for the dinner party and cooking the lasagne on to Tony.

Meanwhile, Emma is put out when arch-rival Julie gains control of the play fort – which nobody is allowed in to unless they know her secret whisper. Emma realizes that in order to wrestle control from her nemesis, she needs to create a secret whisper to end all secret whispers.

It’s all sounding very delightful, and we can’t wait to see the results. We’ll aim to bring you a more in-depth preview in the coming week, so stay peeled. In the meantime, there’s a gallery of images to savour below.

Wunderland Returns

16 Sep

We’re late. We’re late. For a very important date. No time to say Jasaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, we’re late, we’re late, we’re late!

© Lewes Herriot

Yes, it’s not often we’re behind the times, but somehow, a bubble in the Onionverse caused a rift in the comedy continuum yesterday, and everyone involved with the long awaited Series Three of Alice’s Wunderland forgot to tell you it was back on the air at 11pm last night!

In fairness, both Alice and TVO managed to sneak in a ten minute warning on Twitter, so well done to any late night Tweeters who caught it and tuned in.

For the uninitiated, the radio series, which began life as a 2011 pilot before full series runs in 2012 and 2013, features Alice Lowe as a variety of characters who comprise the main inhabitants of Wunderland: the ‘Poundland of magical realms’.

Also along for the ride are series regulars Richard GloverRachel StubbingsClare Thomson, Simon Greenhall (I’m Alan Partridge) and Marcia Warren. The results are as magical as ever, as Lady Bowie goes on an adventure to a ‘tights spot’ and the narrator meets some other weirdos.

Please adjust your pants accordingly, and listen without orifice via iPlayer now. Three further episodes will air over the next few Wednesdays at 11pm only on Radio 4.

A Round Up Of Doll & Em

13 Sep


The second series of the awesome Doll & Em, co-written by and featuring Dolly Wells, will be premiering in the US tonight at 10.30pm on HBO. In its honour, we thought we’d gee you a round-up of recent interview and coverage about the show. We’re nice like that.

Just click on the links to read the articles in full:

First up, Emily Mortimer spoke to The Dinner Party Download and HuffPost Live in a filmed interview. She was also on Watch What Happens Live (various clips are available to view, but sadly not for those of us outside the US) and on NBC New York and  AOL Build (which we can all watch, wherever we are. Hurrah!).

Then, both Dolly and Emily spoke to Indiewire about how their friendship led to the creation of the show. We also chanced upon an article about Doll & Em from Indiewire too.

If that little lot doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about Doll & Em, don’t despair! There’s still time to ask Emily a question about the show, via this HBO Q&A; and if dual-screening is more your thing, Dolly will be live-tweeting during the first episode, so don’t forget to follow her if you’re not already.

Remember to tune in tonight, US folks. For the rest of us, here are a couple of trailers and a few clips from the second series – so no one feels left-out:

If you’d prefer to have the opportunity to meet one of the ladies face to face, tickets are still available to be part of the audience at A Conversation With Emily Mortimer with Wie in New York, on Wednesday September 30th at 6:30pm (EDT). Tickets are available here.





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