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Coogan In New Comedy Documentary

31 Aug

346MLC_CooganA new feature-length comedy documentary, which includes a bevy of top drawer comedy faces – including our very own Steve Coogan, will be hitting UK cinemas on Friday 4th September.

The UK release of Misery Loves Comedy follows the film’s US release earlier this year and its premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June.

Directed by Kevin Pollak (The Usual Suspects, Casino), it features more than 50 (primarily American) comedy legends – including Tom Hanks, Matthew Perry, Judd Apatow, Jimmy Fallon, Jon Favreau, Lisa Kudrow, Whoopi Goldberg, Stephen Merchant, Martin Short and Larry David, who candidly explore the motivations and inspirations behind their comedy careers. From a TVO perspective, in addition to an appearance from Coogan, the film also features Catastrophe’s Rob Delaney.

Misery Loves Comedy provides an opportunity to hear comedy icons dissect the art of stand-up and explore how a joke can operate as a blunt tool, a social weapon, or even as a personal elixir.

Reviews of the film on its US-release were a tad mixed, but if you have an interest in comedy it’s sure to contain at least a few gems. Check out the trailer below for a flavour of what to expect. And if you don’t get to see it on the big screen, Misery Loves Comedy will be available to purchase on DVD from Amazon in October.

For more information about the movie, check out the film’s Facebook page.

Julian Flowers

26 Aug

Julian Barratt joins Olivia Colman in a new six-part dark comedy from Channel 4, entitled Flowers.

© Kudos / Channel 4

© Kudos / Channel 4

Written and directed by BAFTA nominated writer and director Will Sharpe (who last crossed our paths as a young Pat Quid in The Life of Rock with Brian Pern), the series is described as an imaginative, cinematic comedy about an eccentric family, The Flowers, who are struggling to hold themselves together.

Barratt plays Maurice, author of twisted children’s book series The Grubbs, whilst Colman (Bad Sugar, Broadchurch) plays his wife Deborah, a music teacher. They are barely on speaking terms, yet can’t quite seem to divorce. As Maurice fights inner demons and dark secrets, Deborah tries to keep the family together at all costs and becomes increasingly suspicious that Maurice is in a secret homosexual relationship with his Japanese illustrator Shun (played by Sharpe).

Also on board are the creaky old house’s fellow inhabitants: Maurice’s fruitcake mother Hattie (Leila Hoffman – aka Mrs Treacher from Hot Not to Live Your Life), and the couple’s maladjusted twenty-five year old twins Amy and Donald played by Sophia di Martino (Mount Pleasant, Friday Night Dinner) and Daniel Rigby (Undercover, Cardinal Burns). Both twins are competing for the same girl and continually fail to burst through the confines of their absurdly arrested development.

The series is being produced by acclaimed production house Kudos, who recently brought Humans and Utopia to the channel, and is made in association with NBCU’s new comedy focused subscription VOD platform. Will Sharpe has explained: “This is a comedy about people who are struggling and the situations that can arise when you refuse to admit that there are problems. Our aim is not to make light of the darkness, but to find the light within it.”

Naturally, we’re excited, and can’t wait for tx in 2016. As soon as we hear more, so will you.

Take a punt on Blunt

18 Aug

The US premiere of Blunt Talk – Starz new newsroom based sitcom starring Sir Patrick Stewart and featuring Dolly Wells – is fast approaching, and the network has unleashed the first two episodes online ahead of transmission.

© Starz

© Starz

Stewart stars as Walter Blunt: a British news anchor intent on conquering the world of American cable news, only to find his well-intentioned but mostly misguided decision-making has a catastrophic fallout on both on and off the air.

Wells plays Celia Havemeyer: a senior production keen on impressing Walter, whom she has admired for many years. However, to the detriment of her career, her impulsive spirit encourages a chaotic personal life. You can catch her in the trailer below.

Also along for the ride – and heavily featured in the above trailer – is another British actor our readers will no doubt be familiar with: Adrian Scarborough. Perhaps best known for his recurring role in Gavin & Stacey, Scarborough was also two generations of Councillor Crabbe in Coogan’s Run and Mr Jolly in Psychoville, while his wider credits include Up The WomenDoctor Who and The King’s Speech.

Co-starring Harry Chandler, Timm Sharp, Jacki Weaver, Rosalie Winter, Karen Soni and Mary Holland, the show will also feature recurring appearances by Stewart’s former Star Trek co-star Brent Spiner, and with two seasons of ten episodes produced, Starz are naturally keen for the show to hit big.

As a result, the first two episodes can be watched online right now completely free over yonder, though this naturally appears to be limited to US viewers only at present.

Sadly, there still appears to be no sign of a UK broadcaster adding the show to their roster, but given this is a star-studded project from Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, Ted), we’re sure it’s only a matter of time before it reaches the other side of the pond. As always, stay peeled, and take a look at this cast video featuring Dolly discussing her role, below, while we here in gloomy England pine for more…

In and Out of the Kitchen returns

3 Aug

Following a brief sojourn on television earlier this year, In And Out Of The Kitchen returns for a fourth audio series on Radio 4 this week.

© Gary Moyes / BBC

© Gary Moyes / BBC

Written by and starring Miles Jupp (The Last Sparks of Sundown, Spy, The Thick of It) as celebrity chef Damien Trench, the show co-stars Justin Edwards as his partner Anthony.

The last time we heard from the duo was via a three-part television adaptation for BBC Four, which aired throughout March of this year.

Now back on Radio 4, Jupp has prepared another round of Damien’s diaries brought to life though narrative, dialogue and recipes, every angle of the character’s day-to-day life is unflinchingly on offer, and regular co-stars Philip Fox and Brendan Dempsey are along for the ride, alongisde Alex Tregear, Jessica Turner and Stephen Critchlow.

You can hear Episode One of the new six-part run on BBC Radio 4 at 11:30am on Wednesday, 5th August. The first three radio series are available now in a box-set for just £21.01 via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

Doll & Em-erica

3 Aug
© Sky Atlantic / HBO

© Sky Atlantic / HBO

The US première date for Doll & Em‘s second series has been confirmed for mid September.

The show, written by and starring Dolly Wells alongside Emily Mortimer, will air on HBO from September 13th. Episode One will air at 10:30pm.

A co-production between HBO and Sky Atlantic, the series recently aired on the latter, UK based channel, and is currently available on catch-up to UK viewers via Sky Go and Now TV.

Series Two featured Wells and Mortimer once again playing fictionalised versions of themselves, as they attempted to stage their own off-Broadway play. It featured Hollywood actresses Olivia Wilde and Evan Rachel Wood, alongside returning co-star Jonathan Cake, plus guest appearances by Ewan McGregor and Harvey Weinstein.

Sadly, there’s currently no sign of a home media release for either run, though the first series was released on DVD in Australia last year, and is available now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

If you’re in the States and want to catch up on the first series, which featured guest appearances by TVO regulars Tom MeetenLaura Patch and Noel Fielding, you can now do so via subscription service HBO Go.

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?

CrackaMOREy! Dave’s anthology series to return for Series Three

27 Jul

Crackanory – the anthology show for adults featuring a host of famous faces reading short tales, which are re-enacted by top notch comedy talent – is to return for a third series in the Autumn.

© UK TV / Tiger Aspect

© UK TV / Tiger Aspect

Back to the Future legend Christopher Lloyd joins the likes of Simon Bird, Sarah Millican, Greg Davies and Tamsin Grieg as some of the guest narrators for the new run, which will once again feature two stories per episode brought to life via a mix of narration, live action and animation.

Confirmed writers for the series include Kevin EldonNico Tatarowicz, Holly Walsh and Toby Davies, and given the show’s current standing as one of the most TVO-connected shows of the last few years, we wouldn’t be surprised if they’re joined by a few more names along the way.

Series One narrators: © UK TV / Tiger Aspect

Series One narrators: © UK TV / Tiger Aspect

Across the first two series, the stories were brought to life with an impeccable cast of comedy talent, including our very own James Bachman, John Willie Hopkins, Alex Kirk, Alice Lowe, Cariad Lloyd, Tom Meeten, Lucy Montgomery, Steve Oram, Tony Way and Katy Wix.

And all of this was enhanced by big name guest narrators, with the full run so far featuring Stephen Mangan, Sally Philips, Sharon Horgan, Hugh Dennis, Jessica Hynes, Harry Enfield, Jack Dee, Sarah Solemni, Charlie Higson, Kevin EldonRebecca Front, Richard Hammond, Vic Reeves, Simon Carllow, Ruby Wax, Sue Perkins, David Mitchell, Ben Miller, Katherine Parkinson, Meera Syall, Warwick Davis, Emilia Fox, Johnny Vegas and the late, great, Rik Mayall in his last on-screen role.

Series Two narrators: © UK TV / Tiger Aspect

Series Two narrators: © UK TV / Tiger Aspect

The connections extended behind the scenes too, with Eldon, Way and Nico Tartarowicz writing instalments, Gareth Tunley directing several and the entire run featuring the music of Waen Shepherd, whose haunting melodies will be heard again in the third season.

Also returning on production duties for Series Three is Arnold Widdowson (Grandma’s House), who previously wrote for Sorry I’ve Got No Head, School of Comedy and Horrible Histories and was script editor on Beehive and Roman’s Empire way back when.

Naturally, we’ll bring you more news on Crackanory‘s return as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can catch up on the previous 12 episodes via UKTV Play right now.

Return To Yonderland

12 Jul

This week sees the long awaited return of Yonderland to television, as the family-friendly comic fantasy series starts its second run on Sky1.

© BSkyB / Lee Binding

© BSkyB / Lee Binding

For the uninitiated, Yonderland focuses on thirty-something stay-at-home suburban mum, Debbie Maddox (Martha Howe-Douglas), who is whisked off to the magical realm of Yonderland by an elf through a portal in her cupboard. Yonderland is under attack from the evil Negatus (Simon Farnaby), and Debbie is apparently ‘The Chosen One’ who can save them all… if anyone can remember what exactly it is she’s meant to do.

Designed as a vehicle for the original team behind Horrible Histories, the show also features the rest of the team: Jim Howick, Mathew Baynton, Ben Willbond and Laurence Rickard. Also on board are fantastical puppets bringing to life some of the stranger inhabitants of Yonderland, helping to make the show a visual treat as well as a downright funny one. The series also features Dan Skinner as Debbie’s husband, Peter, and if you haven’t seen it yet, the whole run is available via Sky Boxsets, Now TV and on DVD via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store. And the good news is, if you’re curious – you can watch the first episode of Series 1 now via the handy link below!

But back to the present: Series Two begins with a double bill on Monday 13th July starting at 8pm, exclusively on Sky 1.  In the first episode, Panic in the Streets of Yonderland, Debbie has to quell the chaos when Imperatrix’s presence brings rioting to the streets and sends the elders into lockdown. Back in her own world, a strange old man sends her a bizarre package from his deathbed that promises to change everything.

With a guest appearance from Mackenzie Crook, and the return of one of TVO’s most elusive regulars, Clare Thomson as Gossiping Glenda, this would certainly be enough to satiate our Yonderland needs, but the good folk at Sky have a second episode at 8:30pm for our enjoyment. in The Winging Detective, there’s a murder at the Meadowlands Festival, which calls for the skills of Yonderland’s finest – and only – detective. Meanwhile, Negatus endures the imperial equivalent of an Ofsted inspection from Imperatrix’s second in command, and Peter starts to suspect that something very strange is going on in his house.

To celebrate the return of Yonderland, we’ve got a gallery of images from the first two episodes for you to savour below.

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.

World Premiere & Q&A For Aaaaaaah!

5 Jul

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 12.47.33As our regular readers will be aware, we’ve been getting more than a little over-excited about Aaaaaaah! for some time – and now the details of the World Premiere have been announced.

Steve Oram‘s directorial debut comedy horror, about a world inhabited by apes in human form, will star a cavalcade of comedic TVO-connected talent (and post-punk icon Toyah Wilcox), including Julian Barratt, Noel Fielding (or “Noah Fielding” according to this site), Alice Lowe, Tom Meeten, Steve Oram, Sean ReynardWaen Shepherd, John Hopkins and Tony Way.

The film premieres at Film 4 FrightFest at Leicester Square – and you can be there to experience it on the big screen in person! What’s more, the event will feature a Q&A with some of the cast. Steve and Toyah are confirmed for this, but there’s on news yet as to which other cast members will be there.

The film will be screened at 18:35 on Friday 28th August on the Discovery 1 screen. A festival pass costs £185 (eek) and day passes for the Friday are £60 (still eek) – these are available here. Single tickets at £13.25 per film will go on sale on 25th July, but unfortunately there are no guarantees what will be available then. Festival and day passes went on sale yesterday and it looks like demand so far has been very high.

In the meantime, to remind yourself how flipping exciting this is (and it really is!), take another look at the Aaaaaaah! trailer below:

A Return for Brian Pern

30 Jun
© BBC

© BBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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: Fergus Craig goes Hoff the Record

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

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

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

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

© UKTV / Me & You Productions / Ollie Upton

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

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

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

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

© Avalon

© Avalon

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

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

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

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

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

© BBC

© BBC

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

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

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

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

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

Horgan & Delaney Q&A At Leicester Square

16 Jun
© Marie Claire

© Marie Claire

Catastrophe couple, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, will be appearing as the guests at Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast on 6th July.

Herring returns to the stage with a new run of five shows of the award winning Podcast, in which he chats with a bevy of well-known names in comedy. Each episode appears on iTunes and the British Comedy Guide, but if you go along to watch the show in person you get the chance to interact with the featured comedians, and maybe even ask your own questions.

The 90-minute show starts at 7.30pm and tickets cost £15.50. To find out who else is appearing at each show, and to procure tickets for Sharon and Rob’s show click here.

Please note that there’s a further guest appearing with the pair on 6th July, as yet unconfirmed. For updates on guests, follow Leicester Square Theatre on twitter.

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.

An Early Catastrophe for Comedy On 4

14 Jun
© Newstalk

© Newstalk

Channel 4 has announced its top comedy shows for their all-important Autumn schedule, and it involves accelerating the production of series 2 of Catastrophe.

The second series of the critically-aclaimed show, co-written by and co-starring Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney as a couple on a transatlantic fling who find themselves pregnant, was originally scheduled for early 2016. But the popularity of Catastrophe has been such Channel 4 are bringing it forwards to October 2015. A source from the channel has said, “Viewers have told us they can’t wait a year for the show so they won’t have to.”

US comedian Delaney has now made the move over to the UK, so hopefully writing and producing series 2 will be a a little easier – and quicker.

Catastrophe will be joined on the schedule by a third series of Matt Berry‘s award-winning Toast of London, as well as the final series of both Peep Show and Fresh Meat. Channel 4 is looking to “own” the Autumn season of comedy, according to the channel.

View the Humans

13 Jun
© Channel 4

© Channel 4

This weekend sees the launch of Channel 4’s sci-fi drama Humans – made in collaboration with US broadcaster AMC and British production company Kudos – and naturally, we’re getting hyped about it because it contains a sprinkling of TVO regulars for good measure.

Set in a world where a synthetic human – or Synth – is the must have accessory, Katherine Parkinson stars as Laura, whose husband Joe (Dead Boss star Tom Goodman-Hill) brings one home for the family. But there’s something very strange about the Synth, which they dub Anita (Submarine‘s Gemma Chan), and soon their lives begin to unravel.

Elsewhere, pensioner George Millican (US acting veteran William Hurt) has developed a paternal relationship with his own Synth (Game of Thrones star Will Tudor), but a malfunction threatens their perfect set-up, as does the arrival of a new Synth, Vera, played with cold relish by Rebecca Front.

Also featuring Colin Morgan (Merlin, The Fall), Emily Berrington (24: Live Another Day) and Ivanno Jeremiah (The Jury), the series also features guest appearances from Jonathan Aris (Sherlock, Sightseers), Neil Maskell (Utopia, Kill List), Danny Webb (Alien³), Naoko Mori (Torchwood), and two other TVO talents: Dan Tetsell as the Synth Salesman in the first episode, and Paul Kaye as Synth expert Silas Carek in Episode Two.

You can see a gallery of images below, including glimpses at Parkinson, Front, Tetsell & Kaye, and see the show for yourself at 9pm on Sunday evening. Humans is also available to pre-order for £14 on dvd now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store: if we hear of a blu-ray release too, we’ll let you know. US audiences will be able to see the show on AMC later this year.

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