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TVO’s Review Of The Year 2013: Part One

1 Jan

2013 has been a funny old year in Onion Land. We’ve seen our regulars scoop bucketloads of awards, from Best British Film at the Empire Awards to International Emmy Awards and everything in-between. Some names on our roster have reached new heights of success, becoming household names to people who have no idea of their cult origins. Others have just continued being quietly amazing, but all of them have been worthy of your attention.

As a result, we’ve been ploughing through the 12 months of TVO, to pluck out the best bits from over 700 news stories across 2013. This first instalment of our round-up covers January-March, and is jam packed with forgotten treasures and instant classics alike.  Enjoy.


The year began quietly, with the only key new show on the box being, on the surface, designed for kids. FIT was a sports-based sketch show on CBBC from the team behind Sorry, I’ve Got No Head, and featured TVO regulars Tony WayRufus Jones and Aisling Bea in its ensemble cast. For the most part, however, it was the involvement of Peter Serafinowicz – reprising his beloved cult character Brian Butterfield – which got everyone’s attention…

On the other end of the spectrum, Michael SmileyDan Tetsell and Simon Farnaby turned up in the very-much-for-grown-ups cyber-thiller Utopia on Channel 4. The show concerned itself with attempts to trace the only known copy of a graphic novel which left a trail of bloody carnage in its wake. With Four Lions star Adeel Akhtar part of its ensemble cast, as well as Kill List actor Neil Maskell as a creepy hitman, and The Thick Of It‘s Paul Higgins as a blackmailed civil servant, the show became an instant cult hit, and will be returning for a second series in 2014.

Closer to home, and the good folk of Onion Land seemed keen to dish out advice. Comedic agony aunt Rachel Stubbings was offering specially crafted miniature versions of herself for sale to anyone in need of a friendly ear. Or, to be more exact, a bit of unemotional plastic which happened to look a bit like her, in a variety of costumes. The Stubby Buddy was a quick sell out, though something tells me we won’t be seeing them in the shops next year…

Elsewhere, conceptual artist and Luxury Comedy star Kim Noble was offering handy tips on how to buy an oven

And as Bowie-fever gripped the world, James Cook released his own, haunting interpretation of Mr Jones’ classic track, Ashes To Ashes

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Bill & Sinclair

25 Feb

© Baby Cow Productions / Sky Atlantic

Baby Cow and Sky Atlantic’s series of highly inventive comedy shorts, Common Ground continues tonight with a heavy dollop of TVO talent.

One half of tonight’s double bill – directed as ever by Dave Lambert – is an episode written by and starring Rufus Jones and Dan Renton Skinner – the latter another one of those ‘not-quite-TVO’ faces we love, perhaps best known as his alter-ego Angelos Epithemiou, but also a regular collaborator with a number of our regulars.

Bill & Sinclair tells the story of a banker, William [Jones], who has had an almighty fall from grace, and is forced into a frosty reunion with his roguish brother, Sinclair [Skinner], who takes great delight in this new turn of events, especially as Bill’s wife Francesca knows nothing of her husband’s sticky situation.

If the reuniting of Jones & Skinner, who were both part of sketch troupe Dutch Elm Conservatoire with Stephen Evans many moons ago, isn’t enough – the short also features the likes of Rufus’ Mongrels co-star Paul Kaye, and a role for everyone’s favourite agony aunt stand-up comic, Rachel Stubbings.

You can see the show tonight only on Sky Atlantic at 9:15pm.  It will then be available on SkyGo for subscribers only, and if we hear of a dvd release, we’ll be sure to keep you peeled.

Dave Lambert: Not Your Common Man

17 Feb

Common Ground is a new series of shorts currently showing on Sky Atlantic on Monday evenings. The anthology of ten stories follows the ordinary lives of some rather interesting characters, with two episodes airing each week.

© Dave Lambert

We were lucky enough to talk to the show’s director, Dave Lambert, a man already well-known to us through his work with the Mighty Boosh and Steve Coogan, amongst others:

Dave, can you tell us how Common Ground come about and how you first became involved in the series? 
Baby Cow were approached by Lucy Lumsden, Head of Comedy at Sky, to come up with ten shorts for Sky Atlantic featuring brand new comic characters. I became involved after Ali MacPhail, the producer, had been working on it for a while and had narrowed down the potential scripts.

We met with the writers/performers to develop the scripts and started to cast the episodes. Then we got out there and shot them. I’m really proud of the show and hope lots of people see it.

Do you have a favourite episode or character from the series?
No! They are all my favourites! Seriously, I do love them all because they are all different and each tells a different story. There really is something for everyone in this series.

Could you see any of the stories developing for a second run?
Definitely, whether it is a standalone series for the individual characters or a second series of Common Ground – I think these characters need to be seen again, 11 minutes leaves you wanting more. I don’t think it’s the last you’ve seen of them.

© Sky Atlantic

At TVO, we’re increasingly directing people to Sky Atlantic to watch the TV shows we write about. Do you think Sky has taken over as the home of interesting TV comedy?
I think Sky have been fantastic over the last couple of years in regard to TV comedy in the UK. There’s energy and excitement around the industry and there’s some great shows being made. Sky Atlantic are all about trusting the talent to deliver the goods and they also give the perfect amount of guidance and input. As a viewer I really like the channel, ‘Girls’ is one of the best things on TV at the moment.

© Baby Cow/Sky Atlantic

Over the years you’ve been involved in a number of Steve Coogan projects, most recently producing and directing him as Alan Partridge. Why do you think Partridge has been so popular for so long?
Alan is one of the great comic characters. I grew up watching it religiously and it blows my mind that I’ve had the chance to produce and direct Partridge shows. I think audiences will always want to hear his views on the world. He’s always relevant and he’s just brilliantly performed by Steve.

Do you think the character of Partridge has evolved over time?
Steve himself said that in ‘Mid-Morning Matters’ we are seeing more of a ‘pure’ Alan. It’s just him, Simon and sometimes a guest, there are two cameras in that room and you see everything, there’s nowhere to hide. The performance is more nuanced and Alan is a little older. For ‘Places of my life’ that carried on but it was Alan in full presenter mode as well, which is a joy to behold!

You’re also famous around these parts for your Mighty Boosh documentaries. What was it like working with them, given they’re notoriously difficult to organise?
I loved filming the Boosh! There was a period of time when whatever they were doing I would document it. I have  tons of tapes and drives with footage of them. In terms of organisation there were a few occasions where my schedule was more urgent then theirs but that happens sometimes! They are a joy to be around, one of my best memories was making the documentary ‘A journey through Time and Space’ and revisiting the venues where they met and did early gigs. It was so funny and great to hear their memories.

Common Ground Online

29 Jan

Sky Atlantic have launched the Common Ground minisite, in preparation of the series première next week.

© Sky Atlantic HD

The run of comedy shorts is directed by Dave Lambert, and features the likes of Katy BrandRufus Jones and Paul Kaye – as well as Snuffbox legend Alan Ford, and frequent TVO collaborator Jessica Hynes.

With the first two editions, featuring Hynes, Amelia Bullmore, Hugo Speer and Charles Dance, set to air at 9pm on Monday, February 4th -followed by a repeat screening of Hunderby – the show’s official site now contains clips from the episodes and a series of galleries to peruse.  There’s also this rather lovely trailer, which we’ve included below – alongside a preview clip of Katy Brand in her episode, Eleanor.

We’re currently keeping our eyes peeled for news of the show making it to dvd and/or blu-ray, so if you’re a fan of what you see – and it looks amazing, we must admit – check back for news as and when we get it.  For more info in the meantime, visit the Common Ground website.

Common Ground Finds February Launch

7 Jan

Common Ground – the forthcoming anthology of comedy shorts on Sky Atlantic we first told you about in October, will air in February, according to Radio Times.

© Sky Atlantic HD

Originally titled Common People, the ten part series will air back to back double episodes alongside a repeat run of TVO’s very own Hunderby – which is currently still basking in the light of its double win at the British Comedy Awards, ahead of an almost guaranteed second series (we hope!) – starting on Monday, February 4th at 9pm.

The first week’s episodes feature Charles Dance, Amelia Bullmore, Hugo Speer and Jessica Hynes, whilst week two will see Katy Brand‘s short, Eleanor, about a woman whose beloved organic shop slash café goes out of business and faces a takeover from greasy spoon owner Tony, played by Gordon Kennedy.   It will be supported by a second show starring Tom Davis, Sean Pertwee and Brendan Coyle.

© Sky Atlantic HD

The following week will see Johnny Vegas fronted short Rupert, air, which will co-star Paul Kaye, Tony Pitts and Celia Pacquola in a tale of tattoos – alongside another episode featuring Tom Palmer & Tom Stourton.  This will be followed by further shorts featuring Simon Day and Annette Crosbie.  In the final week, Rufus Jones will be teaming up with regular collaborator Dan Renton Skinner, for the story of a disgraced banker, Bill & Sinclair – and the series will end that night with Alex Lowe & Linda Robson starring in Barry – a reworking of Lowe’s popular pensioner live character.

The show is produced by TVO stalwarts BabyCow, and directed by none other than Dave Lambert – Boosh documentary maker extraordinaire who recently helmed Alan Partridge: Welcome To The Places Of My Life.  We can’t wait!

Common(ion) People

11 Oct

© Ian Gavan / Getty Images Europe

The televisual resurgence in new wave comedy has had a surprising beacon of shiny awesomeness over the last twelve months, in the form of Sky Atlantic – and that association looks set to continue apace with the announcement of Common People.

An eleven part series of comedy shorts directed by Dave LambertCommon People is planned as a mockumentary style peek into the ordinary lives of some unusual people.

Naturally, much like previous Sky series Little Crackers, its makers are drawing upon the excellent reserve of talents we have here in Onion land.

Katy Brand will be writing and starring in Eleanor Popplewell – which will tell the story of the titular character’s beloved organic shop slash café, which goes out of business and faces a takeover from greasy spoon owner Tony.

Tony has a serious thing for Eleanor, but will she ever see things from his point of view?  There’s currently no word on who else will be in this short, but we’ll be keeping an eye out for any developments just in case Katy draws on her friends on these pages!

© Sky Atlantic HD

Meanwhile, Brand’s former Mongrels co-star Rufus Jones, will be crafting away on short film Scoundrels alongside occasional collaborator Dan Skinner (perhaps best known for his alter ego Angelos Epithemiou).

It will tell the story of an ex-city banker, Bill (Jones), who fell from grace after accusations of embezzling.  Now lives with his brother Sinclair (Skinner), Bill must stop his sibling from revealing all to his wife, Francesca.

Another short in the series has TVO links – as the living legend that is Jessica Hynes takes her cameo appearance in Moone Boy and turns it into a full blooded misadventure called Politically Incorrect.

Having perfected the art of getting away with terrible decisions in work and real life, and approaching the menopause on mixed medication, Local Councillor Patricia David manages to dodge professional bullets with sheer luck and a talent for being… somewhere else!

© Dave Lambert

Other shorts in the series will feature the likes of Johnny Vegas, Simon Day, Charles Dance, Tom Davis, Jose Lawrence, Annette Crosby, Alex Lowe, Linda Robson, double-act Totally Tom,  Big Train‘s Amelia Bullmore, and How Not To Live Your LifeHunderby star Daniel Lawrence Taylor.

To further links to TVO, the show will be produced by stalwarts BabyCow, and directed by Dave Lambert – Boosh documentary maker extraordinaire who recently helmed Alan Partridge: Welcome To The Places Of My Life.

We can’t wait.  Common People looks set to air in January, and we’ll be bringing you more news closer to transmisison.  In the meantime, check out the full story over yonder with our friends at The British Comedy Guide.


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